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Press Release



March 3, 2020
Contact: Christina Mazzanti

Association of American Educators Foundation Announces Advocacy Fellows for 2020

Alexandria, VA – The Association of American Educators Foundation (AAEF), a 501(c)(3) organization supporting the mission of the Association of American Educators (AAE), a national professional association serving educators in all fifty states, announces its 2020 cohort of Advocacy Fellows. The AAEF Advocacy Fellowship Program encourages and empowers our nation’s educators to influence policy in their communities through advocacy and engagement. The 2020 class of seventeen advocacy fellows was selected from a national pool of distinguished applicants encompassing classroom educators, administrators, professors, community leaders, and education entrepreneurs serving students in public schools, charter schools, private schools, and universities.

“Too often the educator voice is distressingly absent from education policy discussions, substituted with partisan talking points and placards,” explained AAEF Executive Director Colin Sharkey. “AAE Foundation’s Advocacy Fellowship program demonstrates not only that educators can and must be part of the education policy discussion in their community, but that students and educators benefit when educator voices are heard.”

AAEF’s second cohort is twice as large as the inaugural class last year. Fellows are concentrated in states throughout the country supported by local and national staff of AAE Foundation. The following educators from California, Arkansas, Colorado, Texas, Georgia, New Jersey, and Michigan will participate in a yearlong fellowship engaging in activities and actions throughout the 2020-2021 school year to advocate for policies and issues that directly impact their students and educational communities.

  • Jason B. Allen, Georgia – Special Education, ELA educator, and administrator since 2005
  • Grant Brewer, Arkansas – Unmanned Aerial Systems (drones) high school instructor since 2017
  • Tabitha Brown, Colorado – Kindergarten educator with a focus on dual language immersion
  • Teresa Brown, Colorado – Dean of Student Support with a focus on the needs of gifted learners
  • Ryan Bytheway, Texas – Elementary geography and world history educator since 2013
  • Alicen Fair, Colorado – Elementary educator in her fifth year of teaching at a charter school
  • Christian Harden, Georgia – Principal at a preparatory charter school and previously a classroom teacher for twelve years
  • Jamila Jendayi-Scott, New Jersey – Assistant Director of Operations leading a team of more than twenty high school educators and staff in the delivery of enrichment programming
  • Meran Khon, Michigan – A twenty-year public school educator with experience in ELA, Gifted/Talented STEM, and currently directs an elementary media center as librarian/technology/Maker Space/STEAM coordinator
  • Lou McCall, New Jersey – Sixth- and seventh-grade mathematics educator and after-school programs director since 2014
  • Brian Payne, Georgia – Health and physical education instructor with a focus on curriculum redesign
  • Ashley Simpson, Ed.D., Colorado – Education professor and chair of the Education and World Languages program at the Community College of Aurora, Colorado
  • Melissa Smith, New Jersey – Her entrepreneurial background led her to develop and facilitate a family engagement program for a group of charter schools
  • Joli Sotallaro, Arkansas – A second-career educator serving the public school system for five years currently teaching English and social studies in the secondary setting
  • Danielle Stewart, Ed.D., Georgia – Founder and President of the Community Empowerment Foundation providing educational resources for parents and students
  • Tiffany Svennes, Colorado – Director of Post-Secondary Studies providing academic counseling for secondary students, also serves as GED Site Coordinator
“This remarkably gifted group of educators represents a diverse cross-section of today’s education professionals,” noted AAE Foundation Director of Advocacy, Kira Tookes. “As education experts, the voices they bring to the education policy discussion are critically needed. They have already begun the important work of testifying on policy legislation, writing op-eds, and participating on panel discussions and town halls.”

AAEF Fellowship alumna Lydia Dillon noted, “This Fellowship is the most important and valuable program that the AAE Foundation offers.”

The AAE Foundation Advocacy Fellowship is available to educators nationwide. Application consideration for the 2021 cohort will open in the fall of 2020. For more information about the AAEF Advocacy Fellowship and additional educational advocacy programming and projects, visit

The Association of American Educators (AAE) is the largest national, non-union, professional educator organization, advancing the profession by offering a modern approach to educator empowerment and advocacy—promoting professionalism, collaboration and excellence without a partisan agenda. AAE is committed to a teaching profession that is student oriented, well respected, and personally fulfilling. AAE serves members in all fifty states and welcomes professionals from all education entities. Membership is $16.50 per month which includes $2 million professional liability insurance, employment rights coverage, professional resources and many other benefits. Visit for more information.