Pilot Program Leaders

Dr. Lori Burns is an educator and public school principal in New Jersey. She completed extensive research on the impact of school climate on lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) public school teachers in the State of New Jersey.  In response to the dangerous conditions for LGBTQ educators, Dr. Burns partnered with Garden State Equality in creating the Educators for Equality program. Educators for Equality is comprised of LGBTQ+ educators and allies who advocate for inclusive schools through LGBTQ+ specific policies, programs, best practices, professional development, and inclusive curriculum.  Dr. Burns’ academic work in the area of LGBTQ+ topics in schools include scholarly articles and presentations regarding LGBTQ+ competency and best practices. 

Dr. Burns has partnered with Garden State Equality and Make It Better for Youth in developing and implementing the LGBTQ+ Inclusive Curriculum for the State of New Jersey.  As the LGBTQ+ Inclusive Curriculum Pilot Program Manager, Dr. Burns has developed the structure of the pilot program, provides support for the pilot schools, and will conduct research regarding the LGBTQ+ Inclusive Curriculum.  

Dr. Burns received her Bachelor of Science and teaching certification from Montclair State University, Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from Georgian Court University, and Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership from Saint Peter’s University.  Dr. Burns identifies as a lesbian and is passionate about the importance of LGBTQ+ visibility in schools.

Ashley Chiappano is the Safe Schools & Community Education Manager for Garden State Equality and a parent, advocate, facilitator, and trainer. She has worked in the non-profit and public service fields for over 10 years. During her time as a public servant and child welfare professional, she trained and licensed many LGBTQ foster/adoptive parents for the Department of Child Protection and Permanency while also participated in their Safe Space Program. Over the past two years at Garden State Equality, Ashley has expanded existing programming and developed new initiatives that serve LGBTQ+ youth and the greater community.

As the Safe Schools & Community Education Manager, she oversees 6 initiatives: LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum Development, Teach & Affirm, Library & Community Education Series, LGBTQ+ Youth Advocacy, Youth Caucus Leadership Program, and Educators for Equality.  As part of Ashley’s role as Safe Schools and Community Education Manager, she oversees, the first of its kind in the nation, data driven LGBTQ Inclusive Curriculum Pilot Program for New Jersey’s Public Schools. Ashley received her B.A. in Communication-Public Relations and Journalism from Monmouth University in 2005 and her M.A. in Human Service from Capella University in 2010. She loves educating others on how to make schools safer for LGBTQ+ youth and is committed to creating safe and affirming school environments. Ashley enjoys spending her free time going on adventures with her four amazing kids.

Betsy Erbaugh is Associate Professor of Sociology and Coordinator of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Stockton University. Specializing in intersections of gender, sexuality, race and class in health promotion and social change, she conducts community-based research on women’s and LGBTQ+ health in New Jersey. In partnership with Garden State Equality, Make It Better for Youth, GLSEN, and local educators, she is Lead Investigator of a study on LGBTQ-inclusive curricula, school climate and student well-being.

Dr. Erbaugh has taught sociology, gender and sexuality courses at Stockton, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Butler University, Grinnell College, and the University of New Mexico (UNM). She is also a trained sexual health educator and provides training on LGBTQ+ inclusion for educators working with youth and adults. She holds a PhD and MA in Sociology from UNM, an MA in International Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame, and a BA in Philosophy from Tufts University. 

Betsy has presented her work at meetings of the American Public Health Association, the American Sociological Association, the National Women’s Studies Association, and the Los Angeles Queer Studies Conference, among other fora. Her work appears in interdisciplinary journals and edited volumes including The Journal of Community Engagement and Higher Education, Social Science Research; Race, Gender and Class; Practical Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology; and Gender Violence: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. In 2015 her research team published the first Report on the Status of Women in Atlantic County. In 2017 she was among the first “Population Health Hero” awardees honored by the state of New Jersey, for her collaboration in a CDC-funded project to promote Latino community health in Vineland, NJ.

