The TeachingPartners Team

We started TeachingPartners with the shared belief that teachers are the most important factor to student success. As we’ve grown, our small group expanded to include a broad network of exceptional teachers, each committed to helping other teachers sharpen their practice, implement individualized instruction, and be the best educators they can be.


Mark Nieker

Mark is TeachingPartners’ Chief Executive Officer. He oversees the TeachingPartners’ executive team and all aspects of the organization’s operations, strategy, and growth.

Before founding TeachingPartners, Mark held a number of executive positions at Pearson, the world’s largest education company.

During an 18-year career at Pearson, Mark founded and served as Chief Executive Officer of the Pearson Charitable Foundation, the independent 501c3 that designed, developed, and managed education-focused public-private partnerships around the globe. During that time, he developed and helped support numerous public-private partnerships devoted to serving classroom teachers and improving outcomes for their students.

He served as the organization’s Global Director of Innovation and Investment, helping to develop the organization’s U.S’ first all-digital US-K12 curriculum program. He led Pearson’s first internet-based education initiative for teachers, students, and parents, serving as President of the Learning Network. As CEO of Pearson’s early cross-business digital-publishing effort, he also helped establish early digital strategies and developed digital consumer programs for Penguin Books, Pearson Television, The Financial Times, and for a number of Pearson’s then-independent education businesses.

Before joining Pearson, Mark worked at Microsoft in Seattle, at an early digital startup in San Francisco, and taught while pursuing advanced degrees at the University of Washington and the University of Illinois.

Mark has served as a board member of Jumpstart; and in 2009 was named an Ambassador by the National Education Association Foundation.

He and his family live in Northern California where he recently completed his last—and 11th consecutive—year as a little league baseball coach.

Gary Syman

Gary is the Chairman of the TeachingPartners Board of Directors.

He is a retired partner of Goldman Sachs & Co., having spent over 30 years with the firm. Before founding TeachingPartners, Gary spent substantial time since his retirement in the nonprofit sector, helping education- and reform-focused organizations achieve greater scale and impact.

A nationally recognized and sought-after strategic advisor and board member, Gary has served on numerous boards, including Jumpstart (early childhood education), SeaChange Capital Partners (nonprofit merchant bank), the New Teacher Center (professional development focused on teacher induction), Peer Health Exchange (provides health curriculum to low income high school students) and the Pearson Charitable Foundation. Gary received his BS and MBA from the University of Southern California.

He lives in Northern California with his wife, Azita Raji, and has five daughters.

Vicki Phillips

Vicki Phillips currently serves as a Senior Advisor/Education Strategist for national and international organizations and ed-tech companies devoted to the engagement and professional learning of teachers and the design of enabling conditions and systems in which teaching and learning can thrive.

Dr. Phillips has long been a champion of teachers and holds a strong record of reform at all levels of education – from neighborhood schools to the federal government. She has served as a teacher, leader of a nonprofit education foundation, superintendent of schools, state chief of basic and higher education and for nearly a decade as the director of K-12 education for the world’s largest foundation.

Phillips most recently served as Director of Education, College Ready, for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where she led the work to ensure students graduate from high school ready to succeed in college, career and community and to improve the effectiveness and support of teachers. Phillips and her team sought to advance education innovations, including new school designs focused on personalized learning for students, new models of personalized learning for teachers, high quality tech-enabled curriculum and instructional tools, and elevating teacher voice.

Prior to joining the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, she was superintendent of Portland Public Schools in Portland, Oregon. Earlier, Phillips served as Pennsylvania’s State Secretary of Education and as superintendent in the School District of Lancaster, PA. She previously served at the state level in her home state of Kentucky, helping to implement the sweeping changes demanded by the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990.

Born in Kentucky and raised on a small farm, Phillips was the first in her family to go to college. She holds degrees in elementary and special education and a doctorate in international leadership and management from the University of Lincoln in England.

The TeachingPartners’ Teacher Leadership Teams

Teacher Advisory Group

The Teacher Advisory Group is a committed group of expert teachers committed to providing TeachingPartners with meaningful, authentic input. Their guidance and expertise ensures that TeachingPartners meet the professional growth and collaboration needs of teachers everywhere.

The Teacher Advisory Group provides meaningful feedback to improve the functionality, content, and messaging of TeachingPartners; offers recommendations for improvement and for new features; and suggests ways to improve TeachingPartners content and platform design as well as our broader outreach and communications strategies.

The Teacher Advisory Group includes:

Katrina Boone

Katrina spent seven years as a high school English teacher in Louisville, Kentucky. She is currently the Director of Teacher Outreach at the Collaborative for Student Success, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education through a commitment to high standards. Katrina believes that the most valuable professional learning for teachers is collaborative, teacher-led and focused on student success. She lives with her husband and son in Louisville.

Christopher Bronke

Christopher has been teaching high school English for thirteen years and is also a Department Chair. He has served in multiple teacher leadership and advisory roles, presenting nationally on a variety of topics, and is a champion of teacher-led professional learning that elevates teacher voice. He is an expert in teacher leadership, co-founding and directing the National Blogging Collaborative, an organization dedicated to helping teachers insert their voice in the national narrative through blogging. He lives in Downers Grove, Illinois with his wife Kristen, who also works in education.

