Our faculty is a group of dedicated, experienced educators who work together to bring a well-rounded, rigorous education to all children who attend the Boston Teachers Union School.
Jasmine Acevedo M.Ed, Second Grade. Jasmine received her B.A. in Psychology from Boston College, her M. Ed in Elementary Education from the University of Massachusetts in Boston, and her Master’s of Science in Educational Leadership from Simmons College. After she graduated from Boston College, Jasmine served as a Community Officer with the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration in Massachusetts. While working there, she studied the learning gap that exists in Massachusetts and decided to become a teacher to make a positive change in the lives of the children in Boston. Jasmine began her teaching career with Boston Teacher Residency in 2004. Her placement school was the Mason School in Roxbury. There, she co-taught a first grade inclusion classroom. Jasmine served as a first grade teacher at the Lee Academy Pilot School in Dorchester for four years. At the Lee Academy, she served as the Math Facilitator, a member of the Instructional Leadership Team as well as the Governing Board. For two years, Jasmine taught first grade at the Boston Teachers Union Pilot School in Jamaica Plain. For the past two years, she taught second grade at the BTU School. There, she has served on the Literacy Leadership team, the Writing Committee, and on a number of Hiring teams. She has also led faculty trainings around Behavior Protocols and Classroom Management. Jasmine has mentored student teachers from Wheelock and Simmons College. Jasmine aspires to continue working in a Boston Public School that fosters the values of diversity, equity and justice. Jasmine was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where many members of her family reside. She enjoys traveling and spending time with her family and her dog. Jasmine is committed to educating the students in her classroom and creating strong relationships that celebrate culture and identity.
Danladi Bobbitt M.Ed. First Grade. He graduated from Wheelock College majoring in Human Development concentrating in Elementary Education with a minor in Special Education. After graduating from Wheelock College, he began his teaching career in Boston Public School system working with children and families from a variety of backgrounds. Two years after teaching Danladi received his Masters degree in Educational Leadership from Simmons College. Danladi has been teaching in an urban setting for over ten years. He enjoys watching children grow as learners and become authentically creative. During his leisure time Danladi loves to spend time with his wife, son, family, and friends. He enjoys reading, singing, going to the beach and working out at the gym. One of his favorite sayings is “It takes a village.”
Lindsay Chaves. Lindsay is our lower school co-lead teacher. Bio under construction…
Laura Davila-Lynch M.S. in teacher leadership is the visual arts teacher for the lower and upper schools. She is also a technology support teacher, and online communications specialist. Laura has taught visual arts in urban schools for 21 years. She earned a Bachelors degree in secondary visual arts education from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras. She completed her graduate studies in teacher leadership at Wheelock College, Boston. Laura has developed workshops for Boston teachers and leaders in the use of technology, best classroom practices, as well as, the importance and significance of arts in schools. Laura has worked in collaboration with many partners, such as, Tufts University in affiliation with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Harvard University, 826 Boston, among others. She mentors student teachers from Tufts University in affiliation with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, and Mass Art. She shares a passion for teaching visual arts and creating her own works. She is an avid supporter of integrating technology in the classroom and exploring technology as a new media. In her personal time, she is a painter, jewelry designer, and proud mom of Isabel and Jerry. Her artworks have been exhibited in Puerto Rico, North Carolina, and Boston.
Joy De Palm, M.Ed., Grade 8 E/LA and Civics. This year marks Joy’s 21st year as a public school educator. She currently holds three degrees in education from: Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, the nation’s first HBCU; City College in New York City, and Simmons College, Boston, MA. Joy is also a Boston Debate League Coach and the lead facilitator of P.O.W.E.R., the BTU Pilot’s spoken word collective and slam team. This native New Yorker is a self-admitted “gym rat” who enjoys boxing and power lifting when she is not spending quality time with her family.
