Charter School Hall of Fame

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The National Alliance is proud to welcome the following distinguished inductees into the National Charter School Hall of Fame, which was established to recognize individuals and organizations for pioneering the development and growth of charter schools, implementing innovative ideas, and inspiring others in the movement.

The four 2018 honorees will join 35 esteemed inductees since the Hall of Fame’s inception in 2007.


Camino Nuevo Charter Academy

Camino Nuevo Charter Academy (Camino Nuevo) schools stand out for providing a full range of student and family support services and delivering an education tailored to the specific needs and demands of the neighborhoods they serve. Students have access to college-preparatory classes and afterschool programs including art, music, and dance. Families also have the option to enroll their children in a bilingual program. In 2015, Camino Nuevo earned the Bright Spot Award from the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics for closing achievement gaps between English learners and native English speakers. Camino Nuevo schools have also been recognized with the Title 1 Academic Achievement award, the California Association of Bilingual Education Seal of Excellence, and the California Distinguished Schools award.

Ana F. Ponce

Dr. Ana F. Ponce is the chief executive officer of Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, a network of six charter schools and an early education center serving more than 3,600 students in central Los Angeles. Under her leadership, Camino Nuevo schools have won state and national awards for improving outcomes for low-income students and English learners. Her accomplishments prompted Forbes Magazine in 2011 to name her one of the top seven most powerful educators in the world.

Ana is the youngest daughter of Mexican immigrants and the first in her family to graduate college. She earned a full scholarship to Middlebury College in Vermont, a world away from Pico Union, the neighborhood where she grew up. Her first teaching job was a Teach for America assignment at a public school in South L.A. After three years in the classroom, she landed a fellowship at Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York, where she earned a master’s degree in bilingual education.

Determined to close the achievement and opportunity gaps for low-income minority students, she returned to Los Angeles and helped open the first independent charter school in South L.A., where she taught for seven years before joining Camino Nuevo in 2001. At Camino Nuevo, she found herself working with families in the neighborhood where she grew up, investing them and their children in being College Ready, College Bound.

Since then, Ana has been instrumental in driving the success of the organization and championing high quality educational opportunities for kids. She has demonstrated that schools comprised almost entirely of English learners, in some of the city’s poorest and densest neighborhoods, can achieve extraordinary results and serve as models of excellence. At Camino Nuevo, 99 percent of seniors graduate and 70 percent of them earn admission to a four-year college. Ana says, “By having a concentrated effort in the MacArthur Park area, we have begun shifting the ecology to where higher education becomes part of the rhetoric, where dropping out of high school is not accepted. The more kids we graduate, the more kids we send off to college, the more other kids start to see themselves in them.”

Ana holds a second master’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles and a doctorate in educational leadership from Loyola Marymount University. A veteran of the charter schools movement in California, she serves on several boards and committees, including the Board of the California Charter Schools Association, the Educators of Color (EdLoc) Leadership Committee, and the L.A. County Commission on Local Government Services.

IDEA Public Schools

The mission of IDEA Public Schools is to prepare students from underserved communities for success in college and citizenship. IDEA believes a quality Pre-K – 12 public education is the key to success in college and life and is 100% committed to helping every student achieve their own success.

Since 2001, the network has grown to 61 schools in five regions of Texas serving 36,000 students and will expand to its sixth region, open 18 more schools, and welcome more than 12,000 new students in August of 2018. IDEA schools have been recognized by US News and World Report and the Washington Post for their rigor and college-going culture. For 12 consecutive years, 100 percent of IDEA seniors have been accepted to college. The CREDO CMO analysis results indicate IDEA schools put their students on a new trajectory towards opportunity; the IDEA network produced the equivalent of 80 additional days of learning in math and 74 additional days of learning in reading. In 2016, IDEA won the coveted Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools, and in 2017 The Washington Post’s latest rankings of America’s Most Challenging High Schools ranked all seven of IDEA’s eligible College Preparatory high schools in the top 100 high schools nationwide and in the top 50 in Texas.

