Meet the Faculty

Janaki Natarajan, Co-Director

Janaki Natarajan is the founder and co-director of the Spark Teacher Education Institute. She has a Doctorate in Sociology of Education from Harvard. Janaki is also the Director of Bapagrama Educational Center in Bangalore, India which was founded by her parents and has primarily served the Dalit community since 1949. 

Mikaela Simms

Mikaela Simms is the co-director of the Spark Teacher Education Institute . She is a social justice educator in Southern Vermont. Mikaela also works with Indigo Radio and co-hosts In The Company of Black Women. She has been in education for over two decades and has worked in schools in East Palo Alto, California and Guinea, West Africa.

Nicole Awwad

Nicole Awwad is a high school Academic Resource teacher. She is a graduate of the Spark program and holds an MA in Sustainable Development from the School of International Training. She has four years experience working with local NGOs as a grant writer and communications manager. As a teacher, critical analysis of the world informs her practice. By inviting student experience into the classroom she works to elicit meaningful connection and build content knowledge and understanding.

Kelly Junno

Kelly Junno is a third grade public school teacher in Northampton, Massachusetts. She has worked in schools for eight years including five years as a classroom teacher. She has a bachelors degree in literary studies from Beloit College and a Masters in Teaching for Social Justice, K-12 from Marlboro College. She teaches Human Development and Elementary Methods.

Nina Kunimoto

Nina Kunimoto is a doctoral student in Urban Education, Leadership and Policy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Her area of research is social justice teacher preparation programs. She is also a Spark alum. She teaches Global Social Problems and Race, Class and Gender at the Community College of Vermont. Her teaching experience includes secondary social studies. She has taught internationally in Japan, India and in refugee camps in Thailand.

Maresa Nielson

Maresa Nielson is a second grade public school teacher in Springfield, Vermont.  She has over ten years of teaching experience in pre-K through fourth grade classrooms, including eight years as lead classroom teacher.  Maresa has a Masters in Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management from the School for International Training, as well as a Masters in Teaching for Social Justice, K-12.  Included in her educational experiences are teaching first grade in Kampala, Uganda, as well as studying culture and society in Botswana.  She is also a community organizer in Springfield, Vermont.  Maresa teaches mainly in the Human Development, Organizational Structures, and Elementary Methods modules of the Spark Teacher Education Program.

Becca Polk

Becca Polk is a middle school social studies teacher in Springfield, VT. She is active in equity work, community organizing, and community gardens. She is a Spark alum and has a Masters in Conflict Transformation and Masters in Teaching for Social Justice, K-12 from Marlboro Graduate School. Becca mainly teaches in the Pedagogy, Humanities Methods seminars and the professional development Teaching in Solidarity with Black Lives.

Anna Mullany

Anna Mullany is a doctoral student in Public Health at the University of MA, Amherst. The focus of her work is around the political economy of health, rural poverty, and gender violence. She teaches undergraduates within the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at UMASS Amherst. Anna also works as a research assistant with Men of Color Health Awareness (MOCHA) in Springfield, MA and is a host with Indigo Radio on Brattleboro Community Radio.