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Learning Choices Network Bios

LCN Organizers and Members

Megan Mills Hoffman grew up in southcentral Alaska, leaving the formal school classroom for an unstructured, informal, self-directed education from grades 5-12, returning to the classroom as a college student with a personalized transcript and admission to an out-ofstate four year university honors program with a full tuition scholarship. She went on to work as a Resident Assistant in college residence life housing as a freshman, and assumed the role of a Head Resident as a sophomore, responsible for a student staff of twelve and a residence hall of 120 students. She has since attended and worked in college admissions, registrars, and development offices for two state universities, a state college, and a private university, completed a B.S. in Sociology, and built twenty years of experience working in community development and grassroots organizations. Since moving to Buffalo eight years ago she has worked as an arts advocate with local artists, Buffalo Rising and the BurchfieldPenney Art Center’s Capital Campaign for a New Museum. She currently serves on the board of Field & Fork Network and has served as board member for the Allentown Association where she initiated a monthly arts walk, and the Western New York Environmental Alliance where she chaired the Growing work group and served on the Regional Economic Development Council’s Agriculture committee. Now Director of Resource Development for Young Audiences, she dreams of the day when substantive and meaningful education options are easily accessible for every family.

Dr. John Newton retired from public school teaching to follow his dream of over 35 years to provide a healthy, humanistic learning environment. He has a Bachelor of Science in Human Development from St. Lawrence University, a Masters of Science in Early Childhood from SUNY-Cortland, and a Doctorate in Elementary Education from Temple University. He is currently an adjunct instructor for SUNY-Fredonia in the Curriculum and Instruction Department. Dr. John was the New York State recipient of the Christa McAuliffe Fellowship for 1997-1998. Always innovative, his work with students has included one of the first internet projects, an AT&T Learning Circle in the 1980s featured around the world; an environmental project on zebra mussels that resulted in a United Nations presentation and a spot on Japanese television; the creation of the Great Lakes Student Summit, student presentations to the International Joint Commission as well as the Canadian ambassador; and the student-created Friends of Emery Park. Dr. John was one of the founders of Explore & More Children’s Museum.

Emily Eisenbaum has worked in the field of special education for 35 years, teaching youngsters in both public and private schools. She has worked with students from the ages of 2- 12 years in a variety of settings, and served as a practicum supervisor for the Infancy/Toddler Special Education Masters Program at Buffalo State College, overseeing and supervising the student teachers and graduate assistants in that program. Emily conducted educational seminars for professionals through Buffalo’s SETRC (Special Education Teacher Resource Center) for many years, and helped organize the Very Special Arts Festival for children with various challenges in Western New York. She has published articles for both educational and local publications, with a weekly column in a Maryland paper. Emily contributed in the writing of the textbook, A Practical Guide to Infant and Preschool Assessment in Special Education, as well as having presented in national conferences. Having adopted three children internationally, Emily was also involved in the local adoption community, and was president of Families Interested in Adoption, an adoption support group, and served as an adoption coordinator for eight years for World Child, Inc., an international adoption agency. She is currently teaching preschool in her eleventh year at Bornhava, a specialized Early Childhood Center in Western New York. In her free time, Emily teaches art at her temple, knits, reads, enjoys cooking and watching the growth and development of her four children, ages 12-22 years.

Jesse Griffis came up through the public schools in Western New York, graduating from SUNY Buffalo with a B.S. in Environmental Studies and an M.A. in Geography. He now works in software development, where he has specialized in geographic information systems for the last 15 years. His frustration with school programs that “dumbed down” year after year, where students routinely skate by with minimal effort for the sake of questionably relevant multiple choice tests, led him to question the increasing centralization and decline in the quality of education our kids experience.

Barb Haney-Cocca has been learning and teaching her whole life. After graduating from East Aurora High School, she worked as a wild-land firefighter in the US Forest Service, Los Padres National Forest while pursuing her bachelor’s of science degree in Environmental Studies from SUNY at Buffalo. While at UB she founded the Environmental Studies Group which later became UBGreens and was instrumental in developing the UB Recyclers and making the campus more environmentally conscience. She worked as an Environmental Educator for a number of years at a city park in Pittsburgh and state park in Pennsylvania. She volunteered for the Peace Corps in Guatemala in Environmental Management where she helped a community learn to care for a delicate eco-system called a cloud forest by teaching in the schools and community. After becoming a mother she entered the medical field as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and doula. She teaches prenatal yoga, is a doula trainer and has taught pediatric and ob/gyn residents about breastfeeding. Most recently she has a passion for education and is pursuing her master’s degree at the University of Buffalo in Learning and Instruction/secondary science. She teaches at Mandala School in East Aurora where she does best by learning about each student through radical listening and kindness.

Heather Russell is an architect of human development and motivation. An entrepreneur and mother she is passionate about the various ways that education takes place in everyday situations. Having founded Verve Dance Studio, Russell uses dance classes and community events as a platform to create a network of individuals who collectively care about and help to spread the value of education through art forms and self expression. Also working as a partner in independently owned Wireless Zone stores, she builds new formulas for success by defining a profit driven business venture around values of integrity, human development and the hierarchy of human needs.

