Elizabeth Baird, 5th Grade Math 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.
Kelly O’Brien, 5th Grade Math Teacher
After graduating from Merrimack College in Massachusetts, Kelly moved to the Mississippi Delta where she taught for 5 years. She taught 4th grade in both self-contained and departmentalized classroom settings and implemented small group, systematic phonics instruction for 3rd graders. Kelly recently relocated to Kansas City and has had the opportunity to participate in the Green Fellowship and The National Academy of Advanced Teacher Education, which will allow her to continue to develop as a teacher and a leader in education. Kelly is excited to be a founding teacher at KCGPA and to support young women in finding their voice and becoming change makers in their community and world.
Lekeysha McFarland, 5th Grade Humanities 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.
Pearl Namakula Mayanja, 5th Grade Balance Literacy 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 Science, Technology and Engineering 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 Balanced Literacy 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.
Ashley Cleveland, 5th Grade English, Language Arts Teacher
After spending more than twenty years teaching and leading at the university level, Ashley chose to follow her passion for equitable education by joining the Kansas City Teacher Residency. After two years in a fourth-grade classroom at Genesis School, Ashley was honored to be invited to serve the diverse young women at Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy. Having had the benefit of attending an all-female high school and college, Ashley is committed to helping the young women at Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy discover, hone and unleash their voices and visions for their futures and ours. Ashley has a BA in English and Women’s Studies from Stephens College, a MA in Sociology from UMKC, a DC from Cleveland Chiropractic College, and will soon complete a Master’s in Urban Education from Park University.
Jessica Garcia, 6th Grade English Language Arts 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.
Rychinda Johnson, 6th Grade Science, Technology, and Engineering Teacher
Hailing from Kansas City, MO, Rychinda is a product of KCPS, Hickman-Mills and Raytown school districts. She began her professional, educational journey at UMKC before transferring to Avila University where she received her B.S. in Elementary Education in Dec. 2016. Currently, Rychinda is working towards a Master’s degree in Teaching, Learning, and Curriculum (May 2020). Rychinda’s career related experience includes work as a pre-K trauma therapy assistant at Sheffield Place, a head start substitute and lead school age teacher at Operation Breakthrough. Most recently, she has worked as a 5th grade teacher since January 2017 within the KCPSD. Going forward, Rychinda is ecstatic for the opportunity to be a part of the KCGPA family and hopes to contribute to the holistic growth of all young women in Kansas City.
Jostna Dash, 6th Grade Humanities Teacher
Prior to joining KCGPA, Jostna served as a Manager of Teacher Leadership Development with Teach For America Twin Cities, where she coached first and second year teachers in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. She also served as the founding 11th grade English teacher at Hiawatha Academies in Minneapolis, where she helped her students grow an average of 3 points on the English and Reading ACT tests. She is very excited to return home to Kansas City, where she previously taught at East High School, serving as the English Department Chair. She holds a B.A. in Communications and International Studies from the University of Iowa and a M. Ed. in Secondary English Education from the University of Missouri—St. Louis.
Avia Harper, 6th Grade Math Teacher
Avia Harper is a Kansas City native. She graduated from the University of Missouri- Saint Louis, where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, with an emphasis in Special Education. She started her teaching career in the Saint Louis Public School District, in rolls ranging from Teacher’s Assistant to 2nd grade teacher. Wanting to give back to the community that instilled in her, she moved back to Kansas CIty and took a job with Kansas City Public School District. She has served on multiple committees such as Leadership and PBIS. Ms. Harper believes that all scholars have the capability to achieve. With the support, dedication, and grace, students can, and will, reach their full potential.
Chelsea Conwell, 6th Grade Math Teacher
Chelsea graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and joined Teach for America. She then moved to St. Louis, where she taught Fourth Grade for two years. While teaching, she obtained her Masters Degree in Elementary Education from University of Missouri - St. Louis. Chelsea recently relocated to Kansas City to participate in the Green Fellowship, which allows for continued growth and development as a Teacher Leader. During Chelsea’s time in the classroom she has seen the impact of creating a rigorous and loving environment. She hopes to continue to create experiences for students that empower them to reach their full potential, while growing as a teacher leader. Chelsea is excited to join the KCGPA team.
