Meet the NLI Team

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Dr. Hiller A. Spires is a Distinguished Graduate Professor of Literacy and Technology in NC State University’s College of Education. She received her Ph.D. in literacy education from the University of South Carolina. Dr. Spires served as the founding director of The William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation from 2002-2006 and currently serves as FI Senior Research Fellow. Her research focuses on the effects of digital literacies on learning, including emerging literacies associated with gaming environments, and on inquiry-based disciplinary literacy for middle and high school teachers and students. Her publications have appeared in the Journal of Educational Psychology, Cognition & Instruction, Journal of Educational Computing Research, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, Literacy Research & Instruction, Computers and Education, and Journal of Research in Technology Education.Dr. Spires led the development of the New Literacies & Global Learning graduate program and co-directs the Friday Institute’s New Literacies Collaborative ( For her ongoing work with teachers in China, Dr. Spires received the Jackson Rigney International Service Award in 2011 from NC State University for her work with teachers in China. Currently, she is working with Beijing Royal School ( and Suzhou North American High School (

NLI 2015 Roles: Director, Design Team, and Looking Up and Out
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Erin Lyjak is a research associate at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, working with the New Literacies Collaborative. She received her Master’s degree in Experimental Psychology from Radford University. Ms. Lyjak has been in the field of educational research for over 15 years. Ms. Lyjak has worked a wide range of educational studies (digital literacies, disciplinary literacy, standardized testing) and worked with students and teachers both nationally and internationally (New Literacies Teacher Leader Institutes, Summer/Winter Camps). Ms. Lyjak is currently working on the development of the Disciplinary Literacy for Deeper Learning MOOC-Ed course and the Suzhou North American High School: Connecting to the Future project.

NLI 2015 Roles: Design Team
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Marie Himes is a research associate at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. She received her bachelor of arts in international politics and international studies from the Pennsylvania State University in 2008 and a master of education in curriculum and instruction from Penn State in 2012. Prior to graduate school, Marie taught English as a second language in Schweinfurt, Germany as a Fulbright Grantee and interned as a policy and communications aide on Capitol Hill. After earning her master's degree, Marie taught high school social studies for a year in central Pennsylvania, and then relocated to North Carolina where she taught middle school English and social studies for an additional year. At the Friday Institute, Marie is working within the New Literacies Collaborative as a team coach for the PBI Global Initiative and as the curriculum specialist for the Suzhou North America High School Project.

NLI 2015 Roles: Design Team, Digging Deeper, Cool Tools, and Coach
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Nicholas Fortune is pursuing a doctoral degree in mathematics education at North Carolina State University. Before moving to North Carolina, Mr. Fortune was in Troy, New York completing his BS and MS in Applied Mathematics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His mathematics education research interests are students’ mathematical conceptualizations and mathematical undergraduate content knowledge for teacher training.

NLI 2015 Roles: Cool Tools Presenter and Coach
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Andrea Gambino is the lead teacher coordinating the PBI Global collaboration between Suzhou North America High School and the Wake STEM ECHS. Ms. Gambino received her M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction with a specialization in new literacies and global learning. Mrs. Gambino is presently teaching Honors English III and Honors Civics & Economics.

NLI 2015 Roles: Digging Deeper, Cool Tools, and Participant
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Dr. Karen Keene is an associate professor of mathematics education at North Carolina State University. One of her research areas is the teaching and learning of differential equations at the university level. She also studies secondary mathematics preservice teachers, looking at preservice teachers’ mathematical knowledge and its relationship to good teaching. She was a principal investigator for MINDSET, which developed, piloted, and assessed a new fourth year math curriculum based on operations research and industrial engineering.
Keene has collaborated with faculty at Michigan State University that are seeking to understand and define mathematical knowledge necessary for teaching algebra (KAT) as well as designing and facilitating professional development for middle school and high school teachers for the PROM/SE (Promoting Rigorous Outcomes in Mathematics and Science Education) project.
Keene taught high school in regular and specialized schools for 15 years and has extensive experience in professional development for high school teachers. She earned her PhD from Purdue University in 2006.

NLI 2015 Roles: Design Team, Cool Tools, and Coach
Dr. Teomara (Teya) Rutherford is an Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology at NC State University. Her research focuses on how student and teacher cognitive and motivational processes influence the implementation and success of digital learning tools. Dr. Rutherford teaches courses on human development, educational psychology interventions, and research design. Her publications have appeared in the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, Computers & Education, and Learning and Individual Differences.

NLI 2015 Roles: Design Team, and Project Evaluator
W. Ian O'Byrne is an Assistant Professor of Literacy Education at the College of Charleston. His research examines the literacy practices of individuals as they read, write, and communicate in online spaces. You can follow him online on Twitter (@wiobyrne), Google+, and at his blog ( Be sure to subscribe to his newsletter to stay in touch.

