Inspiring through Experience



Raven Barnes, Urban Alliance Intern

Raven Barnes grew up in the heart of Washington, DC. Currently, she is completing her senior year at Eastern Senior High School and will graduate in June 2019. Raven participates in various activities at school, including track, choir, and the marching band. During her free time, she enjoys listening to music and reading mystery novels. Raven is very excited for the opportunity to work alongside the staff at Live It Learn It. She hopes to learn how to network and build strong relationships with staff members, partner schools, and other organizations in DC. After graduation, Raven plans to attend college to study Physiology.

Justin Brown, Manager of Data and Operations

Justin Brown grew up in Prince George’s County, MD as the eldest of four boys. An Americorps alum, Justin has worked to build community the past four years in Washington, DC. When not reading or out volunteering, he can be found wandering DC or hanging out with friends and family. One day, he hopes to be part of the 1% and to move out of his parents’ house.

michelle edwards

Michelle Edwards, Executive Director

Michelle Edwards is a native Chicagoan who found her way to Live It Learn It by serving as the principal of Orr Elementary for almost a decade.  Michelle has also served on the board of Live It Learn It for over five years. She received a  B.S. in Elementary Education from Northern Illinois University and Master’s degrees from Loyola University Chicago and Trinity University, Washington, DC.  Michelle participated in New Leaders, Inc. as a resident principal during its inaugural year in Washington DC and 10 years later  served as the Director of the Emerging Leaders Program.  She recently earned a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Organizational Management from the University of Pennsylvania. Michelle loves her husband and children as well as her beagle, Beauty.


Angelica Guerrero, Manager of Teaching and Learning

Angelica grew up in Bogota, a city nestled in the Andes Mountains of Colombia. She spent her childhood touring museums and visiting historical sites around the country, where she learned to appreciate art and urban spaces as a way to learn the stories of people in the past. She has pursued studies in History, Literature, and Journalism, and holds an M.Ed in Social Studies from the Universidad de Los Andes and a graduate teaching certificate in English as a Second Language from American University. Angelica’s journey as an educator began in Colombia and has since brought her to DC, where she’s worked with students who, like herself, moved to a new country and share her passion for learning a new language. When not at work, Angelica can be found traveling with her husband Alex, trying new food and buying chocolate, or curled up reading or watching movies with the family’s two pygmy tigers – Fiva and Artemis.

Janet Jefferson

Janet Jefferson, Experiential Learning Educator

Janet Jefferson grew up in Annapolis, MD exploring the woods and waterways of the Chesapeake Bay. She fell in love with science and learning early on by digging in the dirt and collecting bugs.  Before coming to Live It Learn It, Janet was museum educator in Vermont and a nontraditional classroom teacher in Denver, CO and Alexandria, VA. Janet believes that the best education is engaging and experiential.  She loves taking students outside of the classroom so that they can learn from their community and environment first hand. Janet has a M.S. from Antioch University New England in Environmental Science with a Concentration in Environmental Education and a B.S. from Bryn Mawr College in Biology.  In her free time, Janet can be found gardening, throwing pottery, or hiking with her husband, daughter, and chocolate lab, Hank.


Erin McSpadden, Experiential Learning Educator

Erin McSpadden grew up in North Carolina and earned B.A.degrees in English and History from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and a Master of Letters degree in Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Literature from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. She taught English as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine and has worked in nonprofit administration for several organizations that provide educational opportunities throughout the world. Erin loves to be outside and enjoys hiking and swimming. She is an avid reader and a lifelong learner, especially of new languages. Erin is proud to be part of an organization that promotes education, youth development, and community engagement.


Da’Jae Miller, Urban Alliance Intern

Da’Jae Miller was raised in Ward 7 of Washington, DC. She attends Eastern Senior High School and will graduate in June 2019. Da’Jae is involved in an advocacy group at her school that helps mentor and foster relationships with younger classmates. She is also very interested in fashion, traveling, and photography. Da’Jae is eager to contribute to the Live It Learn It team and learn how to better advocate for students in Washington, DC and beyond. After graduation, Da’Jae plans to attend college in pursuit of a Criminology degree in hopes of becoming a FBI agent.


