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Board of Advisors

The mission of the Loyola School of Education Board of Advisors is to assist the dean and the leadership of the School to enact the vision, values, and plans of Loyola University Maryland in the lives of the undergraduate and graduate students and faculty, administrators, and staff of Loyola University Maryland.

Rebecca Lange-Thernes, '91, Chair

Rebecca Lange ThernesBS in Education, Music Education, Notre Dame of MD University                                                                                                
M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, Loyola University Maryland
A Certification in Nonprofit Management through JHU’s School of Public Policy

Rebecca is currently the Executive Director of Stocks in the Future. Stocks in the Future (SIF) is a financial literacy program focused on teaching underserved youth vital skills of managing money and understanding today’s global economy. Prior to this, she worked at Lutheran World Relief where she developed and led the LWR Study Tour program, giving constituents an opportunity to travel abroad where they learned issues such as hunger, HIV/AIDS, war trauma, the need for women’s empowerment, microfinancing, and entrepreneurship. During this time, Rebecca wrote and had published many curriculum pieces covering these various topics for both youth and the public at large at the national level.

Before focusing her career in the nonprofit area, Rebecca has 20 over years’ experience working as a classroom teacher in diverse settings in MD & VA, mainly teaching middle school youth. She has also served in the administrative capacity overseeing education programs (religious and music programs) and also serving as Admissions Director to an Independent school in the Baltimore area. In her spare time, Rebecca plays the flute in various venues across Baltimore city and beyond. She is married to Mark and has two America Eskimo dogs, Shanti and Dirty Harry.

Erin Bennett, '07

Erin BennettB.A. in History and Certificate in Elementary Education, Muhlenberg College
M.Ed. in Reading Specialist, Loyola University Maryland

Erin is currently teaching fifth grade and is the fifth grade dean at Calvert School in Baltimore, MD. This is her fifteenth year at the school.  Prior to teaching at Calvert, she taught at the School of Cathedral.

Erin, her husband, and two children live in Towson, MD.

Dawn Cunnion, ’93

Dawn CunnionB.S in Elementary Education/minor in music, University of Wisconsin – WhitewaterM.Ed. in Educational Administration with an emphasis on private school leadership, Loyola College (now Loyola University Maryland) 1993
Doctor of Education in Educational Administration and Leadership Policy Studies, Arizona State University

Dawn is currently the associate head of Brentwood School, and independent K-12 school in Los Angeles, CA.  Prior to this position, she served as Brentwood’s Lower School director and assistant head of school.  Dawn began her career as a fourth through sixth grade teacher at St. Rose of Lima School in Milwaukee, Wis. which is where she also began her administrative career as principal of the school. While serving as principal of St. Rose Dawn was the recipient of the Marquette University School of Education Award for designing and implementing field experience programs for undergraduate students. After leaving St. Rose, Dawn went on to be the principal of St. Clement School in Chicago; director of admissions and financial aid and director of communications at McDonogh School in Baltimore; admissions and curriculum consultant at Phoenix Country Day School; and, head of the Lower School at Laguna Blanca School in Santa Barbara. She is a member of the honor society Phi Kappa Phi and currently serves on the school board at Our Lady of Malibu, where she is the chair. Dawn also served on the board at Westmark for 11 years, before stepping down at the end of 2020.

Dawn and her husband, Bob, reside in Malibu, California.

Emily Desimone, ‘13, '14

Emily DesimoneB.A. in Elementary Education, Loyola University Maryland
M.Ed. in Special Education, Loyola University Maryland
Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis, Penn State University 

Emily is currently the IEP chair at Medfield Heights Elementary in Baltimore City. Prior to this position, she taught special education for elementary and middle school students in Baltimore City. Emily completed both her undergraduate and graduate studies, earning a master's in special education in 2014.

Emily grew up in Tarrytown, N.Y., and currently resides in Baltimore, Md. 

Sharlimar Douglass 

Sharlimar smiles at the camera.B.A. in African American History, Morgan State University 

Sharlimar is an educator and currently an independent contractor with a specialty in Black teacher experiences in public schools, focused on recruitment, retention, and respect for the unique contributions Black teachers bring to the public education space. Sharlimar is the Chair of the Maryland Alliance for Racial Equity in Education (MAREE), a statewide alliance of education advocacy, civil rights, and community-based organizations working to ensure every Black and Brown student in Maryland gets the high-quality public education they are owed. Her advocacy focuses on creating systems and structures by which Black teachers entering the teaching profession on a provisional license will successfully meet the requirements for teacher licensure and ensure their licensure process is fair and equitable. sharlimar has deep knowledge and engagement with the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, Maryland teacher licensure, and Maryland teacher preparation programs.

