Angela Allie joined the IFL as its executive director in 2022. She has more than 20 years’ experience in systemic school change, culturally relevant teaching, and professional learning for racial equity in K to 12 settings. Prior to joining the IFL, she was the executive director of Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Equity Office, where she worked to ensure educational equity across all PPS schools as part of the district’s equity plan. Before that, Angela was the principal of Propel Andrew Street High School. She began her career as an English teacher at Pittsburgh Oliver High School, where she helped implement culturally relevant instructional teaching.
Angela obtained both her master’s degree in Secondary Education and bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Hampton University. She received the Equity Leadership Recognition Award from the Summit for Courageous Conversation and was K. LeRoy Irvis pre-doctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh and an inaugural graduate student fellow with the Duquesne University Center for Educational Leadership and Social Justice.
A Pittsburgh native, Angela has been recognized for her vision, leadership, exceptional achievements, and service. Over the years, she has been named a 50 Women of Excellence recipient, a Fab 40 by the New Pittsburgh Courier, a Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Leader, and a Barbara L. Jackson Scholar.
Anthony Petrosky co-directs the Institute for Learning (IFL) with Chris Schunn and Lindsay Clare Matsumura at the Learning Research & Development Center (LRDC). He holds a joint appointment as a professor in the School of Education and the English Department, and was recently the associate dean in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh. He has worked with professional learning and curriculum development in English and literacy for school and district leaders in the public schools of Austin, Boston, Dallas, Denver, El Paso, New York City, Fort Worth, Prince George’s County, and Pittsburgh. He headed up the design team to develop assessment prototypes in English language arts and literacy for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC). He was the principal investigator and co-director of the Early Adolescence English Language Arts Assessment Development Lab for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards that developed the first national board certification for English teachers. He has also served as co-director of the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project. Petrosky was a senior researcher for the MacArthur Foundation’s Higher Literacies Studies, where he was responsible for conducting and writing case studies on literacy efforts in the Denver, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Ruleville and Mound Bayou school districts in the Mississippi Delta. He is past chair of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Committee on Research and a past elected member of the NCTE Research Foundation. He currently co-directs The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded IFL Network for School Improvement in partnership with 14 Dallas ISD schools, the Learning Research Development Center, and the Center for Urban Education.
Petrosky’s first collection of poetry, Jurgis Petraskas, received the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets and a Notable Book Award from the American Library Association. He has published two other collections of poetry, Red and Yellow Boat and Crazy Love. Along with David Bartholomae, Petrosky is the co-author and co-editor of five books: Facts, Artifacts, and Counterfacts: Theory and Method for a Reading and Writing Course; The Teaching of Writing; Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers; Ways of Reading Words and Images; and History and Ethnography: Reading and Writing About Others. With Stephanie McConachie, he co-edited Content Matters: A Disciplinary Literacy Approach to Improving Student Learning.
Lindsay Clare Matsumura
Lindsay Clare Matsumura received her PhD in Developmental Studies from UCLA in 1998. In addition to serving as a co-director of the Institute for Learning (IFL), she is the associate dean of Research in the School of Education, a professor of Learning Sciences and Policy, and a research scientist at the Learning Research & Development Center (LRDC). She has obtained multiple grants from the Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences to fund her research on teacher professional development, education technology, and literacy instruction and learning. Her recent work in these areas includes developing and studying an online literacy coaching system to increase the quality of reading comprehension instruction and learning, and an automated feedback system to improve students’ analytic text-based writing. Matsumura’s work has appeared in several scholarly and practitioner-oriented journals, and she has written a book for teachers based on her research on writing instruction.
