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Staff

We come from different backgrounds with different experiences, knowledge, and skills. What we share is a genuine and personal commitment to helping public school educators prepare students for college, work, and life.

  • Robert Adams Jr.

    Senior Vice President of Programs

    Robert’s favorite teacher growing up was Mrs. Cherry, his sixth-grade teacher in Goldsboro, North Carolina, because she loved her students and demanded excellence.

    Now, Robert leads the Foundation’s programs for individual educators, including professional development opportunities, educator collaboration, and small grants to fund new courses. He oversees the Global Learning Fellowship and Grants to Educators programs.

    He brings 17 years of philanthropic experience and 30 years of international experience to the Foundation. Robert’s unique perspective on education and leadership comes from conducting research in Brazil, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, Mozambique, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, and the United States. At the Foundation, Robert leverages his experience to help educators become leaders in the classroom and beyond.

    Outside of work, he’s often found reading – he’s a fan of international mystery thrillers. Maybe they remind him of his own travels.

     

  • Meghan Berka

    Program Assistant

    Meghan doesn’t have a favorite teacher because it was too hard to choose between all of the wonderful teachers at Handley Elementary School. Each of them approached their work with creativity, energy, and kindness.

    Now, Meghan’s giving back to educators – she helps the Foundation’s program team ensure that schools, educators, and students get the support they need through the Foundation’s work.

    Before coming to the Foundation, Meghan worked to build opportunities for community engagement in public schools. She was inspired by resourceful, collaborative, and dedicated individuals who recognize the potential of all students. She believes that supporting and empowering teachers leads to student success, and her work at the Foundation gives her the opportunity to build that support and empowerment.

    Meghan enjoys a healthy serving of fruit in her diet. Though she has no desire to live in the Greek Underworld, she likes to relax by meticulously disassembling pomegranates.

  • Annelise Cohon

    Program Manager

    Annelise still keeps in touch with her high school theater teacher, JC Svec. Under his mentorship, she managed more than 10 high school theater productions and a few off-Broadway plays in New York City. She credits her love of Wendy Wasserstein and local theater to those formative years behind the stage.

    Today, Annelise continues her work with educators to help students thrive. She collaborates with educators across the country to ensure that kids get the nutrition they need in order to learn. She also helps educators and districts better serve students’ health and basic needs so they can succeed in all aspects of their lives.

    Annelise is an aspiring photographer and poet. While living in Haifa, Israel she joined a poetry club and had one of her pieces published in the local newspaper. In her free time, Annelise can be found at the local farmer’s market with her husband or at Dupont Circle Yoga.

  • Liz Dunning

    Senior Vice President of Programs

    Liz’s third grade teacher, Mr. Hagar, challenged his students to do their best work while letting them know every day that he loved them.

    Now Liz has her own children, who would say that her job is asking good questions. Liz guides the design, implementation, and management of programs affecting the Foundation’s mission and activities to strengthen public education. She works with a talented team to support educators and school districts in STEM, social and emotional learning and breakfast in the classroom.

    At the Foundation, Liz uses her skills and expertise in nonprofit management and organizational development every day. With experience in business, nonprofits, and consulting, she helps ensure the Foundation’s programs are effective and efficient. For Liz, the Foundation is one of the best places in the country to connect with educators for knowledge and understanding of the big issues in public education today.

    In her spare time, Liz warms up for her marathons by running after her two energetic young boys.

  • Andy Grabel

    Vice President, Communications

    Andy’s first grade teacher, Ms. Everett, helped instill in him a love of learning and curiosity through her compassion for students and encouragement. Her positive influence showed him what a lasting influence teachers can have on young students early in their academic career.

    Now, Andy directs communications strategy for the Foundation, oversees its digital presence, and helps position the organization as a leader in supporting educators as change agents in public education.

    He brings 15 years of communications experience to the Foundation, having worked as both a newspaper reporter and as a public relations professional for mission-driven organizations. For seven years, Andy led media relations and advocacy campaigns to engage the public in the full scope of American history and helping to preserve historic places.

    Outside of work, Andy enjoys playing soccer, seeing live music shows, and spending time with his wife, a public school educator in Fairfax County, Va., and his infant daughter.