Betsy Drinan M.S. is the upper school lead teacher. Betsy has worked with young people in Boston for over 30 years. She began her career in the non-profit sector working in alternative education and youth services as a teacher and program manager. She started working in the Boston Public Schools 17 years ago as a middle school English teacher and later worked training and mentoring new teachers. Ms. Drinan was a participant on the design team that planned the Lilla Frederick Pilot School and served as a Board member there for 5 years. She received her Bachelor’s degree from UMass/Amherst, and her Master’s degree from UMass/Boston. She lives in Dorchester and is active in many community endeavors.
Christina Duke, Math Interventionist and Coach for the Lower School Christina is very excited to be part of the BTU staff again this year! She will be teaching math in the lower school for grades K – 5. Originally from Ocala, Florida, she has lived in the Boston area for 6 years now. She received her Bachelor’s and Masters Degrees in Special Education from Florida State University, and began her career at a wonderful school in Tallahassee, Fl. There she taught a K-2nd grade class. Her focus was on including all students in a liberal arts education and nurturing environment. With that strong foundation, she spent three years teaching a 3rd – 5th grade class in East Boston, at the McKay School. During that time, she co-taught with a 4th grade teacher for science and social studies. After that she taught 4th grade at the Blackstone Elementary School. Currently, she lives in Cambridge with her two adorable dogs. She loves reading, hiking, and kayaking.
Jennifer Ferent is the Upper School Reading Interventionist. She is a certified Wilson Reading System instructor. Jennifer has been a Boston Public Schools employee since 2007 and has been at the BTU School since its founding. Jennifer primarily works with small groups of students who require multi-sensory rules based instruction in encoding and decoding. She also advises and assists 8th graders navigate the high school application process. In addition to herteaching and advising duties, Jennifer is the Coordinator of Library Services at the BTU School. She brings over eight years of public library experience to our school library. As coordinator, Jennifer is responsible for maintaining the school library’s collection, scheduling class visits, cataloging new materials, working with library interns from Simmons and helping to coordinate corporate community service days with the United Way. Prior to coming to the BTU School, Ms. Ferent was the librarian and READ 180 instructor at the Wilson Middle School. She is a voracious reader and brings her love of words and enthusiasm for reading to our students. Ms. Ferent loves helping students discover new books to read and has been known to borrow books from her home library or the public library to fulfill a student’s request! When not at the BTU School, Jennifer enjoys going on adventures with her husband and three children, spending time with her large extended family and going to Fenway to see the Red Sox play.
Melissa Goodrich Lyons. Upper school writing intervention teacher. Melissa is our new writing intervention teacher for grades 6, 7 and 8. Bio under construction…
Marilyn Hernandez, Administrative Associate Teacher, Lower School. In September 2013 it will be the beginning of my third year at the BTU School. I have been married for almost 23 years to an awesome man and have been blessed with 4 beautiful children. I was a Paraprofessional for almost 6 years. Before that, I was a secretary for the Bilingual Literacy Department. I enjoy my job very much, and love working with children, I guess it comes with the territory of being a mom. I am energetic person, and love helping those around me as much as I can. I am very excited to be a part of your community and families, and thank you for the opportunity in working with you, your families and your children.
Lara Krepps, M.Ed. in elementary education with certifications in SPED and ELL, is currently teaching grades 3-5 in a sub-separate classroom at the BTU. She received her graduate degree from UMASS Boston and her undergraduate degree from the University of Florida. Lara served as a full-time intern at The Haley Elementary School and The Fifield Elementary School. In 2011, Lara got a small taste of the BTU School while teaching ESL as a long-term substitute and she liked what she saw. The teaching environment was rigorous and creative and teachers were invested in advancing their craft. She continued to keep her eyes on the BTU School while teaching for two years at The Italian Home for Children. When a position opened up at the BTU School in 2013, Lara eagerly applied and has been at the BTU ever since.
Lara has a background in theater and performing arts and likes to bring creativity into the classroom. She has a strong belief in holistic teaching and believes that students respond better to learning when they feel connected to the material and empowered by their own interests. Personally, Lara enjoys spending time with her amazing children, Isobel & Gio. She enjoys gardening, skiing, and word puzzles. One day, she hopes to visit Greenland.
