Jodie Patterson, SFC ’84
LGBTQAI Advocate, Activist, Author (she/her)
Jodie Patterson is a social activist, entrepreneur, and writer. She has been lauded for her activist work by Hillary Clinton, The Advocate, Family Circle, Essence, Cosmopolitan, and Yahoo!, among others. She works closely with several gender/family/human rights organizations, including serving as Chair of the Board of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, and is a soughtout public speaker addressing a wide range of audiences about identity, gender, beauty, and entrepreneurship. Patterson was appointed by the United Nations as a Champion of Change and is a former circus acrobat who performed in the Big Apple Circus. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she co-parents her five children with love, education, and family solidarity.
Social Entrepreneur and Founder, Equitable Schools, Inc. (they/them)
Akiea Gross is a former instructional coach, kindergarten teacher, and creative entrepreneur who believes in designing a more inclusive, equity-, and empathy-driven world through education, music, and the arts. Akiea is the founder of #BlackTeachersMatter, Equitable Schools, Inc., Womxyn Amplify, LLC, and the creator and producer of the inclusive concert series Sisters Unsigned. Currently, they develop and implement equity, empathy, and early childhood centered workshops through their consulting arm, Woke Kindergarten. Akiea is a 2014 graduate (summa cum laude), Zankel Fellow, and Graduate Assistant of Teachers College, Columbia University, where they received their MA in Developmental Psychology. They also hold an MS in Childhood Education/Special Education 1-6 through Harlem Village Academy’s Progressive Education Institute (PEI), where they graduated and spoke at commencement in 2017. Akiea holds two bachelor’s degrees in Child Development and Family Studies and Psychology from UNC-Chapel Hill, respectively.
Megan Pamela Ruth Madison
Facilitator, Scholar, and Community Organizer (she/her)
Megan Pamela Ruth Madison is a facilitator, scholar, and community organizer. Megan began her career as a preschool teacher after earning her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan. Currently, she facilitates workshops for teachers, families, and activists on racism, sexism, and antisemitism while working toward her doctorate at Brandeis University. She serves on the Board of Directors for Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (or JFREJ) and the Jewish Organizing Institute & Network (JOIN for Justice) as well as on the governing board of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Megan grew up in northern Michigan and now calls New York City home.
Joseph Derrick Nelson
Assistant Professor, Swarthmore College, Educational Studies (he/him)
Joseph Derrick Nelson is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Studies at Swarthmore College, and affiliated faculty with the Black Studies Program. He is also a senior research fellow with the Center for the Study of Boys’ and Girls’ Lives at the University of Pennsylvania. Trained as a sociologist of education, his research examines race, boyhood, and education within learning environments that largely serve Black students from neighborhoods with concentrated poverty. His research has been featured in the Washington Post, The Atlantic, and National Public Radio. He is a co-editor of the forthcoming Routledge Handbook on Boyhood in the United States. In the United States and abroad, he has presented his research at The White House Summit for Children’s Media and Toys, the Ideas Festival of the Aspen Institute, and the International Boys’ School Coalition. In his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Dr. Nelson taught first-grade in a single-sex class of boys of color in the high-poverty neighborhood where he grew up.
Laleña Garcia, GSE ’02
Kindergarten Teacher and Gender and Sexuality Trainer (she/her)
Laleña Garcia is a kindergarten teacher at Manhattan Country School. After receiving her BA in History from Yale University in 1998, Laleña worked with high school students in New Haven, CT long enough to realize her love is early childhood. In 2000, she began teaching in New York City after receiving the Minority Fellowship from Bank Street College and later graduated from Bank Street with an MS in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. In 2018, Laleña helped organize New York City’s first year of participation in the Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action and created a document translating the Thirteen Principles of the Movement for Black Lives into child-friendly language to support classroom teachers beginning this work. Laleña also works for the Early Childhood Professional Development Institute as a Gender and Sexuality Trainer, partnering with early childhood professionals and families to create expansive and supportive understandings of gender, sexuality, and family structure.