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TCTL Fellows - 2015

This initiative is no longer available. Please visit the LIFT Guidebook for additional teacher leadership opportunities.


The Teachers Central To Leadership Fellowship Program brings 5-8 DCPS teacher-leaders to share their wisdom and perspective with the work of central office.

Clare Berke, Banneker High School

Clare Berke

Clare Berke is in the midst of her seventh year as a DCPS teacher, and currently teaches English I and AP Language at Banneker High School. Ms. Berke grew up listening to her uncle tell “heartwarming, funny, and heartbreaking” stories from his experience as a teacher in Denver Public Schools. After college, she taught GED classes at the Academy of Hope in Northeast DC and was inspired to enter the classroom full-time. Seven years later, she’s still energized and honored to work alongside the selfless and persistent DCPS students and staff.

Ms. Berke previously taught at Coolidge High School, where she served as a lead literacy teacher and supported the instructional coach and other colleagues in implementing and assessing literacy strategies across the curriculum. As a Leading Educators fellow, Ms. Berke facilitated a writing collaborative for teachers at Banneker. Over her career, she has taken on numerous other leadership opportunities, including serving as a Teach Plus Policy Fellow & Core Leader, a Common Core Reading Corps Fellow, and a Flamboyan Secondary Teacher Fellow. She recently received a Capital Partners for Education Teacher Professional Development Grant and holds a Master of Education degree from the George Washington University.

Ms. Berke’s TCTL project involved designing and launching the Family Engagement Collaborative Masters Program in collaboration with other members of the Office of Family and Public Engagement. Teachers participating in the program create, implement, and track the results of a family engagement initiative that directly addresses a need in their school community. Over the summer she also helped design the Engrade Explorers program for teachers in secondary schools. Engrade Explorers provides secondary teachers with the opportunity to share best practices, challenges, and success stories related to using a digital gradebook to engage students and their families.

As both a teacher and student, Ms. Berke loves getting out of the school building. When she was in high school in rural Nebraska, she went to agricultural fairs and competitions. As a teacher, she’s taken full advantage of the many historic and cultural centers DC has to offer, including the Shakespeare Theatre, the Newseum, and the White House. In her free time, Ms. Berke enjoys biking, going to restaurants and movies, and exploring new parts of DC with her husband and young son.


Jennifer Johnson, Drew Elementary School

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson brings eight years of experience in education to her role as the instructional coach at Drew Elementary School. She previously taught in Prince George’s County and joined the Drew family three years ago, where she also serves as the RTI Chair, and on the Personnel Committee and Academic Leadership Team. Ms. Johnson’s mother was a teacher so she was exposed to the classroom during her childhood, but she opted for other opportunities after she graduated from college. After receiving a Master in Urban Planning and Community Development, she wanted to gain experience in the community, and worked for an after school program. Ms. Johnson says that during that time, everything changed. She felt “connected to every child, every experience, every question, and every moment.” She enjoyed the level of engagement that came with the opportunity to meet individual needs. Before finishing the program she enrolled in a teacher certification program at Canisius College and earned a Master of Education degree. Ms. Johnson also went on to receive her Administrative Credentials. Ms. Johnson says: “the children, the parents, the challenges, and the variety of needs were my preparation for the work that I truly love to do every day.”

Ms. Johnson was drawn to the TCTL Fellowship because it is a “great way to connect the voice of teacher leaders to the decision-making process of central office.” She wanted to gain insight into how the decisions in central office are determined—particularly in connection to the needs of students across the district—and was thrilled to see that “teachers, students, and administrators are at the forefront of every conversation no matter the office.”

As a fellow, Ms. Johnson worked in the Office of Teaching and Learning on the Educational Technology team. Over the summer she had the opportunity to help develop sessions for the iDC Institute, an event that trains teachers on education technology and blended learning techniques. Her main focus was to ensure that all sessions were connected and applicable to classroom instruction. Ms. Johnson also had the opportunity to facilitate a few sessions!

In her free time, Ms. Johnson enjoys photography as well as spending time with family and friends.


