Science Leadership Academy [staging] Learn · Create · Lead

You are currently viewing a read-only archive of an old version of Slate.

Faculty and Staff

Founding Principal: Chris Lehmann - clehmann[at]scienceleadership[dot]org

Chris Lehmann is the founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy - , a progressive science and technology high school in Philadelphia, PA. The Science Leadership Academy is an inquiry-driven, project-based, 1:1 laptop school that is considered to be one of the pioneers of the School 2.0 movement nationally and internationally. The school was recognized by Ladies Home Journal as one of the Ten Most Amazing Schools in the US, has been recognized as an Apple Distinguished School from 2009 through 2013 and has been written about in many publications including Edutopia Magazine, EdWeek and the Philadelphia Inquirer. In September 2013, Chris opened Science Leadership Academy @ Beeber campus, the second campus in the SLA model. Chris returned to his native Philadelphia after nine years as an English Teacher, Technology Coordinator, Girls Basketball Coach and Ultimate Frisbee coach at the Beacon School in New York City, one of the leading urban public schools for technology integration. Chris is the 2014 winner of the McGraw Prize in Education. In June 2013, Chris was named Outstanding Leader of the Year by the International Society of Technology in Education. In November of 2012, Chris was named one of Dell’s #Inspire100 – one of the 100 people changing the world using Social Media. In April of 2012, Chris won the Lindback Award for Excellence in Principal Leadership in the School District of Philadelphia. In September of 2011, Chris was honored by the White House as a Champion of Change for his work in education reform. In June 2010, Chris was named as one of the “30 Most Influential People in EdTech” by Technology & Learning Magazine. In 2009, Chris was a honoree for the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development’s Outstanding Young Educator Award. Chris was named as one of “40 Under 40″ by Philadelphia Business Journal in 2009. In 2006, the National School Board Association named Chris one of “20 to Watch” among American administrators. In 2001, Chris was honored by MOUSE as a Champion of Technology and Education for his work on building the portal at the Beacon School. Chris has written for such education publications as Principal Leadership Magazine, Learning and Leading with Technology Magainze, and the School Library Journal. Chris has spoken at conferences all over the world, including TEDxPhilly, TEDxNYED, the National Association of Secondary Schools Conference, SXSW, SXSWedu, the Building Learning Communities conference, the International Society of Technology in Education, the Philadelphia Area Educational Technology Conference, The Florida Educational Technology Conference, the Innovative Learning Conference, The Council of Educational Facilities Planners Regional Conference, the K12-Online Conference, the International Conference on Technology and Education and at the Central and Eastern European Schools Association Conference, and he has worked with many schools and districts all over the world as a consultant. Chris received his B.A. in English Literature from the University of Pennsylvania and his M.A. in English Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Chris is co-author of Building School 2.0: How to Create the Schools We Need and co-editor of What School Leaders Need to Know about Digital Technologies and Social Media, the author of the education blog this blog Practical Theory and is father to Jakob and Theo.

---------- Co-Principal: Aaron Gerwer - agerwer[at]scienceleadership[dot]org Aaron is originally from Sacramento, California and began working with students as a full-time aid at an alternative school soon after graduating from high school. He spent 7 years working as an aid with students with behavior regulation difficulties and cognitive disabilities while pursuing his degree. After obtaining his bachelor's degree Aaron was accepted into the Philadelphia Teaching Fellows program as an English and Special Education teacher. In 2013 Aaron was awarded the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching and the National Liberty Museum's Teacher as Hero Award. During the 2013-2014 school year Aaron served as the Special Education Liaison for Dobbins High School where he took special education from a self-contained to a full inclusion model. During the 2014-2015 school year he worked as principal intern at Science Leadership Academy where he developed a deep belief in the model and a love for the SLA community. He lives with his young son and daughter and is passionate about music, social justice and martial


---------- COUNSELORS 
 College Counselor: Karina Hirschfield – khirschfield [at] scienceleadership [dot] org – Karina is a founding faculty member here at SLA.  Before joining SLA's faculty, she taught in the New York City Public School System for four years in a classroom setting in her Bronx, NY hometown.  Her love of education and interest in counseling led her to a Masters of Science in Education degree in School Counseling from Fordham University.  Karina currently runs the school's College Counseling program where she is thrilled to pursue her passion of supporting students in their pursuit of higher education and professional goals. Karina enjoys getting her students fully engaged in their entire college process experience.  This involvement has resulted in her students achieving success beyond their expectations.

