Meet Our Team
|Heather Kirkpatrick - President and CEO|
Heather Kirkpatrick is the President and Chief Executive Officer at Aspire University. Heather is honored to have the opportunity to continue leading what began over eight years ago as a pilot to develop teachers and principals through a residency model at Aspire Public Schools. In partnership with the University of the Pacific, the model produces highly effective first year teachers and leaders who more closely mirror the populations of the communities they serve and elevate the best teachers and leaders in the organization.
Previously as Chief People Officer at Aspire Public Schools she helped grow the organization from two schools in 2000 to 38 schools in California and Tennessee by the time she transitioned to AspireU sixteen years later. In her time at Aspire Public Schools Heather oversaw Talent, Human Resources, Aspire’s Teacher Residency, Principal Residency, and Induction programs, Instructional Coaching, and the Evaluation and Performance Planning for what grew to be close to 2,000 teammates at Aspire Public Schools.
Prior to her work at Aspire, Heather earned her Ph.D. in Education Administration and Policy Analysis at the Stanford University School of Education, her Masters in Education Administration and Policy Analysis from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and her B.A. from Barnard College. After undergraduate work she worked in a non-profit for indigent adults with mental illness in Pittsburgh and then taught high school at Erasmus Hall in Brooklyn, New York. She has loved each of these jobs and all the adults and all the youth with whom she has been fortunate to work.
|Monica Bonny - Chief Operating Officer|
Monica Bonny has twenty years of strategy and operations consulting experience across the nonprofit, education and private sectors. Monica recently led the comprehensive restructuring of the after-school program at Canal Alliance, a resource center for low-income Latino immigrants, to align with the goal of ensuring college completion for students. She also served as Co-Chair of the Marin Promise Partnership, a collective impact initiative aimed at closing the achievement gap in Marin County. Prior to that Monica served as an elected school board member for eight years.
Monica’s private sector experience includes working as a project manager for Deloitte Consulting and an underwriter for GE Capital. She earned a BA in Economics from Northwestern University and an MBA from Wharton in Finance. Currently Monica serves on the boards of the Buck Institute of Education and Enriching Lives through Music. She is thrilled to be on the AspireU team.
|Nimmi Chilamkurti - Director of Operations|
Nimmi started her career in education as a seventh grade math teacher in New York City. After three years in the classroom, she transitioned to the regional operations team at KIPP NYC. In her most recent role as Regional Director of Operations, she managed the central operations team, coached school based operations staff and led regional initiatives. She also supported critical systems for the organization including compliance, insurance, student data, and government grants.
Nimmi earned a BA in Public Policy from Duke University as a Robertson Scholar. She also holds a Master’s Degree in Education from Pace University and an MPA from NYU Wagner, where she was a recipient of the Public Service Scholarship. After six years in operations at KIPP NYC, she is excited to join AspireU as the Director of Operations.
Kristin Smith Alvarez - Director of Research
Kristin Smith Alvarez started her career in education as a high school history and philosophy teacher at Freehold Township High School and later Morris Knolls High School, both in New Jersey. At the University of Michigan, Kristin taught and supervised pre-service teachers in the undergraduate teacher education program and coached in-service teachers in Detroit. During her time at Michigan, she also worked on a number of research projects and initiatives focused on the improvement of teacher education. Most recently, Kristin worked at UC Berkeley’s principal preparation program, the Principal Leadership Institute, as an instructor, Master’s thesis advisor, research assistant, and program manager.
Kristin is a proud New Jersey native who now calls Oakland home. She earned a B.A. in Philosophy and History from the University of Southern California and a Master’s degree in International Education from NYU. Kristin also holds a M.A. in Educational Administration and a Ph.D. in Educational Studies from the University of Michigan.
|Dan Wright - Senior Research Scientist|
Dan Wright is an applied cognitive scientist, meaning he is interested in how people think, learn, and remember, and an accomplished methodologist. Originally from California, he moved to the UK to do his doctorate at the London School of Economics.
Dr. Wright won the 2009 Psychonomic Society Award for methodology, has been on several journal boards, has over 100 journal publications, and has published several statistics books. He has worked in universities in the US and UK, in the state government (he comes here from New Mexico's Public Education Department), and in the education nonprofit sector.
Ami Hanaoka - Director of the Bay Area Teacher Residency
Ami Hanaoka entered education as a third grade teacher in Redwood City at a small dual-immersion charter school. After teaching for five years, Ami came to Aspire Public Schools. Ami spent her first six years with Aspire teaching 2nd and 3rd grade at Aspire Berkley Maynard Academy in Oakland, including four years as a Mentor teacher. As a result of the supportive environment at Aspire, Ami became National Board Certified as an Early Childhood Generalist in 2011. Ami holds a BA in Human Development and MEd from UC San Diego as well as a reading certificate from the University of San Francisco.
|Gloria Hassel - Director of the Aspire Principal and Leadership Residency|
Gloria Hassel started her teaching career as a fifth-grade classroom teacher in a small public school district near Merced County. After seven years of teaching, she was promoted to an Assistant Principal position in a year-round low socio-economic school district serving K-8 students. During her eighth year of school administration, she was promoted to a principal position. She served in the role of principal for twenty-two years. While serving in the role of principal, Gloria was recruited to work for the Education Consultant group. She performed instructional audits and supported principals and teachers at various schools across California. While working for the Education Consultant Group, Gloria also served as an Education Manager, supporting principals for Nobel Learning Communities. During one of Gloria’s family events, she heard great things about Aspire Public Schools. She then inquired and applied to the Director of Principal Residency position. She served Aspire Public Schools as the Director for three years. Gloria holds a Master’s Degree in Education from Chapman University, a Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential through California State University, Stanislaus and a California Clear Administrative Services Credential through Fresno Pacific. Gloria is currently working on a Doctorate Degree in Educational Leadership through the Northcentral University.
