Our Team

Bridges Members

Principal Investigator/Project Director:
Lisa Auslander

Lisa Auslander is the PI and Project Director for Bridges. She supports the work of the curriculum and professional development teams and the daily management of team operations and team development. She is a former teacher, coach and administrator who has worked in NYC schools and at the district level for over 15 years. She served a range of emergent bilingual students in an inclusion setting in the middle and high school levels in New York City schools and then moved on to support teachers in literacy practices and teacher teams in curriculum planning and the collaborative inquiry process. She has also worked to support principals around a variety of initiatives including the Quality Review accountability process and strategic action planning for school wide improvement. Lisa received her PhD in Urban Education designed around a study of culturally and linguistically responsive RtI for secondary English language learners. She speaks fluent German and is working on her Spanish!

Co-Principal Investigator/ Senior Advisor:
Dr. Elaine Klein

elaine_cropElaine C. Klein is Professor of Linguistics Emerita at the Graduate Center, CUNY, where she received her Ph.D. in Linguistics with a specialization in second language acquisition. Having taught CUNY undergraduate and graduate courses in literacy, second language acquisition, research methods, sociolinguistics, and English syntax, among other courses, she also specialized in preparing teachers for certification in the Teaching of English to Students of Other Languages (TESOL). A former New York City elementary and high school teacher, Professor Klein has focused her research on second language development and, more recently, on studies of and interventions for immigrant students with special language and literacy needs.

The author of two books and numerous academic papers, Professor Klein has given presentations at national and international conferences in her field. She has also conducted professional development workshops to teachers and administrators of English language programs around the world. Having been commissioned by the NYCDOE in 2005, along with Dr. Gita Martohardjono, to conduct research on Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE), Dr. Klein’s recommendations resulted in the co-founding of Bridges to Academic Success. The intervention, based on the Klein/Martohardjono research findings, targets the skills needed for developing language, literacy and academic content knowledge among SIFE with limited literacy in their home languages. Dr. Klein served as the Bridges project’s Principal Investigator for the first six years and now serves as Co-PI/Project Advisor and will become Chair of the Advisory Committee (to be established in 2016-2017).

Senior Instructional Coach:
Suzanna McNamara

suzanna_cropSuzanna McNamara is responsible for the development of the Bridges curriculum and the professional development associated with it. She has been working closely with and advocating for SIFE and other students with low native language literacy at Bronx International for the past nine years, hired specifically to address the instructional needs of English language learners unable to access their content classes. She has worked with small groups of these students in a separate class with targeted language and literacy instruction, and she has co-planned and team taught in the larger content classes of Science, Social Studies, and Math. The NYC DOE supported a sabbatical semester for Ms. McNamara during Spring 2011 for the sole purpose of developing the Bridges curriculum.

Senior Instructional Coach:
Virginia Skrelja

virginia_cropVirginia Skrelja is a Senior Instructional Coach who coaches and supports labsite teachers as well as develops and leads PD. After graduating with a BA in English from Columbia College, Virginia edited books for young readers until she decided her passion for reading would better serve a classroom of young learners. She completed her MA in Teaching of English at Teachers College. Having grown up in a multilingual home, she was drawn to the challenges and joys of teaching ELLs and SIFE. She taught at Bronx International High School for many rewarding years before joining the Bridges team.

Senior Instructional Coach:
Annie Smith

annie_cropAnnie Smith is responsible for training and professional development of teachers involved in the Bridges project. Annie has an MA in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College and is director of Brightminds Educational Consulting, which she founded in 2008. Brightminds provides teacher training and coaching to teachers of emergent bilinguals focused on integrating language and content. She is also an adjunct professor for the Bard Master of Arts in Teaching program where she teaches a course in Literacy and the Adolescent Learner. Annie developed and ran the Refugee Youth Program for the International Rescue Committee more than 10 years ago. It was during that time, placing recent refugee youth in NYC schools, that she became aware of the specific needs of students with interrupted formal education (SIFE) and began to develop programs and curricula to support their productive participation in high school.

