Instructional Team

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Meaghan Anderson

ELA Teacher

Dr. Anderson is thrilled and excited to join the Rainier Valley Leadership team as a founding English language arts teacher. A native of Maine, her first trip to the west coast happened when she moved to sunny California as an eighteen year old. She graduated from Pomona College with a B.A. in French and Spanish literatures, and earned a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Dr. A earned her teaching credential through Loyola Marymount University when she joined the Teach for America corps in San Francisco. She taught first, second and third grade at The Mission Preparatory School, a charter school in The Excelsior in San Francisco. For the past two years, Dr. Anderson has been a transdisciplinary teacher at Bellevue Children’s Academy, where she worked as the International Baccalaureate lead teacher for the fourth grade team. She has taught languages and literature to a wide range of students, from first grade to university level.

When she is not reading new books to explore with her students, Dr. Anderson spends most of her time on the ocean in West Seattle with her husband and infant daughter, Ruby. The family loves searching for seals and starfish, and stopping for the occasional donut at Top Pot on the way home.

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Larnell Baxter

Math Teacher

Before joining the RVLA faculty, Mr. Baxter taught 2nd grade at Achievement First Apollo Elementary Charter School in Brooklyn, New York, and 5th grade Math at Leadership Prep Ocean Hill Academy also in Brooklyn, New York.  Mr. Baxter’s love for math began in middle school in his hometown of Tacoma, Washington. Years later, his love for math led him to obtain a degree in Mathematics from Benedict College, located in Columbia, South Carolina. Mr. Baxter is extremely excited to learn, grow, and teach with the RVLA faculty and students.

Currently, Mr. Baxter is enjoying his time reconnecting with family and friends here in the Pacific Northwest.

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Jovan Bennett

Instructional Aide

Mr.  Bennett is excited to join the RVLA family as an Instructional Aide this school year. He has worked in Fayetteville, Arkansas School District for 2 years and hopes to become a certified teacher in the near future. Prior to working for Green Dot, Mr. Bennett worked for one of the top logistics company.. He has an Bachelor Degree in Sales and Marketing from Tuskegee University. While attending Tuskegee University, he played football and participated in Track and Field. He is very passionate about Education and helping underserved inner-city students and can’t wait to be a positive role model for all RVLA students for years to come. During his free time Mr. Bennett enjoys watching football, cooking luxury dinners loves to go

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Lydia Cleveland

Special Education Teacher

Ms. Cleveland is a University of Texas graduate of social work and has over 11 years of experience working with students of all ages in various settings. She began her teaching career with Teach for America in San Antonio, TX five years ago, and has been working in public and charter schools ever since.

Ms. Cleveland is extremely passionate about educational equity and firmly believes that every student deserves a college-ready education. When she is not teaching, Ms. Cleveland enjoys backpacking, snowshoeing, cooking, making music, and petting every dog she sees.

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Dolma Diaz

English/Language Arts  & Social Studies Teacher

Ms. Diaz is grateful and ecstatic to join the Green Dot team as a founding English Language Arts teacher. She graduated in 2012 from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.S. in Advertising and a minor in both Business and Spanish. Ms. Diaz taught in the KIPP Austin Public School District for three years as a Spanish Lead First Grade Teacher and is now in her second year here at RVLA. She has contributed her talents, as the Student Council Lead, to ensure the school’s culture is positive for students, families, teachers and staff. Her optimistic outlook and joyful attitude are infectious!

Ms. Diaz consistently strives for excellence and encourages all of her students to imagine, believe and achieve their aspirations, big or small! In her spare time, she enjoys going on hikes, exploring the city with friends, reading, painting and taking her spunky dog on fun adventures!

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Brad Earl

Math Teacher

Mr. Earl is humbled and excited to be the founding 6th grade math teacher at Rainier Valley Leadership Academy! He graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a B.S. in Kinesiology and Sports Studies with a minor in Business Administration. He graduated with his  Master's degree in Secondary Education from Johns Hopkins University in May 2017. Prior to joining the Rainier Valley Leadership Academy team, he got his start in education as a 2010 Teach for America Corps Member in Dallas, Texas where he taught 8th grade math at KIPP: TRUTH Academy for two years. In August 2012, he moved to New York City to accept the 8th grade math position at Democracy Prep Charter Middle School in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan and has taught there for  five years until 2017.

