Sisterhood of Hope | Da'Miya Brown



Briana Morales

Founder, CEO, President

Briana Morales is a proud Latina and freedom fighter for students in alternative education, where she has spent her career loving and learning alongside students furthest from justice in East St. Louis, IL. She focuses on empowering her students with personalized, competency-based education where their cultural funds of knowledge are honored and students work at their own pace to master content rather than traditional learning that focuses on seat time and completion of work. Briana was honored as a 2021 NCTE Early Career Educator of Color and has shared the journey she and her students have embarked on to turn pain into power through narrative poetry of witness both locally and nationally. Her commitment as a school board member for the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, School District #428 has allowed her to elevate the voices of justice-impacted youth. She is deeply passionate about creating healing-centered spaces where Black and brown students can feel seen, heard, and, one day, be free to be their authentic selves. Her love offering toward this future is her nonprofit, (Sister)Hood of Hope, Inc., dedicated to honoring brighter futures for girls of color everywhere by empowering them through the community of sisterhood. She earned her BA in secondary English education from St. Ambrose University and her MEd in curriculum and instruction from American College of Education. She is currently pursuing an EdD in diversity and equity in education at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Briana is the 2023 Illinois Teacher of the Year.

Nina McLean

East St. Louis Program Coordinator

Nina McLean is a master teacher with 23 years of experience. She is currently serving as a curriculum writer, ELA lead, Guiding Coalition Member, Instructional Leadership team member, school leadership team leader, and 5th-grade team lead in East St. Louis, IL.  She is also a member of the United States Army Reserve where she serves as superintendent of military police transition courses. serving Soldiers in Fort Hunter Liggett, California, and Fort Knox, Kentucky.  She holds a bachelor’s in elementary education, and a master’s in Educational Leadership and is currently working on her doctorate for Superintendent and School Leadership. She loves teaching and learning in many capacities. Her core belief is that every person has the right to succeed.

Starr Caldwell


Starr Caldwell is an accomplished educator with an impressive career spanning over 16 years in the field of education. Her qualifications include a Specialist’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with advanced specializations in ESL and LBS II, as well as a Master’s degree in Principal Leadership and Education Technology. Currently enrolled in the Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) program in Educational Leadership, Starr is dedicated to advancing her expertise.


Throughout her career, Starr has held diverse roles, from special education teacher to district-appointed homebound tutor, Transition Specialist, and most recently in her role as appointed district DEI liaison with TeachPlus, and district DEI SEED facilitator. Her skill set encompasses change management facilitation, problem-solving, effective teamwork, strategic planning, adept dialogue, and promoting diversity and inclusiveness.


Starr’s commitment to educational leadership is evident through her recent receipt of the prestigious “2022-2023 Aspiring Leaders Scholarship” from the Illinois Principal Association (IPA). Leveraging this opportunity, she has actively engaged with the Leader Network, nurturing her leadership intelligence and building a supportive community of peers.


Diversity, equity, and inclusion are at the core of Starr’s educational philosophy. Her role as a 2022-2023 Teach Plus Illinois Affinity Group Facilitator underscores her dedication to championing positive change within her district and the broader educational community, ensuring all students have access to equitable opportunities.

Mallory Lawler

Mentor Coordinator

With 11 years of elementary school teaching experience, 2 years as an instructional coach, and involvement in both the district and school leadership teams, Mallory is a dedicated and passionate educator. Mallory holds a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Psychology, along with a Master’s degree in curriculum design and instruction, specializing in the Inclusive Classroom and English for speakers of other languages (ESOL). Additionally, she has obtained a Social Emotional Learning endorsement through BloomBoards micro-credential program. As a workshop speaker and leader at the 2023 National SEL Conference, Mallory shared her expertise on fostering students’ emotional well-being. She is a Teach Plus Policy Fellow alumna, was awarded Teacher of the Year for district 88 in 2020, and was a Golden Apple Nominee. She is an accomplished writer with publications on innovative teaching approaches, current issues in education, and research. Lastly, Mallory is an active member of the West 40 Instructional Coaching Network, collaborating with fellow instructional coaches to enhance instructional practices.

Dr. Tara Kristoff

Continuous Improvement Director

As a seasoned educator and compassionate administrator, Dr. Kristoff has championed equitable education for all. Her commitment to student success shines through her collaborative efforts to craft inclusive curricula and innovative programs, ensuring that every child’s potential is nurtured and celebrated. At Rock Falls Elementary School District 13, Kristoff currently serves as the Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning. Dr. Kristoff’s leadership propelled the district to new heights, revamping curricula to align with state standards and fostering a digital-focused learning environment. Her creation of the Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) and acceleration programs exemplifies her dedication to meeting the diverse needs of every student. Dr. Kristoff’s advocacy for STEAM education is particularly inspiring, as she creates opportunities for students to explore and thrive in fields of science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Her impact extends beyond the classroom, empowering students in rural communities to pursue their dreams and break barriers.


Jessica Wilkes

Chicagoland Program Coordinator

Jessica is a Lead Instructional Coach at Bradwell School of Excellence, a Chicago Public School. Prior to this, she was a national board certified teacher for 17 years. She earned her BA from Chicago State University.  She holds two master degrees from American College of Education in Curriculum & Instruction and Educational Leadership. She is currently a Teach Plus Affinity Group facilitator. She is an active member of National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, Inc. an educational sorority. She enjoys presenting at conferences that empower teachers to strive for the best. She loves to see how her hardwork and dedication impacts the lives of educators and students. 

Kim Tate
Youth Development Coordinator

Kim currently serves as a K-8 Dual Language instructional coach at International Prep Academy in Champaign, Illinois. She is a recipient of the 2023 Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching, as well as the NCTE Early Career Educator of Color Leadership Award (2022).  Her passion for student-centered learning and teacher leadership led to her selection as a 2022-2023 Teach Plus Illinois Senior Policy Fellow. Kim’s commitment to culturally responsive and sustaining literacy resulted in her participation as a cohort member of the Pulitzer Center’s 1619 Project Education Network (2022), in addition to being named a 2020-2021 Panda Fellow with the National Writing Project.