---------- Counselor: Zoe Siswick - zsiswick [at] - A proud product of Philadelphia public schools, Zoe is passionate about working with students in her beloved hometown.  After earning her degree in International Affairs from George Washington University, she returned to Philadelphia and has worked in education for over ten years. Zoe brings a wealth of experience working with Philadelphia public school students--she taught second grade and ran an academic enrichment program before completing her counseling internship at SLA as part of her Master's degree in Counseling Psychology at Temple University. At Temple, Zoe received the Dick Malnati Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Counseling Program and served as a student representative to the admissions department. In addition to her role as counselor, Zoe is the faculty liaison to the Home and School Association and coaches the girls soccer and softball teams. When she's not at SLA, Zoe enjoys watching football, cooking (and eating!) and hanging out with her wonderful husband and bulldogs.  She enjoys working with some of the most vibrant and intellectually curious staff and students in the nation!

---------- SUPPORT STAFF School Secretary: Diane LoGiudice - dlogiudice [at] scienceleadership [dot] org -- Ms. Diane is the founding secretary at SLA and a proud SLA alumni parent. She started with the SDP as a Wrap Around working at both Girard and Fell grade schools. She was a secretary at Kirkbride Elementary for 6 years. She enjoys the beach, reading and being with her family and friends.


Program Manager / ILP Coordinator: Jeremy Spry - jspry [at] scienceleadership [dot] org - Jeremy runs. He also runs stuff.

---------- School Police Officer: Cynthia Byrd - cbyrd [at] - Cynthia is SLA’s founding School Police Officer. She has been in the School District for thirteen years and came to SLA after time at Engineering & Science, Masterman and various other schools in the city.

---------- Building Engineer: Theresa Oliver - taoliver[at]philasd[dot]org

---------- SPECIAL EDUCATION Special Education: Michael Ames - mames [at] -- Michael came to SLA in 2011 after over a decade of teaching in the School District of Philadelphia. A Philadelphia native, Michael received his Master’s degree in Curriculum, Instruction, & Technology in Education from Temple University and is certified in the areas of Special Education, History, and Elementary Education.  Michael is a firm believer that project-based learning is uniquely suited to meet the needs of all learners.

---------- Special Education: Beth Menasion - emenasion [at] - Beth came to SLA after 6 years in the district as a Learning Support teacher at Welsh K-8 school.  She has worked in the social services field in  different capacities, including several years in early childhood education at the Parent Infant Center.  She attended Temple University and lives in West Philadelphia with her husband and 2 energetic boys.  In an effort to generate interest and support for neighborhood, public schools in her community, Beth co-founded the group, West Philly Coalition for Neighborhood Schools .

 Special Education / Math: Jonathan Estey - jestey [at] - Jonathan Estey is thrilled to be starting his first year at SLA teaching mathematics and special education. After earning his MS in Special Education at the University of Oregon, Jonathan spent three years teaching in the Learning Center and coaching the Speech and Debate team at Hood River Valley High School 60 minutes east of Portland. After moving to Philadelphia, Jonathan spent a year at Arcadia University adding on a Social Studies license (student teaching with Jason Todd here at SLA) and then one in Math as well. Jonathan got his start teaching at 14 as a chess coach in Providence, RI; he has since had the opportunity to teach chess players from age 3 to age 93 in Pennsylvania, Oregon, and France. He has also enjoyed teaching English to speakers of other languages both abroad in South Korea ( 포항시에있는 학원에서 이었성요) and here in Philadelphia at Chestnut Hill College. Outside of school, Jonathan loves playing ultimate, cooking vegan food, running, watching rugby, reading, and spending too much time on the internet. Also, I DO use algebra IRL on the regular - in case you were wondering.

---------- HISTORY History: Matt Baird – mbaird [at] scienceleadership [dot] org – Matt is a 20-year veteran teacher who has been with SLA since the school opened in 2006. Previously he taught at several Quaker schools in the Philadelphia area and in Costa Rica.  At SLA Matt teaches history to 11th and 12th graders, coaches chess, and works with students in the ceramics studio. Formerly he coached the SLA girls soccer team to two Philadelphia Public School Division A championships. His academic interests center upon the structural and institutional framework of societies and the distribution of political and economic power. Matt has a master's degree in Government Administration from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.S. in Secondary Education also from Penn.  He did his undergraduate studies at Haverford College majoring in Sociology and Anthropology. At SLA, Matt has been developing a project-based history curriculum using a "case study" method that focuses on enabling students to become thoughtful and engaged scholars and citizens. Recently, Matt has been working intensively on a five-year project with USAid to bring project-based learning to two STEM schools in Egypt.