Alice McCabe teaches fourth grade. She is returning to the BTU Pilot School after completing the Boston Teacher Residency program in second grade at the Mason School. Before that, she taught at the Henderson Inclusion School in Dorchester and has worked in different capacities with children and families in Boston for over 20 years. She graduated from Vassar College in New York and went on to earn a Master of Social Work from Boston College. She loves to help students learn to think deeply and critically about their work, especially in reading and math. Born and raised in Boston’s South End, she is a graduate of the Boston Public Schools. A proud mom, she lives in Dorchester with her husband Chris and two boys, DeVonte and Tyler. She enjoys reading fiction, being on or near the ocean, sharing food with friends and family and walking with her two dogs.
Johnny McInnis M.Ed. is teaching music to all the students at the BTU Pilot School. He has been teaching music in Boston for over 20 years. Mr. McInnis is a native of North Carolina where he earned his B.S. from Fayetteville State University. After arriving in Boston he received his M.E. from University of Massachusetts at Boston. He is an active musician who performs in an adult marching band performing all over New England. The developmental approach he uses for scholars at the BTU School is through music and movement. Truly you can see and feel the inspiration from his scholars when they perform.
Gretchen Myers. Hello there! My name is Gretchen Myers. I am the Associate Teacher for the K1 class. I have been an Associate Teacher for 4 years. I received my Bachelors Degree in Communications from Northeastern University. Prior to working for the BTU School, I worked for 3 years as an Enrichment Associate Teacher at The Harbor Middle School. I worked with the special need population thru the inclusion at the school, as well as, any IT issues that I could assist with. I also worked as a Sped Aide at the Oak Hill Middle School in Newton. I have done one year of community work with City Year. I enjoy dancing, walking, and chasing after my 11 year old son and 3 year old daughter!
Ms. Amy Phi Nguyen, M.Ed, CAGS is the Social and Academic Remediation (SAR) Teacher. Amy was raised in Boston. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Lesley University. She received her CAGS from the University of Massachusetts, Boston. In her spare time she enjoys cooking, cleaning, taking her dogs for walks and being with family and friends.
Jerry Pisani M.Ed is the K-2 teacher. He earned his degree in Early Childhood Education and Creative Arts in Learning from Lesley University in 2006 and has been teaching for BPS ever since. He has experience with multi-aged classrooms, First Grade and K-2. Jerry’s first loves in education are learning through the arts and creative play. He employs a multi-sensory approach and thematic units to help scholars explore all academic areas. Jerry believes that academic achievement is important, but a student’s sense of ownership, accomplishment and self worth are the foundation for any successful Early Learning experience. His kindergarten classroom is set up to encourage both independence and teamwork. Beyond the BTU School, Jerry has been working closely with Boston’s Early Childhood Education department and has presented at state-wide and local workshops about the importance of developmentally appropriate practice. Out of the classroom he can be found flying kites in and around Winthrop where he lives with his husband Jason and their cat, Buddy.
Richard Schena is the 7th and 8th grade social studies teacher. This will be his 3rd year as a Social Studies teacher with Boston Public Schools. Mr. Schena has previously taught Social Studies in the Lowell and Lawrence Public School systems. Mr. Schena earned his B.A. in History from the University of Massachusettts- Amherst and is currently pursuing his M. Ed. in from Fitchburg State University. Mr. Schena is excited to pass on his passion and enthusiasm for Social Studies to each of his students. Richard is an avid Boston sports fan and participates in a number of athletic activities.
Amanda Smallwood M.Ed. is the Literacy Coordinator. Amanda was born in Greenfield, Massachusetts. She has been working with children and their families for over 10 years. She began her teaching career in a small, rural school in Heath, Massachusetts. Amanda has been teaching in Boston for the last 5 years. She received her Bachelor’s degree in English from Vermont College and her Master’s degree in Elementary Education from UMASS/Amherst. In her spare time, Amanda enjoys spending time with her family, rock climbing, reading and gardening. Amanda lives in Milton with her husband Britt and their dogs Charlie and Josie.
