Senior Fellows

The NEA Foundation’s Senior Fellows Advisory Group contributes expertise and knowledge on its programmatic efforts and philanthropic strategy. These globally recognized though leaders are experts in the achievement gap in U.S. public schools, effective teaching and learning, academic and nonacademic support for students, collaboration across sectors, and much more.

  • Melissa Collins

    Second Grade Educator
    John P. Freeman Optional School
    Memphis, TN

    Melissa Collins is a second grade teacher at John P. Freeman Optional School in Memphis, Tennessee, and believes that is imperative to expose students to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). She reasons that increasing STEM in the curriculum will motivate students to pursue math and science related careers, something she has worked hard to do in her classroom. She is an NEA Foundation Pearson Global Learning Fellow, and implements global awareness into her curriculum, so her students can value and appreciate others. She also works to broaden educators’ perspectives about global competencies by speaking and presenting at various venues.

    Melissa is an advocate for public education, and she believes teachers must have a voice in shaping policy and practice. Her passion has led her to participate in Fellowship programs with America Achieves and Teach Plus. As an America Achieves Teacher Fellow, she has advised former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s senior advisors, become active with Raise the Bar Parents, and advocated for the Common Core State Standards. She also serves on the Teach Plus Fellows Alumni Policy Advisory Committee.

    To help ensure that all children have access to a caring and committed teacher, she has mentored several teachers through the National Board Certified Teacher process. She is the recipient of several awards and honors, including: the Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence, the Presidential Award for Excellence Mathematics and Science Teaching, the National Science Teaching Association Sylvia Shurgrue Award, and West Tennessee Teacher of the Year.

  • Therese Kreig Crane

    Crane Associates
    Dallas, TX

    Therese Kreig Crane, Ed.D, currently serves in various leadership capacities within the education industry, including as a trustee for the Curriki Foundation, EdLeader 21, and the Western Governors University. She serves on the board of directors for Renaissance Learning, National American University, and In 2003, she formed Crane Associates as a sole proprietorship, engaged in an educational technology consulting practice, advising educational technology companies in business strategy, marketing, and sales. Dr. Crane has been an executive for Apple, AOL, and Jostens Learning. Early in her career, she was a teacher, principal, and technology consultant for Richardson Schools in Texas. In 1999, eSchool News recognized Dr. Crane as one of the “Impact 30” for educational technology leadership for the decade.

  • Michael Fullan

    Professor Emeritus
    University of Toronto
    Toronto, Ontario

    Michael Fullan is professor emeritus of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. Recognized as a worldwide authority on educational reform, Fullan led the team that evaluated the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy in England. This highly successful reform was designed to improve literacy and numeracy across 20,000 primary schools in England. Fullan is currently special advisor to the premier and minister of education in Ontario. He holds honorary doctorates from the University of Edinburgh and from Nipissing University in Canada. His book Turnaround Leadership in Higher Education (with Geoff Scott) won the Bellwether Book Award in 2009, and Change Wars (with Andy Hargreaves) was awarded the 2009 Book of the Year Award by Learning Forward. His latest book, Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School (with Andy Hargreaves), was published in March 2012.

  • Rhonda Johnson

    Education Director
    City of Columbus
    Columbus, Ohio

    Rhonda Johnson serves as the Columbus’s full time director on education policy and investments and engages with Columbus City Schools and the entire education community. As director, Johnson serves as an ex-officio member of the Columbus Board of Education with a formal, recognized role in board meetings. Johnson’s passion for education has been evident in her career. Johnson has been a Columbus City Schools teacher since 1978, preparing hundreds of students for jobs in banking or financial institutions. Johnson has been in a leadership position with the Columbus Education Association since 1994, as vice president under John Grossman and in 2004 as president. During her time at the CEA, Johnson achieved a series of major educational reform projects and remained in a competitive negotiating position. As a member of the Columbus Education Commission Johnson was a vocal advocate for reform. Johnson has served on numerous advisory committees for the NEA and represented teachers as an associate and chief member of TURN (Teacher Union Reform Network), which shared CEA’s innovative ideas with the Ohio legislature, Congress and universities.

  • Susan Moore Johnson

    Jerome T. Murphy Professor in Education
    Harvard Graduate School of Education
    Cambridge, Mass.

