Meet the Team
Diane Staehr Fenner, PhD
Sydney Snyder, PhD
Mindi Teich, M.Ed.
Meghan Gregoire-Smith, MA
Shannon Smith, M.Ed
Jessica Fundalinski, MA, MS
Amy Hewett-Olatunde, PhD
Eleni Pappamihiel, PhD
Cristina Zakis, MA
Diane Staehr Fenner, Ph.D.
Diane Staehr Fenner, Ph.D., is the president of SupportEd and founded the company in 2011 as a way to serve educators who work to help multilingual learners (MLs) realize their full potential. Dr. Staehr Fenner is an author of six books (including Culturally Responsive Teaching for Multilingual Learners: Tools for Equity, Unlocking English Learners’ Potential: Strategies for Making Content Accessible, and Advocating for English Learners: A Guide for Educators). She is a frequent keynote presenter on ML education at conferences across North America. She spent a decade as an ESOL teacher, dual language assessment teacher, and ESOL assessment specialist in Fairfax County Public Schools, VA and taught English in Mexico and Germany. She earned her Ph.D. in Multilingual/Multicultural Education with an emphasis in Literacy at George Mason University. She earned her MAT in TESOL at the School for International Training and her Masters in German at Penn State University. She lives in Fairfax, VA with her husband and three school-age kids who learned math and science through Spanish in their public elementary school. Dr. Staehr Fenner grew up on a dairy farm in New York State’s Finger Lakes region and is a first-generation college graduate.
Sydney began working for SupportEd as a way to build on her passion for advocacy and educational equity for ELs that flourished during her time as an ESOL teacher. She is the co-author of two books (Culturally Responsive Teaching for Multilingual Learners: Tools for Equity and Unlocking English Learners’ Potential: Strategies for Making Content Accessible). She has significant experience in developing and conducting interactive professional development for teachers of ELs. Sydney led a project for the National Education Association to create and pilot blended professional development modules focused on the instruction and assessment of ELs, advocacy for ELs, second language acquisition, and culture. She has also created and facilitated professional development that focuses on research-based strategies to support ELs’ language development and academic achievement for teachers in multiple states. Sydney also brings significant experience developing curriculum, writing literature reviews, and facilitating working group meetings. For the U.S. Department Education in partnership with the American Institutes for Research, Sydney helped convene a panel to select a set of English language proficiency standards for adults and is leading the development of an online module to provide training on the standards. For TESOL International Association, Sydney summarized the findings of an expert standards committee to write standards for short-term certificate programs and conducted a literature review to support the standards. Sydney brings extensive instructional experience, having taught ESOL/English as a Foreign Language for over 15 years. She taught most recently in Falls Church, VA where she was also the K-12 ESOL Curriculum and Instruction Resource Teacher for the district. Sydney earned her Ph.D. in Multilingual/Multicultural Education at George Mason University and her MAT in TESOL at the School for International Training. She lives in Scranton, Pennsylvania with her husband, two daughters, and one cat. Sydney had her own experiences with language learning while living and teaching in Argentina, Guinea, and Indonesia.
Mindi Teich, M.Ed.
Mindi has been an advocate for English Learner students and their teachers for over 20 years. She began her career as an ESL teacher in DC Public Schools (DCPS). During her time as an ESL teacher, she worked with students in pull out, push in, and co-teaching environments. It was during her own co-teaching experience that Mindi embraced the co-teaching model and recognized the benefits for ELs. While still teaching, she worked with District staff to develop and implement training on collaborative practices for classroom and ESL teachers. As part of the DCPS Language Acquisition Division, Mindi spent 10 years providing professional development and on-site coaching to DCPS teachers who worked with language learners. She focused primarily on supporting literacy development for English learners and helped develop District guidance for working with English learners during Guided Reading and Close Reading. Most recently, Mindi worked as a coach and coordinator of a pilot project, Together is Better (TIB), supporting co-teaching in the School District of Philadelphia. As a coach, Mindi worked at school sites to support co-teaching teams in planning and delivering lessons that included best practices for ELs. She modeled lessons, co-taught alongside teachers, and encouraged reflective conversations among co-teaching teams. Mindi also participated in school walkthroughs and helped to develop and facilitate full day professional development for TIB participants. With the emergency closings in mid-March this year, Mindi stepped in to support the School District of Philadelphia by providing digital lessons for Newcomers in Grades K-2 through the end of the school year. Mindi earned her Master’s in Education at Marymount University. She lives in Downingtown, PA with her husband, three children and very friendly golden retriever. She enjoys kayaking, hiking, cooking, and travel.