Christian Schunn obtained his PhD from Carnegie Mellon in 1995. He currently co-directs the Institute for Learning (IFL) with Lindsay Clare Matsumura and Anthony Petrosky. He is a senior scientist at the Learning Research & Development Center (LRDC) and a professor of Psychology, Learning Sciences and Policy, and Intelligent Systems at the University of Pittsburgh. Having obtained over $80M in federal grants, he has led many research and design projects in science, mathematics, engineering, technology, and writing education. Schunn’s current research interests include STEM reasoning (particularly studying practicing scientists and engineers) and learning (developing and studying integrations of science and engineering or science and math), neuroscience of complex learning (in science and math), peer interaction and instruction (especially for writing instruction), and engagement and learning (especially in science). He is a fellow of several scientific societies (AAAS, APA, APS) as well as a fellow and executive member of the International Society for Design & Development in Education. He has served on two National Academy of Engineering committees-K-12 Engineering Education and K-12 Engineering Education Standards. Finally, he launched a startup called Peerceptiv that is based upon his research on technology-based peer assessment in high school and college settings.
Director, Senior Scientist, Learning Research and Development Center
Charles Perfetti’s central research interest is in the cognitive science of reading and language processes. The research spans lower and higher level processes and the nature of reading ability and second language processes. His approach involves multiple research methods in behavioral, ERP and fMRI labs. The general goal is to achieve a richer view of language processes by the combination of methods.
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English Language Arts
Visiting English Language Arts, Emergent Multilingual Learner, Special Education Visiting Fellow
Tabetha Bernstein-Danis is an Assistant Professor of Special Education at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and a Visiting Fellow for the Institute for Learning. She was a Fellow with the IFL from 2011 – 2013. Dr. Bernstein-Danis holds a B.S. in Elementary Education/Special Education and an M.Ed. in Special Education from Rhode Island College (1999; 2002) and a Ph.D. in English Education from the University of Pittsburgh (2012). Prior to working in higher education, Dr. Bernstein-Danis held positions with the Providence Public School Department in Providence, RI as a Bilingual Special Education Teacher, Literacy Coach, and English Learner Specialist.Her foundation as a practitioner working with often marginalized populations has driven her research interests in the areas of culturally responsive curriculum, multicultural education, English learner education, and the education of students with learning difficulties and disabilities, with a focus on literacy development for these student groups. She believes that developing pre-service and in-service teachers who are ready to meet the needs of diverse learners is paramount for ensuring an equitable education to traditionally underserved groups of students. In recent years this work has taken the form of developing a study abroad opportunity for pre-service teachers at Kutztown in Cape Town, South Africa. Through a partnership with the non-profit organization One Heart Source, pre-service teachers provide literacy intervention to primary students in Hout Bay while being immersed in the community and learning about the culture, language, and history of the student populations served by the program. In the summer of 2019, Dr. Bernstein-Danis also had the opportunity to provide professional development to teachers at the Ryan Schools in Mumbai, India and believes in the importance of international collaboration in education in our increasingly connected world. Dr. Bernstein-Danis resides in Kutztown, Pennsylvania with her husband Michael, daughter Chloe, and dog Piper.
English Language Arts Fellow
Born and raised in Chicago, IL, Tequila Butler has spent the last decade as a servant leader in schools across the DFW metroplex as a teacher, coach, and assistant principal. In 2016, Tequila was awarded Teacher of the Year for her work in closing the achievement gap for students in Northeast Dallas. As school leader, Tequila successfully spearheaded a Honors for All initiative, where all students were placed into Honors level English classes. Tequila received her M.Ed in Urban Education at Southern Methodist University and a B.A. from Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University. In her spare time, Tequila enjoys giving back to the community through her sorority and local alumni chapter.
ELA Fellow & NSI Project Manager
Pete Compitello is an ELA Fellow and the Gates Network for School Improvement (NSI) Research Project Manager for the Institute for Learning (IFL). Before teaming up with the IFL to improve equitable education in public schools across the country, he taught high school English in New York City public schools for almost a decade, managed editorial development and print production for publishers around the world, and led people to new heights in outdoor education and adventures in as many of these United States as his feet could carry him.
With a bachelor’s degree in world literature and a master’s degree in English from North Carolina State University, a master’s degree in secondary education from CUNY Hunter college, a certificate in teaching students with disabilities from CUNY Brooklyn college, and a history of helping students with disabilities, people of color, and low-income and other high need groups become college and career ready, Pete is looking forward to using his background in equitable education to support the IFL as a Gates NSI hub for the Dallas Independent School District and other districts nationwide.