Betsy grew up in Minnesota and enjoys outdoor adventuring with her dog and two kids. 

Kate Okeson is an art educator and artist who has been teaching in NJ for more than 20 years. A graduate of Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University, Kate is informed by intensive studio practice;  bringing inquiry driven processes and exploration to the classroom. In her work as an educator, she attends to the discipline of creative and critical thought as a means to ask beautiful questions which lead to growth and action. Her focus has been on creating open, accepting, and creative spaces in which students develop conceptual skills in pursuit of potential answers; the art projects and interdisciplinary seminars are the method by which students learn to develop ownership of their education, and approach the classroom as a locus of collaboration. She is recipient of Rumson-Fair Haven Teacher of the Year (2008), Junior League of Monmouth County Women Making a Difference Award 2018, Monmouth County Arts Outstanding Educator in the Arts Award 2019, and  NJEA’s Equality Champion Award 2020.

In addition to teaching she is co-founder of Make It Better for Youth, the Monmouth County Consortium for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Questioning Youth, where she has organized concerned and determined educators, community leaders, arts and cultural organizations, businesses and individuals to pool resources and ideas to affirm and accept our young LGBTQ+ community through education, outreach, and social opportunities. Over the last 2+ years, MIB4Y has focused intently on educator-to-educator initiatives, including the development of a pilot curriculum for NJ’s LGBTQ+ Inclusive Curriculum.

Lesson Plan Writers

Joy Barnes-Johnson, Ph.D. has worked in large-scale assessment, curriculum design, professional development/teacher education, adult basic, and secondary science education over the span of her 25+ year career. Having earned degrees in Urban Education, Curriculum and Instruction, and Chemistry, she enjoys the challenge of interdisciplinary STEM literacy.  She currently works in secondary education and consults for several racial literacy, STEM Education and training projects. Her research agenda is based on an equity framework that she calls EqSTrEAM educational responses exploring disparate constructs around race, gender, class, ability and agency (equity) in academic areas that engage learning stakeholders in creative, innovative and/or development outcomes. She has published several articles that address teacher preparation, policy and curriculum design. In 2018, she  co-edited a research volume entitled STEM-21: Equity in Teaching and Learning to Meet Global Challenges of Standards, Engagement and Transformation. She was recently honored by the NJ Education Association with the 2019 MLK Jr. Human & Civil Rights Award. 

Christine Berg, M.A. is a World Language Teacher with 20 years of experience in education. She holds a B.S. in Biology and French from St. Lawrence University, and an M.A. in French studies from the University at Albany.  She is a National Board Certified Teacher in World Language. She has been published in the New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers Journal and the French Review, and has presented at the Foreign Language Educators of New Jersey annual conference. She was the recipient of two Best Buy Teach awards for using technology to  enhance her classroom curriculum with a focus on students with disabilities. In addition, she worked with IBM to bring translation software to her previous district in order to translate district office communications for Spanish-speaking parents. Christine is committed to ensuring equity in education for all students. She is currently teaching at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School.

Allison D. Connolly, M.A. has been a history and social studies teacher for the last twenty years. She began her career at Red Bank Catholic High School, then joined the staff of Ocean Township High School. Ms. Connolly earned her M.A. in Administration, Supervision and Curriculum Planning from Georgian Court College and is currently completing a second M.A. in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Kean University. She is a member of the Educators for Equality executive committee and a volunteer for the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights and Genocide Education (CHHANGE) at Brookdale Community College. Allison also was elected to two terms on the Wall Township Board of Education, serving as President in 2017 and 2019. As an ally of the LGBTQ+ community, Ms. Connolly feels participating in this endeavor is one of the most meaningful initiatives of her professional career.  She grew up and resides in Wall Township with her husband, Bill, and two sons.