    Susan Moore Johnson is the Jerome T. Murphy Professor in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she served as academic dean from 1993 to 1999. Her research and teaching has focused on teacher policy, organizational change and administrative practice. A former high school teacher and administrator, Johnson has a continuing research interest in the work of teachers and the reform of schools. She has studied the leadership of superintendents, the effects of collective bargaining on schools, teacher evaluation, the use of incentive pay plans for teachers, and the school as a context for adult work. Since 1998, Johnson has directed a multi-year research study, “The Project on the Next Generation of Teachers,” which examines how best to recruit, support and retain a strong teaching force. In 2004, Johnson and her colleagues at the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers published “Finders and Keepers: Helping New Teachers Survive and Thrive in Our Schools.” Johnson is also the author of “How Context Matters in High-Needs Schools: The Effects of Teachers’ Working Conditions on Their Professional Satisfaction and Their Students’ Achievement” (with Matthew Kraft and John P. Papay) (2012).

  • Gloria Ladson-Billings

    Kellner Family Professor of Urban Education
    University of Wisconsin-Madison
    Madison, Wisc.

    Gloria J. Ladson-Billings is the Kellner Family Professor of Urban Education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. From 2005-2006, she served as president of the American Educational Research Association. Her research examines the pedagogical practices of teachers who are successful with African American students. Her work has won numerous scholarly awards, including the H.I. Romnes faculty fellowship, the Spencer Post-doctoral Fellowship, and the Palmer O. Johnson Outstanding Research Award. In 2002, Ladson-Billings was awarded an honorary doctorate from Umea University (Sweden), and in 2012 received another from University of Alicante, Spain. From 2003-2004, she was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. Dr. Ladson-Billings is the author of the critically acclaimed books, “The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children” and “Crossing Over to Canaan: The Journey of New Teachers in Diverse Classrooms.”

  • Luke Merchlewitz

    Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct Faculty
    Winona State University
    Winona, Minn.

    Luke Merchlewitz is a second grade teacher in Winona, Minnesota and an adjunct faculty member at Winona State University. Serving in education for nearly 30 years, Merchlewitz was a 2010 top ten finalist for MN Teacher of the Year and Minnesota’s Teacher of Excellence in 2011. He also serves on a variety of non-profit organizations including the Foundation Board for Winona Area Public Schools as well as the board of directors for the 7 Rivers Region of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Merchlewitz is an NEA Foundation Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellow, a project designed to broaden the basic understanding of how educators navigate the global age and strengthen their global competencies and corresponding instructional practices. He is a recognized leader in public education for his commitment and teaching abilities.

  • Pedro Noguera

    Distinguished Professor of Education
    Graduate School of Education and Information Sciences at UCLA
    Los Angeles, Calif.

    Pedro Noguera is a distinguished professor of education at the Graduate School of Education and Information Sciences at UCLA. Noguera most recently was the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University. Noguera is an urban sociologist whose scholarship and research focuses on the ways in which schools are influenced by social and economic conditions in the urban environment. Noguera is also the executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education and the co-director of the Institute for the Study of Globalization and Education in Metropolitan Settings (IGEMS). In 2008, he was appointed by the governor of New York to serve on the State University of New York board of trustees. A former classroom teacher in public schools in Providence, R.I. and Oakland, Calif., he has published over one hundred fifty research articles and reports on topics such as urban school reform, conditions that promote student achievement, youth violence, the potential impact of school choice and vouchers on urban public schools, and race and ethnic relations in American society. Noguera is the author of “Unfinished Business: Closing the Achievement Gap in Our Nation’s Schools” (Josey Bass, 2006) and “The Trouble with Black Boys…and Other Reflections on Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education” (Wiley and Sons, 2008).

  • Michael D. Usdan

    Former President
    Institute for Educational Leadership

    Michael D. Usdan served as president of the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) from 1981 through 2001. On July 1, 2001, he became a senior fellow at the organization. Before joining IEL, Usdan was Connecticut’s commissioner of higher education from 1978 through 1981. From 1974 through 1978, Usdan was president of the Merrill-Palmer Institute in Detroit. Usdan received his master’s and doctoral degrees from Columbia University, having previously completed his undergraduate studies at Brown University. He worked on the staff of the late Dr. James B. Conant in the latter’s famous studies of American education and has taught at Columbia University, City University of New York, Northwestern, and Fordham Universities, and in schools in New York City and White Plains. He also served as a member and president of the school board in the city of New Rochelle, New York from 1969 to 1974.

    Usdan has written many articles and books on various aspects of education. Several themes dominate his writing: problems relating to urban education, the relationship of government and politics to education, and the growing interest in developing closer relationships between elementary – secondary and higher education.

