Educational Solutions For the 21st Century Learner

About Us

Suzanne Kaplan, NBCT, Ph.D - Executive Director

Suzanne Kaplan, NBCT, Ph.D - Executive Director

Suzanne has a doctorate in mathematics education and a master’s degree in content area literacy. She is also a national board certified teacher in Early Adolescents through Young Adulthood/English as a New Language and she is certified by the state of Arizona to provide certified educators training for the state's required Structured English Immersion (SEI) endorsement. Suzanne was a public middle school teacher for 16 years in the Sunnyside Unified School District in Tucson, Arizona. She has spent her entire career working with students and teachers in Title 1 schools as well as significant populations of English learners.

In the Sunnyside Unified School District, Suzanne co-created and implemented the district’s first and only one-way dual-language program at the middle level which received a Golden Bell award from the Arizona School Board Association. Suzanne was also instrumental in helping the district implement the new Common Core State Standards in Mathematics at the district’s elementary and middle schools.

During her time as a dual-language teacher, Suzanne was twice honored as a district and school Teacher of the Year. Suzanne was also honored twice as a Southern Arizona Middle School Teacher of the Year. She received the Master Teacher designation from the Arizona K-12 Center in 2012 and she also holds a Cognitive Coaching certification. After leaving the classroom in 2009, Suzanne served as an instructional coach, Title 1 Program Facilitator and a district professional developer in the area of effective instructional practices for English language learners. Additionally, she is an adjunct assistance professor at the University of Arizona where she works with both pre-service and in-service teachers in the areas of content area literacy for grades Pre-K through 12, curriculum development, and educational equity. She also serves as the project coordinator for the Leadership Institute for Mathematics in Elementary Schools (LIMES). This project works with elementary school teachers in grades Kindergarten through eight in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) and the Nogales Unified School District.

Suzanne regularly presents her research at educational research conferences such as the American Education Research Association, Arizona Association of Mathematics Educators, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, National Association of Bilingual Educators, Association of Middle Level Educators, National Staff Development Council, Literacy Research Association and International Research Association. Suzanne also reviews manuscripts for journals such as Mathematics Teacher and the National Council of Teachers of English’s Voices in the Middle.

Alisa Leckie, NBCT, Ph.D - Senior Director

Alisa is a national board certified teacher in the area of Early Adolescents through Young Adulthood/English as a New Language with a content emphasis of English language arts. Alisa Leckie has nearly two decades of experience working with culturally and linguistically diverse students and their teachers.  She began her career as a middle school English language arts teacher and over the course of the next 16 years taught reading, social studies and Spanish language arts. Like Suzanne, she worked in a district with a high percentage of students who qualified for free and reduced lunch as well as significant populations of English learners and students who received special education services.  

Alisa Leckie, NBCT, Ph.D - Senior Director

Throughout her teaching experiences, Alisa focused on constructivist approaches to learning that built on students’ knowledge and experiences.  During her time as a classroom teacher, Alisa received several awards for her teaching excellence.  This was due in large part to her commitment to providing high quality experiences for her students and her willingness to continually add new structures and strategies to her teaching repertoire.

In addition to being a highly effective teacher, Alisa is also an Arizona state certified SEI trainer.  She began this work when Arizona transitioned to an English-only state and required an SEI endorsement for all teachers.  As a result, Alisa has worked with hundreds of teachers across the state as they worked toward acquiring their SEI endorsement.  Many of the teachers with whom she worked were willing participants; however, initially many did not see the relevance to this new mandate in relation to their own teaching and practice.  Alisa, along with Suzanne, has been able to work with these resistant teachers in ways that help them make connections between the concepts and strategies inherent in the SEI endorsement and their own instructional practice. 

Alisa has also been instrumental in helping teachers and administrators transition to instruction based on the Common Core State Standards.  She provides workshops on deconstructing the standards, developing tasks aligned with the standards, and augmenting instruction to meet the increased academic language expectations inherent in the standards.  As part of the implementation process, Alisa engages in coaching cycles with teachers and instructional leaders across grade levels and content areas.

After earning her Ph.D. in adolescent literacy with an emphasis on English learners, Alisa accepted a position at Georgia Southern University in southeast Georgia.  In her current role she teaches courses as part of the ESL endorsement and supervises pre-service teachers in the field.  Additionally, she works with teachers in urban and rural school districts to help them provide quality instruction for the culturally and linguistically diverse students with whom they work.  She has several ongoing research projects that examine the relationships between professional development, teacher’s pedagogical decisions and student achievement.

Sara Tolbert

Sara Tolbert, Ph.D - Partnership Director & Senior Analyst

Sara Tolbert is Assistant Professor of Science Education in the Department of Teaching, Learning, & Sociocultural Studies at the University of Arizona. Her work bridges theory and practice, and the focus of her research is on improving the education of under-served students in K-12 classrooms. Sara began her career as a science educator in under-served communities and Title 1 schools in both the United States and abroad. She taught middle school science in the Bronx, NY, and Atlanta, GA, and spent three years in Latin America as a teacher and assistant manager of ecotourism, sustainability education, and community development projects.

Sara has collaborated on several federally funded research projects designed to prepare teachers for culturally and linguistically inclusive and responsible instruction in K-12 classrooms, including two National Science Foundation K-12 Discovery Research Projects, Secondary Science Teaching with English Language and Literacy Acquisition (SSTELLA), for which she is a Principal Investigator, and Effective Science Teaching for English Learners (ESTELL), and the USDOE-funded Integrating Science and Diversity Education (ISDE) project at UC Berkeley Center for Research on Education, Diversity, & Excellence (CREDE). She also worked with the University of Georgia Goizuieta Center for Latino Achievement and Education (CLASE) to help teachers better meet the needs of their rapidly growing Latino immigrant student population. Dr. Tolbert is a recent recipient of the University of Arizona College of Education Erasmus Award, and a 2015 National Academy of Education/Spencer Post-doctoral Fellow.

Contact Us

Contact us today for more information regarding our SEI Completion online class or to schedule an SEI workshop for your district or school.


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