|Nate Monley - Dean of Students/Director of the Aspire Teacher Residency |
Nate Monley entered education as a Teach For America corps member working in East Los Angeles. After three years working in a bilingual 5th grade classroom, Nate moved to a small dual-immersion charter school in Santa Barbara where he taught for seven years. During that time he spent a year in Chile studying bilingual education through a Rotary Foundation scholarship, and started a bilingual summer camp on the Westmont College campus. Nate came to Aspire Public Schools as principal of Capitol Heights Academy in 2009. During his three years as principal the school was recognized with the California Distinguished School and Federal Blue Ribbon awards. Nate holds degrees in English and Spanish from Westmont College and an MEd from UCLA.
|Natalie June - Director of Curriculum, Principal & Leadership Residency/Director of the Central Valley Teacher Residency|
|Marcie Swan - Director of the Los Angeles Teacher Residency|
Marcie Swan started her teaching career as a first and second grade teacher for a small school district east of Los Angeles. After four years of teaching in the district, she joined the charter movement in order to teach at the very first charter school in South Los Angeles. She taught there for 4 years in multi-age, dual language, project-based and teacher-led settings. She eventually became Assistant Principal of that Kindergarten-6th grade charter school. Thanks to a dear friend, the next year, she heard about and joined the amazing team at Aspire Public Schools! In her first years with Aspire, she worked at Aspire Antonio Maria Lugo Academy (AMLA) as a lead fifth grade classroom teacher and Literacy Intervention Specialist. Next, she became a founding classroom, lead, and mentor teacher of Aspire Firestone Academy, a Public School Choice site with the Los Angeles Unified School District servicing students from the resident neighborhood area. She was eventually promoted to principal of Aspire Firestone Academy and served in that capacity for four years. Marcie holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Washington, a Master’s Degree in Education from Claremont Graduate University, and Administrative Credentials from California State University, Long Beach and Dominguez Hills.
|Tommy McGrail - Director of the Memphis Residency|
Tommy McGrail spent his first five years with Aspire teaching grades 2, 3, and 4 at Aspire Huntington Park Charter School, including two years as a Mentor teacher. He then transitioned into the K-5 Math instructional coach role for our Los Angeles region, before making the big move to Memphis in 2013. Tommy’s commitment to Aspire is very much a family affair. Tommy’s wife, Megan, currently serves as principal of Aspire Hanley Elementary School #1 in Memphis and his brother, Christian, is a teacher at Aspire Titan Academy in Los Angeles. Tommy holds a BA in History and an MAT from Occidental College.
|Purva Dandona - Aspire Teacher Residency Recruiter/Student Services Manager|
Purva Dandona is part of the recruiting team for the Aspire Teacher Residency. Purva comes to Aspire with over nine years of experience in career development and education advocacy in the San Francisco Bay Area providing services for youth, adults with disabilities, and reentry populations. Prior to that, she taught special education at a middle school in West Oakland. Additionally, Purva served on the board of the San Francisco chapter of I Have A Dream. Purva holds a BS in Human Development from UC Davis and an MS in Counseling from Fordham University.
|Terrell Washington - Aspire Teacher Residency Recruiter/Student Services Manager|
Terrell Washington began his career in higher education at Arkansas State University - Mid-South where he worked as an Adult Education Program Assistant, Career Coach, Academic Counselor, and Program Coordinator of Brother-2-Brother, the college's African American male mentoring initiative. During his tenure at ASU Mid-South, Terrell worked on a number of initiatives that sought to recruit, admit and retain first-generation, low income and underrepresented collegians. He joins Aspire University after working for several years at a Memphis area nonprofit leading its youth development and community engagement programs.
A native of Queens, New York, Terrell received his Bachelor's degree from the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith. He holds an M.S. in College Student Counseling & Personnel Services from Arkansas Tech University. Currently, he is pursuing the Doctor of Education degree in Instruction and Curriculum Leadership with an emphasis in Instructional Design and Technology at the University of Memphis. Terrell’s doctoral research interests include online learning and assessments, technology and social media use in college student engagement and retention, and minority faculty development.
|Jacqueline Blanca - Executive Assistant to President and Chief Operating Officer|
Jacqueline Blanca’s career began as a student at Leadership Public Schools-Hayward, where she quickly became passionate about education, social justice and diversity.
She earned her BA in Psychology and Leadership Studies at Azusa Pacific University as a Multi-Ethnic Leadership Scholar. During her time at Azusa Pacific she served in the Student Activities Office, the Admission’s Office and the Student Center for Reconciliation and Diversity. Due to her in-depth involvement on campus, Jacqueline combined her passions for social justice and student affairs in a two-year research project studying the correlation between student engagement on campus and student retention among minority students.
Jacqueline hopes to continue her student life research in higher education in graduate school in the near future. For now, she is excited to be part of the AspireU team and hopes to learn even more about higher education.