National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Honors Seven Extraordinary Charter School Teachers With Annual Changemaker Award

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The Changemaker Award honors individuals who are making an outsized difference in their communities

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is thrilled to announce the 2023 recipients of the annual Changemaker Award, all seven of whom are public charter school teachers or founders. The Changemaker Award honors individuals who are making an exceptional difference in their charter schools, and who go above and beyond to shape their students’ lives for the better. These seven individuals are unique in their communities, but together, are representative of the educator who thrives in public charter schools: one who has the ability to personalize teaching and act autonomously to meet the differing needs of the students in their classroom. 

“We are humbled to honor these exceptional and hardworking teachers who do the vital work of educating and supporting rising generations of students,” says Nina Rees, CEO and President of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “Teachers are the backbone of education and deserve our support, encouragement, and recognition for continuing to serve students even in the face of ongoing challenges.”  

Please join us in celebrating the 2023 Changemakers:  

Cielo Acosta (SLAM! Miami, Miami, FL): Ms. 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 (i3 Academy, Birmingham, AL): Mr. Dunn is a third grade teacher and was recognized as the Henry Nelson Teacher of Excellence by the Alabama Charter School Commission in 2021. In addition to teaching third grade, Mr. Dunn is a baseball coach, mentor, and EdFarm Teacher Fellow. His fellow teachers say he is relational, inspiring, innovate, and a team player.  

Tiffany Ortego (One City Preschool, Madison, WI): Ms. Ortego is the Kindergarten Lead Teacher and is known for going above and beyond to help her students create the tools they need to reach their full potential. In her time at One City, Ms. Ortego helped create the Preschool Garden Space and created the school’s 4K Volunteer Reading and Early Literacy program. Students are known to feel at home in her classroom.  

Coach Jermar Rountree - 2023 National Teacher of the Year Finalist (Center City Public Charter - Brightwood Campus, Washington, DC): Coach Rountree is the district teacher lead and teacher of the health and physical education departments. Coach Rountree was recognized as D.C.’s 2023 Teacher of the Year and was a finalist for the 2023 National Teacher of the Year, the nation’s highest honor. In addition to sports, he teaches students about their social, emotional and mental health. He has established in-school, after-school, and weekend partnerships with local organizations to help kids grow in all facets of life. 

Dr. Alissa Russell (Life High School Oak Cliff, Dallas, TX): Dr. Russell is a “master teacher” and math department head. She inspires students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn using Socratic Seminar, differentiated group modeling, and peer partnership grouping as innovative instructional practices to meet her students’ differentiated needs. Dr. Russell was recently appointed to an advisory council convened by Texas Senator Royce West (D) and has served on a Texas Education Agency think tank. She has also been named the 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 (University Prep, Denver, CO): Mr. Singer started his teaching career twenty years ago as a high school math teacher but became passionate about teaching younger students. 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 (Dream Diné Charter School, Shiprock, NM): Ms. Thomas is a third and fourth grade teacher, a TeachPlus Fellow, and a community leader from the Diné tribe. In addition to teaching, Ms. Thomas is also the Vice President of the Navajo Nation Board of Education and empowers her local teachers and parents to advocate for improved public education in NM. She was recently recognized by the New Mexico House of Representatives for “Significant Achievements to the Community.” 

The National Alliance is excited to celebrate and honor these seven extraordinary individuals at Best In Class: Celebrating Outstanding Teachers, a panel on Capitol Hill on May 10, 2023. Changemakers will share why they choose to become educators, how the charter school model supports the teaching profession, how the teaching profession can be better supported by leaders, how schools and leaders can work to attract more teachers of color to this profession and more about their passion and dedication to their students. Media is invited to attend the event. RSVP or contact for more information.


About Public Charter Schools 
Public charter schools are independent, public, and tuition-free schools that are given the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. Since 2010, many research studies have found that students in charter schools do better in school than their traditional school peers. For example, one study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that charter schools do a better job teaching students from low-income families,  students of color, and students who are still learning English than traditional schools. Separate studies by the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research have found that charter school students are more likely to graduate from high school, go on to college, stay in college and have higher earnings in early adulthood. 

About the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools 
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement. Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter sector. For more information, please visit 

About National Charter Schools Week  
National Charter Schools Week is an annual celebration of charter schools and our community of educators, parents, students, and leaders. This year's celebration, May 7-13, will focus on the contribution of charter school teachers in co-recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week.