Sharlimar is a lifelong teacher who entered the profession through a nontraditional pathway. She taught U.S. history for 15 years in both public and private schools in Baltimore. Sharlimar credits the rich uplifting and nurturing experiences in her elementary school, Walter P. Carter, as forming the foundation for which she teaches, advocates, and learns. It was in her elementary school that her public speaking skills and gifted reading acquisition were cultivated and encouraged. She remembers the names of all of her teachers and their positive and loving disposition toward her and her peers. Her teachers looked like her, loved teaching, ensured their students were learning, student growth was recognized, students were celebrated and Black history, art, music, and culture were amplified. Sharlimar wants this reality for Black and Brown students today.

Sharlimar aspires to realize her vision for a Black Teachers Institute grounded in a curriculum about Black teacher psychology, bringing to the forefront Black educators’ theories, methodologies, and pedagogies, and creating a multigenerational space of shared teaching and learning. 

Victoria A. Elasic, Ed.D.

Victoria ElasicAmerican Montessori Society Elementary I & II Certified Teacher, Delaware Institute for Montessori Education
B.S. in Primary Education, Wilmington University
M.Ed. in Instruction: Gifted and Talented, Wilmington University
Ed.D. in Innovation and Leadership, Wilmington University 

Victoria is currently the director of admissions and student services, extended care director and summer campus director at The Hockessin Montessori School in Delaware. Prior to her current position, she taught in the school's Upper Elementary program teaching fourth through sixth grade for eight years. Before joining The Hockessin Montessori School, Victoria served as a founding teacher for Serviam Girls Academy, a Nativity Miguel Network school.

Victoria's publications focus on improving intrinsic motivation of elementary students in the Montessori classrooms as well as improving Montessori teacher effectiveness.  

Victoria is an adjunct for Loyola University Maryland’s Center for Montessori Education graduate program as well as for Wilmington University's College of Education graduate program. 

Victoria and her husband, John ('06), reside in Landenberg, Pa. with their two children. 

Justin Holbrook, M.Ed.

Justin Holbrook

B.A. in Education & Minor in Spanish, Goucher College
M. Ed. in Educational Leadership, Loyola University Maryland

Justin Holbrook has been an educator in Baltimore City Public Schools since 2010 starting as a 1st grade teacher followed by serving as a 4th grade math and science teacher.  He holds a bachelor's degree in education with a minor in Spanish from Goucher College and a master's degree in educational leadership from Loyola University Maryland.  While in the classroom, Mr. Holbrook was recognized as the 2017 Baltimore City Teacher of the Year and selected as a finalist for Maryland Teacher of the Year.  Outside of the classroom, Mr. Holbrook has served as a resident principal and assistant principal with an endorsement from New Leaders for New Schools. Additionally, he is the founder of #BmoreEdchat, a learning community on Twitter, that connects educators across the country regarding various professional learning topics.  Holbrook, and his wife Kaitlyn, live in Baltimore and are the parents of a daughter Teagan and a son Tanner.

Deborah Phelps

Deborah Phelps

Deborah Phelps is widely recognized as an innovative, energetic, and talented leader and master teacher with more than four decades of teaching and administrator experience. A native of Allegany County (Western Maryland), Ms. Phelps received her Master’s degree in Education Management & Supervision from Loyola College (MD) and B.A. in Education from Fairmont State College, from which she received the Outstanding Alumnae honor in 2010 and was the Commencement Speaker in 2009. The proud mother of three children and grandmother of six, Ms. Phelps is the Executive Director of The Education Foundation of Baltimore County Public Schools, Inc. She is a motivational speaker and author that addresses a range of topics related to education, child development, health, and life lessons.

As the Executive Director of The Education Foundation of Baltimore County Public Schools, Inc., a private, non-profit charitable organization under IRS section 501 (c) (3), her transformational leadership role not only helps to navigate funds for innovative programs, scholarships and resources for students and teachers but the establishment of two collaborative educator’s resource centers. A former classroom teacher, school based and district-based leader, Ms. Phelps was eager to tackle a national issue of teachers having a lack of school supplies for their classrooms, Ms. Phelps and team designed two resource centers, The Exchangeree: Gizmos and Gadgets Galore, supporting Baltimore County Public School’s nearly 10,000 teachers and 115,000 students (Pre-pandemic data)

Ms. Phelps has served on multiple business and community-advisory boards including the Board of Trustee, the Women’s Leadership Institute of Baltimore (WLIB) and the President’s Advisory Council for the Notre Dame of Maryland and the School of Education Board of Advisors for Loyola University. She is a member of the Chimes International Board of Directors and was honored by Chimes International with the Chimes Going Further to Help Others Go Far recognition. She is a board member on the Junior Achievement of Central Maryland and the Michael Phelps Foundation. She serves on multiple committees in support of the mission/vision/goals of the United Way of Central Maryland. With mentorship being a vital part of the next generation, Ms. Phelps is proud to participate in the BBJ’s Mentoring Monday initiatives.

