Coordinator of Certification Programs
Kim Almeida is a Rhode Island native and public school system graduate. She holds a BA in Business Administration from Wagner College in Staten Island, New York. As an experienced higher education administrator Kim is able to see the systemic failures, challenges, and gaps in our school systems and how RISPE's express mission of diversifying Rhode Island’s teacher workforce and promoting anti-racist education can directly create the necessary change we owe our students. As RISPE's Coordinator of Certification Programs, Kim will continue her efforts creating inclusive and sustainable systems designed to evolve and adapt to the needs of the communities they serve. Kim has worked in both the New York City and Rhode Island urban public school systems and is committed to elevating efforts towards a safe and supportive educational environment that is equitable for each and every student. Outside of work, Kim enjoys travel, sports, and the ocean or any time spent with family and friends.
Christine Alves is a Co-Founder and the President of RISPE. She has been working on developing and launching RISPE since 2015. Christine has been an educator in Rhode Island for 19 years, having earned a BA in Biology and subsequently an MAT in Elementary Education, both at Brown University. Christine has been a classroom teacher, an instructional coach, a co-director of curriculum, and the director of a professional development organization. Her experience and expertise in the education field has been crucial to the success of RISPE's development and approval by the Rhode Island Department of Education and Council on Postsecondary Education. As a former coach, Christine has a deep understanding of what experiences and challenges candidates need in order to grow into highly skilled, reflective, culturally competent practitioners, along with a keen eye for detail that ensures no aspect of programming is overlooked. She is also wholly committed to RISPE's mission to recruit and retain educators of color, and believes wholeheartedly that diversifying the teacher workforce is essential to improving outcomes for public school students. When she’s not at work, Christine loves spending time with her husband and children and traveling to visit family in New York, Maryland, Florida, and Trinidad. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Educational Management at Hampton University.
Vice President of Strategy and Partnerships
Melanie Griffith is a Co-Founder of RISPE and the Vice President of Strategy and Partnerships. She began working on the RISPE team as Project Manager during the planning stages in January 2016. Melanie holds a BA in English from The College of Saint Rose and two master's degrees, an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Louisiana State University. She taught writing--primarily first-year composition--at the college level at a number of institutions, including Blinn College, the College of Mount Saint Vincent, and SUNY Purchase. Melanie also spent a year in residence at NYC’s P.S. 132 Juan Pablo Duarte in Washington Heights as part of the Teaching Artist Training and Internship Program. Melanie brings her excellent writing and organizational skills to the team, along with a staunch belief in RISPE's mission and in the right of all students to a high-quality, equitable public education. She is a firm believer in standing up for what is right, and uses her voice to do so whenever possible. A native New Yorker, Melanie likes to explore Rhode Island in her free time. She also enjoys traveling, reading, cooking, and spending time with her husband and their daughter Ingrid and dog Zuzu.
Director of Academics and New Teacher Recruitment
Jerre' Robinson is a New York Native and was raised in Atlanta, Georgia. She has been an elementary educator for 7 years, teaching in urban schools serving predominately students of color. She has a BS and M.Ed in Early Childhood Education from Valdosta State University and has recently obtained a K-5 Mathematics Endorsement at Georgia State University. Her philosophical stance believes there is a need for instruction that promotes engagement and empowerment for students of color. She also believes that teachers who engage in this instruction will benefit education and also build towards a future of a just society. During her free time, Jerre’ loves to travel, go bowling with her family and friends, and play fetch with her husky, Chase. Jerre’ is currently obtaining her Ed.D in Curriculum and Instruction from Georgia State University, where her research interest includes teaching mathematics for social justice.
Vice President of Operations and Student Services
Tori Thomson is a Co-Founder of RISPE and the Vice President of Operations and Student Services. She holds a BA in English from the University of Rhode Island as well as an MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Rhode Island College. Prior to joining the team, Tori completed a year of service with the Americorps VISTA program, and this experience led her to RISPE. Tori brings a knack for practical organization and understanding of interpersonal dynamics into her work. She is a proud alum of Rhode Island public schools and believes in the transformative power of excellent public education for every student. Outside of RISPE, Tori spends her time hiking, reading, and trying to find places in Rhode Island she hasn’t visited yet. She is currently pursuing an EdD with a concentration in Workplace Learning at Northeastern University.
Executive Assistant and Coordinator of Special Projects
Janice Varella is a Rhode Island native, born in Providence. The great-granddaughter of the late Dr. Charles Nicholas Fortes, she is passionate about changing opinionated perspectives of families within RI's urban communities. A believer who advocates for her own children in the education system, she is a zealous supporter of RISPE's mission confident teachers of color are impactful in shaping the future of society. Along with her extensive administrative background, critical thinking and organizational skills, Janice's devotion to racial justice is a firm foundation in supporting both a family legacy and RISPE's calling to diversify the structure of the Rhode Island education system. In her spare time she enjoys challenging herself in the gym, learning the ins and outs of sports her children are engaging in, spending time with friends and family, and a healthy debate of who has the best pizza in Rhode Island.