Meghan began working at SupportEd to further her commitment and passion for supporting educators of ELs. She has been working with English learners and supporting educators of ELs for over 10 years. Meghan began her career teaching English as a foreign language to young adults in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Her time in Ecuador sparked her love of language teaching. Upon completing her Master’s in TESOL from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), Meghan began working as an ESOL teacher in Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) in Maryland. There she taught elementary ELs in grades K-5 for five years using pull out, push in, and co-teaching models of instruction. She then went on to serve as an ESOL Teacher Specialist for AACPS. As an ESOL Teacher Specialist, Meghan wrote K-12 English language development curriculum, planned and delivered professional development around best practices for working with ELs, and provided coaching for ESOL teachers new to the profession. During her time as a teacher specialist, Meghan focused primarily on supporting elementary age ELs. This included working closely with the elementary literacy team to ensure that all ELs had access to high quality, rigorous literacy instruction. Her experiences as an ESOL teacher and teacher specialist led to a passion for supporting educators of ELs through high quality professional development and coaching. She lives in Edgewater, Maryland with her husband and two young children. Meghan enjoys running, baking, reading, and spending time with her family.
Shannon Smith, M.Ed is an ML Coach and Technical Assistance Specialist with SupportEd. Shannon began working with SupportEd because of her passion for supporting all educators in building language and content for their multilingual learners, especially ELs. She has been working with English learners and supporting educators of ELs for over 19 years. Shannon began her career as an English language acquisition teacher in the Reading School District in Pennsylvania, first teaching elementary ELs in a sheltered content classroom. Shannon then transitioned to the School District of Lancaster in Pennsylvania where she became an ESL teacher and taught elementary ELs while also providing professional development for the classroom teachers in her building. After over a decade in the classroom, Shannon became an ESL instructional coach position supporting ESL and classroom teachers through coaching and professional development on best practices in developing language and scaffolding content. Shannon went on to become the Coordinator of English Language Development and World Languages, K-12, with the School District of Lancaster. In this role, she continued to lead professional development for teachers and instructional leaders on best practices in developing language and scaffolding content and also informed curriculum development and professional development in English language arts and mathematics to embed language and scaffold content for ELs. Shannon also contributed to the development of a new English language development curriculum aligned to the new WIDA ELD Standards Framework and aligned to newly developed content curriculum. All of these experiences have deepened Shannon’s passion for ensuring all teachers are equipped to support their ELs in meeting grade level content and language expectations through high quality professional development and coaching. She lives in York, Pennsylvania with her husband, two children, and dog. Shannon enjoys being outdoors, running, reading, knitting, and spending time with her family.
Diane Choi, M.A. is the Program Associate and Online Courses Manager at SupportEd. As an educator and lifelong learner, Diane joined SupportEd to apply her classroom expertise in a new setting to serve more educators. Before joining SupportEd, she spent over ten years in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), VA as an elementary classroom teacher and Advanced Academic Resource Teacher (AART). As a classroom teacher, she developed curriculum to respond to the various learning abilities and needs of her diverse population of students, ensuring best practices. She collaborated with peers to promote cultural responsiveness in the organization and community. As an AART, she supported students, teachers, and families in planning and implementing rigorous K-6advanced curriculum and strategies, focusing on identifying and nurturing gifted potential in currently underrepresented populations. Her cultural background as a second-generation immigrant with Korean parents helped her develop a deeper understanding of the needs of ELs and their families. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, three children, and three cats. Diane enjoys collecting candles, listening to true crime podcasts, and spending time with her family.
Michele joined SupportEd to expand knowledge of the organization’s mission and services as SupportEd’s Marketing Manager. With nearly 10 years of marketing experience, Michele is an award-winning creative marketing leader earning honors from Education Digital Marketing Awards, EduAD Awards, NOVA Marketing Awards, and the Collegiate Advertising Awards. Driven by innovation, Michele brings a focus in educational marketing with expertise in email, digital, and social media marketing; graphic and UI/UX design; and marketing strategy. Prior to joining SupportEd, she spent over three years at Mercy College of Health Sciences developing and implementing strategic initiatives resulting in record enrollment. Michele holds a Bachelor of Arts in Advertising from Iowa State University and currently lives in West Des Moines, IA with her dog, Duncan. She is a fan and shareholder of the Green Bay Packers, loves iced coffee, biking, and traveling.
