DR. BERNA RAVITZ
Dr. Berna Friedman Ravitz’s passion for education began bubbling within her well before she could articulate it. As a young student, she found herself decidedly unchallenged by her school experience. She knew it could be so much more fulfilling for herself and her classmates. That feeling stuck with her throughout her elementary–, middle–, and high-school years and into college, leading her to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education from Oakland University.
It wasn’t until Berna stood in front of her own classroom that the power of her early experiences took shape. Berna practiced what now is commonly known as a constructivist approach to learning and, as a result, has witnessed high achievement among even her most at-risk students. During this early stage in her teaching career, Berna became a trainer in utilizing gifted-and-talented strategies for all students.
Her path toward educational transformation included certification in bilingual education, fluency in Spanish, and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Wayne State University. She became the founding principal of a two-way Spanish immersion school, followed by a principalship in a school uniquely characterized by a population speaking 38 different languages.
Being recognized as Michigan’s 2004 Principal of the Year, as well as a 2004 National Distinguished Principal was the perfect culmination to Berna’s career of living out her passion. Prior to her retirement, Berna participated in a Fulbright Principal’s Exchange in England for six weeks. Berna and her late husband Justin Ravitz, former judge, attorney and mediator, instilled many of their passions, including high educational achievement, in their three children. Jason, a Harvard graduate with a Ph.D from Syracuse, is employed in the fields of research and evaluation. Jessica graduated from University of Pennsylvania and obtained a journalism degree from the University of California Berkeley. She is an award-winning reporter. Anthony, the youngest, graduated from Stanford and is involved in the green construction industry.
For the past five years, Berna has served as a certified leadership coach and educational strategist working with principals, teachers, and parents in school improvement and creative educational planning. In addition to her work with Simply Smart, she continues to read, research, write, and travel.
Susan is a speech-language pathologist (SLP) who has spent over 12 years enriching the language and literacy skills of young children, both in public schools and in private practice. Since 2002, she has worked as an SLP for a school district in metro Detroit. She has also assumed the leadership role of instructional consultation (IC) team facilitator within the same district. IC is a structured and collaborative problem-solving process designed to increase teacher and student performance.
Susan earned a Master of Science degree in speech-language pathology from the University of Washington. While pursuing graduate studies at UW, Susan was a research assistant in the child development lab, where she contributed to the growing body of knowledge specifying the developmental sequence of speech and language skills in children ages 0-3. After graduating from UW, Susan became an SLP in a Seattle-area school district.
Prior to becoming an educator, Susan was a professional actress, singer, and dancer. After earning a bachelor in fine arts degree in acting from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1989, she moved to New York City to pursue an acting career. She appeared in commercials, on a soap opera, and in leading roles at professional theatres nationwide. Susan’s incredibly supportive husband and three sons have inspired her to reach further than she thought possible, both within herself and out in the world.
STACEY SHARPE MOLLISON
Our students are our best teachers. This known fact among educators has been a guiding force during more than 21 years of teaching for Stacey Sharpe Mollison. Stacey has been teaching in the same public school district in southeastern Michigan since graduating from Michigan State University, where she earned her degree in elementary education. Discovering from her earliest students (and teachers) that reading in all content areas in elementary school is a top priority, she pursued and completed a master’s degree in the art of teaching (MAT) with a reading focus from Oakland University. Stacey has taught and learned from hundreds of first-, second-, third- and fourth-grade students.
After eight years of teaching, Stacey encountered her most influential teachers yet — her children MacKenzie and Mitchell. Stacey and her husband Scot watched MacKenzie, their first born, grow and learn by soaking up everything around her. It became clear early on that their little girl had a strong linguistic (language) intelligence as she sat for hours “reading” books — first by looking, then memorizing, then retelling them all before she could read any words. MacKenzie learned the corresponding sound to each letter and learned quickly to put the sounds together to form words. She began to read.
Thanks to all the books in her home, MacKenzie had an extensive vocabulary and loved anything that had to do with gaining more information. By watching her daughter, Stacey learned a great deal about how kids learn to read. She also learned how critical parents are to this process by watching her husband, who does not have a teaching degree, play with their daughter. With much creativity, Scot integrated learning into each game he played with MacKenzie.
Just when Stacey thought she had learned it all, Mitchell arrived. Mitchell’s path to language and reading was different from MacKenzie’s. He was a lot more physical and learned more through social interactions and play. Mitch learned best by “doing”. Engagement and experiences with a variety of places and people provided him with learning opportunities where he would really shine. But Mitchell is still a strong reader with a broad vocabulary due to extensive, conscious interactions at home, speech therapy, and an outstanding elementary school experience.
By talking with speech therapists and other early elementary teachers, as well as observing the language progress of MacKenzie and Mitchell, Stacey saw first hand, the link between language and literacy. She became determined to share this knowledge with other parents so they were armed to help their own children’s development.
Diane Hanaway began teaching in 1990 after working in the accounting division of a family business. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Eastern Michigan University and a Master of Arts degree at Wayne State University.
Diane was the recipient of the Outstanding Elementary Teacher of the Year Award in the Farmington Public Schools District in 2003. She also received the Firefly Award for outstanding leadership focusing on introducing design thinking, technological systems, and interdisciplinary units of study to encourage problem-solving experiences for children.
Because of her interest in providing innovative learning opportunities for students, Diane was the co-chair of the School Improvement/North Central Association Transitions, working extensively to create a comprehensive school profile to establish school-wide goals. As the national field of education focused upon the tremendous power of modeling strategies and behaviors for children, she developed a strong literacy program for all students. She held workshops on writing and developed a program that created a growing interest in reading among elementary students. As part of her community involvement, Diane is currently president of the Beta Eta Chapter of the Delta Kappa Gamma Professional Sorority International for Key Women Educators.
Diane understood the power of the “Language Dance” and instilled her love of literacy to her daughter Lindsay at an early age. They interacted throughout their daily routine by playing, talking, and reading. As a result, Lindsay had an advanced vocabulary from the age of one and has been an avid reader throughout her life. Lindsay graduated from the University of Michigan and practices law.