When not thinking about math, Mr. Earl is an avid soccer fan and massive supporter of Newcastle United in England! He played four years of college soccer at Eastern Illinois University and is thrilled at the prospect of being able to experience Seattle’s appreciate for soccer!

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Claire Finders

Lead Special Education Teacher & Administrative Intern

Ms. Finders is honored to be the Rainier Valley Leadership Academy Founding Lead Special Education Teacher. After earning her B.A. in Communication from University of Southern California, Claire moved to New York planning to start a career in marketing. She very quickly realized her passion for education, joined the New York City Teaching Fellows and began her graduate coursework. While teaching a 6th grade special education class in an NYC public school, Claire simultaneously earned her M.S. in Teaching Students with Disabilities (Middle School emphasis) from Pace University. After 3 years in the classroom, Claire and her husband moved to Dallas, TX, where she began teaching enrichment classes with Mind Lab. Claire’s experience in marketing and PR helped launch Nexplore, a national educational enrichment company that offers various after school, in-school and summer programs. As the Chief Business Development Officer at Nexplore, Claire was responsible for Nexplore’s sales, market expansion, program/curriculum development and management of instructors/programs.

Currently, Claire is earning a Masters in Education Leadership & Policy and a Principal’s Certificate at the University of Washington Danforth Leadership Program. Claire enjoys traveling, cooking, graphic design, yoga, trying new restaurants and exploring Seattle’s unique and beautiful offerings.

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Melissa Galarneau

Instructional Aide

Ms. G is excited to join the Rainier Valley Leadership Academy family as an Instructional Aide. Before joining RVLA, Ms. G taught English as a second language at a secondary school in Phuket, Thailand as well as to Vietnamese immigrants here in Seattle.  She is a graduate of the University of Hawaii with a bachelor’s in Political Science and is currently studying to become a math teacher.

Ms. G loves traveling, scuba diving, cooking, eating, and spending time with her family and friends.

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Alejandro Gutierrez

Instructional Aide

Mr. G is excited to join the RVLA family as an Instructional Aide this school year. He has worked for Green Dot Public Schools the last 3 years at our sister school, Ánimo South Los Angeles Charter High School, in California as a SpEd Aide. He hopes to become a certified teacher in the near future. Prior to working for Green Dot, Mr. G was enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He is very passionate about Education and helping underserved inner-city students and can’t wait to be a positive role model for all RVLA students for years to come. During his free time Mr. G loves to go watch live sporting events and he is a huge fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Lakers, and Denver Broncos!

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Brittany Long

Special Education Teacher

Ms. Long is honored and excited to join the Rainier Valley Leadership Academy team this year as a Special Education teacher. After earning her B.A. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at Indiana Wesleyan University, Ms. Long moved to New York City to work with a non-profit mission organization. She then moved to Denver, Colorado to pursue a Special Education teaching license where she worked as a Special Education teacher at an inner city middle school. After 5 years, Ms. Long and her husband decided to move to Seattle, WA. Ms. Long is passionate about helping all students reach their highest potential and strongly believes that every student can grow and learn.

When she is not teaching, Ms. Long enjoys reading, cooking, and exploring her new city. She also really enjoys traveling and is in a heated battle with her siblings to travel to the most countries. She would love any tips on what country she and her husband should visit next!

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Anna McVay

Health/Physical Education Teacher

Before coming to Rainier Valley Leadership Academy this year, Ms.McVay taught for 9 years with Lincoln Public Schools (Lincoln, Nebraska).  During her time with LPS, she enjoyed her roles as a 6th-8th grade Health & P.E. teacher, as well as coaching high school girls’ basketball and soccer.  She earned her B.S. from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 2008.

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Bryston Nham

Science Teacher

Mr. Nham is thrilled and humbled to join the Rainier Valley Leadership Academy’s 7th grade Life Science Teacher. She is a 2016 Teach for America Corps Member Alumni who graduated from the University of Puget Sound in 2016 where he received a B.S. in Molecular and Cell Biology and Economics. Mr. Nham received his Master’s in Education from the University of Washington in 2018. For the past two school years, Mr. Nham has taught Life Science at Destiny Charter Middle School in Tacoma, WA before making the move to RVLA. Mr. Nham loves science more than any other subject and enjoys seeing his students become passionate and amazed about how science is all around us every day.  

When Mr. Nham is not trying to design crazy science experiments, he loves to spend his time outside enjoying nature on hikes, cooking new dishes, and making as many friends as possible. He loves watching all types of sports as you will see him rooting for the Saints. Mr. Nham hopes to explore Washington more in order to bring local science issues into the classroom!