 History: Jason Todd - jtodd [at] scienceleadership [dot] org - Jason is excited to be entering his second year teaching students history at SLA.  He taught for seven years at Charles Carroll High School in Port Richmond upon earning his M.S. in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.  While at Carroll, Jason received the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award.  In 2010, he was selected for a fellowship by the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation.  The fellowship allowed him to pursue an M.A. in History at La Salle University.  He graduated in May 2014 with a thesis entitled “The Union and Habeas Corpus during the Civil War.”  Jason enjoys reading, playing golf, visiting historical sites (especially battlefields), biking, rooting for all four Philly sports teams, and spending time with his wife and two young children.

---------- History: Pearl Jonas – pjonas [at]  – Pearl has been working with Philly youth for over 10 years as a tutor, teacher and mentor. She joined SLA in 2012 thrilled to be part of a school that practices many of the core values that have been part of her past experiences. After earning her Masters in Secondary Education from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010, she spent her first year of teaching in Ecuador at a bilingual and service-oriented school. As a City Year volunteer she spent two years traversing Philadelphia with 150 middle school students practicing reflective service-learning. Before that, spending a year working in Nicaragua with a fair-trade organization not only solidified her passion for experiential learning but also to teach with a goal of helping students develop as critical citizens.

---------- SCIENCE Biochemistry / Senior Science Electives: Tim Best – tbest [at] scienceleadership [dot] org – Tim has been teaching students at SLA since 2007. Before SLA, he was a high school technology integration specialist and middle school science teacher in the Boston area. In 2011, Tim was named a National Board Certified Teacher. He loves being able to tie together project-based learning and inquiry-driven pedagogy into SLA’s science curriculum.

 Physics: B. J. Enzweiler - renzweiler [at] - BJ is excited to be on his first year at SLA because the core principles that guide this school work for students! For the previous 4 years he was teaching high school physics in both Philadelphia and Chicago. He has always been especially interested in the sciences, but after taking his first high school physics class he was hooked. Now he enjoys spreading his love for of the patterns of motion and energy with his students. Before teaching BJ earned his bachelors and masters degrees in physics from Bradley University and Baylor University respectively. He lives in Center City here in Philly. BJ enjoys playing music on piano and banjo (poorly), intelligent discourse on reddit, and going to the gym to lift things up only to put them back down again. He is also a native of central Illinois and therefore knows good corn when he sees it.

 Science: Shannon McCullough - smccullough [at]


Biochemistry: Steph Sessa - ssessa [at] scienceleadership [dot] org Steph was born and raised in the Philadelphia area, and after a brief stint in Boston to complete her B.A. in biology and linguistics at Boston University, returned to Philly to complete her Master’s in Education at Temple University. A first year teacher at SLA, Steph is excited to work in such a collaborative environment with great core values and with her students to show them how cool science can be. Steph is also one of the JV coaches of the Ultimate Frisbee team and looks forward to the 2014-2015 season. In her free time, Steph also enjoys playing bass guitar and creative writing.

 Engineering: John Kamal – John Kamal – jkamal [at] – John teaches young people engineering and science at SLA. Having earned degrees in mechanical engineering, John went on to design interplanetary spacecraft before co-founding a software development consulting firm, WAM Systems. After 25 years of entrepreneurship, he and his partners sold WAM and John entered the Philadelphia Teacher Residency Program as an NSF Noyce Scholar. John now leads SLA's engineering program in center city, helping young people learn the process of designing, building, solving problems, and inventing cool things. John is also a coach for SLA's Engineering and Robotics Club. When not teaching, John can be found playing the clarinet, creating oddities in his workshop, and lurking in darkened jazz clubs.