Pete believes education is a lifelong playing-to-learn and learning-to-play experience, so when he’s not helping teachers teach teachers to better teach students, he plays with his wife Kirsten, son James, and daughter Elise.
District & School Leadership & English Language Arts Fellow
With a teacher’s servant heart and a vision for equitable access to high-quality learning for all students, Denise Collier has served public schools and students in Texas and across the nation for over 30 years. At the national level, Dr. Collier served as a member of the Council of the Great City School’s standards review committee and as a member of the Department of Education’s No Child Left Behind technical advisory panel. At the state level, she coordinated the development of a field guide for a New Vision for Public Education in Texas for the Texas Association of School Administrators. At the local level, she led teaching and learning systems in several Texas school districts, most recently as Chief Academic Officer of the Dallas public schools. Dr. Collier’s work as a teacher, teacher coach, curriculum and instruction expert, and district-level leader has always been rooted in the firm belief that, as Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”
As a beneficiary of public schooling, Dr. Collier grasps the personal, familial, and community advancements made possible through access to high-quality education. In her current work as a fellow with the Institute for Learning at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Collier supports equity-centered, college-ready literacy efforts in Dallas public schools to ensure that many more learners reap the benefits of a high-quality education. With the next generation of learners in mind, Dr. Collier is an adjunct professor in doctoral programs at Texas State University and Baylor University supporting the learning and development of future school district superintendents and senior-level leaders.
A native of Texas, Dr. Collier received a bachelor’s degree in Education from Angelo State University, a master’s degree in Reading Education from East Texas State University, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Texas at Austin.
English Language Arts Fellow
Sara DeMartino joined the Institute for Learning at the University of Pittsburgh in July of 2011 as a member of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) assessment prototype team. As a fellow, she works with educators in various school districts on research, curriculum development, and professional development. She is currently the lead designer of professional development experience for the Network for School Improvement grant team, collaborating with educators in Dallas ISD to increase the numberof students of color, low-income students, special education students, and English learners who are college and career ready by the end of 9th grade using improvement science methods.
DeMartino began her career in education as an English language arts teacher in Hillsborough County, FL. She earned her PhD in Language, Literacy, and Culture at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research interests include writing, peer review, and the use of technology in ELA classrooms. Sara’s most recent publications are “Secondary students’ perceptions of peer review of writing,” published in Research in the Teaching of English, and “In their own words” published in The Learning Professional. DeMartino is a co-author of the revised National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) position statement on the role of English teachers in educating English Language Learners, and the forthcoming NCTE position statement on adolescent literacy.
English Language Arts Fellow
Michelle Rimbey joined the Institute for Learning in May of 2018. As an English language arts fellow, she works with districts facilitating professional development sessions in the areas of vocabulary, comprehension, and coaching. With over 20 years of experience in education, Dr. Rimbey’s background spans elementary reading, professional development, and university teaching. In addition to her experience as a classroom teacher and literacy coach, she has had the opportunity to work with educators at varied stages of their careers, from exploring classroom practice and instruction with preservice teachers to designing professional development for experienced classroom teachers. Michelle currently directs and supervises student teachers preparing to earn a PK-4 teaching certificate as well as graduate students pursuing a reading specialist certification. In addition, she teaches courses in literacy instruction for undergraduate and graduate students in the accelerated dual certification (PreK-4 and K-8 Special Education) programs. With extensive experience in delivering literacy training her expertise lies in the ability to apply elementary teaching experience with a background as a literacy coach to support teachers in translating research into practice.
English Language Arts Fellow
Cheryl Sandora, Ph.D., has been a research associate at the Learning Research and Development Center for 20 years. Currently, she is an English language arts fellow at the Institute for Learning (IFL), an outreach of the University of Pittsburgh. With a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, Dr. Sandora has extensive experience designing curricular materials and reviewing district curricula. In addition, she works with districts throughout the country facilitating professional development sessions and supporting classroom-based instruction. Prior to her work at the IFL, Dr. Sandora worked closely with Drs. Isabel Beck and Margaret McKeown conducting classroom-based research and coaching teachers and district specialists on instructional practices targeted toward vocabulary and comprehension. She recently coauthored the book Robust Comprehension Instruction with Questioning the Author: 15 Years Smarter.
