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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.

  • Isabelle Cooksey

    Strategy Associate

    Isabelle remembers Mrs. Contreras, her teacher for 5th and 6th grade, as one of the most influential educators in her student career. The respect and friendship she showed to each of her students, Isabelle believes, created a wonderful and exciting learning environment where students could succeed.

    As Strategy Associate, Isabelle provides logistical, research, and project management support for the Foundation’s grantmaking portfolio and educator awards and fellowships.

    Before joining the Foundation, Isabelle served as a Peace Corps Volunteer and literacy specialist for two years, working at an all-girls elementary school in eastern Uganda. A graduate of The University of Texas, she studied Human Development & Family Sciences in addition to working as a research assistant on a study focused on the social, emotional, and educational development of children who must translate for their parents.

    In her spare time, Isabelle enjoys volunteering in her community, being outdoors, and taking any opportunity she can to travel around the country and world!

  • Andy Grabel

    Vice President of 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.

  • 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.

  • Dani Pierce

    Strategy Officer

    At the beginning of 4th grade, Mrs. Meade announced that the class would have a talent show. Dani pictured all of the amazing skills that would be highlighted and began to sweat. She wasn’t a black belt in karate or able to do multiple back handsprings like the gymnasts in her class, nor did she sing, dance, or even collect rare stones. So, she rushed home and began digging through the attic where she found an old ventriloquist dummy. The only problem – she didn’t know how to throw her voice. So, she grabbed her boom box and a Tina Turner cassette tape and when Friday came, she stood in front of the class pulling the dummy’s string along to ‘Simply the Best’ red faced as the entire class chuckled. She worried in that moment that if her talent was being funny, it meant she wasn’t smart. Later that day, as she returned from recess, she found a handwritten note on her desk which read, “It takes a lot of talent and intelligence to be funny. You were spectacular today! Love, Mrs. Meade.” Mrs. Meade changed her life in so many ways that year, but the most significant lesson was that being unique and funny was valuable.

    As Strategy Officer at the NEA Foundation, Dani oversees the Foundation’s portfolio of grants to individual educators, manages the national awards program, and supports in the design and administration of strategic initiatives.

    Prior to joining the Foundation, Dani led the school improvement work at CCSSO where she worked directly with state agencies to support policy design and implementation. Dani began her career as a public elementary school educator in Washington, D.C. and her eight years in the classroom drives her to continue supporting educators across the nation.

    Dani holds an M.Ed. in Early Childhood Curriculum and Development from George Mason University and a B.A. from the University of Akron in Business, Organizational Communication, and Pre-law.

  • 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.

  • Elizabeth G. Schneider

    Chief Officer of Strategic Initiatives

    Elizabeth’s favorite teacher was her 7th grade English teacher, Ms. McCutcheon, one of those special teachers who truly delights in the company of middle school students. Elizabeth still remembers the assignment on irony and Ms. McCutcheon’s comments that made her feel seen as both intelligent and funny. She also remembers picnicking in the local park with Ms. McCutcheon and fellow students outside of class, yet another way her teacher built individual relationships and created a fun, safe environment for learning.

    Elizabeth serves as the Foundation’s Chief Officer for Strategic Initiatives, responsible for the design, development and execution of the Foundation’s strategic investments. Overseeing the Foundation’s program work, she also plays a key role in catalyzing collaborations and partnerships that advance equity, excellence and opportunity.

    Elizabeth joined the Foundation after approximately 15 years with the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed), a Washington-DC-based national policy and advocacy nonprofit committed to improving the educational outcomes and lives of secondary students, particularly those who have been historically underserved. Elizabeth held multiple leadership positions at All4Ed, most recently as Chief of Staff and Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives. There she developed the organization’s state policy and advocacy work and built robust partnerships with national membership associations, civil rights organizations and advocacy groups as well as state-based education advocacy organizations. Working with those partners, she led successful, equity-focused initiatives on high school graduation, adolescent literacy, college-and career-ready standards and personalized learning.

    Elizabeth previously served for ten years as executive director of the Southern Governors’ Association, a bipartisan association of 19 governors working together to advance a strong regional policy agenda at the federal level, create innovative solutions to regional challenges and serve as a form for nonpartisan discussion, action and leadership. During her tenure, working with state and national policy experts, the organization designed and executed strategic initiatives on a range of issues from emergency management, telemedicine and transportation to the environment and rural education.

    Elizabeth began her career on Capitol Hill, working as a legislative assistant in the U.S. Senate. She is a former board member of the National Guard Youth Challenge program.

    She received her B.A., Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Birmingham-Southern College.