Taryn Snyder is the third grade teacher at the BTU School. She has taught here for five years. Taryn was born and raised in Orange County, New York. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree at Simmons College in 2006 and worked in advertising for five years. While she enjoyed advertising, Taryn knew she wanted to work with children. She went back to Simmons, graduating with her Master’s Degree in Elementary Education in 2011, and has been teaching third grade ever since. Her favorite thing about teaching third grade is watching scholars take ownership of their education and become more independent learners. For the last two years, Taryn has also served as a Teacher Ambassador with the Teacher-Powered Schools Initiative. Through this program, Taryn has presented about the BTU School at many national conferences around the country, including at a tea at the Department of Education in Washington D.C. with Secretary of Education, John King. When she’s not in the classroom, Taryn volunteers as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Pancreas Foundation. She loves JP Licks, exploring Boston, and spending time with her friends and family, especially her nieces.
Lesley Strang K1 has been teaching young children in and around the Boston area since 2000. She moved to Boston in 1998 to be an AmeriCorp VISTA member at Peace Games (now Peace First), a violence prevention education organization. After her service year, she decided that the classroom was her true passion and went to Lesley University for her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education and Creative Arts in Learning. She taught kindergarten through second grade at the Atrium School in Watertown for many years and taught 2 nd grade at the Lee Academy Pilot School (BPS) before coming to the BTU Pilot School in 2009. Lesley loves creating hands-on thematic units. She is also very passionate about anti-bias education. When she is not teaching, she is spending time with her wife and two young children.
Jessica Tom Grades 7/8 science. Jessica is the science teacher for grades 7 and 8. Bio under construction…
David Weinstein teaches seventh and eighth grade math and seventh grade geography. He has been teaching in the Boston Public Schools for over twenty-five years in a variety of schools, primarily as a teacher of special needs and mathematics. David received a B.A. in History from Columbia College and a M.Ed. from Lesley College. His goal is to allow all students to enjoy math class and achieve success through hard work. David lives with his wife and two daughters in a house full of books in Jamaica Plain. He is enthusiastic about being outdoors hiking, camping, bicycling and gardening.
Erica Welch, M. Ed. Is the fifth grade teacher at BTU School. Erica is a Massachusetts native, born and raised on the north shore. Erica received her undergraduate degree in psychology at Suffolk University. She became immersed into Boston Public Schools during her volunteer hours as a tutor at a SquashBusters, an afterschool program in Roxbury, and her Community Relations exciting experience working with the Boston Celtics. It was after these experiences that she decided to join the BPS community. Erica obtained her Master’s Degree from UMASS Boston through Boston Teacher Residency, while at the same time teaching third grade at the Mason Inclusion School in Roxbury. Erica loves to spend time with her family, travel, cook, read, and watch basketball. She has a passion for teaching and believes it is important for students to embark on a journey of life-long learning.
Berta Rosa Berriz, Ed.D., concluded her thirty-three years in Boston Public Schools as a Founding Co-lead teacher of the Boston Teachers’ Union School (2008-2013). In Berta’s voice, “For me, the most attractive feature of our school is this notion of the freedom to teach. It is this value that enables passionate teachers to develop unique approaches to our students. When we say that we teach young scholars, not a scripted curriculum, we mean that the careful assessments of student learning needs drives all instructional decisions. Within our Union School classrooms, differentiating instruction through the arts, the use of literature in guided reading groups, writing to learn, and other child-centered approaches create access for diverse learners.”
Berta’s career included distinctions such as National Board Certification (2006), doctoral studies in culture and learning from Harvard Graduate School of Education (2005), Massachusetts Teacher Scholar (1992), faculty in the arts in learning department at Lesley University (1990 to present), Berriz was awarded a Lucretia Crocker Fellowship –TEAMSTREAM (1990) – for integrating bilingual students with special needs with bilingual advanced work students offering a curriculum that employed team teaching, thematic education, cooperative learning and integrated cultural arts. Anticipating a time of less work and more play, Berriz is looking forward to her next career moves as a textile and glass artist, part-time teacher and mentor of new teachers, and full-time “Abuelita Tita,” to her grandaughters, Naja Zahara and Adena Caridad.