Prior to her work at the University of Pittsburgh and the IFL, Sandora was a professor in the Education Department at Bethany College in Bethany, WV, where she taught ELA methods courses and was instrumental in designing courses for their newly created graduate school. In addition, Sandora was the director of their pre-service program where she oversaw all field placements as well as supervised pre-service teachers at their sites. As a classroom teacher, she has experience at all three levels-elementary, middle, and high school.
Visiting History Fellow
Joe Ramirez graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education with a social studies composite from the University of Texas in Austin in 1984. He achieved a Master of Science degree in Educational Administration from the University of Phoenix in 2007.
He began his teaching career as a social studies educator with the Austin Independent School District in 1984 at O. Henry Middle School, where he remained until 1993 when Mr. Ramirez became part of the original faculty that opened Bailey Middle School. He transferred to Austin High School, where he taught Advanced Placement U.S. History and Honors World History. In 1999, he was selected as the Austin ISD High School Teacher of the Year. Mr. Ramirez was inducted as an Honored Faculty Member into the Stephen F. Austin High School Hall of Honor in April 2017.
He became part of the Austin ISD Social Studies Curriculum Team in 2001 and became Austin ISD social studies supervisor in 2006 and served in that capacity until his retirement in 2012. He was also selected by the State Bar of Texas to receive the Honorary Leon Jaworski Award for Teaching Excellence in Law Focused Education in 2010. During his tenure as AISD social studies supervisor, he also served as an officer in both the Texas Council for the Social Studies as well as the Texas Social Studies Supervisors Association. During his tenure in the district’s social studies department, he worked with the Institute for Learning’s team when they collaborated with Austin ISD and was responsible for implementing the Disciplinary Literacy program within the district’s high schools’ social studies departments.
Since his retirement, Mr. Ramirez has authored assessment manuals for Ohlinger Press in Columbus, Ohio, including Brands, H. L., American Stories, 4th ed.; Brands, H. L., American Stories, 3rd ed., 2015; Brands, H. L., Learning U.S. History, 1st ed., 2014; Jones, Jacqueline, Created Equal: A History of the United States, 4th ed., 2013; and Keene, Jennifer, Visions of America, 2nd ed., 2016. Originally from Falfurrias, Texas, Joe Ramirez is a descendent of the first Tejano families who came with the José de Escandón expedition to the Lower Rio Grande Valley in the middle 1700s.
Joe Ramirez currently serves as president of Phi Delta Kappa International, Chapter 12, at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also part of the Austin Retired Teachers Association. In addition, he volunteers much of time to various community organizations including the Travis County Historical Commission, the Pioneer Farms Board of Governors, the Northwest Austin chapter of Rotary International, and the Tejano Genealogical Society of Austin. He serves as a volunteer docent at the Bob Bullock Museum of Texas History and has traveled to Turkey, Kenya, and Albania to visit and support public schools and universities in these nations.
District & School Leadership & Emergent Multilingual Learner Visiting Fellow
Ivonne Durant, Ed.D.is an instructional leader accomplished in developing high performing learning communities PK-12 by increasing the skill and knowledge teachers bring to the teaching of their content and by increasing the engagement of students in robust learning experiences. A teacher, bilingual educator, principal, curriculum director, leader of principals, and evangelizer of quality teaching and learning for all students.
A life-long advocate of antiracism and antiracist leadership while working diligently and passionately for children who have been marginalized and poorly educated because of race, poverty, geographical location, or any imposed condition is the work of Dr. Glenn Nolly. His education career spans 35 years in the Austin Independent School District in Austin, Texas, where he served as teacher, principal, area superintendent, associate superintendent, and director of professional development. One of the many significant accomplishments of his career is successfully retooling an underperforming high school to build an Advanced Placement program that mirrored the population of the school. His knowledge of developing and supporting communities of practice transformed a group of high school principals into a functional professional learning community. Other areas of expertise include development and evaluation of effective leadership practices, processes and programs.