  • Jesse Graytock

    Program Manager

    Jesse says that choosing a favorite teacher is like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. But he has wonderful memories of kindergarten teacher Mrs. Longo, who was incredibly patient and comforting to a frightened five-year-old. She even brought him ice cream after he had his tonsils removed.

    Now Jesse gets a chance to support educators like Mrs. Longo every day. He manages the Foundation’s Student Achievement and Learning & Leadership grant programs, as well as the STEM initiative.

    After studying business administration and taking graduate courses in education at Bucknell University, Jesse found his niche in education grants over a decade ago. He loves the opportunity his job gives him to meet amazing educators all across this country. He came to the Foundation in the midst of a quarter-life crisis, and the mission, staff, and programs clicked immediately. He’s been here ever since.

    Jesse finished 67th in the Boston Marathon once, but his proudest achievement was creating and organizing a competitive eating contest in his hometown of Forest City, Penn. He treasures the memory of watching a person eat 50 pierogis in 10 minutes.

  • Eric James

    Chief Financial Officer

    Eric’s favorite teacher was Maureen Dincher, his high school British literature teacher. She inspired a love of the material and connected with her students beyond the classroom.

    Eric serves as the Foundation’s Chief Financial Officer. He is responsible for finances, administration, human relations, and IT needs. He keeps the lights on – literally – at the Foundation.

    He brings fifteen years of nonprofit experience and a CPA license to his role, as well as a lifelong appreciation for teachers. His mother taught elementary and middle school in Maryland for 41 years and is a lifetime NEA member. He believes there is no finer mission than working on behalf of our nation’s public school students and educators.

    Eric loves to spend time with his family, entertain, and regale his colleagues with fascinating tales from his time spent working at the National Zoo.

  • Alissa Platz

    Development Associate

    Alissa had many great teachers who inspired her. Her favorite teacher was her 7th and 8th grade English teacher, Mr. Riccardi, who was passionate about literature and taught her the secrets to essay writing and poetry. His passion, charisma, and creativity inspired Alissa’s lifelong love of learning.

    Alissa supports educators and students by making sure the Foundation has the funding and resources it needs. She focuses on our donor data management and researching future supporters.

    Prior to coming to the Foundation, Alissa worked at a nonprofit where she did everything from planning events to donor relations to leading a trip to Germany. Alissa graduated from American University with a degree in International Studies and Spanish.

    A lover of all things Washington, D.C, Alissa likes exploring the many opportunities that this city has to offer, including concerts, art festivals, and playing in a recreational softball league on the National Mall. Alissa also enjoys watching sports; her favorite teams are the Nationals and Yankees.

  • Meg Porta

    Chief Operating Officer

    Of the many great educators Meg remembers, one of her favorites was Miss Larsen, who frequently led her class of second graders in musical noise-making. While Miss Larsen played her orange upright piano, her students banged enthusiastically at a variety of percussion instruments. Miss Larsen also let students choose their own extra-credit spelling words – including supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

    As Chief Operating Officer, Meg oversees the Foundation’s communications, resource development and organizational planning efforts, ensuring that everyone is seamlessly working together to keep the promise of public education.

    Her 25 years of experience in nonprofit management and resource development and her education background in public policy give her the skills to build the Foundation’s partnerships and strategy. Meg sees public education as a cornerstone of democracy and believes that educators are key to building quality public schools.

    Possibly as a result of Miss Larsen’s musical encouragement, Meg loves to see live music and goes to numerous performances each year.

  • Sara A. Sneed

    President and CEO

    Sara Sneed is the President and CEO of the NEA Foundation in Washington, D.C. Sara joined the NEA Foundation in February 2019, after almost 20 years with the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, one of the nation’s largest community foundations. While with the Hartford Foundation, Sara served as director of education investments, promoting educational equity and excellence with partners at the local, state and national levels. Sara also led the development of strategy and policy advocacy to close persistent educational opportunity gaps and improve student outcomes across some of Connecticut’s highest need school districts. She is credited with developing dynamic new learning opportunities both for and with educators and students; successful advocacy for equity-focused fiscal practices among schools and school districts; and effective grants programs, policy advocacy, and cross sector collaboration supporting English Learners, whole child development and increased family, school and community partnership. Her efforts resulted in the development of new infrastructures for teaching and learning in Connecticut, strengthened communities of practice, a growing cadre of regional leaders committed to educational and racial equity, and co-creation of several successful community schools alongside partners from the public, private and independent sectors.

