Mentor teachers

Meet our award-winning team of mentor teachers.

Our mentor teachers, chosen for their record of moving kids academically fast, partner with teachers in districts and networks across the country to deliver teaching that transcends the ordinary.

The Mentor Teachers


Silvestre (Silver) Arcos

Silver taught for five years in Texas and California before founding a dual language program at a middle school in the Bronx. Silver was a founding math teacher at KIPP Washington Heights Middle School, where he is now assistant principal. Among his many recognitions are the Harriett Ball Excellence in Teaching Award, the Big Apple Award for Teacher Excellence in New York City, The Butler-Cooley Excellence in Teaching Award, and the Teaching Tolerance Award for Excellence in Culturally Responsive Teaching. Silver earned his B.S. from Cornell University in human development and family studies and his M.A. in bilingual education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Wayne Banks

Wayne began his career as a TFA corps member teaching high school chemistry and physics in the Chicago public schools, where he led more than 400 students to make four years of growth each year. After serving as assistant principal of STEM education and programming at a Chicago vocational high school, Wayne realized that his students lacked sufficient command of math to excel in the sciences. For three years, Wayne has taught mathematics to middle school students at KIPP New Jersey, where he is currently principal-in-residence. Wayne has a B.A. from Washington University, where he studied biochemistry and molecular biology, and a M.A. from Columbia University.

Ben Esser 

Ben started his teaching career in Mississippi, where he taught for two years as part of Teach for America. Since 2011, he has taught sixth grade English Language Arts at Achievement First East New York Middle School. He was named a Stage 5 teacher in 2015, the network’s highest level of recognition. A highlight of his practice is the love of books he shares with his students; each year, his students read, on average, more than a million words each. In 2019, 82 percent of his students were found proficient on the NYS ELA exam, exceeding the performance of the Rye school district, one of the wealthiest in the country. Ben earned a B.A. from Western Washington University in English literature and a M.Ed. from Relay Graduate School of Education.

Keri Hubbard

After teaching high school math in Charlotte as a TFA corps member, Keri joined Achievement First in New Haven. Teaching seventh-grade math and eighth-grade algebra at the network in Brooklyn, she led her students for two consecutive years to 100 percent proficiency on the New York State exam, with 97 percent of eighth-graders passing the Algebra Regents exam. Later, she joined KIPP in Austin, teaching sixth-grade reading, and rose to become assistant principal and director of curriculum and professional development. Currently, Keri is managing director of leadership development at Teaching Trust, an education leadership development organization. Keri holds a B.A. in economics and sociology from Duke University.

Jeff Li

Jeff is the cofounder of KIPP Beyond, the network’s first intentionally integrated school, slated to open in August 2021. Teaching is for Jeff a second career; he began as a management consultant at the Boston Consulting Group. After serving in Teach for America, he taught middle school math at KIPP AMP in Brooklyn, where nearly all his students were found proficient on state assessments. Many went on to attend selective colleges, including Columbia, Cornell, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown, and Howard University. Jeff has been recognized as an American Star of Teaching by the US Department of Education. Jeff holds a B.A. from Stanford University in economics and a M.S. Ed. from Bank Street College.

Andy Malone

Andy Malone is regional superintendent at Achievement First’s Greenfield Project where he leads the network’s development of a next generation model based on personalized instruction, expeditionary learning, and social-emotional development. Andy taught fourth-grade at Success Academy in New York City, where he was tapped to design and lead Success’s high school; one hundred percent of the first graduating class went on to four-year colleges. He is a recipient of TFA-Mississippi Delta's Sue Lehmann Excellence in Teaching Award and Harvard University's Jonathan Levin Prize in Teaching and Social Justice. Andy holds a B.A. from Harvard University in history and literature, a M.A. from Columbia Teachers' College, and is pursuing an Ed.D from University of Virginia.