In addition to being a senior fellow at the IFL, Nolly is an assistant professor of practice at The University of Texas at Austin in the College of Education. Prior to joining the IFL as a fellow, Nolly was a consultant working for the IFL on several projects in various districts across the country including Austin, Texas.
Nolly earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education from Texas State University, and a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin. His research interest includes the marginalization of African-American students and their overrepresentation in suspensions and special education.
Mathematics Associate Fellow
Frederick L. Dillon is a lifelong mathematics educator who believes each and every student can be successful in learning. Through his experiences teaching in secondary and post-secondary education, he has used classroom discourse, engaging tasks, and problem solving to involve students in building mathematical understanding based. His focus now is to work with classroom teachers to enhance their teaching so that their students have excellent and equitable mathematics educational opportunities.
Dillon has a BS in Mathematics and English from Kent State University, an MA in Mathematics from the Ohio State University, and over 60 hours of post-masters work in mathematics education. His professional activities include NCTM Board of Directors (2008-2011), Executive Committee (2010-2011), and Editorial Panel Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School (2009-2012, 2014-2015).
Dillon’s awards include Christofferson-Fawcett Award from OCTM for Lifetime Contributions to Ohio math education, Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, and Tandy Technology Scholar. His publications include NCTM’s Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All, Taking Action: Implementing Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices in Grades 9-12, Discovering Lessons for the Common Core State Standards in Grades 9-12, and The Common Core Mathematics Companion: The Standards Decoded, High School from Corwin Press.
Joseph Dostilio is a mathematics fellow at the IFL. He writes and graphically designs curricula, assessments, intervention materials, and other educational products. Dostilio also works with partner districts to develop and deliver training for teachers, instructional leaders, and administrators, both face-to-face and in virtual environments.
Before joining the IFL, Dostilio taught secondary math courses in the Pittsburgh area, where he also wrote curriculum for the Pittsburgh Public School District. Following that, Dostilio worked with Pearson to design professional development for several curricula, including Connected Mathematics Project 3 (CMP3) and CME Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry, and Precalculus.
Dostilio holds a BA in Sociology from the Pennsylvania State University. He earned his Master of Arts in Secondary Education from Duquesne University.
Kristin Klingensmith is a mathematics fellow at the Institute for Learning who works directly with teachers, instructional coaching, and building and district leaders to enhance and improve K-8 mathematics instruction. Since her time as a classroom teacher, she has been committed to creating space for students to connect their lived experiences in the world to their instructional experiences. An avid believer in the intersection of mathematics and literacy, Klingensmith strives to find ways to integrate opportunities for reading, writing, speaking, and listening into conceptual mathematics instruction. This integration is clearly evidenced in the SOAR and COVE instructional materials and the Math Planning Essential (MPE) guides which she developed in collaboration with others on the math team. Klingensmith serves as the digital newsletter Editor of Bridges to Learning.
Laurie Speranzo, a mathematics fellow for the Institute for Learning (IFL), works in districts with elementary and middle school math teachers, math supervisors, and math coaches. She designs and delivers professional development, and she writes curriculum materials.
Speranzo taught elementary and middle school grades for almost 10 years before she became a math coach in the New York City Public Schools, where she coached math and science teachers in pre-kindergarten through grade 12. Subsequently, she took a job with a math education non-profit based at Northeastern University that consulted to schools in the greater Boston area, where she coached math teachers; designed and presented math professional development for administrators, teachers, and after-school program coordinators; and taught graduate and undergraduate math content and methods classes. In recent years, Speranzo has presented at several regional and national conferences on math education.
As a contributor to an Institute of Education Sciences grant on coaching and an MSP grant on connections between math and science, Speranzo has continued to research and design lessons and tools around math coaching and cross-curricular teaching opportunities.