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Desiray Padilla

Instructional Aide

Ms. Padilla is thrilled and honored to join Rainier Valley Leadership Academy as an Instructional Aide. Born here in Washington State, her family soon moved to Southern California where she spent most of her life growing up. She graduated in 2015 from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a B.S. in Biological Sciences and a minor in Education. She then worked as an instructional aide for two years at her local high school before moving up to Seattle last summer. During her first year in Seattle, Ms. Padilla worked as a City Year AmeriCorps Member serving in a 5th grade classroom at Sanislo Elementary School. Over this past summer, she had the chance to run her own classroom as she combined her two passions (science and education) to teach at a science summer camp for elementary students. She hopes to continue following these passions and become a middle school science teacher in the near future.

In her free time Ms. Padilla loves to read, drink coffee, explore Seattle, and take her dog, Ollie, to all the dog parks they can find.

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Jennifer Polexi

English Teacher

Miss Polexi believes that transformational change begins in the classroom. People of all ages have ideas and perceptions that can make positive changes in the world. A student-centered classroom will create an environment to nurture such potential. This work begins with building relationships and ends with hard work. As a proud Haitian America, Miss Polexi's culture helps her value family, community and wellbeing. These principles will be at the centerfold of our classroom.

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Gretchen Proulx

Health/Physical Education/Art/Restorative Justice Teacher

Gretchen Proulx is elated to be a part of the  Rainier Valley Leadership Academy team as the Art, PE, Health and Restorative Justice Educator. Previously, she was a Student Support Counselor for Seneca Family of Agencies working in partnership with RVLA. Along with Ms. Proulx’s passion and dedication to RVLA, she is working tirelessly towards her Masters of Social Work at the University of Washington.  She earned her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Arizona in Family Studies and Human Development and Spanish. Ms. Proulx has always had a passion to elevate the voices of young people and empower them to seek their fullest potential, despite their barriers.

When school is not in session, Ms. Proulx is working with organizations like the Moyer Foundation, Camp Erin, Providence, and Anytown Leadership Programs, specifically focusing on grief and trauma with adolescents. When Ms. Proulx is not focusing on changing the world, you can find her practicing yoga, creating art, and petting every dog on the hiking trails in the PNW mountains.  Through her work with young people, Ms. Proulx strives to create a deeper understanding of how to transform ideas, structures, and culture to create a new literature of understanding with students.

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Yomalis Rosario

Social Studies Teacher

Ms. Rosario is thrilled to start her public school teaching career as Rainier Valley Leadership Academy's founding 6th grade Social Studies teacher. She is a 2017 Teach For America Corps Member who graduated from Dartmouth College in 2015 where she received a B.A. in History modified with African & American Studies. Ms. Rosario recently moved to Seattle after working for a year as a 10th grade History teacher at Liceo Cientifico, a public school in a small rural town in the Dominican Republic. She most recently taught a Human Rights Through Research course at a summer program for the TEAK Fellowship, a program in NYC that helps low-income families get access and preparation for high school and college (of which she was once a student). Ms. Rosario currently works as an AmeriCorps Academic Success Coach at Seattle Education Access where she provides one-on-one tutoring and lads College Readiness workshops. Ms. Rosario is very passionate about history and spends her free time reading books that deepen her historical knowledge and nourish her commitment to helping build a more just society - starting in her classroom! She also enjoys music and dancing and is constantly working toward being a more disciplined writer. 

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Margaret Ward

Math Teacher

Ms. Ward is excited and honored to join Rainier Valley Leadership Academy as a founding 6th and 7th grade art teacher. She earned her B.S. in Math, Art and Secondary Education at Elmhurst College, located right outside Chicago, IL. While she loved teaching math her first year at RVLA, she is ecstatic to be teaching art this year and sharing her passion with her students!

Outside of discovering new math puzzles and drawing, Ms. Ward enjoys exploring museums, reading a good book (usually Harry Potter), and rooting on the Cubs. On the weekends she can be found trying out new coffee shops or taking her dog, Jo, to Volunteer Park. She is also always open to suggestions for fun places to visit in Seattle as she explores her new home!

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Rainier Valley Leadership Academy

6020 Rainier Ave S,

Seattle, WA 98118

Phone: (206) 659-0956

inforvla@greendot.org