Category Archives: Staff

Janet Strauss

Senior Director of Co-Teaching

Hometown: Canton, NY

Education: BA Education & Art History, Skidmore College;
MEd Education and Child Study, Smith College;
CAGS School Psychology, UMASS Amherst;
PhD candidate Education Policy, Research, and Administration, UMASS Amherst

Prior to joining Blue Engine, Janet was an Instructional Coach with the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Leadership. Janet was a member of the Continuous Learning team focused on strengthening the achievement of Multilingual Learners by utilizing the improvement science model of continuous improvement. Previously, Janet was the Director of Academics at Mass Insight Education. In this role, Janet supported the launch of the Gateway to College Success Network within five urban districts in Massachusetts. The Network, based on improvement science, aimed to improve teaching and learning by strengthening aligned instructional practices in grades 6 through 12. Prior to joining Mass Insight, Janet served as the National Engagement Manager and New England Coordinator for the National Institute for School Leadership (NISL), an Executive Development Program (EDP) for school and district leaders. Janet was a lead facilitator and coordinated a statewide implementation of NISL in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. She also led NISL’s EDP training in New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, and Missouri. In addition, Janet supported the design and development of NISL’s instructional curriculum. Prior to joining NISL in 2007, Janet was a classroom teacher, school psychologist, Assistant Special Education Director, instructional coach, and educational consultant.

Janet is thrilled to join the Blue Engine team and support teachers and leaders in unlocking the potential of the Co-Teaching Program to advance the academic success for all students. When Janet is not inside schools you will find her running along the Hudson River with her dog, Otis, in the lead.

Alexis Walls

Manager of Development Operations

Hometown: Henderson, NV

Education: BS Sociology, Mercy College

Alexis manages development operations work at Blue Engine as the Manager of Development Operations. Prior to Blue Engine, she was the Development Coordinator for Reading Partners New York. Alexis is committed to equipping non-profits with efficient and effective organization-wide systems to support results-driven change and initiative. She’s excited to bring a background of development operations and program experience to the Blue Engine team to help improve operations that will in turn drive student success.

Emily Walsh

Site Director

Hometown: Cortland, NY

Education: BA Art History and Graphic Communications, Hartwick College

After working in design, Emily began her career in education, something that she’d been drawn to her whole life. She joined Blue Engine in 2014, working in both an Algebra and ELA classroom in 9th and 10th grade at Bronx River High School. She quickly saw that more adults in the classroom meant more students were seen and heard, and loved that Blue Engine was questioning norms while pushing her and those around her to deeply consider the importance of mindsets. Emily stayed for a second year as a Team Coordinator and joined the program staff in 2016. She was first on Blue Engine’s recruitment team, and transitioned in 2017 to the leader of BE’s first School Support Manager team. She’s since transitioned to her role as Site Director, where she works in close collaboration with BETAs, teachers, and administration to support the implementation of the Blue Engine team teaching model. She’s very excited to continue to support BETAs and teams doing work that means so much to her.  For fun, Emily loves to cook, enjoys the outdoors, and still does freelance design work.

Renise Williams

Director, BETA Talent & Program Operations

Hometown: Bronx, NY

Education: B.A. Psychology & English, Fairfield University

Renise was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. She attended Fairfield University as a first-generation college student, and while there she developed an understanding and interest in social justice, equity, and inclusiveness through her participation in various student organizations and the encouragement of her mentors. Prior to joining Blue Engine, she worked at Teach For America, where she started on the Human Assets team as operational and logistics support to their Staff Learning & Development team and later transitioned to the Admissions team, where she helped implement innovations in the admissions process by making it more accessible, equitable, and efficient. For the majority of Renise’s professional career, she has worked in educational equity because she believes working in education is one way to dismantle the inequities that exist in our society. She is excited to continue this work at Blue Engine and recruit BETAs who will work toward unlocking student potential—as well as their own potential.

Julie Zarmer

Site Director

Hometown: Mountain View, CA

Education: BA Psychology & Linguistics, New York University;
MA Teaching, Relay Graduate School of Education

Julie has always been passionate about education. As an undergraduate, she volunteered as a classroom assistant with The Go Project, tutoring NYC public school students to help them catch back up to grade-level academic standards. This experience showed her the transformative impact that individual attention from additional instructors in the classroom can have, especially for students who might otherwise fall through the cracks. So immediately after graduation, Julie joined Blue Engine as a Teaching Apprentice, leading differentiated small-group instruction in Algebra and Geometry classrooms. She then chose to serve for a second year as a Team Coordinator, facilitating a team of Teaching Apprentices alongside a Lead Teacher while completing her Master’s degree. After going on to teach Geometry in NYC high schools as a Lead Teacher in her own right, Julie returned to Blue Engine as a Site Manager to have an impact beyond one single classroom. Now a Site Director, Julie coaches four teams of Teaching Apprentices, drawing upon her own experiences to help them and their Lead Teachers collaborate seamlessly and co-teach effectively. She loves working alongside such motivated teammates. In her free time, Julie enjoys reading sci-fi/fantasy and playing board games with friends.


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