Melissa Phillips is a native of Brooklyn, NY, and serves as the performing arts specialist at Excellence Girls Middle Academy. With an undergraduate degree in Communications and English, Melissa initially worked to find new ways of bringing the humanities classroom into the digital era. In her first role as a teacher with Teach for America in the Miami Dade region, she won rookie teacher of the year after emphasizing digital literacy in the classroom, focusing on digital branding, website building and digital communication in her classroom. Her tenth graders composed resumes, and websites in the classroom and used them to apply to local internships and jobs. These accomplishments and others lead to a feature in the publication “The Education Effect”.
Despite her love of writing and literacy, Melissa's primary mode of communication and trajectory to success has always been the arts. This lead her to pursue her Master of Arts in Theatre and English Education from the department of Music and Performing Arts at New York University's Steinhardt School. During her time at NYU she created Mission Theatre; an arts outreach project that works with schools domestically and abroad to cultivate arts programming through student and teacher workshops. Her work earned her the department's award for Outstanding Achievement and Citizenship in Theatre. She currently works as both a performer, and arts educator in New York and abroad in the UK and the Caribbean and is a 2016 Innovative Cultural Advocacy Fellow with the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute.
Melissa is dedicated to combining media arts with traditional arts to develop a new generation of critically thinking adults. Her goal is to help her students better understand culture by using innovative methods to interact with it.
Garry Mitchell joined Teach for America in 2013 as a New York City Region Corps member. He currently works as a 5th grade history at Excellence Girls Middle Academy, a part of Uncommon Schools. In his work he strives to lead his students to the realization that there are not only women of color that have created HERstory, but also that they are the next wave of voices that the world is waiting to hear. Prior, Garry worked as a 5th and 6th grade English Language Arts and Social Studies teacher at St HOPE Leadership Academy in Harlem, New York.
During his time at St HOPE Garry served as an advisor for the National Junior Honors Society and facilitated trips with students to both Canada and Chicago--acting on his passion to expose students to travel and broaden their cultural experiences.
Garry has his B.A. In African and African American Studies from Stanford University where he completed an honors thesis entitled Instant Ethnicity: Ancestry Tests and Their Impact in Shaping African American Ethnic Identity and Prompting External Action. Garry graduated with a Masters in Secondary Education and focus in English Language Arts from Relay Graduate School of Education in 2015. Garry hails from Chicago, IL and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.
Hailing from Brooklyn, NY, Candace has made a lifetime commitment to the classroom and the children she serves. After graduating from Temple University in 2010, Candace sought to affect change in the Black community through the power of education. She used Teach for America as a vessel to gain access to the classroom. She simultaneously earned her Masters degree, from the University of Pennsylvania, in elementary education. Throughout the past 7 years, Candace has educated over 700 children of color throughout Philadelphia and Brooklyn and has helped change the academic trajectory of the youth that she has encountered.
Gary McCrear hails from the small city of Conyers, Georgia which is where he started his journey towards academic excellence. He holds his Bachelor of Arts from Morehouse College and his Master of Arts from the University of Pittsburgh. Having the opportunity to travel to different places and perfect his craft has allowed him to express his love of the study of foreign languages, specifically Spanish, which is what he currently teaches at a high school in Brooklyn. Infusing the most hands-on approach to language learning possible, Gary inspires his students to develop daily with his knowledge of the language and own personal life experiences intertwined with his instruction. He loves being able to give back to his communities in any way possible.
Destiny Shantell Woodbury was born, raised, and educated in the biggest and great state of Rhode Island. Destiny began her teaching career as a Teach for America Corps member (Houston '07) and is currently a middle school Principal in Residence in Achievement First in Brooklyn, NY. Destiny will be going back home to be the founding principal at the first Achievement First middle school in Providence, RI in the community where she grew up in as a child in August 2017.
Prior to joining Achievement First, Destiny was a Manager of Teacher Leadership Development (MTLD) in Houston, where she coached 37 first and second year STEM CMs within KIPP Houston and YES Prep. Destiny taught for 5 years as a fifth grade science teacher at KIPP Liberation College Preparatory and was also the grade level chair, science content chair, MS Science teacher leader and curriculum leader, robotic coach, and the head track and field coach. In 2015, her students were ranked #1 out of all KIPP MS across the nation on the 2014-2015 NWEA MAP Assessment and generated the highest student achievement in fifth grade science in school history by over 25%, 94% of students met their typical growth goals (RIT), 89% of students met their tiered growth targets, and grew an average of 3.51 years (magnitude of growth).