Jasmine is passionate about education. She joined SupportEd as her passion aligns with the vision of the company in providing education and setting up students for academic success and developing their voices. Jasmine has previously helped support educators and children in Elementary schools in California. She collaborated with educators across the school to identify areas of development in students and improve their overall performance. She is fulfilled by empowering children and helping them achieve their fullest potential. Living in India, Australia, and US has broadened her thinking and allowed her to gain an appreciation for how culture plays into human development. She now lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two young daughters. Jasmine enjoys hiking, baking, traveling, and spending time with her family.
Director of Partnerships and Business Development
Galen joined the SupportEd team to help grow the organization’s social impact and partnerships. Prior to joining SupportEd, Galen spent six years working with the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) on the development of formative assessments and professional development materials for EL students and teachers. Galen brings a mixture of a passion for social justice and technical experience in product development, business strategy, and cross-sectoral partnerships to his role with SupportEd. His career has been devoted to providing nonprofits and nongovernmental institutions with technical support to achieve their missions. His experience includes serving as a Knowledge Management professional for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and supporting strategic and programmatic planning for the Auroville Village Action Group (AVAG), a community-based NGO in rural Tamil Nadu, India. Galen lives in Bridgeport, CT with his wife and two young children and enjoys yoga, cooking, and rooting for New York sports teams.
After working in the financial arena of the federal government for over 30 years, Tamara decided to use her vast experience to continue working in the private sector after retirement. At SupportEd, she is responsible for accounts receivable and payable transactions, managing payroll, working on the company budget and other general bookkeeping tasks. As the office manager, Tamara assists clients through the financial process; ensures SupportEd’s certifications, accreditations, insurance and licenses are kept up-to-date; and provides additional administrative support to the team. Tamara currently lives in Northern Virginia but never sits still. She loves to travel the world and learn about different countries, including Japan, Korea, and hopefully soon South Africa.
Eleni Pappamihiel, Ph.D.
Eleni wanted to work with SupportEd to help English learners be successful in all their classrooms, ESL and content area alike. She specializes in helping both ESL and non-ESL teachers develop expertise in helping English learners be as successful as they can be. Her goal is to help all teachers learn how to help English learners become a true, integrated part of the classroom and school communities. To this end, she helps teachers develop effective classroom strategies and understand how affective factors, like motivation and anxiety can influence how English learners interact in the classroom. Eleni has spent over 20 years in teacher preparation and professional development and has published over 35 articles and book chapters that focus on helping English learners maximize their academic and social achievement in the mainstream classroom. She has expertise in assessment and evaluation, consulting on the development of both the Florida ESL teacher certification assessment and the Praxis II ESOL. Most recently, her assessment work focuses on the identification of English learners with special needs. She has directed several grants related to professional development and headed a multi-million dollar federal grant that, in part, developed a self-directed module-based, online professional development program designed to reach rural areas that are geographically isolated. As the program coordinator for the Teaching English as a Second Language program at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, she designed and implemented their first ESL teacher preparation program in both face-to-face and online formats. She currently lives in Wilmington, NC and takes the occasional trip to Greece to enjoy a bit of R and R (Rocks and Relatives). When at home, she can be found at the barn following her daughter (an avid rider), at the gym, or on her laptop while her son throws around weights that are probably too heavy for him.
Kent Buckley-Ess, M.A.
Kent has worked with Second Language Learners, from Early Childhood through Adult Learners, for more than 30 years. With a Masters in Bilingual Education and additional state certifications in Pre-School, Elementary, and ESOL (K-12), he has taught in classroom, pullout, co-teaching, language immersion and resource support settings. As a National Board Certified teacher, he has focused on working with students, teachers, administrators and families on a myriad of issues related to English Language Learners. Kent has also worked with teachers and administrators as a mentor and coach as they worked to provide the most appropriate instructional support for their English Language Learners. His work as a mentor/coach involved instructional conversations, classroom visits, modeling lessons, reflection discussions and debriefings as well as planning sessions. As a mentor/coach, he has worked with teachers at the pre-school, elementary, middle and high school levels. As an adjunct professor at George Mason University, Kent has taught courses on: Second Language Acquisition, Reading & Writing for Second Language Learners; Assessment of English Language Learners and Instructional Practices for Second Language Learners. With the Director of ESOL Programs in the Fairfax County Public School System (VA), Kent developed and conducted a Model Classroom program that invited teachers and administrators to observe classroom instruction focused on Best Practices for English Language Learners. Visitors spent the afternoon debriefing the morning sessions and planning for improved instruction for ELs at their schools. Observers came from local, regional, national and overseas school systems. Combining professional expertise, interactive sessions and humor, Kent has provided PD on many aspects of Second Language Learning: Differentiation, Second Language Acquisition, Scaffolding; Lesson Planning, Team Teaching Coordination; Assessment, Family/School Connections, among others. He has worked with educators in a variety of school settings around the country, Puerto Rico and overseas.