Lauren Johnson, Eastern High School

Lauren Johnson

Lauren Johnson currently serves as the instructional coach at Eastern Senior High School, and has spent half of her 12-year career in education in DCPS. Ms. Johnson cites many reasons for wanting to become a teacher, but says that the most important factor was contributing to students’ learning key literacy skills while guiding their social and emotional development. Ms. Johnson comes from a family of educators and has always known that teachers’ work to educate students also supports the greater community. While teaching at the college level, Ms. Johnson observed that many of her students lacked essential reading skills. With that in mind, she chose to teach high school students in order to ensure their academic success later in life.

In addition to her role as Eastern’s instructional coach, Ms. Johnson is a member of Eastern’s Academic Leadership Team, led the implementation of the Hochman Writing Program at her school, served as a Teacher Selection Ambassador, was on the DCPS Curriculum Writing Committee, and is the head coach of Eastern’s tennis team. One of Ms. Johnson’s favorite memories of her career is Eastern’s first graduation since it re-opened. Seeing many of the students she had known since they were in 9th grade walk across the stage is why she loves her job and how she knows that DCPS is moving in the right direction.

Ms. Johnson holds a Master of Arts in English and Professional Writing as well as a Master of Education in K-12 Administration from George Mason University. She was able to utilize her strong literacy skills as a fellow in the Office of Teaching and Learning, where she created a bank of resources to support teachers embedding Hochman Writing activities in their lessons. Many Cornerstone assignments require Hochman strategies and templates, so Ms. Johnson also created content-specific exemplar packets as well as tutorial movies on how to use the Quick Outline and Multi-Paragraph Organizer templates.

On weekends, Ms. Johnson enjoys visiting the National Portrait Gallery and stopping by Georgetown Cupcake with her family.


Brigham Kiplinger, Mann Elementary School

Brigham Kiplinger

Brigham Kiplinger brings 12 years of experience as a teacher, instructional coach, and vice principal in the DC charter sector to his role as a 5th grade teacher at Mann Elementary, the school he attended as a child. Mr. Kiplinger initially became a teacher to work on the front lines of his generation’s civil rights movement, and to ensure that every child in his hometown of Washington, DC has the opportunity to attain a great education like he did. When asked what drew him to DCPS specifically, Mr. Kiplinger talks about the district’s position at the vanguard of education reform, and its innovation, development of teacher leadership opportunities, and drive to ensure equity of student achievement.

Throughout his career, Mr. Kiplinger has taught, supported teacher growth, and managed school culture and operations. His commitment to his students has not gone unnoticed—in 2010 he was one of five finalists for DC Teacher of the Year and a finalist for the Washington Post’s prestigious Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award. He is now a member of the fourth cohort of the Mary Jane Patterson Fellowship, a rigorous 30-month program designed to prepare DCPS's highest performing leaders for the principalship. He holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from American University.

As a TCTL fellow Mr. Kiplinger worked closely with the founding leadership team at Brookland Middle School to prepare for school opening. He primarily focused on establishing community partnerships to support students—such as mentoring, academic enrichment, arts, athletics, and clubs—and coordinated community events like the first Brookland MS Family Potluck. Mr. Kiplinger lives in the Brookland neighborhood and was thrilled to be able to work on a project that directly impacted his home community.

In his free time Mr. Kiplinger enjoys spending time with his two young sons and rooting for—and often despairing over—the local professional sports teams.


Dr. Prisca Rodríguez, LaSalle-Backus Education Campus

Prisca Rodriguez

Dr. Prisca Rodríguez has taught for 14 years, the last four at DCPS’s LaSalle-Backus Education Campus. Prior to coming to DC, she taught in Puerto Rico, Florida, Massachusetts, and New York. Dr. Rodríguez says she knew she wanted to be a teacher from the time she was five, and used to practice teaching her teddy bears how to read. As a child and young adult, she was taught by wonderful teachers in Puerto Rico who further inspired her to pursue her goals in education. She now holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Florida. She specializes in children's literacy, literature, and educational technology.

