IDEAS Instructors

Ed Byrne

(He/His/Him) MBA in leadership from Babson College; MPP in education policy from Simmons College; and bachelor’s degree in social studies from Harvard University. Ed currently runs an economic development and justice program at Babson College. Previously, he spent 10 years in the Cambridge Public Schools where he led student diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and taught a course on race and culture for 11th and 12th graders. As the coordinator for diversity programs, he designed and led numerous professional development courses for faculty, staff, and administrators across the district with the goal of growing the mindsets and skill sets that are critical for educators to be successful in a diverse school district. He spent two years on special assignment in the Cambridge Mayor’s office as a liaison between City Hall and the school district and developed a district wide equity plan while in that role. He served for two terms in the leadership of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth – an independent state agency—where he led the commission’s policy recommendation and oversight processes with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Public Health. He currently serves on the board of directors of GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD). He lives in Dorchester, MA.


Johnny Cole

(He/Him/His) M.A.T. State University of New York at Cortland; B.S. Boston University; IDEAS Instructor; Director of Equity & Student Supports, Lexington Public Schools. Twitter: @LexingtonDEI. Johnny is a proud member of an interracial family, built with love with his husband and their two adopted children. Prior to becoming an administrator, he spent more than a dozen years as a high school English teacher, working in the Boston area first at Medford High School and later Concord-Carlisle High School. He then spent four years as an Assistant Principal at Needham High School prior to his current role in Lexington. His family’s experiences have been featured with the Huffington Post and the Outspoken Voices podcast, among others. His published work includes “‘He Can’t Be Your Dad!’: The Intersection of Race, Adoption, and Gay Marriage,” a chapter in the book Adoption Matters: Teacher Educators Share Their Stories and Strategies for Adoption-Inclusive Curriculum and Pedagogy.


Dawn Shearer Coren

B.A. in Sociology, Suffolk University and Ed. M. from Harvard Graduate School of Education with a concentration in Policy and Risk in Prevention. Dawn is Senior Associate, with Center for Collaborative Education (CCE) where she supports schools and districts implementing Essential Personalized Learning. While working district wide with Boston Schools, she developed district wide professional development on family engagement practices linked to learning and currently is a trainer leading Scholastic’s FACE (Family And Community Engagement) Series. Dawn’s commitment to equity and culturally relevant teaching is driven by her experiences as mixed race Black woman and her involvement in the METCO Program over the past 15 years. She has been an IDEAS Instructor for 10 years.


Jennifer Dirga

MSW, LICSW, is a school counselor at the Chestnut Hill School. She is a consultant for school districts in implementing effective SEL. She was the Director of Social Emotional Learning at Project Adventure. She joined Project Adventure after 15 years as a SEL trainer, consultant and program manager through the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. For many years, Jennifer was a school counselor in Attleboro and Boston. She continues to provide school based counseling services and consultation to districts. She has published articles and spoken at numerous conferences on SEL and trauma responsive practices. In addition, she has been a guest lecturer and instructor for both graduate and undergraduate courses on SEL. Jennifer practices and teaches mindfulness and is also an IDEAS instructor. Back in the 1990’s, Jen was active in the initial stages of the Governor’s Commission for Creating Safe Schools for LGBTQ students.


Claudia A. Fox Tree

(She/Her/Hers) M.Ed. in Educational Research, Northeastern University; Secondary Special Education Certification, Fitchburg State College; B.A. in Psychology and Anthropology, University of Massachusetts (Boston). She has been an IDEAS Instructor and Lincoln Public Schools middle school special education teacher for over 30 years. Claudia has presented keynote addresses, courses, panels, and workshops on First Nations people, microaggressions, transforming curriculum, culturally responsive teaching, white privilege, and social justice. Additionally, Claudia was the first speaker at the Boston’s Women’s March in 2017 and has lead several protest marches in Boston. She contributed a chapter, “Aren’t They All Dead? Covert Racism and Native Americans” in Covert Racism: Theories, Institutions, and Experiences edited by R. D. Coates. Claudia is the proud mother of five adult children and four affectionate cats (Mesa, Luna, Salem, and Bagheera).