    Sara previously served as senior program manager with the Foundation for the Mid-South, where she was responsible for the Families and Children, Public Policy, and Faculty Fellows (leadership development) programs. As director of maternal and child health with the Medical Foundation in Boston, her leadership resulted in significant expansion of public health partnerships and strategic initiatives throughout the surrounding region. Previously, she served as special projects manager with the Massachusetts Department of Social Services, leading program and systems innovations in several areas, including the Department’s contributions to the education, health and human service components of Blueprint 2000, a comprehensive long-range and statewide strategic planning initiative.

    Sara began her career as director of the Southern New England Network for Black Families and Children, a tri-state advocacy initiative launched by the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts. Directly out of college, she was appointed area manager of the Roxbury, Massachusetts Office for Children, using mediations and the court system to obtain services for children while supporting parents’ self-advocacy in pursuit of children’s entitlements.

    Among her national leadership roles, Sara currently serves as Vice Chair of the Board of the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington D.C.; on the Grantmakers for Education Equity Impact Group; and on the steering committees of the Education Funders’ Strategy Group and Community Schools’ Funders Group. She is the former co-chair of the Coalition of Community Foundations for Youth (now CFLeads), representing more than 300 community foundations nationwide, and a former executive board member of Grantmakers for Children, Youth and Families.

    An ordained clergywoman, Sara is a former chair of the Board of the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ.  She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and holds an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School (Yale University) where she was named a William and Lucille Nickerson Scholar and winner of both the prestigious Walcott and Charles S. Mersick preaching prizes.

  • Melissa Slaughter

    Vice President of Development

    Melissa’s middle school history teacher helped spark her love of history, eventually leading to a degree in the subject.

    At the Foundation, Melissa plays a key role in expanding and diversifying the Foundation’s donor base and increasing external support for our programs. As the parent of three young children, the eldest two being in Arlington County public elementary schools, she’s passionate about the Foundation’s mission of advancing student achievement by investing in public education.

    Melissa has over ten years of fundraising experience, including work at Johns Hopkins Medicine, American University Washington College of Law, and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. With experience raising support from individuals, corporations, and foundations, she’s well-placed to ensure the Foundation has the resources to continue supporting public education.

    A global explorer, Melissa has hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. She’s traveled in Europe throughout Great Britain, Ireland, Spain, and Italy, as well as visited Paris and Prague. She’s also been to Morocco, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, and 36 U.S. states.

  • Anna Smith

    Database Coordinator

    Always the diplomat, Anna has two favorite teachers. Her fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Wyatt, always encouraged her to reach higher and imagine what she could be. And her 12th grade government teacher, Mr. Weber, taught not only civics but also wisdom and integrity.

    Anna manages the Foundation’s databases and answers teachers’ questions about membership, grants, and the NEA Foundation in general. After working on contracts in the corporate sector, she’s happy to have a job where she can help educators realize their innovative ideas.

    Anna is an intellectual — in her spare time, she enjoys researching Biblical history.

  • Jessica Wechter

    Special Assistant to the President & CEO

    Jessica’s favorite teachers include her high school visual art instructor, Susan Parker, who taught her hands-on darkroom photography skills and connected her to community projects and resources. Her middle school algebra teacher, Sean Dillon, mixed just the right blend of encouragement, humor, and tough love to push his students to enjoy and understand math.

    Jessica Wechter works closely with the president and CEO on the Foundation’s programming and operations, making sure everything runs smoothly across departments and with the board of directors.

    She built her multi-tasking skills through her work managing projects at a national philanthropic association, where she also began thinking about the “how” and “why” of an organization’s work. Jessica sees high-quality education as foundational to improving people’s lives. This shared value, along with an interest in working more closely with programs and nonprofit governance, drew her to the Foundation.

    A fan of the outdoors, Jessica loves to go hiking and recently trekked along Portugal’s southern coastline, from Lisbon to Sagres. Here in DC, she gets her hiking fix taking her two rescue Labrador retrievers for walks.

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