    He has been a consultant to local and state boards of education and educational organizations throughout the country and has spoken at and participated in numerous meetings, both in the United states and internationally in nations such as China, India, Nepal, Hungary, Russia, and Japan.

    Currently, among other affiliations, he is a member of the editorial advisory board of the Phi Delta Kappan magazine and a consultant to the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Hunt Institute, and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

  • Paul Reville

    Francis Keppel Professor of Practice of Educational Policy and Administration
    Harvard University
    Cambridge, Mass.

    Paul Reville is the Francis Keppel Professor of Practice of Educational Policy and Administration and a member of the senior faculty at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education (HGSE). He has been a member of the HGSE faculty since 1997 and has served as director of the Education Policy and Management program. He recently completed nearly five years of service as the secretary of education for the commonwealth of Massachusetts. As Governor Patrick’s top education advisor and spokesman, Reville established the Executive Office of Education and had oversight of higher education, K-12, and early childhood education in the nation’s leading student achievement state. He served on all four of the state’s education governing boards and in the governor’s Cabinet. He played a lead in the administration’s efforts on education reform matters ranging from the Achievement Gap Act of 2010 and Common Core State Standards to the commonwealth’s highly successful Race to the Top proposal.

    For decades, Reville has played a leading role in education reform in Massachusetts and nationally. Prior to joining the Patrick administration, Reville had chaired the Massachusetts State Board of Education, founded the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy, co-founded the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE), chaired the Massachusetts Reform Review Commission, chaired the Massachusetts Commission on Time and Learning, and served as executive director of the Pew Forum on Standards-Based Reform, a national “think tank” which convened the U.S.’s leading researchers, practitioners and policy-makers to set the national standards agenda.

    Reville played a central role in MBAE’s development of and advocacy for Massachusetts historic Education Reform Act of 1993, the commonwealth’s landmark initiative to establish standards and accountability. He is a national leader on time and learning, labor-management relations in education, the state role in educational improvement, and systemic school reform.

    Reville’s career, which combines research, policy, and practice, began with service as a VISTA volunteer/youth worker. He served as a VISTA volunteer, youth worker, teacher and principal of two urban, alternative high schools. Some years later, he founded the Alliance for Education, a local education foundation which was part of the Public Education Network, a national association on whose board Reville served for many years. He is a board member, consultant, and advisor to a host of private, public, and non-profit organizations.

    Reville has published a wide range of articles on educational improvement and edited the book entitled “A Decade of Urban School Reform: Persistence and Progress in the Boston Public Schools”. He is a graduate of Colorado College, and holds a master’s degree from Stanford University and five honorary doctorates. He is an author and frequent speaker on education issues. He is the father of four children.

  • Jerry Weast

    Former Superintendent
    Montgomery County Public Schools
    Montgomery County, MD

    Jerry D. Weast recently retired as superintendent of the Montgomery County Public Schools, the largest and most diverse school system in Maryland and the 16th largest district in the nation. As superintendent from 1999-2011, Weast served during a period of great demographic change in Montgomery County and kept the focus on narrowing the achievement gap for the district’s nearly 145,000 students. Under his leadership, Montgomery County Public Schools earned national recognition for achieving the highest student graduation rate among the nation’s 50 largest school systems. In recognition of his innovative leadership, Weast has been named superintendent of the year in two states. He serves on the boards of various policy, educational, business, and community organizations, including the Committee for Economic Development, Peabody College (Vanderbilt University) National Ed.D. Advisory Board, and Junior Achievement Worldwide Education Group.

  • Kevin Welner

    University of Colorado Boulder
    Boulder, Colo.

    Kevin G. Welner is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, School of Education, specializing in educational policy and law. He is director of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at UC Boulder. He earned both his Juris Doctor (1988) and Ph.D. (1997) from UCLA. Welner’s present research examines the use and misuse of research in policymaking and explores various issues concerning the intersection between education rights litigation and educational opportunity scholarship. His research has also explored issues of tracking and de-tracking, small-school reform, tuition-tax-credit vouchers, and the change process associated with equity-minded reform efforts – reforms aimed at benefiting those who hold less powerful school and community positions.

    Welner has received the Early Career Award (in 2006) and the Palmer O. Johnson Award (best article in 2004) given by the American Educational Research Association (AERA), as well as the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Residency and the Post-Doctoral Fellowship awarded by the National Academy of Education and the Spencer Foundation. He is a Fellow of the AERA and prior member of the NEA Foundation Board of Directors.

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