Lateefah Frank

Lateefah has been in the education field for 20 years. Originally from Washington D.C., Lateefah came to Boston as an undergraduate where she earned a B.A. from Boston University, M.Ed. from Lesley University and a C.A.G.S. from Simmons College. She began her educational journey in inclusion and LEP classrooms as a 1st, 3rd and 4th grade classroom teacher. She then became a literacy specialist for upper elementary school struggling readers, before solidly placing her feet in roles of school leadership. She was an instructional coach before becoming the upper Elementary School Principal at the Boston Renaissance Charter Public School. Now as a METCO Director Lateefah is extending her work as an educational leader providing support to educators in Westwood, MA.


Caroline Han

M.A.T. Boston University; B.A. Cornell University; Diversity and Equity Coordinator, Wayland Public Schools; IDEAS instructor. Caroline has spent her career in the classroom as a history teacher. This year, she joined the Wayland community as the district’s first diversity and equity coordinator, a position that allows her to partner with colleagues to address systemic inequities that keep marginalized students from reaching their fullest potential.


JoAnne Kazis

(She/Her/Hers) M.Ed, Educator, yogi, mindfulness practitioner & teacher, and lover of all creative expressions are some of ways to describe JoAnne Kazis. She is a Boston native and a graduate of Boston Public Schools, who went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Art and English with a concentration in Communications from UMass Boston and then a Masters degree in Elementary Education and Creative Arts in Learning from Lesley University. JoAnne has taught elementary school for over 15 years in Newton, MA. She is a Yoga Alliance registered teacher at the RYT-200 level and received her certification through YogaWorks and has also completed 95 hours of additional training for all levels of kids’ yoga through ChildLight Yoga. She has completed several courses through Mindful Schools including the Mindful Schools Year Long Certification Program as a Mindful Schools Certified Teacher and has worked as an IDEAS Instructor for several years.


Dr. Roderick MacNeal, Jr.

(He/Him/His) Dr. Roderick MacNeal, Jr. is currently the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for the Arlington Public School District. He has over 20 years of public school experience during which time he has served as a 2nd, 3rd, 4th grade teacher, assistant principal of a K-8 and 6-8 middle school, as well as an elementary school principal. In each of his positions, Dr. MacNeal has worked to provide an equitable learning environment for all students. As principal of the John Eliot Elementary School in Needham, he led a staff that earned level 1 status and a Commendation award for high progress and narrowing proficiency gaps. In his current role, he has written a grant to conduct an equity audit of the current district curriculum and planned multiple district wide professional development days that focused on equity and inclusion for all students. Just recently, he has completed a train the trainer course in cultural humility which provides an alternative way of thinking about race and cultural education. He has an undergraduate degree in English Literature from the University of Michigan, a Masters of Arts in Teaching in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood Development and Educational Specialist Certificate in Administration from Wayne State University, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Boston College. His research for his dissertation focused on the recruitment, retention and support for educators of color.


Dr. Paula Martin

Adjunct Professor, Quinsigamond Community College, Consultant, IDEAS Instructor, Retired Middle School Administrator, Academic Coach and Scholar Practitioner with over 25 years of experience in Education and Professional Development. Her dissertation focus was White Privilege Awareness. Additionally, she has delivered courses and workshops on Difficult Conversations about Race, Mentoring Students of Color, Anti-Racist Practices in the Classroom and Diversity in the Workplace. Currently, Dr. Martin teaches a Valuing Diversity Class with a focus on Unconscious Bias, Stereotypes, Culture and Gender at Quinsigamond Community College.


Katie O’Hare Gibson

(She/Her) M.Ed. in Organizational Management, Endicott College; M.Ed., Lesley College; B.S., Boston University; IDEAS Instructor, Assistant Principal of the Maria Hastings School in Lexington, MA. Katie is dedicated to this work in response to the words of Lilia Watson, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Katie was an Early Childhood (pre-K to first grade) teacher for 25 years in Lexington and in Dorchester, and currently serves as Assistant Principal of an elementary school in Lexington, MA. She has presented at a variety of conferences, including the IDEAS conference, White Privilege Symposium and the Annual Scientific Conference of The Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society. She has led school-based Equity Teams in Lexington, which develop and implement professional development opportunities for teachers, in the interest of creating schools that offer an education centered on justice. She also co-created a curriculum, Dismantling Racism in Our Town, which was developed in order to give adults the knowledge, tools and networking opportunities they need to dismantle local systems of oppression and discrimination.


