Mandrell Birks was born in Washington, DC. He attended Banneker Senior High School, then earned his college degree from Benedict College in 1999, graduating with honors in Child & Family Development. Mr. Birks continued his education at George Mason University, where he received with honors his Masters degree in Education, Curriculum Instruction, and a minor in Instructional Technology. Mr. Birks decided to take his skills as a national radio host on SiriusXM & WHURWORLD 96.3 FM HD-2 to create The Eliot-Hine Network. The Eliot-Hine Network is the first and only TV program that is run solely by middle school students. Mr. Birks’ class was recognized by The Henry Ford Foundation as a National Innovative Classroom. Mr. Birks truly believes the only difference between possible and impossible is your determination.
Dr. Joan E. Cephas is a school social worker from Stafford, VA. She obtained her Bachelors of Social Work (BSW) and Masters of Social Work/Policy and Administration (MSW) from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, and Doctorate of Education/Educational Psychology (Ed.D) from Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA. Dr. Cephas loves to promote academic excellence and success, and enhance wholeness among students, teachers, families, and the community.
Christie Champaign has a strong affection for all things science-related. She teaches 6th grade Earth Space Science, and 7th grade Life Science. She is from Columbia, South Carolina, and received her undergraduate degree from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. Christie loves the opportunity of building relationships with her students and being a positive role model for the next generation. If she could have known one thing in middle school, it would have been the idea that middle school academics prepares you for your freshman year in high school, when colleges begin to look at your progress.
Clarence Green is the In-School Suspension (ISS) Coordinator. He attended Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. He wishes he had known that school offices were open year-round – he would have applied for a school-related job way back then! The thing Mr. Green loves most about working at Eliot-Hine is that he gets to work with all types of kids.
Kelley Gueye teaches Art to students in all grades at Eliot-Hine. She was born in Dayton, Ohio and attended Howard University. Ms. Gueye loves that her ‘job’ is in line with her life’s purpose. One thing she wishes she had known in middle school is you cannot control anyone but yourself.
Stephanie Johnson has been teaching 8th grade ELA for 11 years. She loves teaching literature and helping students learn to see themselves as readers and writers. Ms. Johnson is originally from Akron, Ohio but moved to Simpsonville, South Carolina. She graduated from Furman University in Greenville, SC.
Tanisha Kemp teaches Health/Physical Education to special education and 8th grade students. Originally from Sacramento, CA, Ms. Kemp graduated from Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. She loves being able to facilitate changing the mindset of her students into leading a healthier and active lifestyle. Ms. Kemp wishes she could have foretold the future, to see the importance all subjects had throughout her education.
Mamid LaFleur was born in Guyana, South America. Mr. LaFleur graduated from the University of Guyana and the University of New England in Maine, USA. With over 30 years of experience in education, he serves in the capacity of Special Education Teacher and Test Coordinator at Eliot-Hine. He enjoys experimenting with unorthodox processes of teaching and learning as no two individuals teach and/or learn the same. Mr. LaFleur strives on the philosophy that every day provides an opportunity to learn something new. “Wisdom is the principal thing, and in all thy getting, get an understanding.” Proverbs 4:7
Joscelin Lockhart serves as an Assistant Principal. He was born Augsburg, Germany, and is a graduate of Morehouse College, Bowling Green State University, Trinity-Washington University, and the University of New England (2019). The greatest part of his job is coaching teachers to serve the individual needs of students, and celebrating their growth. One thing Mr. Lockhart wishes he knew in middle school is how hard his teachers were working to ensure that he learned, and the importance of self-confidence.
Courtney Lord is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and graduated from Alverno College with a Bachelor’s in English Language Arts and Secondary Education. This year, she is teaching 6th and 7th grade English. Ms. Lord thinks the best part of being a middle school teacher is that she gets to share her love of reading with kids. One thing she wishes she would have known in middle school is that you are awesome just the way you are – be you!
Kristy McCay teaches 7th and 8th grade ELA resource and inclusion. She’s from Rock Hill, SC, and has lived in the district for 4 years. Ms. McCay studied education at Erskine College in South Carolina. One of her favorite things about her job is the relationships she gets to build with her students – they really do become like a family in her small groups. She loves working hard on tasks with them and watching them grow. Not every job allows you the opportunity to walk beside others while they work to reach their goals. One thing Ms. McCay wishes she had known in middle school was that the opinions of others and their perceptions of her really wouldn’t impact the rest of her life.
Caneisha Mills‘ goal is not to just facilitate “schooling,” but to help educate the next generation. As a middle school history educator (7-8th grade) from Morganton, North Carolina, she hopes to instill children with the ability to interpret “facts” from the past to critically assess events of today and the future. In her opinion, this is true education and why she enjoys working with students. As Ms. Mills reflected on her own time as a middle school student, she wished someone had helped her to understand the fleeting nature of the present and the obstacles she faced. Her matriculation at Howard University empowered her to see the world through an international lens and continued need for learning about those that came before her.
Christopher Smith is the new 6th grade Math teacher at Eliot-Hine. He grew up in Evans, Georgia and graduated from Greenbrier High School before going to Atlanta for college, where he received a B.S. in Mathematics from Georgia State University. He moved to the DC area in 2013, and has been teaching math for the last three years at Edison High School in Alexandria, Virginia. He loves interacting with the inquisitive minds of the next generation and guiding them to learn to think for themselves. He wishes he had known how much of what he was learning in middle school was going to help later in life.
David Smith teaches Health and Physical Education. He’s from Jackson, New Jersey and graduated from Rowan University. He loves showing his students how big the world is, which is also what Mr. Smith wishes he knew as a middle school student. The world is a big and beautiful adventure, and you have to get out there and see it!
Isamar Vargas is the new principal at Eliot-Hine Middle School for School Year 2016-2017. A native of Puerto Rico, she is bilingual in English and Spanish. Prior to joining DCPS, she was the principal of Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy, a school in Chicago that serves approximately 1,100 preK-8 students, including 400 English-Language Learners. In 2010, she began the New Leaders principal preparation program and in 2011 was granted the Principal Achievement Award in Chicago Public Schools for her efforts to close the achievement gap. Vargas has also worked as a bilingual elementary school teacher and taught social science to students in 9th, 10th, and 11th grade. She received her bachelor’s degree in education from the Pontifical University of Puerto Rico and her master’s degree in school leadership from Concordia University Chicago.
Dana Watson is an Assistant Principal, in her sixth year at Eliot-Hine. Previously, she taught English Language Arts and served as the International Baccalaureate Coordinator. Ms. Watson is a graduate of both Bucknell University and Boston University. She loves that she gets to work with all students and their families to ensure their success not only in middle school, but throughout life! If she could go back to middle school, she would say she wishes she had known that you grow and learn through all of your experiences during 6th – 8th grade.