Jenika Mullen

As a Teach for America corps member, Jenika taught second grade at Achievement First’s Endeavor Elementary School in Brooklyn. In her eight years with the network, Jenika has also taught kindergarten and third grade, and served as an academic dean, instructional coach and curriculum developer. Her students have consistently excelled; in 2017, a remarkable 49 percent of her students were found “advanced” on the Connecticut Common Core exams. Currently, Jenika is principal of Achievement First’s Aspire Elementary School. Jenika earned her B.S. in elementary education from Pennsylvania State University and her M.Ed. from CUNY Brooklyn College.

Joe Negron

Joe comes to us from KIPP Infinity Middle School, where he is the founding principal. For both its academics and its revolutionary approach to character development, the school was featured in Wendy Kopp’s A Chance to Make History, Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed, and Dan Coyle’s The Culture Code. He has been honored with the Harriett Ball Award for Excellence in Teaching, KIPP’s highest teaching honor, and for his advocacy and support beyond the classroom walls, KIPP’s award for service to the network. Joe graduated from Harvard University, majoring in chemistry, and earned his M.A. from Columbia Teachers College.

Danielle Perkins

As a Teach for America corps member, Danielle taught middle school in the Kansas City Public Schools. She then joined Achievement First in New York, where she has taught eighth-grade literature and writing for seven years. Danielle was named a Stage 5 teacher by the network, their highest level of recognition. Forgoing opportunities to lead, Danielle chose to remain in the classroom; the greatest work she can do for students, she believes, is to deliver excellent classroom teaching daily. She recently developed a rigorous eighth-grade curriculum in philosophy. Danielle earned her B.A. in politics, philosophy, and economics from the King’s College and M.Ed. degrees from the University of Missouri St. Louis. 

Tatiana Piskula

Tatiana began teaching at Uncommon Schools in Brooklyn and then joined Ascend Learning, where she taught third grade and earned Ascend’s Teacher of the Year award for top student performance. Tatiana developed an obsession with data-driven instruction, a habit of deep intellectual preparation, and a love of fractions. In 2017, one hundred percent of her students achieved proficiency in math and 79% percent in English Language Arts, compared to less than a quarter in the community school district. Recently, she worked at 2U and Amplify, two educational technology companies that seek to reimagine education with technology. Tatiana holds a B.A. in psychology from Yale University and a M.B.A. and a M.P.A from Columbia University.

Will Roble

Will joins us from Avenues: The World School, an international network of private schools, where he teaches a unique thinking skills class that strengthens conceptual reasoning, builds cognitive flexibility, and promotes empathy. Will began his teaching career with Teach for America in the Bronx and went on to teach middle school math at Rise Academy, a KIPP school in Newark and Achievement First in New York. After posting exceptional results, he rose to became the director of middle school math achievement. Will holds a B.A. in cultural anthropology and Italian studies from Trinity College and a M.S. from Pace University.

Candice Seagrave

Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Candice began as a first-grade assistant teacher at Success Academy Harlem. For nearly a decade, Candice taught third and fourth grade at the school; in 2018, 100 percent of her students were found proficient in math and 93 percent in ELA on the New York State Common Core Assessment. For five years, Candice served as a labsite teacher, mentoring Success teachers. In the fall of 2018, Candice left her first love, the classroom, to serve as assistant principal. Today, she is a principal in residence at KIPP: AMP in Brooklyn. Candice earned her B.A. from Hunter College in literature, language and criticism, and childhood education, and her M.S. from Touro College.

Chandell Stone

Chandell began her career teaching pre-calculus at Democracy Prep Charter High School in Harlem, where she led 100 percent of students to pass the Algebra 2 Regents. Then, as an assistant principal overseeing math and science instruction at Success Academy’s Bronx 1 and Bronx 2, she propelled both schools into the top one percent of schools in the state in math. Chandell is now the lead founder of Dunia Collegiate, a proposed charter school in Atlanta, which will focus on identity affirmation, STEM, and global awareness. Chandell holds a B.S. in mathematics from North Carolina A&T State University and an M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Sierra Strattner

After serving in Teach for America, Sierra joined Achievement First, where she has taught for twelve years in Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island. The network named Sierra Master Teacher in recognition of her students’ outstanding results; her students scored some 30 points above state averages on Common Core assessments. Sierra firmly believes that with strong teaching, an obsession with data, and an unwavering determination to engage all students, every child can succeed. Sierra is a National Academy for the Advancement of Teacher Excellence fellow. Sierra holds a B.A. from George Washington University in international affairs and a M.A. from Columbia Teachers College.