Beatriz T. Font Strawhun
Beatriz T. Font Strawhun is a an IFL Mathematics Fellow Multilingual Learner Specialist. She designs and delivers professional development to both elementary and middle school teachers.
Beatriz has always straddled research and practice in an effort to improve her practice and to help others improve in the teaching of mathematics. She has worked all over the U. S. from Kindergarten to the university setting. Her roles have included that of a math specialist, a professional developer, a researcher, a university educator, a dual-language teacher, an elementary teacher and a middle school math teacher. Beatriz’s current concentration is on best practices for teaching mathematics to multilingual learners. She works to provide equitable opportunity and engagement to all learners of mathematics. Her favorite job by far though, is that of mom to her 3 beautiful daughters.
Director of Analytics and Operations
Aaron Anthony is the Director of Analytics and Operations at the Institute for Learning (IFL) at the University of Pittsburgh. In this role, he leads data analysis and works with IFL partners on making data-based education decisions. Additionally, he coordinates with the IFL leadership team to oversee day-to-day operations at the IFL.
Aaron is a former high school English teacher and completed his PhD from the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh in 2017. His academic and research interests include quantitative research methods, economics of education, postsecondary access and persistence, and network and improvement science. Aaron’s research has been published in such outlets at Education Finance and Policy and the Journal of Student Financial Aid. Aaron also holds a MS in Leadership in Organizational Studies from Robert Morris University and a BS in Secondary Education from Penn State University.
Project and Communications Manager
Kim Rugh is the project and communications manager for the Institute for Learning. In this role, she supports the IFL fellows who partner directly with the Dallas Independent School District as they help students develop the reading and writing skills they need to succeed in college, career, and beyond. In addition, she works with IFL staff to plan and implement marketing activities that grow awareness of the important work of the IFL.
Rugh is a native of Pittsburgh and graduated from Penn State University with a BA in advertising/marketing. Before joining the IFL, she spent 20+ years working in advertising agencies where she developed strategic plans and marketing campaigns for businesses and non-profits.
Always a champion for early childhood literacy, Rugh spent several years as an elementary school librarian with the primary goal of helping to instill of a love of reading her students.
Manager of Instructional Design and Product Development
Tracy Tomei is the Manager of Instructional Design and Product Development for the Institute for Learning (IFL). Before joining IFL, she worked in the graphic design field for over a decade with most of that time spent in higher education. As a designer, she gained experience in marketing, social media, web design, project management and development, instructional design, research, and more. In 2020, Tracy completed her Masters in Library and Information Science at Pitt with a focus on teaching and learning. Tracy also holds a BS in Graphic Design from Pennsylvania College of Technology.
Production and Content Support
Mathematics Content Developer
Carol Chestnut, an instructional developer for the Institute for Learning (IFL), works primarily with the math team to develop materials and products associated with mathematics professional development in school districts.
Before joining the IFL, Chestnut acted as the training manager for Heinz’ Pittsburgh factory. For over 20 years, she engaged in employee development, training and communications through assessing and identifying developmental needs, designing curriculum, developing training procedures, delivering training, developing surveys, conducting focus groups, analyzing data, consulting with management to plan training initiatives, facilitating meetings, testing, project management, hiring, and database project management. Her work encompassed all levels of the organization from management, to quality, to safety, and to line operators.
Chestnut holds a BA degree in Psychology from Duquesne University and a MEdin Mental Health Counseling from Northeastern University.
Director of Professional Services
T. Faith Milazzo is the director of professional services for the Institute for Learning. She began her career at the IFL as a content developer for the science and leadership teams. After several years of collaborating with the IFL fellows editing and formatting high-quality professional development materials and internal documents, Milazzo began editing learning plans and proposals as the products and contract manager, helping to strengthen the administrative process. In addition to those roles, she also works as the content developer on the Gates Network for School Improvement grant project.
A grammar guru and a champion of consistency, Milazzo has created over a dozen training and process documents for the IFL and continues to look for ways to help the IFL get better at getting better.