Dedicated and committed to excellence in the field of education has earned Ms. Phelps many honors and accolades, including but not limited to being named one of the 2018 Influential Marylanders - Civic Leadership by The Daily Record, the Boys and Girls Club’s Champion of Youth Award, and the Smart CEO BRAVA award. She was named one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women by The Daily Record in both 2014 and 2020, the Toast of Towson by The Towson Chamber of Commerce, and The Elijah E. Cummings Blazing Light Award. Ms. Phelps has also been honored as a Baltimore County Public Schools Teacher of the Year Finalist, a two-time Maryland Family & Consumer Science Teacher of the Year, and Baltimore County’s “Baby Boomer of the Year” (2004). Ms. Phelps had the honor of delivering both the convocation and commencement address at Stevenson University in May 2017.

With a career beginning in education as a teacher in 1974, Deborah’s role evolved from teacher to team leader to department chair, which has served as the foundation of her successful role in administration. Deborah proceeded on to become Assistant to the Executive Director of Schools - Southwest, and in 2005 was appointed Principal of Windsor Mill School, a position she held for seven years. Over the course of her distinguished career, Ms. Phelps has developed a state-of-the-art food science lab, designed, and implemented award-winning nutrition and food science curriculum and has been actively involved in the successful launch of two middle schools, including the launch of the Windsor Mill Middle School in 2006 to her current position of Executive Director which began in 2012.

Vaishali Joshi, Ed.L.D.

Vaishali Joshi, Ed.L.D.Dr. Vaishali Joshi currently serves as the Senior Director, Impact and Innovations, at Teaching Lab, a national not for profit dedicated to shifting the paradigm of teacher professional learning in service of educational equity. In that role she leads and supports the development and dissemination of tools, resources, and innovative professional learning products that increase educator access to Teaching Lab and the organization’s overall impact. 

Dr. Joshi has nearly 20 years of experience as a teacher, curriculum and program designer, and instructional leader in the field of education. She began her career as an elementary school teacher in Baltimore City where she taught first, third, and fourth grades and was a founding faculty member at Southwest Baltimore Charter School. Since then, she has served as a new teacher mentor in Baltimore City, national curriculum designer, school leader in Boston, and Director of a Washington, D.C. based teacher residency. Dr. Joshi holds a B.A. in International Relations and Music from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an M.Ed in Literacy Education from Loyola University of Maryland, where she was a member of the inaugural city-based cohort of Reading Specialist Candidates, and a Doctorate in Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

Vaishali lives in Ellicott City, MD, where she enjoys biking, cooking, cultivating a vegetable garden, and experimenting with different art mediums with her husband and son.

Brianna Ross, M.Ed.

Brianna Ross, M.Ed.B.S. in Applied Developmental Psychology, University of Pittsburgh
M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, University of Pittsburgh
(In Progress) Ed.D in Urban Educational Leadership, Morgan State University

Brianna Ross serves as the Social Studies Department Chair at Deer Park Middle Magnet School in Randallstown, Maryland. As her school’s equity liaison, Ross works to interrupt teacher biases and practices that perpetuate inequity while building teacher capacity to create inclusive classrooms. Ross writes social studies curriculum that highlights more diverse perspectives, connects historical topics to current events, and encourages students to find solutions to real-world problems. Each year, Ross coordinates a Summer Transition Program to support incoming sixth graders socially, emotionally, and academically as they prepare for the expectations of middle school.
In April of 2021, Brianna was named the Baltimore County Teacher of the Year. The following October, she was named the 2022 Maryland Teacher of the Year. Ross travels around the state as an educational speaker and advisor. 

Brianna resides in Baltimore County, Maryland.

Hannah Watts, '13

Hannah Watts, '13B.A. in Elementary Education
Master of Education in Literacy, Reading Specialist
Kappa Delta Pi
Loyola University Maryland

Hannah is a Title One reading specialist at Maryland City Elementary School. Previously, Hannah was a 2nd and 5th grade teacher at Solley Elementary School and was a Title One reading specialist at Hilltop Elementary School.

She has recently completed three marathons. Hannah also enjoys playing golf.

Hannah grew up in Short Hills, N.J. She now resides in Washington, D.C.