Our Advisory Board
Tricia Bronger serves as the Regional Cooperative Director of Greater Louisville Education Cooperative (GLEC). Her experience in classrooms serving students with disabilities, administrative roles in the state department of education, and in higher education provides a well-rounded knowledge and expertise for teaching and learning. GLEC is one of nine special education cooperatives that support administrators and teachers who support positive outcomes for students with disabilities. GLEC is part of a state-wide technical assistance network that supports outreach for state initiatives in regional areas. GLEC supports Jefferson County Public Schools, the largest urban member district in Kentucky, and Kentucky School for the Blind. This consortium of two members serving over 100,000 students in the greater Louisville area speaks to her expertise and leadership in the field of special education. As a director, she ensures the mission of the GLEC is to provide professional learning, advocacy, and services that support, lead, and inspire positive outcomes for students with disabilities.
Dr. Jeff Hawkins is the Executive Director at the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC) serving 22 school districts in eastern Kentucky. Through his leadership, KVEC has been recognized as one of the highest performing educational service agencies in the country and has been awarded three significant USDE awards within the last 5 years: an Investing in Innovation Award, a Project Prevent Award, and a coveted Race to the Top – District Award that led to the development of the Appalachian Renaissance Initiative. KVEC is a member of the national Future Ready Initiative, was identified by the congressionally authorized Digital Promise organization as one of six national Education Innovation Clusters, was awarded a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant, and this year received a W.K. Kellogg Foundation award to launch a nationally recognized project to increase student achievement and community prosperity in eastern Kentucky.
Dr. Gary Houchens is a professor of educational administration, leadership, and research at Western Kentucky University. He is a former K-12 teacher, principal, and district administrator. Dr. Houchens has been active in education policy and school improvement efforts. He serves on the Board of Scholars for the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions and is Senior Fellow with the Pegasus Institute. From 2016-2019, Dr. Houchens served on the Kentucky Board of Education where he was chair of the Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Committee.
Kathleen “Penny” Christian is a native New Orleanian who has called Lexington, KY home since 1994. She and her husband Claude are the proud parents of 4 wonderful daughters. She has been fighting for equity in education for 20 plus years.
Penny began her advocacy journey as PTA president at both the elementary and middle school levels. She then advanced to 16th District PTA President in Fayette County, from 2019-2021. She is currently a Vice President of Leadership Outreach for Kentucky PTA. Over the years, her advocacy work at the district level includes serving on the Parent Superintendent Interview Committee and parent Representative on the District Safety Advisory Council. She has facilitated multiple presentations with school administrators on the importance of PTA and Family Engagement. One of the most rewarding experiences for her has been being selected as a member of the Inaugural Cohort of the EdTrust Family Fellowship. Recently, Kathleen completed her requirements to become a Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership (CIPL) with the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. As a result of her advocacy work, she is now also a Prichard Committee member. Penny currently serves as a parent (family) representative on the Kentucky Coalition for Advancing Education.
Alfonso de Torres Núñez, originally from Madrid, Spain, is currently the Spanish teacher at Bloom Elementary, in Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS).
He received a BA in English Philology and a MA in Education from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. He first came to the United States in 2006 in conjunction with the Fulbright Program at Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where he worked as a Spanish Teacher’s assistant.
He later returned to the States in 2009 on the Visiting Teachers from Spain Program run through the KDE in collaboration with the Ministry of Education of Spain. He worked for six years as Spanish teacher in elementary in Christian County and Jessamine County. In 2014, he became the World Languages state supervisor at the Kentucky Department of Education, position in which he served until 2019.
For the last ten years, he has been involved in several professional organizations related to World Languages both at the state and national level such as KY-NNELL, AATSP, KWLA, SCOLT, CSCTFL, and ACTFL, including NCSSFL. He received the 2013 NNELL Teacher of the Year Award at the Annual KWLA Fall Conference.
He currently serves as the Chair of the Awards Committee in the Kentucky World Language Association; as an alumni of the GO Teach KY Ambassador program; as a teacher representative on the Kentucky Coalition for Advancing Education; and as a member of the JCPS Latinx Employee Resource Group.
Jennifer Aprea lives in Middle Tennessee with her husband and two children. She taught elementary school for 12 years before her son was born three and a half months prematurely and came home from the NICU with multiple disabilities. She uses her advocacy skills and her background in education to serve as the Director of Family Engagement in Special Education for The Arc Tennessee.
Dr. Michelle Goad is an instructional supervisor who supports and empowers teachers to positively impact the students of the Gibson County Special School District. She is driven by her belief that all students in every school should have access to high-quality instruction, leading her to constantly seek innovative ways to prepare students for a successful college or career path.
Dr. Goad was named as 2019 Supervisor of the Year for the State of Tennessee. Whether it’s helping people understand what’s important, encouraging people to hold themselves accountable or making leaders of followers, Dr. Goad loves her work and greatly values the opportunities she has each day to help her teachers achieve their best.
