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.

Takayla Ankrom, Urban Alliance Intern

Takayla Ankrom is a senior at IDEA Public Charter school here in Washington, DC. She plans to graduate in June 2020 and attend Delaware State University to study Early Childhood Education. She is excited to have the opportunity to engage with our students in and out of the classroom through her internship with Urban Alliance. In her free time, Takayla enjoys spending time with family and looking after younger siblings and cousins. 


LaToya Archibald, Executive Assistant

LaToya Archibald is a graduate of Howard University and has spent the last 12 years working in educational equity, environmental justice, and non-profit management. She taught Biology, Horticulture Therapy, and Environmental Science at Maya Angelou Academy, located at New Beginnings Youth Development Center in DC. Some of her favorite projects included creating a youth community garden on the grounds and starting an anatomy and physiology lab for her students. LaToya lives in Ward 7’s Deanwood community and can be found on Instagram chronicling her doula journey and her comical online dating experiences. 


Bridget Berg, Experiential Learning Educator

Bridget Berg grew up in Seattle, WA, fortunate to experience a mix of city life and the beautiful outdoors that the Pacific Northwest has to offer. Bridget has a B.S in botany from Humboldt State University which furthered her love for science and the outdoors. Although Bridget has explored many avenues, from working as a research assistant in redwood trees, to traveling around the States working on small-scale farms, nothing quite clicked until she found herself in a classroom. Bridget spent four years working as a 5th grade teacher at an Expeditionary Learning school in Moscow, ID where she found purpose and passion helping students grow passionate about their learning themselves. For this reason, Bridget is excited to be a part of Live It Learn It and continue to help students find joy and meaning through experiential learning. Besides caring deeply about education, Bridget also loves environmentalism, running, reading, Harry Potter, watercoloring, and chasing the sun.

Jackie Broussard, Experiential Learning Educator

After completing her B.A. in International Relations and Spanish and her MBA in International Business, Jackie worked as a systems analyst for several years in Latin America. She wanted to make a more meaningful impact, which led her to start a business in fitness and nutrition. Educating people to transform their lives inspired her to spend a summer teaching middle and high school students in Guatemala. Once she got the bug for working with young people, she never turned back and has now taught 3rd grade to college level in locations from the U.S. to the Dominican Republic to China. She believes that the most important work we can do as educators is to empower students with the critical thinking needed to address the realities of our world.

Delema Johnson, Experiential Learning Educator

Delema Johnson grew up in a military family. She was born in Bavaria, Germany and has enjoyed living in places such as: Maryland, Texas, Colorado, and Washington, DC. She thinks of her ability to teach as a spiritual gift and is ecstatic to be a part of the Live It Learn It team and community. Delema earned a B.A. in Communications with a specialty in Public Relations.  She later earned a M.A. in Human Services and a M.Ed. in Reading Education. Delema enjoys nurturing students’ development and in turn has created an early learning program designed for in-home daycare students and early childhood learners within the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission.  She has also taught the English language to students in China via the online learning corporation VIPKID.  In all, Delema has been an educator for over 15 years with majority of her time served in the private and non-profit sector.  Aside from being an educator, she is an author, singer, actress, and a lover of history, culture and fantasy.


Florence Lee, Data and Operations Coordinator

Having grown up in Rockville, MD, Florence Lee enjoyed learning about history and culture during her elementary and middle school field trips in and around Washington, DC. She earned a B.A. in English language and literature from the University of Maryland, College Park and, upon graduation, taught English in South Korea for a year. Her passion for education drives her to, on the teaching end, tutor students for college admissions tests and, on the learning end, discover new books, TV shows, cities, and beaches.


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.


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.

La’hyniah Phillips, Urban Alliance Intern

La’hyniah is currently completing her senior year at IDEA Public Charter School and will graduate in June 2020. She has engaged in numerous activities in out and of school including cheerleading, The Young Women’s Project, student government, and Urban Alliance. In her spare time, she loves to spend time with her friends and go shopping. La’hyniah is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Live It and Learn It and see how a non profit organization can impact the community at large. She hopes to attend Clark Atlanta University and double major in Finance and Accounting with a minor in Business Management. La’hyniah aspires to own her own financial firm one day.

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, Contractor

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 knit, bake cookies, and watch Harry Potter.

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, DC. When Katherine is not working, you can find her watercoloring, birdwatching, or adding more houseplants to her endless collection.

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.

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