---------- SPANISH

Spanish: Melanie Manuel – mmanuel [at] scienceleadership [dot] org -- Melanie came to SLA by way of California and Latin America. She teaches students Spanish and coordinates our community service program. She has organized and led many international trips for her students to the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Costa Rica, the US-Mexico border and Guatemala. As a recipient of a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching, she spent the 2015 spring semester in Chile researching street art as a vehicle for teaching language and culture. Melanie was among the first teachers in Philadelphia to earn her National Board Certification in World Languages. In her free time she bikes aimlessly in the city, dances hiphop, plays soccer, snowboards, dabbles in art and guitar, travels to countries with US State Department issued travel advisories and obsesses over street art. ---------- ENGLISH

English: Larissa Pahomov – lpahomov [at] scienceleadership [dot] org - Larissa teaches students English and Journalism. In addition to her classroom duties, she helps coordinate SLA's alumni relations, community events, and diversity programs. She has presented her school's work at ISTE, EduCon, EdCamp Philly, and NCTE. She is the author of the book “Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age,” which describes the practices of SLA and provides a framework for teachers interested in adopting the model. Larissa also works as a curriculum developer for the One Book program run by the Free Library of Philadelphia. She earned her Masters degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania Before that, she worked as a Fulbright Teaching Assistant for English in a high school in Germany. In the classroom, Larissa is dedicated to helping her students learn to read both the word and the world. She blogs regularly about all of this at

---------- Humanities: Joshua Block – jblock [at] scienceleadership [dot] org – Joshua has taught students in public schools for 13 years. He received his B.A. and M.S. in Education from the University of Pennsylvania. He received additional education while living in Jerusalem and Cameroon and while working as a cabinetmaker. His work with students integrates inquiry, project-based learning, technology, student performance, and public art. He has extensive experience with teacher education and teacher leadership, and has established multiple successful, ongoing collaborations with outside organizations. He is a NBCT, an Edutopia blogger, and has won multiple teaching awards. Joshua is passionate about his belief that education should be a tool that allows people to both understand and transform their individual and collective realities. You can find Joshua’s writing about education at and follow him at @jhblock on twitter.  

 English: Amal Giknis - agiknis [at] scienceleadership [dot] org - After earning her Bachelor’s Degree at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, Amal began her teaching career with the New York City TEaching Fellows. She completed her Master’s Degree at Fordham University and remained in the city’s classrooms for eight years. Amal is excited to have landed in Philadelphia as part of the SLA community, where she teaches students in her English classes about the value and power of words. In her free time, she can be found exploring the city on her bike, playing with a camera, or taking arts and crafts pretty seriously.

 English: Matthew Kay – mkay [at] scienceleadership [dot] org – Matthew is a proud product of the Philadelphia Public Schools, having graduated from Saul High School and West Chester University. A founding teacher at SLA, Matthew also serves as Athletic Director and Varsity Boys Basketball Coach. Matthew is also the founder and coordinator of the PYPM Slam League, which is set to begin its fifth season on February 20, 2015. The league hosts slam poetry teams from the Greater Philadelphia region in an artistic and intellectual competition. PYPM Slam League is a warm and and welcoming environment where poets are encouraged to develop their voices and form lasting positive relationships.

---------- MATHEMATICS

Mathematics: Brad Latimer – blatimer [at] scienceleadership [dot] org – Brad was born and raised in the Philadelphia area, and returned to Philly to complete graduate coursework at the University of Pennsylvania in 2006. In 2008, after earning his Masters Degree in Teaching, Learning, and Curriculum, Brad joined the faculty of SLA. He currently serves as the Mathematics Department Chair, teaches students Algebra 2 and Calculus, and chairs the Academic Standards Committee. Additionally, he teaches Secondary Math Methods at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education for Teach for America Corps members. Brad recently earned his Level II Certification for Mathematics, and won the Linback Distinguished Teaching Award in 2010. In his free time, he enjoys sports (basketball and football), music, and spending time with his kids.

---------- Mathematics: Erin Giorgio - egarvey [at] scienceleadership [dot] org - After teaching a year in England and in New York for a few years, Erin moved to Philadelphia in 2008 where she earned her Masters Degree in Secondary Education (Mathematics) from the University of Pennsylvania.  She joined the SLA faculty in 2009 where she enjoys teaching students mathematics.  Erin also coaches the SLA girls’ varsity basketball team and is hopeful that she will be able to start a lacrosse team in the upcoming years!  During the 2012 summer, Erin attended the Math & Sustainability conference where she worked with other math and science teachers in Pennsylvania to develop curriculum for interdisciplinary lessons/units that focus on sustainability.  In 2014, Erin earned her National Board Certification in Mathematics. Outside of the work day, Erin enjoys exploring the city of brotherly love, testing out new recipes in the kitchen, and challenging others to feats of strength.