Val Brown

Val currently serves as the Strategic Partnership Manager for the University of Florida Lastinger Center, where she works on ensuring teachers, administrators, and district leaders across the state have access to meaningful professional learning experiences. Prior to her work at the university level, she taught middle and high school English language arts, where her students challenged her to “be the best educator she could be.” She is an expert in designing, facilitating, and evaluating professional learning, and always appreciates the opportunity to learn from other teachers. Valeria has been recognized by the White House Initiative of Educational Excellence for African Americans in Teaching, and was a 2013 Seminole County Teacher of the Year. She lives outside of Orlando, Florida and enjoys spending time with her family and cheering on the Miami Heat.

Kriscia Cabral

Kriscia is an elementary school teacher and instructional coach in San Diego. A veteran teacher of eleven years and an expert in growth mindsets, Kriscia is particularly passionate about integrating technology into the classroom and encouraging her students to celebrate “failing forward”, a metaphor that promotes failing as a part of success rather than its opposite. Kriscia has also been nationally recognized as a Scholastic TopTeaching Blogger and PBS Teacher Advisor and serves as a member of EdCamp San Diego and on the San Diego Computer Using Educators board. Kriscia lives in San Diego,CA with her husband and two children and enjoys reading, dancing, running and is always eager to learn something new.

Melissa Collins

Melissa has been an elementary school teacher for seventeen years, where she is constantly amazed by her students’ curiosity about the world around them. Inspired by her father, who was also an educator, Melissa has won countless awards and been recognized for her leadership at both the local and national level. She is an expert in teacher leadership and voice and also an advocate for global learning and high standards. Melissa lives in Memphis, Tennessee, with her wonderful son, DeVon, amazing father and mother, and two sisters. She enjoys doing Zumba and reading.

Ryan Kinser

Ryan teachers computer science, engineering, and science courses at the high school level. He is a member of national teacher leadership organizations, including ECET and the Center for Teaching Quality. Ryan began his career as a teacher after first working in television production. He was inspired to change careers so he could pass along his insatiable desire for learning to his students. Ryan has been in the classroom for thirteen years and lives in Sarasota, Florida.

Beth Maloney
Beth Maloney

Beth has been an elementary school teacher for 17 years, and currently teaches fifth grade English and Social Studies in Arizona. She is the 2014 Arizona State Teacher of the Year, and co-founded the Arizona National Board Certified Teacher Network. Originally aspiring to work in public relations, Beth was persuaded by her husband to pursue teaching after a summer job working as a camp counselor. She lives outside of Phoenix with her husband, daughter, and a menagerie of animals and enjoys reading, writing, hiking, and yoga.

Jessica Moore

Jessica is a middle school Language Arts teachers in Colorado. A veteran teacher of eight years, she has also spent the last five years working on policy issues at the local and national level with multiple teacher voice organizations. Jessica is particularly passionate about instructional advocacy, and addressing teacher equity issues through professional learning. She lives in Longmont, Colorado where she loves to spend time in the beautiful outdoors with her husband Mark and their four-legged, furry baby, Cooley.

Joanna Schimizzi

Joanna is a National Board Certified Teacher and has been teaching tenth grade Biology for nine years. She was inspired to become an educator because of a teacher who taught her to look for the “why” instead of the “how”, and she continues to do the same for her students. An expert in literacy across content areas, she is now inspired when she sees her students tackle complex text they didn’t think they were capable of. Joanna has been recognized for great teaching and leadership by various national teacher leadership organizations. She lives in Matthews, North Carolina with her amazing husband and creative son.

Angela Schoon

A veteran teacher of fifteen years, Angela teaches fourth grade in Merritt Island, Florida. She is most inspired by her students’ constant hunger for learning and strives to keep up with the most innovative instructional strategies to meet all of her students’ needs. Angela has been locally recognized for her quality teaching and is a leader in her school, working with fellow teachers to share best practices and develop curriculum that works for the teacher and the students. She received her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Elementary Education at the University of Florida.

Teacher Design Team

A hallmark of TeachingPartners is the Teacher Learning Progressions that will be launched this fall. Progressions are learning opportunities designed to help teachers move from novice to expert in a required skill set, an area of interest, or an area of expertise relevant to career advancement such as teacher leadership. The progressions are designed and delivered by the experts teachers trust most – other teachers – with support and guidance from TeachingPartners.

Look for upcoming opportunities to suggest progressions you would like to see featured on TeachingPartners and for invitations to become one of our progression designers.

Teacher Coaches and Calibrators

Teams of teachers will serve as coaches and calibrators for each TeachingPartners Learning Progression. These teachers will be expert in the skill set reflected in the progression and will support teachers as they work through the progression demands. They will serve as a sounding board, provide advice and feedback, and calibrate the work products for which teachers receive PD credit, a micro-credential, or other incentives and recognition.

Watch TeachingPartners for an upcoming list of progressions and how you can signal TeachingPartners if you’d like to be considered as a coach and calibrator.

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