Instructional Coach and Professional Developer:
Mireia Rothman-Simon

Mireia is an instructional coach and professional developer who works with Bridges teachers. Trilingual in Spanish, English and Catalan, and born in Barcelona, she spent a decade teaching social studies to English language learners in public high schools in New York City, Massachusetts, and Catalonia. While teaching in high schools, she worked in very diverse classrooms with students from more than 30 countries and developed interdisciplinary curriculum that fostered multicultural understanding, while helping students reach their academic potential and learn a new language. Her curriculum for newcomers to gain familiarity with American culture while simultaneously learning English and social studies was recognized by the English Teachers Association of Catalonia. Along with her years of teaching, she is bringing experience coaching teachers to develop documentary and video projects with the Education Video Center, as well as developing content for higher education books at Pearson Education. Most recently, Mireia took a few years away from teaching to work in the field of international relations at the Government of Catalonia in New York. Mireia holds Masters Degrees in Education and Political Science and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Fiscal Manager:
Elizabeth Pratt

elizabeth_cropElizabeth Pratt is responsible for fiscal management and operations as well as administrative oversight for Bridges. Elizabeth received her PhD in Linguistics from the City University of New York, specializing in bilingual sentence processing and development. Her recent research has concentrated on processing and comprehension in first and second language reading, with the goal of integrating linguistic theory and research within frameworks of general cognitive processing. Aligned with this research program is the parallel development and testing of pedagogical strategies and interventions for speakers and learners from diverse linguistic backgrounds and profiles.

Project Manager:
Rachel Smucker

rachel_cropRachel Smucker is the Project Manager for Bridges. She is responsible for curriculum production, data and asset management, scheduling, and project work flow. Outside of Bridges, Rachel works as a freelance writer and editor specializing in English language learning and education. Past experience includes working as an editor at Oxford University Press and teaching English. Rachel has a working proficiency in French.

Stephanie Kakadelis

stephanie_saveStephanie is responsible for maintaining and uploading content to the Bridges website, as well as developing technology solutions for presenting information through the website. She is currently working on her Ph.D. in Linguistics ant the Graduate Center, CUNY. Her dissertation analyzes the acoustics and phonetic patterns of three understudied and endangered languages. She has coached native speakers of endangered languages at the University of Hawai’i to document their language and publish their work online, and has participated in events and projects directed towards language revitalization.

Research Assistant:
Maggie Beiting-Parrish

Maggie Beiting-Parrish is the research assistant for the Bridges fieldwork and program evaluation. She is responsible for the collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data for research projects. Maggie has master’s degrees in psychology and education and is currently working on her PhD in Educational Psychology with a focus on supporting special populations in mathematics. She was a middle school math teacher for three years for grades 6 and 7 for a Title 1 school in New York’s Lower East Side, which is where she first became interested in working with English Language Learners. Maggie enjoys long walks with her dog and her husband. She also is proficient in Spanish.

Content Developer:
Sarah Digby

Sarah Digby is the Content Developer for Bridges. For the last six years, she has worked closely with SIFE in a number of settings: from a federal emergency shelter for unaccompanied children at the Texas/Mexico border to an Internationals Public High School in the Bronx. Sarah spent five years developing a foundational Spanish literacy curriculum for Spanish-speaking SIFE with little or no Spanish literacy. She also conducted a 4.5-year longitudinal research study on the Spanish literacy growth of Latino SIFE as part of her Master’s degree from Columbia University in International Education Development. Prior to working with SIFE, Sarah taught at a community-based school in Honduras and continues to remain involved in Honduras as a teacher-trainer. She also regularly guest-lectures at Columbia University on her research on the native-language literacy needs of SIFE. Sarah is bilingual in Spanish and English, conversational in French, and has limited proficiency in Portuguese. In her spare time, she enjoys home-improvement projects and spending time with her friends. She is also a diehard fan of the San Antonio Spurs.

Administrative Assistant:
Francesca Teora

Francesca Teora is the Program Assistant for Bridges, where she is responsible for all administrative tasks related to professional development sessions, communicating between Bridges team members, schools, and other stakeholders, and supporting curriculum development and dissemination. Past experience includes several years as a Research Assistant at the Center for Advanced Study in Education (CASE). She is currently a graduate assistant at the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness at the Graduate Center, CUNY.  There she is getting her PhD in Educational Psychology, specializing in Quantitative Measures. Francesca has a working proficiency in Spanish, Italian, and German, and is currently trying to learn Portuguese. Her favorite hobbies include playing the flute and finding new restaurants to try.

Lab Site Coach:
Joanna Yip

Photo -YIPJoanna is the a Project Advisor and former lab site manager and professional developer for Bridges. She has a doctorate in Urban Education Policy at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she completed a dissertation on the educational histories of immigrant youth. She started working in NYC public schools in 2004, and has experience as an ELA teacher, college counselor, and instructional coach. She was a teacher at the School for Democracy and Leadership, and the International High School at Prospect Heights. She has taught as an adjunct lecturer in the School of Education at Brooklyn College, Long Island University, and Hunter College. She currently works at New Visions for Public Schools as ELL Instructional Specialist.