Kimberly Tan

Kimberly is a fifth-grade head teacher at Ethical Culture Fieldstone School, an independent progressive school in New York that provides its students the framework and knowledge to live an ethical life. She began teaching at Success Academy in Harlem, and then joined the founding team of Central Queens Academy in Queens, where she was literacy coordinator. Her success in the classroom and commitment to progressive education led her to become a mentor, presenter, trainer, and curriculum planner. Kimberly is a native speaker of Mandarin and is fluent in Spanish. Kimberly earned a B.S. from Cornell University in human development and a M.S. from the City College of New York.


Samantha Lopez

Samantha is a certified instructor in hatha, vinyasa, and gentle flow yoga. Her studies with Ignite Yoga & Wellness Institute prepared her to teach mindfulness-based yoga practices, meditation, and breathwork. A trauma-informed teacher, she specializes in teaching children’s yoga and highly customized private sessions and group classes. Samantha is currently an Inspiring Minds Day School yoga teacher for children ages five to thirteen, an Ignite Yoga & Wellness Institute lead instructor and co-facilitator of teacher trainings, and a Yoga 4 Change recovery centers’ instructor.

Mollie Thurman 

Mollie is chief community scientist at BioBus, where she manages a team of community scientists specializing in environmental justice and urban ecology. Since 2014 Mollie has created hands-on programs that invite students to deeply explore the marine ecology of New York City.She has worked as a researcher with the Harvard School of Public Health and the Hudson River Foundation. Mollie received her B.A. in environmental studies from Mount Holyoke College and her M.A. from Columbia University in conservation biology.

Li Murphy 

As a BioBus community scientist, Li shares her passion for science with K-12 students. In Southeast Asia, Kyrgyzstan, and France, she explored beekeeping, chemical communication in native bees, and beehive fences as a deterrent to wild elephants. Li has worked at Harvard University’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in Death Valley National Park, and at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences in Sweeney Granite Mountains Desert Research Center and Piute Mountains, Nevada. Li earned her B.A. in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology with a minor in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Harvard University.

Gary J. Sarkis 

Gary is the director of operations at Students 2 Science, where he manages the Newark Technology Center. Prior to joining S2S, Gary spent nearly two decades as a technologist developing scientific instrumentation that helps researchers analyze biological material and further scientific and medical research. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Yale, where he studied biophysics and biochemistry. Gary earned his B.S. and M.S. in microbiology, and his Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology, all from the University of Pittsburgh.

Bianca Johnson

Choreographer Bianca Johnson began her dance training at the Joffrey Ballet School. In 1984, Bianca was invited by Jacques d’Amboise to join National Dance Institute. She has created original works for numerous organizations, including Youth Pride Chorus, House of the Roses, and the September Concert. Her choreography has been presented in and beyond New York, including the Apollo Theater and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Bianca currently teaches more than 600 New York City public school children each week through the NDI’s programs. In 2012, Bianca founded Bianca Johnson & Dancers, a dance company for any age, gender, culture, or body type. Bianca earned her B.F.A. in dance from New York University.

Jenn Eisenberg

Jenn has been a teaching artist with NDI since 2007. Jenn teaches in the New York City public schools and the Spruce Street School and has taught at public and private schools in the New York City area. She co-founded BOLD Arts, which offers camps and classes in the tristate region. Jenn has performed with Bianca Johnson and Dancers, Rock and Roll Debauchery, and Spark Movement Collective. Jenn is a NY State Certified Dance Educator with a B.A. in dance from Marymount Manhattan College.

© The National Summer School Initiative 2020