Milazzo graduated from the Pennsylvania State University with a BS in Secondary English Education. She has taught elementary, secondary, and college students in private and public schools as well as mentored youth in an after-school program for at-risk children. Before coming to the IFL, Milazzo was an editor and project manager for a communications design firm.
In her spare time, Milazzo spearheads the award-winning Penn Hills Anti-Litter Group, the suburban-Pittsburgh community initiative she founded in 2017, and she is a board member of the Penn Hills Community Development Corporation. In 2020, she was awarded the inaugural Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful Community Pride Award in recognition of outstanding commitment to environmental stewardship and community improvement efforts.
English Language Arts Content Developer
Molly Petruska is part of the home-base team at the IFL, where she aids the IFL’s clients via direct support of the English language arts team, as well as other content teams, in providing quality professional development materials. She gained valuable experience as a platform trainer and content developer in several corporate settings before joining the IFL.
Petruska is a native of Pittsburgh and worked previously in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. During her time at the School of Information Sciences, she was responsible for planning and coordinating orientation and graduation events. Molly also supervised a dozen graduate student workers.
Petruska graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology with a master’s degree in Career and Human Resource Development.
Video & Marketing Manager
Michael Telek serves as the media coordinator for the Institute for Learning. Before joining the team, he served as marketing manager for ExpenseAnywhere in Monroeville, PA. This preceded a career in journalism that included multi-media journalist roles in award-winning newsrooms at KDKA (Pittsburgh), WHIO (Dayton), and WTOV (Steubenville). Telek earned his BA in Journalism from Edinboro University in 2014.
Rosita E. Apodaca was the first person of color to serve as executive director of the Institute for Learning (IFL). Apodaca’s strong vision and advocacy for the nation’s most vulnerable students to access and fully participate in a high-level educational program was a Goldilocks match for the IFL’s mission. Apodaca owns her decisions and understands how to respond to challenges that come with leading knowledge workers, thus places a high value on developing a diverse expert-level team.
As a former teacher and C-level executive in several large urban districts, Apodaca brought her experience leading, designing, and implementing high-quality, culturally relevant educational programs to all IFL work. She has authored articles, teacher guides, and book chapters in leadership, curriculum, and bilingual education. Apodaca speaks at local, state, national, and international levels on educational issues in both English and Spanish.
Apodaca led the organization’s work centering education as a critical racial and economic justice issue. With extensive expertise in leading initiatives using multiple strategies to achieve IFL’s partners’ goals, Apodaca also works in 14 secondary schools supporting leaders to embrace and use improvement science tools and strategies to increase the oracy and literacy achievement of the district’s most vulnerable populations.
Apodaca holds a BA in Dramatic Art and English from the College of St. Joseph in Albuquerque, NM, a master’s degree in Spanish Literature and English as a Second Language from the University of Texas at El Paso, and a second master’s degree and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University, New York City.
Donna DiPrima Bickel has been a Fellow of the Institute for Learning (IFL) at the Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC), University of Pittsburgh since 1997. She is currently a member of the PreK-12 English language arts team and former chair of the elementary literacy team. Dr. Bickel co-developed and leads the Content-Focused Coaching® (CFC) work of the IFL in elementary literacy, a program for preparing elementary literacy coaches on the use of Content-Focused Coaching®, a rigorous model of professional development based on the IFL’s Principles of Learning. Dr. Bickel produced and directed the video artifacts that form the core of this practice-based program and she has assisted principals and central office leaders in Chapel Hill, NC; Providence, RI; Pittsburgh, PA; Los Angeles, CA; New York, NY; El Paso and Austin, TX to create the conditions needed to support coaching effectiveness. Dr. Bickel has also provided professional development for K-12 English language arts coaches learning to function in this challenging role. From 2006-2010, Dr. Bickel was co-principal investigator with Dr. Lindsay Clare Matsumura, on an Institute for Education Sciences (IES) experimental design grant to study the impact of the Content-Focused Coaching® model on teachers’ practice and student achievement in elementary literacy, and co-authored several papers on this work. Over the past two years, Dr. Bickel, along with colleagues on the ELA team, has assisted with the development of several ELA units aligned to the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and assisted coaches and teachers in Boston, MA, Akron, OH and most recently, Chapel Hill, NC to understand and shift teaching approaches required by the Common Core State Standards.