Throughout her career, Dr. Rodríguez has taken on numerous leadership roles outside of the classroom, and has served as ESL Team Lead, ACCESS Chair, member of the Personnel Committee, member of the Academic Leadership team, secretary for the Local School Advisory Team, and member of the Hospitality team; she also organized her school’s first participation in the Fiesta DC Parade as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Dr. Rodríguez believes that one of the most powerful phrases in education is “you can do it.” The best teachers she had growing up stated this with unwavering conviction and encouragement. As a teacher, Dr. Rodríguez strives to help her students believe “they can most certainly learn, do, think, and become agents of change.”

Dr. Rodríguez came to DCPS because it provides diverse opportunities to grow as a professional, and was excited to join the Teacher Recruitment and Retention team in the Office of Talent and Culture as a fellow. Her main project was to create a formalized process for teachers and principals to refer qualified candidates to DCPS, but she contributed to many other aspects of the team’s work over the course of her fellowship.

Outside of the classroom, Dr. Rodríguez enjoys being a new mom, reading, crocheting, taking pictures, and traveling.


Michael Taylor, McKinley Technology High School

Michael Taylor

Michael Taylor has spent the entirety of his eight-year career in education at McKinley Technology High School, where he currently teaches 10th grade World History and 11th grade US History. Mr. Taylor decided to become a teacher because of the potential to impact a large number of people and affect positive change in a community. When he was growing up, Mr. Taylor’s school was the cultural center of his town, and nearly event was held on campus. The teachers were regarded as influential local leaders. For Mr. Taylor, “teachers not only taught, but helped shape the community through influence and personal investment in where they lived and worked.”

One of the most challenging courses Mr. Taylor took as a student was American History—not because of the workload, but because, for the first time, he and his classmates had to think for themselves. Looking back at that year, he is so appreciative of the opportunity he had to begin forming inquisitive and investigative thought, which truly prepared him for college and beyond. Mr. Taylor strives to offer similarly challenging and enriching experiences for his students each day. Mr. Taylor holds a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education from the University of Florida.

This summer, Mr. Taylor worked in the Office of Teaching and Learning, where he collaborated closely with the Social Studies and Cornerstone Developer teams to edit and deliver excellent Cornerstone curriculum to all teachers. Working under such capable supervision and direction was a memorable experience for Mr. Taylor, who feels that the skills and abilities he developed during the fellowship will empower him to become an even better teacher in the future.

Outside his classroom, Mr. Taylor enjoys the four Fs: fitness, food, family, and friends.


Eric T. Vinson Jr., Nalle Elementary School

Eric T. Vinson Jr.

Eric T. Vinson Jr. joined the staff of Nalle Elementary School nine years ago and currently teaches Early Childhood Education. After a career in mass media focusing on print journalism, publications management, radio, and music, Mr. Vinson became a teacher in DCPS to positively affect student outcomes. He strongly believes that given the right circumstances, all students can not only learn, but can thrive—Mr. Vinson is excited to offer that environment to his students every day. He’s also delighted to give back substantially to the city where he was educated: in DCPS as a child and at the University of the District of Columbia for his bachelor’s and Master of Arts in Teaching degrees.

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Mr. Vinson serves as the Early Childhood Department Chair and as a member of the Academic Leadership Team and Local School Advisory Team. He is also a member of Kappa Delta Pi (an international education honor society) and is a Teacher Quality and Retention Program Male Fellow with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

Mr. Vinson was able to combine many of his interests and passions this summer as a fellow in the Office of Innovation and Research (OIR). His main project involved working on a grant to allow OIR to continue researching and operationalizing successful approaches for instruction and engagement of African-American boys in DCPS’s Early Childhood Education programs. Mr. Vinson also contributed to other aspects of OIR’s Empowering Males of Color initiative.

When he’s not teaching, Mr. Vinson enjoys shopping, eating, and worshipping in the city, as well as running and exercising on the National Mall, in the surrounding parks, and at his local boxing gym.