    Elizabeth loves spending time with his family and friends, entertaining, and enjoying the great outdoors.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Paula Warner

    Executive Assistant to the President & CEO

    Paula remembers fondly Mrs. Evans, her 1st grade teacher, her favorite high school teacher, Ms. Johnson (currently one of her best friends), her daughter’s 1st grade teacher, Ms. Hasegawa, and her son’s 1st grade teacher, Ms. Solomon.  For Paula, laying the foundation for learning in young minds through teaching reading and watching the light bulb illuminate in the students’ heads is the best, almost magical, feeling every single time she witnesses it!  She loves children and loves being integral in a child’s love of learning, even more now with her two-year-old grandson.

    Paula Warner is the Executive Assistant to the President and CEO, Sara Sneed. She joined the NEA Foundation in April 2021, bringing with her a wealth of administrative experience supporting a range of organizations, companies and schools over the past two decades. Paula is excited about being a part of an organization founded by educators whose vision, mission, and values embodies what she believes.

    Committed to all children’s learning success, Paula volunteered as a Parent Teacher Student Association president, NAACP Parents’ Council member, and volunteered daily in her children’s classrooms, advocating and supporting children, principals, teachers, and parents. Upon Paula’s return to the workforce, she enjoyed doing the same professionally for 17 years at a school in Montgomery County Maryland. Prior to joining the Foundation, Paula worked in the financial industry where she enjoyed growing in that ever-dynamic atmosphere.

    Paula and her family feel strongly about the importance of a quality education, and she believes that through working at the Foundation, she has come full circle in her career. As a parent, she passionately advocated for not only her children, but also for all children in the public-school system. While volunteering in her children’s schools, Paula saw first-hand the importance of a teacher’s role in students’ learning and developmental growth. These experiences made her love, respect, and intensely appreciate teachers, as they inspire, guide, enlighten, and motivate students on a daily basis. She therefore holds the teaching profession in the highest esteem.

    Paula loves spending time with her family, going to plays, riding bikes, soaking up the sun, traveling, reading, playing sports, listening to gospel music, and of course, teachers!

  • Cameron Whitaker

    Senior Communications Officer

    Cameron’s 3rd grade teacher, Ms. Wilson, was the first to ignite his love for learning. She demonstrated to him that educators can push students to reach for the sky and challenge them to think outside of the box.

    As Senior Communications Officer, Cameron supports public educators and students by playing an integral role in planning, developing, implementing, and evaluating communications strategies that enhance and deepen the understanding of the Foundation’s mission and programs.

    Prior to joining the Foundation, Cameron spent four years managing the multimedia presence of a college preparatory day school in his hometown of Houston. Having an up close view of public education through the lens of his mother, a public educator for over a decade, Cameron understands that supporting public educators ensures their ability to help students to reach their highest potential.

    An avid lover of music, sports and traveling, Cameron spends his free time attending concerts, finding the next city or country to explore or engulfing himself in all things college football. Cameron holds a Masters of Professional Studies in Public Relations & Corporate Communication from Georgetown University and a Bachelors of Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.

     

  • Caitlin Wilson

    Strategy Officer

    Caitlin’s Kindergarten teacher, Ms. King, instilled in her the belief that learning was fun before she even started her first day of school. Caitlin met Ms. King in the hallway waiting to pick up her older sister when she welcomed her into the classroom to see projects the students were working on. Ms. King was the kind of teacher who developed individual relationships with each of her students and used those connections to engage them in learning. From that day on, Caitlin was excited about going to school with the big kids.

    As Strategy Officer, Caitlin manages the Foundation’s Global Learning Fellowship program and supports the development and administration of strategic initiatives. Prior to joining the Foundation, Caitlin led the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s networked improvement communities where she engaged teacher preparation faculty and staff in professional learning opportunities to address shared challenges, including the special education teacher shortage and recruiting more men of color into the teaching profession.

    While at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Caitlin supported a networked improvement community aimed at taking Board certification to scale in 10 states across the country. She provided coaching and co-designed learning opportunities on continuous improvement and leading systems change for school, district, state, and teacher leaders. She also contributed to the development of ATLAS, an online library of videos from the classrooms of Board-certified teachers. ATLAS is now used by teacher preparation programs, schools, districts, and state departments of education for professional learning.

    Caitlin began her career as a Spanish and Reading teacher in Cobb County, Georgia. She holds a Master’s of Arts in Teaching with a focus on Secondary Education from Georgia College and State University. She also holds a Bachelor’s of Arts in Spanish, Magna Cum Laude, from the University of Georgia.

    Caitlin loves spending time with her husband, daughter, extended family, and friends. She also enjoys reading, trying new recipes, and always makes time for an annual pilgrimage to the beach to put her toes in the ocean.

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