 Mathematics: Sunil Reddy – sreddy [at] scienceleadership [dot] or -- Born in Philadelphia and raised in Bucks County, PA, Sunil is passionate about teaching and living within the School District of Philadelphia. Graduating from Colgate University with a dual degree in Mathematics and English Literature, he spent his fifth year in Central New York earning a Master of Arts in Teaching degree in Secondary Mathematics Education. His ambition to teach students math began in sixth grade when he admits he first felt challenged in the subject because of his teacher, who was less than motivating. Vowing to rise above his teacher’s low expectations, Sunil made the decision to excel in the content area and one day become a better teacher for his own students. With demanding expectations of his own students, Sunil is always available to help children overcome their math challenges to maximize their learning in the classroom. Aside from Statistics, Sunil has taught every level of mathematics at Science Leadership Academy. After teaching 300 students via distance learning through a PA virtual academy, Sunil joined the SLA community in its third year of operation. Tasked with building up the Algebra II curriculum at that time, he has coached many students with their skills to provide them with a more comfortable transition into advanced courses. At SLA Sunil has taught students math in Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II and Pre-Calculus courses. Sunil does not believe that any student is incapable of learning, rejecting the notion that some people "can't do math." It is Sunil's belief that all children are able to excel in any subject area if they are provided with ample individualized and differentiated instruction. Sunil is a patient practitioner who is able to contextualize mathematical concepts for students, grounding them in many real world examples. Although his students know him to be a strict teacher with high expectations regarding quality and ethic of work, they also cite him to be a teacher that never asks more or less of his students than he expects of himself. Apart from his mathematics responsibilities, Sunil is proud to be the school’s founding Yearbook Advisor, responsible for the design and business affairs of the annual publication. Having also served on the school’s Attendance and Multi-Culturalism Professional Development committees, Sunil most recently accepted the role of Detention Coordinator, overseeing student tardiness across all grade levels. His prominent organizational skills and meticulous attention to detail also sets him apart as the official staff scribe during weekly professional development sessions. Outside of school, Sunil enjoys spending time with his dog, connecting with friends, and finding ways to enjoy moments of downtime.

---------- ELECTIVES

Technology Coordinator: Marcie Hull – mhull [at] scienceleadership [dot] org – Before becoming SLA's founding Technology Coordinator,  Marcie spent five years at Shoemaker Middle School in SDP. She brings a powerful understanding of both the fine and digital arts and their role in schools. She has established a reputation as one of the top digital arts educators in the city. Marcie has presented at the National Educational Computing Conference, PETE&C, the NY Tech Forum and has worked training teachers all over the School District of Philadelphia.

Physical Education / Health: Pia Martin – pmartin [at] scienceleadership [dot] org -- Pia Martin Health and Physical Education: Teaching is one of her greatest pleasures.  She believes that Health is everything and with that belief she tackles the issues that often make it difficult for people to make wise, proactive health decisions. be they, physical , emotional, social or intellectual.  Her goal is to help the whole school community achieve optimal health, through each individual valuing their wellness and advocating for the wellness of others.

Pia is the product of two English teachers and the NYC public school system. She moved to Philadelphia to attend Temple University and has been here ever since.  She has proudly taught in the Philadelphia School District for 17 years. Pia has led numerous PD for the district and others on various health and PE topics. She has been a guest lecturer at Temple University introducing Standards Based Health Education to future health and PE teachers and Public Health Students. Pia is 2003 Stecher Award Winner and a 2008 Lindbach Award nominee.

Media Arts - Digital Video and Photography: Douglas Herman - dherman [at] scienceleadership [dot] org - Douglas didn't have the epiphany that the classroom was where he belonged until he spent several years traveling around the world honing his skills as a media artist. After revamping the photography program at Appel Farm Arts & Music Center, NJ, (2003-08), Douglas hit the books again and earned his Masters in media arts, history and secondary education from the Center for Creative Teaching at Bennington College, VT (2008). Now in his 6th year at SLA (and 7th in Philadelphia schools), Douglas has shifted from being a hybrid history/video teacher to fully develop the media arts program at SLA, which now includes photography and is also an official CTE (Career in Technical Education) program. Students who complete this program will also graduate with a Certification in Audio and Visual Communication. When not teaching, Douglas continues to travel the world to create relationships with organizations, communities and individuals focused on sustainable development, and is eager to incorporate his students in service learning projects. Check out his personal work at   
Douglas also founded Rough Cut Productions- a nonprofit born out of the classroom- that provides students with professional media production experience. Rough Cut has been providing media services for the greater Philadelphia area since its inception in 2009, and continues to grow in experience and reach. Check out their work at