Alyce Thorp became interested in alternative education while teaching information literacy at a local university. Hoping to inspire incoming freshman she was sorely disappointed by their lack of enthusiasm, curiosity and intrinsic motivation. Down the rabbit hole, looking for answers, she read books by Dewey, Holt and Gatto and discovered enlightening alternative education concepts that made people’s hair stand on end. All of this led to great opportunities working with families in Rochester and Fredonia – leading a homeschooling enrichment program and a school start up, respectively. She is now caring for young children in East Aurora and working with the Mandala School to create a primary program for this coming fall.

Stacy VanBlarcom is a dancer, teacher, poet, and public relations professional in Buffalo, NY. She is a Bboy/Bgirl youth instructor at Future Dance Center in Hamburg, NY, and believes there is no better learning tool than finding and pursuing your passion. VanBlarcom has danced for more than 20 years and now performs and competes across the U.S. and Canada in both bgirling (break dancing) and poetry. She is a proud member of the arts and Hip Hop communities in Buffalo, providing communications support to artists and encouraging connections at a local, regional and national level. In her nearly decade long career in public relations, VanBlarcom has aimed to exemplify the best of the profession, building relationships between organizations and their audiences that bring tangible benefits to all involved. She currently serves as Communications Manager for Lifetime Health Medical Group, and on the e-communications committee of the Buffalo/Niagara Public Relations Society of America.

Guest Panelists for LCN Film & Speaker Series

Jody Douglass is in her sixth year as Head of School at Buffalo Seminary. Her positions of leadership in education have included roles at some of the best schools in New England. Prior to moving to Buffalo in 2007, she served as Head of School at George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill, Maine, where she helped start an international boarding program. She has served as Assistant Head of School and Dean of Faculty at Brooks School in North Andover, Massachusetts; Associate Dean of Admission at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont; and Assistant Director of Admission at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. She has also served as Director of College Counseling at Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Massachusetts. In 2001, Ms. Douglass and her husband spent a year in Beijing, China, teaching for School Year Abroad. Ms. Douglass is an active member of the Garret Club and currently sits on the Board of Trustees for the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS). During AY 2011-2012, she chaired the NYSAIS Accreditation Committee for the Masters School in New York City. She holds her B.A. in
sociology from Bates College and her M.A. in English from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, knitting and walking around the Elmwood Village neighborhood of Buffalo.

Mr. M. Bradley Rogers is very passionate about teaching students with dyslexia and related language based learning differences. This has been his focus throughout his 28-year career. Mr. Rogers holds a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from the University of Dayton, a certificate for teaching specific learning disabilities from Cleveland State University, and a Master’s Degree in Liberal Arts from the Johns Hopkins University. He has also attended leadership training coursework at Harvard Business School. Outside of the classroom, he has coached wrestling, lacrosse, football, and baseball. In 2004, Mr. Rogers joined The Gow School as its 6th headmaster. Mr. Rogers and his wife Anne have four sons and live on the campus of The Gow School. He is an accomplished marathon runner and percussionist. The Rogers family are members of Baker Memorial Church and enjoy old-fashioned summer vacations in Maine. Someday, Mr. Rogers hopes to be in a rock and roll band.

Guest Facilitators for Best of Buffalo Urban Immersion

Seamus Gallivan was born and raised in Buffalo, graduated from the Park School and Canisius College, and has spent a quarter of his life elsewhere. After stints in four cities between Florida and Texas working in Minor League Baseball and local youth programs, he repatriated to the City of Good Neighbors in 2009 and soon after founded The Good Neighborhood, a community-driven company online with a daily dose of the greater good and on the town with a cause for every event.

Chris Hawley was born in Buffalo, reared in the Southtowns and later South Carolina, and schooled in New York. Today he’s back in Buffalo and hard at work at implementing a new zoning code as an urban planner for the City. As a lifelong activist, and now a professional urban planner who has also worked for a developer and a U.S. senator, he’s been focused on the tough work of getting things done and moving the ball forward.

Bernice Radle lives, works and plays in Buffalo, NY. She works full time at Buffalo Energy, a premier building energy consulting firm based in Buffalo. Bernice is a passionate lover of buildings, Buffalo and historic preservation. Bernice plays a leadership role in the Buffalo’s Young Preservationists where she helps to create, manage and coordinate projects, initiatives and events. She is also very active in several other organizations including NESEA, Women Elect and Preservation Buffalo Niagara. In 2012, Bernice received three great honors – she was chosen as one of Buffalo’s 30 under 30 in 2012 by Buffalo Business First, labeled a “Game Changer” by Buffalo Spree and was a keynote speaker at the NESEA Building Energy conference in Boston, Massachusetts.

Lisa Tucker is the owner and publisher of Edible Buffalo magazine, Western New York’s leading source for news and stories about local food. She is also the co-founder and Board President for Field & Fork Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to building a thriving regional food system in WNY through education and outreach. Through her work with the magazine and non-profit organization, Lisa has been involved in various regional initiatives including the agriculture working groups for the Regional Economic Development and Western New York Sustainability plans. She is the driving force behind the regional Connections Conference that brings together stakeholders in the food community to address challenges and inspire solutions to create a sustainable food system.