Our team members have deep roots in their communities and an insider’s perspective on schools.
A New Orleans native, Gary Briggs has attended private, Catholic, charter, and traditional public schools. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Political Science from Texas Christian University and served as a White House Intern in the Obama administration upon graduation. Afterwards, Gary joined Teach For America and returned to New Orleans to teach English Language Arts. He served as 5th and 6th grade Team Leader at Harriet Tubman Charter School for four years. In 2015, his experiences as a student and teacher in New Orleans’ schools were chronicled by The Times Picayune. Today, Gary serves as New Orleans’s Master Navigator and works to support families and students across the Greater New Orleans area.
Denise Gilstrap, PhD
Before becoming a Navigator, Denise Gilstrap served children and families for more than a decade as an educator and counselor. She has taught English Language Arts to 7th and 8th graders in New Orleans and Dallas, been a student advocate and college counselor at the University of Mississippi, and worked as a family therapist in Monroe, Louisiana. Most recently, she served as an Assistant Professor for family therapy and counseling at the University of Louisiana-Monroe. She holds a BA in English and MA in Teaching from Texas Woman’s University, an MS in Counseling from Texas A&M University-Commerce, and a PhD in Counselor Education from the University of Mississippi.
Navigator & Manager of Navigation Operations
Rameisha “Ramie” Johnson is a New Orleans native, proud mom, and veteran school counselor and enrollment advisor. As a Navigator and Manager of Navigator Operations, she supports a wide variety of parents across the Greater New Orleans area with school choice and enrollment process. Ramie holds a BA in Sociology and a M.Ed in School Counseling from the University of New Orleans. She’s worked previously with the Recovery School District and Algiers Charter School Association.
Ileana Ortiz was born and raised in Miami, FL and attended the University of West Florida in Pensacola, FL before moving to New Orleans. As a Navigator, she helps working families understand and navigate the educational system, with a particular focus on Latino parents who have limited English proficiency. Before joining EdNavigator, Ileana served as an AmeriCorps member at Project Homecoming. She managed over 300 volunteers at three sites and worked mostly on homes in New Orleans’ Upper Ninth Ward and Hollygrove areas. She also served as an AmeriCorps Fellow at the Orleans Public Defender's office, where she worked as a Client Advocate and Spanish Interpreter.
Alyssa Owens has more than eight years of experience as an educator in New Orleans. In addition to being an award-winning English Language Arts teacher in Jefferson Parish, she observed and trained dozens of teachers as an instructional coach and served as a middle school administrator for four years. Beyond her direct work with students in schools, Alyssa is involved with several local community-based organizations, including Youth Run NOLA and the Youth Empowerment Project. She holds a BA in Journalism and Political Science from Pennsylvania State University’s Schreyer Honors College.
Meghan Stroh got her start in education as a Teach For America corps member in New Orleans in 2008. She served for eight years as a chemistry teacher and instructional coach at L.W. Higgins High School, where she was named 2011 Teacher of the Year and founded the school’s first-ever AP Chemistry course. She went on to become Dean of Curriculum and Instruction and Assistant Principal at Jefferson RISE charter school before returning to the chemistry classroom at Livingston Collegiate Academy. Meghan has a BS in Chemistry and a BA in American Studies from Texas A&M University and an MA in Public School Leadership from Columbia University’s Teachers College.
Prior to joining EdNavigator in 2016, Victoria Williams spent seven years as a licensed medical social worker and Head Start family service coordinator, helping New Orleans parents and families stay healthy, navigate medical systems, and access schools and community resources. Today, she relies on many of the same professional skills and her personal experience as a mom in her work as a Navigator, supporting employees of the city’s largest hotels as they strive to get an excellent education for themselves and their children. Victoria holds a Bachelor’s degree in social work from Miles College in Alabama and a Master’s of Social Work from Tulane University.
Jessica DaSilva-Fisher joined EdNavigator as our second Boston Navigator in January 2018. A lifelong Bostonian, she received her undergraduate degree in Social and Political Systems from Pine Manor College and Master's degree in Human Service Management from the University of Massachusetts. In addition to her degrees, Jessica received a certificate in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from Boston University and is fluent in Cape Verdean Creole. Jessica has held many titles within her career, most notable "Youth and Family Activist." She has dedicated her career to advocating for the needs of families in urban settings.
A first-generation college student, Chris Espinoza has dedicated his career to expanding educational opportunity for students of all backgrounds. Chris completed his BS in Psychology and English at Bridgewater State University and his Master’s Degree in Higher Education Administration in Student Affairs at Boston College. He has worked at colleges and universities across Boston, including Bridgewater State University, Boston College, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology. Today, he utilizes his expertise in student leadership, college housing, academic advising, multicultural education, and high school-to-college bridge programs to guide EdNavigator’s families and students along their own path to a college degree.
Victoria Paulino brings to EdNavigator a wide range of experience with students and families across Massachusetts. She has served as a camp counselor and youth group leader in Worcester, MA; a 6th grade summer school teacher in Lawrence, MA; and a 7th grade English and social studies teacher at Veritas Prep Charter School in Springfield, MA. She is fluent in Spanish and holds a BA in Political Science from College of the Holy Cross and an MA in Education from Boston University.
Arlene Sanchez grew up attending Boston Public Schools as a child and returned to them as a teacher in 2013. At UP Academy and Gardner Pilot Academy, she focused on using literature to instill confidence and empathy in her students and worked to increase representation of teachers of color in the school system. In 2015, her culturally responsive approach to teaching and her work with Asian American students earned her national attention in Teach For America’s One Day magazine. As a Navigator, she helps Boston families and students understand the school landscape and achieve their educational goals. Arlene is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and holds a BA in Sociology and Portuguese & Brazilian Studies from Smith College and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Boston University.
Master Navigator, Boston
With nearly a decade of experience in schools and education organizations across Boston, Elysa Severinghaus brings a multi-faceted perspective to her work leading EdNavigator’s growing team of Boston Navigators. Elysa served in a range of instructional and operational roles with Match Education and KIPP Massachusetts. She was a member of the founding team at KIPP Academy Boston Middle School, where she built the English Language Education program and taught 5th and 6th grade. Immediately prior to joining EdNavigator, she served as senior program manager at Empower Schools, an education nonprofit committed to partnering with communities to develop systems of highly autonomous and accountable district schools. Elysa holds a BA from Dartmouth College, and speaks Spanish and French.
Caroline has worked in the field of education since 2006, serving as a classroom and adult educator, teacher evaluator and coach, and school operations manager. She was raised in a suburb of Washington, D.C., and has worked in her hometown, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Virginia. Caroline is fluent in French and holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Vermont, an MA in Early Childhood and Special Education from The George Washington University and an MS in Educational Studies from Katholieke University in Belgium. In her spare time, Caroline serves on the board of Project Peaceful Warriors, a New Orleans based non-profit that promotes yoga in schools and is a Registered Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance and teaches yoga to children and adults.
Kate McGovern is a writer and communications specialist with a passion for storytelling in service of great schools for every child and family. She started her career at the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City, where she directed Shakespeare productions with middle schoolers at Harlem’s National Black Theatre. Since then, she has worked in district, charter, and private schools in New York and London. Most recently, she spent five years as the Director of Publications for TNTP, leading the writing and editing of publications like The Opportunity Myth. Kate is also a published author of fiction for young adults. A native of Cambridge, MA and a graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, she holds a BA in American Studies from Yale and a master’s degree in anthropology from Oxford. She lives in Cambridge with her husband and young daughter.