Victoria Harpool is the Senior Director for Academic Affairs and Strategic Alignment. Ms. Harpool oversees the development and evaluation of the Quality Assurance Funding program, which promotes academic excellence and incentivizes continuous improvement at public community colleges and universities in Tennessee. She manages the comprehensive inventory of academic programs available at state colleges and universities and oversees the implementation of grant projects to increase student success. The Division of Academic Affairs also regularly collaborates with the Department of Education as the state works to align K-12 and higher education standards.
Ms. Harpool came to Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) in 2012 serving as the Race to the Top Program Coordinator. In this position, she focused on improving educator effectiveness through professional development and providing accountability for teacher training programs through the production of the state’s annual Report Card on the Effectiveness of Teacher Training Programs.
Dr. John B. Gordon III is a native of Richmond, Virginia, and has spent 23 years in public education. He is currently in his first year as the Superintendent of Suffolk Public Schools and has held previous administrative positions in both Fredericksburg, Virginia, and Chesterfield, Virginia. Dr. Gordon earned a B.A. and an M.A. in education from the University of Virginia, a Post-Master's in educational leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University, and a Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy studies from Virginia Tech.
Since 2015, Dr. Jennifer Piver-Renna has served as the Director for Research at the Virginia Department of Education. As a liaison between the agency and key research partners, Dr. Piver-Renna is responsible for supporting scientifically sound research aligned with the agency’s strategic goals and translating research findings into actionable information for policymakers, educators, parents, and students. She promotes a work environment whereby ongoing evaluation and improvement become routine, continuous activities. Dr. Piver-Renna previously served as the Research and Program Evaluation Section Head for the U.S. Marine Corps Behavioral Health Branch and as a Quantitative Analyst for the U.S. Army Public Health Command.
Dr. Tamara Wallace serves as the Dean of the College of Education and Human Development at Radford University. Prior to her appointment as dean, she served as the Interim Dean and as the Associate Dean and Director of Field Experience for the College of Education and Human Development. Dr. Wallace began her career at Radford University as a faculty member in the School of Teacher Education and Leadership (STEL). She taught in the elementary education program for eight years and also served as the Assistant Director of STEL. Dr. Wallace began her career as an educator in Roanoke City, where she served for eight years, first as a middle school teacher and later as an assistant principal.
W. Clayton Burch is the West Virginia State Superintendent of Schools. He has served in both teaching and educational leadership positions for more than 25 years with experiences spanning from early childhood education to postsecondary administration. An advocate for the well-being, engagement and lifelong achievement of all West Virginia children in grades pre-K through 12, he understands the importance of supporting the whole child through practical and systemic approaches. Mr. Burch’s commitment to expanding leadership capacity in the state’s public school system is reflected in his efforts to build an infrastructure that not only leads to professional growth but also classroom success.
Dr. Sara Stankus completed her Ph.D. in educational leadership at West Virginia University, her M.A. in counseling at Marshall University and, her B.A. in elementary education and special education at West Virginia Wesleyan College (WVWC). Dr. Stankus serves as Superintendent of Upshur County Schools. She is also a licensed professional counselor, a Nationally Certified Counselor, and a certified Ruby Payne “Understanding the Structure of Poverty” trainer. Her professional experiences are broad, serving in educational fields as a special educator, teacher in both public schools and at the college level, as a counselor and principal. Recently, Dr. Stankus was honored as distinguished alumni and received recognition as the WWVC Martin Luther King Community Partner of the Year. Sara and her husband reside on a small farm in Buckhannon and are parents to three grown children.
Dr. Carla Warren is the Executive Director of the Office of Educator Development and Support at the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE). Her background includes 20 years in the classroom and more than a decade as Director of Teacher Programs at the WV Center for Professional Development and coordinator in the Office of Early and Elementary Learning at WVDE where her work focused on professional learning initiatives for new teachers, teacher mentors and National Board Certification. Most recently, Dr. Warren served as the Special Assistant to the WV Superintendent of Schools.
Dr. Warren works closely with the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) and institutions of higher education (IHEs) to address the need for high quality educators in the classroom. She serves as a liaison with HEPC and university teacher preparation programs to recruit the right candidates to pursue teaching degrees; support pre-service teachers as they transition into the profession; mentor novice teachers through induction support; align professional growth and development pathways with teacher goals; and to assist teachers in the pursuit of higher level credentials that impact student learning.
David Lee is the Director of Student Support and Well-Being at the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE). He completed his Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) and M.A. in Supervision and Administration at Lincoln Memorial University, with a B.S. in English at Clinch Valley College-Wise. He has over 40 years of experience in K-12 schools, both as a teacher and educational administrator. His work focuses on ensuring West Virginia’s students’ have an enriching experience that serves the whole child by developing policies and procedures for afterschool programs, school nurses, school student support coordinators, as well as providing technical assistance in social emotional learning (SEL) and trauma-informed practice. Mr. Lee understands the importance of collaborating across the state’s public school system to deliver necessary resources to districts and schools that ensure the success of every student.