Cristina Zakis, MA
Cristina Zakis, MA is a SupportEd consultant and will facilitate the professional development. Ms. Zakis has been an advocate for ELs and their teachers for 14 years in Gwinnett County Public Schools just outside of Atlanta, GA as an EL Programs Instructional Coach for teachers of ELs K-12. Before her retirement from Gwinnett County, she taught ESOL in K-5 and has also been a Spanish teacher and a content area teacher. Her passion for advocating for ELs, their teachers, and their families stems from her parents’ experience as Cuban refugees when they arrived in the US in their teens. Ms. Zakis has developed and delivered PD for teachers in Gwinnett County for over 20 years and has presented at several conferences. She was also part of the team that developed Gwinnett County Public School’s ESOL Instructional Framework. Cristina is proud of her Cuban heritage while also being proud to be American.
Jessica Fundalinski, MA, MS
Jessica provides SupportEd with a variety of skills having earned her BS in Childhood Education, MA in International Education, and MS in Teaching English Language Learners. Jessica has been an EL Secondary Instructional Specialist at the Office of English Learner Services at Alexandria City Public Schools since 2018. She has also served as an EL Department Chair and Teacher from 2014-2018 writing curriculum, designing learned experiences, and collaborating with co-teachers. Jessica was a nominee for Washington Post Teacher of the Year in ACPS in 2018. Jessica has also worked internationally as an English TA and Volunteer Teacher in Poland.
Renata Germino has taught elementary and secondary multilingual learners in Maryland and Virginia, as well as abroad in Nicosia, Cyprus and San José, Costa Rica. As the Newcomer Specialist in the Albemarle public schools, Renata developed curricula for newly arrived immigrant and refugee students dedicated to amplifying student voices, building inclusive communities, and cultivating student leadership skills. As a Fulbright Teacher for Global Classrooms, she has partnered with educators in Colombia and the U.S. to create professional development opportunities and curricula devoted to cultivating global awareness. In her current role as an instructional coach, she collaborates with educators to best support students who hail from 95 countries and speak more than 55 different languages. Renata is passionate about connecting schools and communities and writing grants to empower multilingual learners and collaborate with families. As a consultant at SupportEd, she is lucky to partner with educators across the country. Renata lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with her husband Anthony and her daughters, Ariana and Maya. She holds degrees from Duke and Harvard.
Amy Hewett-Olatunde, PhD
Dr. Amy Hewett-Olatunde has been an ESL teacher for St. Paul Public Schools in Minnesota since 1999, and she is also an instructional coach (ELM Coach). Prior to that, she taught adult ESL and workforce ESL in Canada, Norway, and here in the US. She holds a doctorate in educational leadership and her EdS degree with a K-12 Admin License. She is also an adjunct professor at a number of universities, teaching post-secondary ELs, pre-service ESL teachers and content teachers, and is a freelance writer and consultant. Her LLC is called “Advocacy for English Learners”. She is a former president of MinneTESOL, the 2015-16 MN Teacher of the Year, St. Paul Rotary Club Teacher of the Year, MN Monthly Magazine Teacher of the Year, received the Land-o-Lakes/WNBA Lynx Aspiring Women Award, Harvard Women in Leadership Scholarship and the Mary Diaz Advocacy Award. Amy is an outspoken and firm advocate for the rights of English learners and their communities.
Nancy always knew she would be a teacher from the time she began teaching swimming lessons in her early teens at the local YMCA. Since then, she has taught multilingual learners in Germany, Yemen and for the past 26 years in Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia. Nancy’s career was divided into three distinct parts. At the high school level, she taught ESOL language classes and team-taught in World History and Biology. One of her great passions was collaborating with other teachers to write curricula in the summer. After 10 years she became the HS education specialist for ESOL where she led teachers in implementing the latest research and strategies to enhance language learning in classrooms. During this time, she presented PD to teachers at TESOL and VA state conferences, as well as in Fairfax County and implemented effective literacy instruction for the newest learners with interrupted schooling. She then returned to her love of teaching at the middle school level where she was a department chair, coach, and teacher. Being an active member of collaborative teams to create the best possible learning experiences for multilingual learners and serving as the ESOL representative on the MTSS team helped round out her professional experiences. In her free time, Nancy and her husband, who live in Northern Virginia, are avid outdoor enthusiasts enjoying biking, cross country skiing and scuba diving. Their sons live in California and Dubai which make great travel destinations.