Project Advisor:
Aika Swai

Aika Swai has served in many roles on the Bridges team. She has contributed greatly to the project from the beginning and is currently an advisor. She earned an MA in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University in 2004 and has since taught literacy, literary education and performance in various settings, both in the United States and in Tanzania, where she grew up. In New York, she has conducted outreach and trainings for youth, their families and school staff on issues of cultural competency with a specific focus on the role of gender in the immigrant, refugee and diasporic experience. Mrs Swai is interested in cross-cultural imagination/communication and teaching strategies that utilize story-telling, dramatic animation and translanguaging. She has enjoyed five years of working on Bridges to Academic Success, a project that has its home at the Center for Advanced Study in Education (CASE).

Project Advisor:
Dr. Rebecca Curinga

rebecca_cropRebecca Curinga earned her Ph.D. in linguistics from the CUNY Graduate Center in 2014, where her own research focused on cross-linguistic reading comprehension skills comparing SIFE and other emergent bilinguals. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the TESOL Program at the College of Staten Island, CUNY, where she teaches courses in linguistics, literacy, methods in TESOL, bilingualism and second language acquisition.

Expert Reviewers

Dr. Nancy Cloud

cloud-recentDr. Nancy Cloud is a national leader in literacy and pedagogical practices for English language learners, especially struggling readers, having published several important books and papers on the subject including, most recently, Teaching adolescent English Language Learners:  Essential strategies for middle and high school (Cloud et al. 2010) and Literacy instruction for English Language Learners:  From research to practice (K-8) (Cloud et al. 2009). Among other major projects in literacy for English language learners, Dr. Cloud also led in the development and implementation of a one-year transitional, accelerated literacy program and curriculum for 9th graders in two Rhode Island school districts, with a very strong professional development component. The program, using the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM) of Hord et al. (2006) as a guide through the process, has been in operation since 2007 and will serve as a model for the professional development component of Bridges.

 Dr. Andrea Decapua

s200_andrea-decapuaAndrea DeCapua, Ed.D. Teachers College Columbia University, is an educator, researcher, and educational consultant with over thirty years of experience in the field, both here and overseas.  She has held academic appointments at various institutions, most recently at New York University, Florida Atlantic University, and Long Island University–Hudson.  Her interests include second language acquisition, culture, and second language learners in the classroom.  In addition to her teaching and writing Dr. DeCapua has published numerous articles in a variety of academic journals and has authored/co-authored several books, including a series on struggling English learners. Dr. DeCapua has also provided extensive teacher training and development to pre-service and in-service teachers and is a frequent presenter and trainer at national and international conferences, and school districts around the country.  More information is available on her personal website andreadecapua.com or on malpeducation.com.  You can also follow her on Twitter @andreadecapua.

Dr. Deborah Short

Deborah J. Short, Ph.D., has served both as an external evaluator for the Bridges project and, more recently, as a reviewer of the Bridges LL SIFE curriculum. She is the Director of Academic Language Research & Training and provides professional development on sheltered instruction and academic literacy worldwide. As a former Division Director at the Center for Applied Linguistics, she co-developed the research-validated SIOP Model for sheltered instruction and directed research on English language learners for the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Rockefeller Foundation, and U.S. Department of Education. Previously, she taught English as a second/foreign language in New York, California, Virginia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Her publications include professional journal articles, SIOP Model books, and ESL textbooks for National Geographic Learning.

Dr. Gabriela Uro

gabriela_uro_1Gabriela Uro is the Director for English Language Learner Policy and Research for the Council of the Great City Schools, where she is responsible for all matters pertaining to ELLs. As part of the legislative team, she works on legislative matters relevant to ELL’s, both with Capitol Hill and the Administration. She is the lead for Strategic Support Teams reviewing ELL programs in Council districts, and providing technical assistance, as needed. She is the Council’s lead for ELL issues related to the implementation of the Common Core or new state standards in member districts.  Ms. Uro has led or co-authored a number of publications including A Framework for Raising Expectations and Instructional Rigor for English Language Learners, the comprehensive report on English Language Learners in America’s Great City Schools, and Succeeding with English Language Learners–an influential study that revealed systemic factors contributing to improving ELL achievement in large urban districts. Ms. Uro oversees several grant-funded projects focused on improving instructional rigor for ELLs, totaling close to $3 million