By 2022, IDEA will operate 173 schools in 10 regions educating 100,000 students on the road to and through college.

JoAnn Gama

JoAnn Gama was born and raised in the north side of Houston. After graduating from Sam Houston High School in 1993, JoAnn attended Boston University on a full scholarship.

In 1997, she joined Teach For America, a national corps of high-achieving leaders who commit two years to teach in public schools in low-income communities. Upon moving to the Rio Grande Valley, JoAnn enrolled at the University of Texas-Pan American and earned her master’s degree in Educational Leadership.

In 1998, JoAnn Gama co-founded the IDEA Academy within the Donna Independent School District with fellow Teach For America corps member, Tom Torkelson. In August 2000, they opened the IDEA Academy Charter School with 150 students.

As co-founder, president and superintendent of schools, JoAnn has helped lead the replication efforts of the original school. Currently, IDEA Public Schools educates more than 36,000 students in 61 schools across three regions – the Rio Grande Valley, Austin and San Antonio.

In 2009, JoAnn received the prestigious Peter Jennings Award for Civic Leadership and was appointed to former President Barack Obama’s White House Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics in 2010. JoAnn was named a Pillar of Success at the University of Texas Pan-American, and was an honoree at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship’s annual Business Leaders Lunch in October 2017.

She currently serves as part of a board/committee member of Latinos for Education, was recently appointed by Governor Abbot to serve in the Continuing Advisory Committee for Special Education and is on the Board of Directors for the Texas Charter Schools Association.

JoAnn resides in Edinburg, Texas with her husband Juan, a Retail Property Portfolio Manager for Wells Fargo Corporate Properties Group, and their two children, Gael and Jimena who both attend an IDEA school.

Tom Torkelson

Upon graduating from Georgetown University with a degree in economics in 1997, Tom joined Teach For America and taught fourth grade in Donna, Texas for three years, after which he successfully launched the IDEA Academy in 2000, serving as the first board president and founding principal.

At 24 years of age, Tom was then Texas’ youngest-ever charter school founder. Since 2000, Tom has led the replication efforts of the original school. System-wide there are now more than 36,000 students enrolled in the 61 schools that comprise IDEA Public Schools in the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, and Austin. IDEA will launch schools in South Louisiana and El Paso in the 2018-2019 school year.

Tom has been widely recognized in a variety of publications, including being featured in 2009 by Time magazine as Wendy Kopp’s pick for the 100 most influential global citizens. Tom is the recipient of the prestigious Peter Jennings Award for Civic Leadership (2009), University of Michigan Ross Business School’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year (2010), the Freddy Fender Humanitarian Award (2008), and served as Chairman of the 2007 National Charter Schools Conference. Tom is often called upon to provide expert testimony to state and local officials on issues of education policy and school choice.

An avid runner and frequent Ironman triathlon competitor, Tom and his wife, Dr. Nina Lee Torkelson, live in the Rio Grande Valley with their three children, Lincoln, Liam, and Gwendolyn.

Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School

Year after year, Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School (Yu Ying) continues to achieve high levels of academic and organizational success. A few of our accomplishments include International Baccalaureate (IB) World School status, Confucius Institute’s School of the Year (2015); and DC’s Best Elementary School. And last but not least, for four years in a row, Yu Ying was recognized as a TIER-ONE or HIGH-PERFORMING school by the DC Public Charter School Board. And our assessment results were among the highest in both traditional public schools and public charter schools. We could not be prouder of our achievements.

And while these accolades are important, the smiles that our students arrive with each morning are what matter most to us. From the student who wrote her first mystery novella in Chinese to the fifth grade exhibition on social justice —these are our greatest achievements. This is why we do what we do.