Dr. Bickel earned a B.A. from Hunter College (NY) and a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Bickel has thirty years of experience in pre-kindergarten through middle school education as both a researcher and practitioner and has worked in higher education and public schools. She was the director of the Pittsburgh Public School’s Work Sampling Project, where she coordinated and conducted professional development for administrators and teachers and supervised the implementation and evaluation of this performance assessment system in five schools. As co-investigator with Dr. Samuel Meisels, Dr. Bickel worked on one of the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Restructuring Evaluations which examined the impact of the use of Work Sampling on teachers, students, and parents. As an adjunct assistant professor in education at the University of Pittsburgh, she designed and taught two core courses in the Early Childhood Teacher certification program and, as an instructor, co-designed and co-taught a course in Instructional Leadership in the School of Education to aspiring principals. She has conducted local program evaluations for several national preschool programs, including EVEN START and Families for Learning, and has consulted locally and nationally on a variety of early childhood issues regarding curriculum, instructional practice, and assessment. She has taught regular and special education classes at the elementary level and is certified as a curriculum and instruction specialist for grades K-12 in Pennsylvania.
Emerita Senior Mathematics Fellow
The late Victoria Bill was a mathematician and educator, committed to ensuring that all teachers and students get access to discovering and enjoying mathematics. As a resident fellow at the Institute for Learning, University of Pittsburgh, she specialized in facilitating professional development for mathematics teachers, administrators, and math coaches that is focused on developing students conceptual understanding of mathematics. Bill played a central role in the design of the IFL conceptual tools, which help teachers and administrators plan and reflect on teaching and learning. These tools and their use in the school system were Victoria’s means of assisting districts in creating a coherent school district.
As a coauthor of Taking Action: Implementing the Effective Teaching Practices in Grades K-5(NCTM) and The 5 Practices in Practice and a speaker at various mathematics conferences, Bill ensured that teachers nationally and internationally are getting access to effective teaching practices.
Lauren Resnick is an internationally known scholar in the cognitive science of learning and instruction and was Director of the prestigious Learning Research and Development Center from 1977-2008. She has researched and written widely on the learning and teaching of literacy, mathematics, and science. Her recent work focuses on school reform, assessment, effort-based education, the nature and development of thinking abilities, and the role of talk and discourse in learning.
Dr. Resnick is founder and former director of the Institute for Learning, which bridges the domains of research and practice by conveying to educators the best of current knowledge about learning processes, principles of instruction, and the design of school systems. Dr. Resnick also co-founded the New Standards Project (1990-1999), which developed performance-based standards and assessments that widely influenced state and school district practice.
Dr. Resnick is a prolific author, a respected editor, and a frequent consultant, with appointments to many national education boards, commissions, and associations. Most recently, she was selected as the Wallace Foundation’s Distinguished Lecturer at the April 2009 American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference. In mid-November, 2008, she chaired a symposium on education policy recommendations for the new presidential administration, developed by members of the National Academy of Education. Those recommendations are being compiled into a report for wide distribution among scholars, practitioners, and policymakers. She is the current and founding editor of Research Points, a publication of the AERA. Her National Academy of Sciences monograph, Education and Learning to Think, has been influential in school reform efforts, and her widely circulated Presidential Address to the American Educational Research Association, “Learning In School and Out,” has shaped thinking about youth apprenticeship and school-to-work transition.
Recognized both nationally and internationally, Dr. Resnick has received multiple awards for her research, including the 2007 Award for Distinguished Contributions in Applications of Psychology to Education and Training, the 1998 E. L. Thorndike Award, both from the American Psychological Association, and the 1999 Oeuvre Award from the European Association on Research for Learning and Instruction (EARLI). In 2013, Resnick was elected to The American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Educated at Radcliffe and Harvard, Dr. Resnick has been an Overseer of Harvard University and a member of the Smithsonian Council.