2023 Teacher Changemaker Awards

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During National Charter Schools Week 2023, the National Alliance and partners are celebrating and honoring teachers and their contributions to public education. It is an honor to recognize seven exceptional charter school teachers with the National Alliance’s annual Changemaker Award, which recognizes leaders who are using their ideas, talents, and platforms to advance educational opportunity for all.

The seven 2023 Teacher Changemakers were identified by leaders in their states as individuals who are going above and beyond to shape students’ lives for the better: 

Cielo Acosta

8th Grade Language Arts Teacher 
SLAM! Miami 
Miami, FL

Cielo Acosta teaches eighth grade language arts, sponsors several student clubs, and is an alumna of SLAM! Miami. When she is not in the classroom with students, she is pursuing a graduate degree in School Counseling with the aspiration to continue to help support the emotional and social well-being of her students. She believes it is essential for educators to teach students more than academic lessons but to also instill the importance of kindness, compassion, and self- growth.

Nathaniel Dunn III

3rd Grade Teacher
i3 Academy  
Birmingham, AL

Nathaniel Dunn III was named the 2021 Henry Nelson Teacher of Excellence by the Alabama Charter School Commission. A graduate of Woodlawn High School, Mr. Dunn’s return to this community through his role at i3 Academy brings his teaching experience full circle. As a Southside baseball coach and mentor through the years, Mr. Dunn’s role as teacher is just one way he impacts the lives of the children in his community. 

Tiffany Ortego

Kindergarten Lead Teacher
One City Schools 
Madison, WI

Only in her fifth year of early childhood education, Tiffany Ortego is loved by all her students. She and her co-teacher work together to create an amazing classroom culture where students feel accepted and heard. Ms. Ortego helped create the Preschool Garden Space and created the school’s 4K Volunteer Reading and Early Literacy program. Ms. Ortego has also been a champion of the AnjiPlay curriculum. 

Coach Jermar Rountree

2023 D.C. Teacher of the Year
Health and Physical Education Teacher 
Center City Public Charter School 
Washington, DC

Coach Jermar Rountree is a health and physical education teacher at Center City Public Charter School, Brightwood Campus. In the Center City network, he also serves as the district teacher lead for the physical education and health department. Coach Rountree has established in-school, after-school, and weekend partnerships with organizations to help kids grow in all facets of life. 

Dr. Alissa Russell

Mathematics Department Head 
Life High School Oak Cliff 
Red Oak, TX

Dr. Alissa Russell is a "master teacher" with 20 years of teaching experience. She uses Socratic Seminar, differentiated group modeling, and peer partnership grouping as innovative instructional practices in her mathematics classroom. Dr. Russell uplifts her school community in diverse ways, including as a sponsor for the National Honor Society and the step team on campus. Dr. Russell was recently appointed to an advisory council convened by Texas Sen. Royce West (D) and has served on a Texas Education Agency think tank. She has also been named Life Schools District Teacher of the Year, Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce Teacher of the Year, and Texas Public Charter Schools Association Teacher of the Year.

David Singer

Founder and Executive Director, Former High School Math Teacher  
University Prep 
Denver, CO

David Singer started his teaching career twenty years ago as a high school math teacher but became passionate about early education and the ability to help more kids at an early stage in their academic careers. In 2011, Mr. Singer founded University Prep with one hundred kindergarten and first graders. The school has since grown into a network of two public charter schools serving nearly seven hundred children and was approved in 2021 to open its third campus.  

Andrea Thomas

3rd and 4th Grade Teacher
Dream Diné Charter School 
Shiprock, NM

Andrea Thomas is a TeachPlus Fellow, a passionate educator, and community leader from the Diné tribe. She is an educator who believes that students of all cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds deserve access to excellent teachers and high-quality instruction within their own communities. Coming from a family of educators and school administrators, Ms. Thomas has a true passion for teaching and preparing the next generation of learners.

Congratulations to the 2023 Changemaker teachers! Watch them in a panel on Capitol Hill sharing their expertise as teachers and read their individual Q&As on The Charter Blog to better get to know these outstanding teachers.