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).

Director of Curriculum:
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.

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.

Senior Manager of ELA Curriculum and Instruction:
Virginia Skrelja

virginia_cropMs. Virginia Skrelja is the Manager of English Language Arts (ELA) Curriculum and Instruction for the Bridges Project. She writes the ELA curriculum and contributes to the overall development and design of the Bridges program. After graduating with a BA in English from Columbia College, Virginia worked at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, where she was moved to channel her interest in editing young adult literature to a career in teaching young adults literature. She completed her MA in Teaching of English at Teachers College. Growing up in a multilingual home, as the child of immigrants from Montenegro, Virginia felt drawn to teaching English Language Learners. She taught English Language Arts at Bronx International High School for several rewarding years before joining the Bridges team. Virginia continues to find inspiration in the journeys of adolescent immigrants and power of literacy. She speaks English and Albanian.

Director of Professional Development and Training:
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.

Project Manager:
Rachel Smucker

rachel_cropRachel Smucker is the Curriculum Project Manager for Bridges. She manages curriculum production, scheduling, and other editorial tasks. Outside of Bridges, Rachel works as a freelance writer and editor specializing in English language learning and education. Past experience includes several years working as an in-house editor for Oxford University Press. Rachel has a working proficiency in French, and has taught English at primary schools in France. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys rock climbing, capoeira, and making sourdough. Rachel lives in New York with her boyfriend, one cat, and two quails

Webmaster:
Stephanie Kakadelis

stephanie_saveStephanie Kakadelis is responsible for maintaining and uploading content to the Bridges website. She is currently working on her Ph.D. in Linguistics, which focuses on the phonetics of underdocumented languages spoken in Australia and North America.

Lab Site & PD Manager:
Joanna Yip

Photo -YIPJoanna is the Professional Development Lead and Lab Site Manager. She supports the Director of Professional Development in designing and facilitating workshops for teachers and administrators. She also coaches and supports staff who are implementing the Bridges curriculum at the lab sites. She is a doctoral candidate in Urban Education Policy at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she is completing 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 also works as an educational consultant for Strategic Inquiry, a school turnaround initiative. Joanna is a graduate of the New York City Leadership Academy. She speaks Cantonese, and can get by with Mandarin and Taishanese.

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