NLI 2015 Roles: Looking Up and Out, and Cool Tools
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David Schwenker is the principal at Wake STEM since June of 2014 after two years as the principal at Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School: Center for Leadership and Technology, a National Magnet School of Excellence. While at Raleigh Magnet High School, David was awarded the Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America Outstanding Administrator Principal Award. Prior to his high school experience, David served as principal at Carnage Gifted and Talented AG Basics Middle School and Hunter Gifted and Talented AG Basics Magnet Elementary School, both of which earned National Magnet Schools of Excellence Awards. David completed his undergraduate work in elementary teaching at Houghton College in New York, his master’s degree in educational administration at North Carolina State University, and his superintendent’s certification from East Carolina University.

NLI 2015 Role: Looking Up and Out
Tamara Thomas is an 18 year Education Administrator currently working for WCPSS. Her professional experience spans all of K-12 in multiple States and includes both Public City/District and Public Charter schools. Most notably, she is the Founding Principal of a College Preparatory Public Middle School in New York and holds two Master's level Degrees in Music Therapy Allied Health Science and School Administration and Supervision.

NLI 2015 Role: Looking Up and Out
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Dr. Kevin Oliver is Associate Professor of Digital Learning & Teaching at NC State University. He has been on the faculty in the Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences for 12 years. His research interests include student learning as mediated by online/distant learning environments and models, and by social/collaborative teaching strategies. He teaches courses on technology integration, digital video in education, social media and online collaborations in education, and after-school learning environments. In addition, he has co-taught a course on integrating writing, technology, and culture, via study abroad in England, with more than 50 teacher participants in three summer programs since 2011.

NLI 2015 Role: Looking Up and Out
Sonja Bot is a graduate research assistant for the New Literacies Collaborative and student in North Carolina State's Elementary Education and Digital Learning Program. She taught English for five years in China and spent some time in Nanjing building the curriculum and content for English Language learning software. Currently she teaches Chinese at a Montessori school and illustrates children's books.

NLI 2015 Role: Digging Deeper, Cool Tools, and Coach
Shea Kerkhoff taught public high school for 7 years, including Wake County Public Schools and District of Columbia Public Schools. At Vanderbilt University, she completed her M.Ed. in International Education. She currently serves as Education Director for 4 the World, an international nongovernment organization. Now at NCSU, she is pursuing her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus in literacy. Her research interests comprise academic writing instruction, integrating technology, equity pedagogy, and disciplinary literacy.

NLI 2015 Roles: Digging Deeper, Cool Tools, and Coach
Imari Colón is currently a science teacher at Suzhou North America High School. Shortly after earning her Zoology degree from NC State University, she joined the Kung Fu Center of Raleigh and thereafter became a lover and enthusiast of Chinese language, culture, and martial arts. She has spent the past 2 years teaching in China and hopes to continue her journey of living and learning there for the next few years.

NLI 2015 Roles: Digging Deeper, and Participant
Chang Yuan (Jennifer) obtained her MAT degree two years ago from NCSU. Afterwards, she started teaching AP Economics in Beijing Royal School. Jennifer is now a visiting scholar at Friday Institute at NCSU. Looking forward to collaborating with you all!

NLI 2015 Roles: Cool Tools, and Coach
Abbey Graham earned her M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from University of Denver and a Reading Endorsement from Adams State University. She taught high school English in Colorado, where she became interested in helping struggling readers navigate the complexities of Language Arts classroom. Currently, Abbey is a doctoral student at NC State University in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in Literacy and Language Arts.

NLI 2015 Roles: Cool Tools, and Coach
Benjamin Robinson is the media coordinator at The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. He received his Master's degree in Interactive Media at Elon University. Benjamin has more than 5 years in media production where he takes responsibility for documenting culture through film and uses the internet to gain information to create a larger platform for his community using social networks and other tools.

NLI 2015 Roles: Technology and Video
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Dr. Demetrius Richmond is the Director of Graduate Student Mentoring & Success, Teaching Assistant Professor, LPAHE at NC State University. Dr. Richards received is Ph.D in Higher Education Administration from
the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. His professional background includes teaching and administrative experiences across several realms: Student support services, student development & retention initiatives, on-campus programming, leadership development, student affairs administration, diversity awareness, graduate student development, and multicultural programming.

NLI 2015 Role: SNA Information Session
Dr. Chirino-Klevans is the Director of International + Distance Education Alliance (I+DEA). She has a PhD in Psychology, a Master’s degree in Psychology, a Master’s degree in Business Administration and her undergraduate degree is in Psychology. She also has a specialization in Instructional Design focusing on technology integration. She serves as Chief Editor of the Hispanic Education and Technology

NLI 2015 Role: SNA Information Session