Mike Emmich, M.A. is a social studies teacher who has worked at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School for the last 14 years.  He was recognized as the 2019 Educator of the Year and was nominated for the Princeton Prize for Distinguished Secondary School Teaching.  Through his teaching of courses in American history, human geography, and the American legal system, Mike has endeavored to make issues related to citizenship, identity, hidden histories, and the pursuit of equity the foundation of his pedagogy.  In addition, he was the co-founder of Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance, and has worked both formally and informally to further the pursuit of just treatment for all students in New Jersey’s public schools. Mike received his Bachelor of Arts in history from Rutgers University, completed a teaching certification program through Georgian Court University, and holds a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from Montclair State University.

Stacie Ferrara, Ed.D is the interim Supervisor for STEM and Physical Education at Neptune Township School District. She is returning to the district after serving in roles of principal, vice principal and academic supervisor. Dr. Ferrara started her career in education as a chemistry teacher at Neptune High School. She served as the Science Department Chairperson and was involved in the development of the district green curriculum and 2009 science curriculum adoptions. Dr. Ferrara was also a science teacher and academic supervisor with the Freehold Regional High School District. She has presented at the New Jersey Science Teacher Convention, NJPSA and Techspo on science literacy, inquiry-based lab investigations and technology topics.  In her leadership roles as an assistant principal and principal, she has worked on Advanced Placement (AP) and dual enrollment programs, chronic absenteeism, STEM curriculum, and authentic research projects with community partnerships. Dr. Ferrara holds a master’s degree in Administration from Georgian Court University and a doctorate from Saint Peter’s University in Educational Leadership. She is active in the NJ ASCD Central affiliate as the Assistant Director.

Rose Flahive, Ed.M. is a sixth grade language arts teacher in Central New Jersey. She attended Rutgers University School of Arts and Sciences and Douglass Residential College for her undergraduate degree in English with a minor in Cultural Anthropology. In addition, she attended the Rutgers Graduate School of Education and earned an Ed. M. in English Language Arts. Outside of school, she volunteers for Girl Scouts, performs in the New Jersey Renaissance Faire as a member of the supporting cast, sings in a choir, and runs very long distances. A major goal in her life has been to be the kind of teacher she didn’t know she needed as a bisexual teenager growing up.

Dennis Hill teaches United States History I &; II, Economics, and World History for Union County Educational Services Commission. He has worked in public education for over 10 years following a career in international health policy. He completed his Bachelor of Arts in History at the University of Chicago and received his New Jersey Teaching Certification from Bloomfield College.  He also works as a private ACT/SAT tutor and college advisor. Starting in Fall 2019 he will begin working as Lead Teacher for the WIOC youth education program at Passaic County Community College. When he isn’t reading academic texts for research, he enjoys gardening, hiking, music, and occasionally reading academic texts for pleasure. He lives in Montclair, NJ with his partner and her son.

Danielle Kay, BA, MS has been teaching English for 20 years. She currently teaches at Mt. Olive High School where she is also the advisor of the MOHS Gender & Sexuality Alliance. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and History, as well as a Masters in Reading. Danielle is passionate about helping students discover their own voices through writing. She also enjoys helping her students rediscover a love of reading by providing them access to a diverse classroom library where they can see themselves in the pages of a book. Understanding the importance of representation, Danielle was eager to be part of a team creating inclusive lessons for New Jersey students and is excited to see the positive outcomes that will result from a more diverse curriculum. When she’s not at school, Danielle spends her time with her wife, Jen, and their growing family. 

Dr. Kenneth Kunz is an Assistant Professor of Literacy/Language Arts at Monmouth University.  He received his B.A. in Elementary Education/English from Kean University. Passionate about literacy instruction, Dr. Kunz holds a master’s degree in Reading Specialization and a doctorate in Teacher Leadership from Rutgers University.  He has presented professional development centered on literacy instruction in classrooms across New Jersey and at state and national conferences. He is co-author of Breaking through the Language Arts Block: Organizing and Managing an Exemplary Literacy Day.  Dr. Kunz has served in the roles of teacher, administrator, literacy coach/consultant, and teacher-educator.