Leslie Smart

BA, Emmanuel College and MA, UMass, Boston. Leslie is currently the Associate METCO Director for the Needham Public Schools. She has been an IDEAS (EMI) Instructor for 12 years and also helps develop professional development programs focused on cultural proficiency for her district. She taught English for 13 years at Boston Latin Academy and has worked in programs in Brookline, at the Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education and at Framingham’s Mckinney-Vento Program.


Rebecca Smoler

(She/Her/Hers) MS in Educational Leadership and MAT, Simmons College; BA in English and Cinema Studies, Northeastern University. Rebecca has been an English Language Arts educator in the Boston suburbs for the last ten years. After taking her first IDEAS course in the summer of 2010, she returned to her classroom and school with a new commitment to equity and justice. She is currently an IDEAS Instructor and the English Language Arts Coordinator 6 – 12 in Sharon Public Schools. She also co-founded Wayland Community for Social Justice in 2016. Rebecca lives in Wayland with her husband, two daughters, and their dog, Tonks.


Elli Stern

From 2003 to 2015 Elli Stern was the part-time Coordinator of Curriculum and Instruction for Empowering Multicultural Initiatives (EMI), now known as IDEAS. Prior to EMI, Ms. Stern taught in the Boston Public School system for ten years and in the Lincoln Public Schools for 15 years. She created “Bridges to Understanding”, a course for 7th and 8th graders that she co-taught for nine years. This course was designed to help students explore and discuss issues of stereotypes, prejudices and social justice. Ms. Stern received a M.A. from Lesley University; a M.S. from Simmons College; a M.Ed. from Suffolk University; and a B.A. from Simmons College.


Margaret Credle Thomas

Margaret has worked for the Arlington Public Schools for six-years as the K-12 METCO (Metropolitan Council For Educational Opportunity) Director. Her previous positions included METCO specialist for Wayland Public Schools, Assistant METCO Director for Lexington Public Schools, and Interim METCO Director for Brookline Public Schools. Margaret has a strong background in anti-racist education, having served as an IDEAS facilitator/trainer for over 15 years, to increase cultural sensitivity and effective teaching. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts/Boston and a Master of Science in Social Work from Simmons University. Her background also includes serving as a school social worker/adjustment counselor and as an adjunct professor at both Wheelock College and the Urban College of Boston.


Karen Thomsen

As Program Director of IDEAS, Karen works with a dedicated team of instructors to provide anti-bias education to schools and agencies. Karen has spent her career working with people across difference-as an International Project Leader for the Danish Volunteer Service, a social worker for adolescents and children in residential placements, a high school Spanish teacher for 32 years , a consultant for the Anti-Defamation League, and most recently, as the School Mediator and Coordinator of the Anti-Bias Team at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional HS. Karen holds a BA in Spanish with a minor in French and Education from City College of New York, an MA from the University of Pennsylvania and a social work degree from Københavns Socialpædagogiske Seminarium.


Jennifer Battle Vautour

Bio Coming Soon!


Edward Walker

Ed is a Boston native and a Boston Public School graduate, who went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in African American Studies with a concentration in English and then a Masters degree in School Psychology and Counseling (Bates College and Cambridge College). Combined, Ed has worked in higher education and secondary education for 16 years. He is the Founder and President of Independent Consultants of Education, currently serves an Inspirational Speaker, IDEAS Instructor, and Guidance Counselor at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.


Doug Weinstock

(He/Him/His). Since 2001, Doug has been an IDEAS instructor, as well as a consultant providing diversity, equity, inclusion training, assessment, and coaching with VISIONS, Inc. From 2003 – 2015 he served as a part-time Coordinator for EMI, which became IDEAS in 2014. Prior to working with EMI/IDEAS, he spent three decades as a teacher, staff developer, and principal in several Boston-area school districts.He received an Ed.M from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Jennifer Wolfrum

Obtained her BA from Skidmore College with a double major in Philosophy and Government and her M.Ed, from the University of Texas at Austin with a focus on Community Health Education. Jennifer is currently an IDEAS Instructor and has provided a range of graduate courses addressing race, racism and white privilege for over 20 years. She retired as a Senior Instructor at Cambridge College for graduate studies in Health, Family and Consumer Sciences in 2018 and she recently retired (2016) from the Lexington Public Schools where she was Assistant Coordinator of Health and Physical Education, K-12, teaching health education at the high school and supervising health and physical education teachers K – 12. She is the proud mother of twin daughters and a white woman committed to anti-racist education and social justice issues.

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