As we have grown, it has become evident to us that Yu Ying really is more than a school. It is a community where our diversity is key to our success, where the sustainability of our community matters, and where our teachers and parents are collaborators. Together we are raising the next generation of culturally fluent and well-rounded global citizens. I’m grateful, personally and professionally, to each and every member of the Yu Ying community for their devotion to all of our Yu Ying students, and for their unwavering support as we’ve grown, changed, and learned—together.

Yu Ying takes its name —meaning nurturing excellence—from a groundbreaking girls’ school founded in 1911 in Beijing, China. Established by a former Imperial Lady-in-Waiting, Madame Tzen-Kuei Wang, the Yu Ying School offered classroom education at a time when the centuries-old tutorial system was still the norm in China. The school was a powerful force for educational change in China.

In providing Chinese language immersion in a structured inquiry-based environment, our founders had a similarly ambitious goal in creating Washington Yu Ying. As parents and educators with a passion for quality public education and Chinese language and culture, our founders established Yu Ying on the belief that all D.C. children have the right to a quality education that opens doors to the future.

Maquita Alexander

Maquita Alexander is the Executive Director at Yu Ying, the only Chinese Immersion, International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program school in Washington D.C. Yu Ying is a high performing, inquiry based school with a highly diverse student body. Yu Ying opened in the fall of 2008. Under Ms. Alexander’s leadership, Yu Ying has become one of the most sought after schools in the District of Columbia with its standardized test scores in the among the highest in the city.

Ms. Alexander leads this mission-driven organization with passion and dedication. She is committed to ensuring that every student feels known and has a rich educational learning experience. She espouses the school’s mission that strives to inspire and prepare young people to create a better world by challenging them to reach their full potential in a nurturing Chinese/English educational environment. She leads these efforts by being an innovator and a change agent. At Yu Ying the question.”Is it good for kids?” is where all conversations begin.

Prior to becoming Head of School in 2012, she served as the Principal of the school from 2009. She has led the educational effort of the School to develop a first-of-its-kind Chinese immersion program and the School’s International Baccalaureate program. Maquita has honed a Chinese program team with whom she works closely to develop effective classroom management strategies for new immersion teachers. Maquita has over twenty years of teaching and administrative experience, including fifteen years in the Fairfax County Public School system, seven of which she served as an elementary school teacher. She has a Master of Arts in Educational Technology Leadership from George Washington University, a Master of Teaching in Elementary Education from Virginia Commonwealth University, and an administrative certification in Curriculum and Administration from George Mason University. She is a founding advisory board member of Chinese Early Learning Immersion Network and a trustee member of the DC Immersion Language Project. She has presented on Immersion Education at the National Chinese Language Conference and The American Council Teachers of Foreign Language multiple times. She co-authored a white paper on Parents as Partners in Their Children’s Chinese Immersion Education: Making Decisions and Providing Support for the Asia Society Center for Global Education.

Ms. Alexander has three amazing children who all attended her school and now speak Mandarin. She is a proud novice Mandarin speaker with the desire to learn more.



  • Malcom "Mike" Peabody
  • Caprice Young
  • Greg Richmond

Read about our 2017 honorees.


  • Bill Kurtz
  • Dr. Rod Paige
  • Kim Smith

Read about our 2016 honorees.


  • Mary Landrieu
  • Deborah McGriff
  • Nelson Smith

Read about our 2015 honorees.


  • Chester “Checker” Finn, Jr.
  • Doris & Donald Fisher Fund
  • Eva Moskowitz

Read about our 2014 honorees.


  • Lisa Graham Keegan
  • Linda Moore
  • Walton Family Foundation


  • City Academy High School
  • Jim Griffin
  • Eric Mahmoud
  • John Schroeder


  • Donald Hense
  • Joel Klein
  • Jim Peyser


  • Norman Atkins
  • James Goenner
  • John King


  • Josephine Baker
  • KIPP Charter Schools
  • Don Shalvey


  • Linda Brown
  • Yvonne Chan
  • Ember Reichgott Junge


  • Howard Fuller
  • Sonia Gutierrez
  • Ted Kolderie
  • John Walton