David Muhammad, Enrichment Teacher
David Muhammad brings his experience as a teacher into every space he enters. He spent eleven years teaching secondary social studies in the Shawnee Mission School District, where he worked to amplify the voices of students of color and helped establish inclusivity measures in his school district. In 2017, he received the Crescent Peace Society’s education award and has partnered with the prestigious RACE Project KC initiative. Recently, he spent time at LEANLAB Education as the manager of collaborative partnerships. He currently operates the Integrity Martial Arts Academy alongside his father and has been a member of both the US Karate and Kickboxing teams. David graduated from Emporia State University in 2008, with a Bachelor's degree in Secondary Education and in 2012 he received his Master’s Degree in Education from Baker University. He is happily married to nationally acclaimed poet Aisha Sharif and they have two beautiful daughters.
Natalie Scroggie, Learning Support Specialist
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!
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.
Jahna Riley, Family and Community Outreach Coordinator
Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Jahna is a proud graduate of the city’s public schools. She is an AmeriCorps alumna who served as a Pre-K tutor with the Literacy Lab. Her experience includes classroom teaching, project management, and communications. As an educator in Kansas City’s urban schools, she knows the power of strong parent and community engagement. Prior to working in schools, Jahna managed fundraising, marketing and external communications for Teach For America - Kansas City. Jahna is passionate about educational equity and is excited to work with parents and the community to ensure that all of the young women who attend KCGPA are successful. Jahna is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. - Beta Omega Chapter, and also served on the Ink Magazine’s Advisory Board. She holds a B.A. in Communications from Howard University in Washington, DC.
Kaylisa Estes, Office Manager
Kaylisa Estes is a native of the Kansas City Metro Region. She is a Kauffman Scholar Alumna and graduated from the University of Kansas with a Bachelors in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Kaylisa's passion for student success started during her career at the University of Kansas where she became a peer educator for the Adidas Scholars Program. After college, Kaylisa went on to become a high school College Adviser with Missouri College Advising Corps, providing college access to students within the Kansas City Region. She has now found her home with Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy, and hopes to help girls in the Kansas City Metro Region find their dreams and passions just as she has found hers within educating students. Kaylisa will be serving as the Office Manager for KCGPA and is excited to be a friendly face of help for students and families within the East Kansas City region.
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.
Tara Haskins, School Leader
Following her graduation from Hampton University, Tara joined the New Teacher Project (TNTP) and taught middle school English and Language Arts in Shreveport, Louisiana. It was here that she developed a middle school all-girls mentoring program that focused on mindfulness, college preparation, and community service. Tara then joined KIPP Voyage Academy for Girls in Houston, where she taught U.S. History and served as a History and later an English content lead, responsible for supporting and developing teachers in both disciplines. She also led school-wide culture systems as Dean of Restorative Justice and Culture. Her implementation of school-wide restorative practices at led to out of school suspensions decreasing by half in a single year. Ms. Haskins has also most recently served as Assistant Principal where she led a broad array of academic and cultural functions. For example, her leadership of the implementation of a standards-aligned English Language Arts curriculum led to students and staff achieving 2020 academic goals two years ahead of schedule.
Tom Krebs, CEO
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.
Kimberly Hunter, Learning Support Specialist
Prior to growing roots in Kansas City, Kansas, Kimberly taught newcomer students at a high school in the Bronx while earning her Master's in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from the City College of New York. Like many of her students, she has moved much but often calls Florida home, where she earned her Bachelor's in English from the University of Florida and learned community organizing skills while working alongside the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and National Women's Liberation. Most recently, Kimberly served in a community relations role at a neighborhood nonprofit while completing a graduate level Peace and Conflict Resolution Certificate from the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution. Now she is grateful to be back in the classroom with KCGPA because she is committed to growth, freedom, and community and believes dialogical education equips young women with the ethics and courage necessary to lead.
Anika Williams, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math Coach
Christina Vasquez, School Social Worker
Cristina is a social worker, advocate and servant leader that works and lives in the Northeast area, the same community she grew up in. She is proud to give back to this community and is passionate about working with students by encouraging them to realize and reach their full potential. Most recently, she served as a Trauma Sensitive Schools Clinician at Kansas City Public Schools. She has worked in foster care and medical social work settings and has worked with children and families for over 16 years. She serves as a Field Instructor for Park University and received the Bachelor of Social Work Field Instructor of the Year award for SY 18-19. Cristina is the proud mother of Isabella, her daughter who makes her laugh every single day. She believes in living life to the fullest and makes a point to do things that make her heart and soul happy.