Elizabeth Baird, 5th Grade Teacher
Prior to joining KC Girls Prep, Elizabeth taught middle school math at Colegio Menor, an international school in Quito, Ecuador. She is incredibly excited to return to Kansas City, where she previously taught at East High School and the Kauffman School. She has served as a Grade Team Leader, Student Council Sponsor, and Curriculum Writer at the middle school level. At East High School, she led an 8th grade class of Algebra I students to over 80% mastery on the Missouri End-of-Course Exam. Her students at the Kauffman School saw an average of 2.51 years of growth in math at the end of one year. She holds a B.B.A. in Economics from the University of Iowa and a M.Ed. in Secondary Education from the University of Missouri – St. Louis.
Jessica Garcia, 5th Grade Teacher
Originally from Missouri, Jessica has served for the past three years as the 6th Grade Team Leader and 6th Grade Literature Studies Teacher at a Democracy Prep middle school in New York. Jessica is driven by a passion for elevating the voices of women and, as a Latinx Woman, is excited to bring the diverse identities of KC Girls Prep’s staff, students, and families to the forefront. Jessica was awarded the prestigious Sontag Prize in Urban Education for excellence in teaching, and has averaged three years of reading growth with her students. She is a graduate of Missouri State University, where she studied Sociology and Spanish, and earned her Masters in Education at Relay Graduate School of Education.
Kelly O’Brien, 5th Grade Teacher
Lekeysha McFarland, 5th Grade Teacher
A proud native of Kansas City, Lekeysha graduated from Park University with a Bachelor's in marketing and management. After working in the corporate world for years along with substitute teaching, Lekeysha joined the Kansas City Teacher Residency Program in order to pursue her dream of teaching full time. Lekeysha is very excited for the future with KCGPA and will working with a mentor teacher this year in Humanities Lekeysha will also be pursuing her Master's at UMKC for a degree in Curriculum and Instruction.
Natalie Scroggie, 5th Grade Teacher
Natalie is a newly inducted Teach for America Corpsmember who’s been planted in Kansas City for the past three years.Her passion for education and youth leadership development started at Wildwood Outdoor Education Center in 2010. She began working on the Kansas side as a Special Education Paraprofessional. She is driven by the challenge of adapting to different learners. Flexibility, focus, and caring relationships are at the heart of who she is as an educator. Natalie graduated with a Psychology degree from Arizona State University in 2016 and is starting a Masters in Special Education through the University of Missouri- St. Louis in the fall. She is honored to be a founding teacher at KCGPA and is looking forward to meeting her students and celebrating their success!
Pearl Namakula Mayanja, 5th Grade Teacher
Pearl started working in education as a substitute teacher in the Kansas City Public School District. Pearl saw the need for equity and equality in the classroom to reignite scholar’s passion in learning. In 2018, Pearl began her Master’s in Urban Education at Park University in conjunction with Kansas City Teacher’s Residency. Pearl spent her residency year at University Academy teaching 5th grade math. Pearl decided to be a teacher to serve as an integral part of her community. Pearl is invested to inspire our youth to become global citizens that value their worth, education, and life-long prosperity. KCGPA is giving the urban community choice in education. Choice is something that the urban community in Kansas City is not accustomed to. Kansas City Girls Prep will become a pillar in Kansas City education, and Pearl is proud to be a founding teacher.
Rita- Marie Raach, 5th Grade Teacher
Rita-Marie is both a teacher and a cancer biologist! She became an educator by joining an AmeriCorps-partnered certification program, Kansas City Teacher Residency, which also partnered with Park University to provide a Master’s in Urban Education. She was a member of the Professional and Education Development Committee for the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Diversity and Equity Committee as a Staff Senate member for the University of Kansas-Lawrence. She received a doctorate from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for research exploring how a dietary supplement, Curcumin, could affect gut bacteria and inhibit colon cancer. She believes that teaching should incorporate diverse learning styles, learning is life-long, the students’ thought process should be emphasized as much as the “right” answer and a respectful, open and collaborative classroom is crucial to success! She is honored to join KCGPA and walk alongside young women as they develop their unique experiences, skills, intellect and dreams.
T’Nisha Andino-Lowery, 5th Grade Teacher
T’Nisha is a proud graduate of UMKC, where she served as a JumpStart AmeriCorp member with a focus in early literacy development. After obtaining her Master’s in Teaching at Walden University, she began her education career in the Hickman Mills C-1 School district while obtaining dual certification for early education and elementary education. She then moved to Liberty Public Schools to further her professional growth and development, with a continued focus on early literacy. While at Liberty, she also pursued a Doctorate in Education at Saint Louis University. T’Nisha is a committed educator whose students average two or more years of growth for each year they spend with her.
Dani Murphy, Manager of Operations
Dani started her career in education after graduating from Oklahoma State University, when she joined Teach for America - Kansas City. Dani taught middle school Social Studies for three years in KCPS and had the opportunity to coach high school cheerleading. Dani then joined KIPP Tulsa College Preparatory Academy, where she taught science, social studies and 5th grade math. Her implementation of standards aligned math curriculum led 85% of her students to achieve, on average, two years of math growth in one year. Dani then returned to Kansas City as a Teach For America Green Fellow and joined KIPP Endeavor Academy as a 6th grade math teacher. During her time there, Dani served as grade level chair and a math content team lead. Dani holds a B.S. in International Business from Oklahoma State University and a M.Ed. in Social Science from the University of Missouri - St. Louis.
Destiny Flournoy, Dean of Culture
After her graduation from Kansas City Kansas Public Schools, Destiny joined the inaugural class at the Institute for Urban Education at the University of Missouri Kansas City. She spent the next ten years as an elementary school teacher, instructional coach and curriculum cadre member in the school system she graduated from. She received the Star Teacher Award and the Confidence in Education Task Force Challenge Award for 3rd, 4th and 5th grade academic improvement on state assessments. To further her professional development she went back to her UMKC family to earn her Master's in Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Specialist Degree in Administration. Destiny believes all students have the right to a quality education and is committed to doing what it takes to help create a system that supports the same. As the Dean of Culture of the KCGPA, she looks forward to continuing to give back to her community and working with students and families to ensure success.
Kaylisa Estes, Office Manager
Stephanie McCall, Scholar in Residence
Stephanie McCall is an Assistant Professor in the department of Professional and Secondary Education at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania. Dr. McCall has 20 years of experience in designing curriculum, educating teachers, and navigating the political terrain of equity and access at the intersection of difference. Dr. McCall does not serve as voting member of the Board of Directors. KC Girls Prep is taking up gender, race, class and other issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion as a core component of our school model. We have partnered with Dr. McCall as a Scholar in Residence to ensure we do so with intentionality and alignment to core principles of feminism and antiracism.
Venita Thurman, Director of Student Support
Venita has served in urban education in the Kansas City metro with Kansas City Kansas Public Schools and Hickman Mills C-1 School District as a teacher, Dean of Students, and School Principal. Additionally, Venita served two years as a Principal in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Passionate about educating the whole child, Venita leads by example in her growth mindset approach and high expectations to ensure that learning is taking place at every level within the school community. Venita’s work with her school around Restorative Practices has been recognized locally and nationally. This work resulted in the development of a positive school culture that honors all stakeholder perspectives, resulting in stronger family/school partnerships and sharply reduced suspensions. Venita has a B.Ed in Business from Washburn University and a M.A. in School Leadership from Baker University.