In New Jersey, Dr. Kunz serves as President of the NJ Literacy Association.  Beyond the state, he serves on the Board of the International Literacy Association.  In 2007, Dr. Kunz received recognition through the New Jersey Governor’s Teacher Recognition Program.  In 2014, Dr. Kunz received the Edward Fry Endowed Fellowship in Literacy at Rutgers University.

Noël Desiree Lefebvre, M.A., BFA is an artist educator from Manasquan, New Jersey. She developed a passion for education after supporting young artists develop their portfolio for college at New York University’s summer programs. After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts from New York University, Noël pursued her interest in museum education at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) where she received a Master of Arts. As a graduate fellow at RISD, Noël held positions in the Departments of History of Art and Visual Culture and Graduate Studies, in addition to the RISD Museum where she continued to work after graduation. Currently, Noël is a Museum Educator at the Monmouth Museum. Inspired by the intersections of art, design, and public health, Noël seeks to make her world a more equitable place.

Amy Lepping, BFA, EdM is a studio art educator in NJ. She holds National Board Certification in Adolescent -Young Adult Art, National Art Education Certification K-12, and has been the recipient of the Governor’s Teacher Recognition Award. In the classroom, Amy’s focus has been on critical thinking for the arts connected to intensive studio practice, imparting rigor in skilled approach from her students.

An exhibiting artist, Amy’s paintings are visual meditations that explore the feelings of being in the ocean – visually addressing a tension between the stillness underneath and the currents above. 

Randy Narvaez, M.A. joined Edison Township Public Schools in 2018, following seven years of service as a teacher, instructional coach, and assistant principal. His career began at Camden’s Promise Charter School, where he taught 5th-8thgrade Spanish and ESL. Before joining Edison Township Public Schools, Mr. Narvaez also taught 3rdgrade at North Star Academy in Newark, NJ  and served as an assistant principal of instruction at Mastery Molina Elementary in Camden, NJ. A New Jersey native, Randy was born in Atlantic City, and graduated from Absegami High School in Galloway Township. He received his undergraduate degree in education from Temple University and earned his Master’s Degree in Urban Education from the University of Pennsylvania University. In 2016, Mr. Narvaez was selected as to join TNTP’s highly selective PLUS Residency, a two-year, practice-based principal certification program that prepares school leaders to transform teaching in schools.

Beatriz Pelaez-Martinez, MAT is a world language teacher currently completing her 18th year as a high school teacher. She has taught Spanish and Italian at multiple levels of proficiency including AP levels. An alternate route teacher, she holds an MAT from Rutgers University and started her career at Middletown High School North. She has presented at NECTFL before and she hopes to continue to contribute to her profession through this initiative. She feels very passionately about inclusion in our curriculum and is very excited to be part of this project. She currently works in Tenafly High School.

Steffanie Shoop M.A. graduated from Providence College with a B.A. in Biology.  She began her teaching career at South River High School as an alternate-route candidate. From there she moved to Princeton High School where she has taught various courses like Ecology, Biology I, Biology II.  She has now been at Princeton HS for 11 years, and is currently teaching Accelerated and AP Biology. During that time, she also earned an MA in Teacher Leadership from Rowan University, and is working on a second masters at the American College of Education.

Lesley Ann Thomson, M.A. is a 15-year social studies educator in Ocean County NJ where she teaches courses on African American History, United States History, and New Jersey History. She is currently a doctoral student of historical studies at Southern Illinois University Carbondale where her focus specializes on African American history during Reconstruction. In addition to her career at Barnegat, Ms. Thomson frequently adjuncts for local community colleges, and is a member of the New Jersey Council for Social Studies, & Asbury Park African American Music Project. Due to her successful integration of pedagogical strategies of engagement in the classroom, Ms. Thomson was awarded the Patriot’s Podium from the State of New Jersey in 2008, Teacher of the Year for Barnegat Schools in 2010, and National VFW Teacher of the Year Award in 2011.