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.

  • 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.

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