Lauren Hawley Peters, Senior Director of Programs

Lauren Hawley Peters was raised in the Midwest and grew her teaching legs in rural North Carolina through Teach for America.  At Live It Learn It, Lauren enjoys bringing learning to life through experiments, role plays, and interactive read-alouds; she is inspired as students cultivate a sense of stewardship at the National Zoo and deep sympathy for others at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Beyond the classroom, she has supported the professional development of new teachers nationwide by facilitating summer trainings and as the leader of an online community for elementary educators. She holds an M.Ed. in Education Policy and Leadership from American University and a B.A. from DePauw University.

Elaine Pirozzi, Experiential Learning Educator 

Elaine Pirozzi grew up in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, but she’s called Washington, DC home for many years and still loves exploring the city. She has taught elementary school in the DC area, childbirth preparation in Ann Arbor, MI, and preschool classes at the National Zoo. She has a B.A. in Communication from SUNY New Paltz and an M.S. in Education from Loyola University Maryland. Elaine is passionate about reading everything she can get her hands on, and she also writes middle grade fiction. She makes social activism a part of her life, and she, her husband, and two daughters – both DCPS students – travel every chance they get. She is certain that the best teachers are always learning, and she loves that at Live It Learn It she has the opportunity to learn and grow every day.

Mariel O Smith portrait

Mariel Oquendo Smith, Manager of Programming and Communications

Mariel Smith is originally from outside of Baltimore and grew up visiting museums in Maryland and Washington, DC. Those early experiences gave her the strong belief that museums and historic sites are perfect places to learn, explore, and have fun.  She has a B.A. in English literature from the University of Maryland and an M.A. in museum studies from New York University. Committed to sharing her passion for informal hands-on education, Mariel has worked in museums in Washington, DC and New York City, as well as abroad in London, England. She is proud to be a part of Live It Learn It where she can use her teaching experience and passion for learning to help students explore the wonderful history and resources DC has to offer. Outside of work Mariel loves to read, bake cookies, and watch Star Wars.

Katherine Thomas

Katherine Thomas, Experiential Learning Educator

Katherine Thomas was raised in Birmingham, AL just miles away from the most historical landmarks of the Civil Rights movement. She earned a B.A. in Sociology from Samford University with special interests in public health and youth development. Desiring to be an educator outside of the traditional classroom, Katherine worked as a Physical Education teacher (K-5) and then moved overseas to be a soccer coach and teacher in a remote town of western Uganda for two years. Most recently, she taught health sciences, life skills, and various sports to adults with developmental disabilities. Being a curious and hands-on learner herself, Katherine thrives when surrounded by nature, culture, and history. She is thrilled to be a part of the Live It Learn It team where she can cultivate that curiosity in the hearts and minds of young students right here in Washington, D.C.! When Katherine is not working, you can find her watercoloring, birdwatching, or leading spontaneous aerobics routines.

Matthew Wheelock3

Matthew Wheelock, Founder 

Matthew’s inspiration for creating Live It Learn It came from the students he taught while a classroom teacher at Walker-Jones Elementary School. In an effort to counteract students’ low literacy levels, Matthew began supplementing classroom instruction with carefully planned, educationally focused trips – and saw his students’ achievement and motivation soar. Seeing this impact, Matthew resolved to create similar opportunities for students in Title I (high-poverty) schools citywide. Prior to teaching, Matthew worked in the fields of law and international relations. He has a B.A. from Williams College, an M.A. from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, a J.D. from Stanford Law School, and an Ed.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, where his dissertation focused on the connection between Live It Learn It’s model of teaching and learning and students’ self-efficacy beliefs. Matthew is now an Associate Professor and Director of the Innovation in Education program at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education.