Meet the 2017 Fellows

“Teaching has been my passion since I began in 2006.”

Kandace McDonald

Kandace McDonald is a new ATC teacher from Blytheville, Arkansas. She graduated Cum Laude from Philander Smith College with her Bachelor of Arts in English. Kandace will be teaching English at Blytheville High School in the fall.

Education has always been at the center of Kandace’s professional life. Prior to being an ATC teacher, she has worked as a:

  • Ninth Grade English Teacher,
  • HIPPY Coordinator, helping parents prepare their children for preschool and beyond,
  • ABC Preschool Teacher, and
  • English Tutor

During her time as a student at Philander Smith College, Kandace was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She was an active member of this organization and took on various leadership responsibilities such as organizing annual toy, food, and clothing drives. She also participated in the “Bless The Mic Street Team,” a club dedicated to helping students develop their voice as public speakers and leaders.

Kandace believes that her empathy, willing spirit, and familiarity with local resources will enable her to help meet the needs of her students and their families. To be an effective teacher, Kandace works to create strong bonds with not only her students, but also their parents and the entire community.


“I believe that it is the essential task put forth to all teachers to be someone that children can rely on and feel safe around.”

Ben Vernosky

Ben Vernosky is a new ATC teacher from Valparaiso, Indiana who is interesting in teaching High School Math, Science, or Social Studies. Ben graduated from Purdue University where he majored in General Education.  

Ben has experience working with children as:

  • A member of SEED (Students in Education Enhancing Diversity) at Purdue, a program in which he helped children in areas around Purdue,
  • A volunteer at local schools helping with after-school enrichment programs,
  • A camp counselor, and
  • A substitute teacher for his local school districts.

Ben is excited to create positive relationships with each of his students and their families, as well as to create a safe learning environment that fosters growth in all individuals. He believes that a teacher is supposed to be a leader and a role model inside and outside the school environment.



Laren’s Grandchildren“Science and math do not have to be scary subjects. Science is all around us and bringing chemistry and math to everyday activities is my goal.”

Laren Childers

Laren Childers, a new ATC teacher from Bartlesville, Oklahoma, holds a Bachelor Degree from the University of Oklahoma, and a Master’s Degree from Texas A&M. He is a retired Chemical Engineer and he recently completed a five year overseas assignment. He has worked as a scientist and engineer for 30+ years.

Among other successes he achieved during his years as a scientist and engineer, Laren:

  • Managed a major construction project in Saudi Arabia,
  • Scoped, designed and constructed more than 50 capital projects,
  • Started a new technology center supporting 17 production units, and
  • Received a U.S. Patent based on research performed at the Freeport Texas site.

Laren has always wanted to teach high school. In ATC, Laren saw the opportunity to work within education towards the “noble cause of social justice.” Laren says he is looking forward to getting to know his students and showing them that math and science can be fun, interesting and exciting. Laren will be teaching math at Dermott High School in the fall.




“As a teacher, I will have further opportunities to do what I enjoy most, making a positive impact on one’s life.”

Neisha Griffin

Neisha Griffin is a new ATC teacher from Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Neisha graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello with a Bachelor of Arts and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a Master of Education. Neisha will be teaching Art at Anna Strong in the fall.

For five years, Neisha worked as a child care provider and a private tutor. As a tutor, Neisha:

  • Planned individual learning activities,
  • Generated and administered individualized assessments, and
  • Recorded observational notes of each child’s progress for the parents.

Neisha was also a K-5 substitute teacher in the Little Rock area.

Having been a substitute teacher, Neisha has witnessed the physical and emotional needs of the children in the areas ATC serves. Neisha has learned to “appreciate and embrace the opportunities to better the lives of others,”


tyler“I’ve always wanted to join a profession where I felt like I was giving back,”

Tyler Swanson

Tyler Swanson graduated from the University of Arkansas in May of 2017 with a Bachelors of Arts in Criminal Justice. Tyler will be teaching Math at Palestine High School.

Tyler has worked at J.B. Hunt and Tyson as a dispatcher. He also volunteered and interned at a sheriff’s department working alongside jailers, civil processors, and sergeants.

Tyler learned of the ATC opportunity from a presentation in one of his University classes and it immediately sparked his interest in becoming a teacher. Tyler saw “an opportunity to give back to my state and help educate the youth, while also growing as a person.” He is excited about the impact he will have on his students. His goals are to improve on his leadership, communication, and relationship skills.



“I want to be able to open the door for these students to get the education they deserve.

Tahmid Shantanu

Tahmid Shantanu is a multilingual ATC teacher from Dhaka, Bangladesh. He graduated from Arkansas Tech University with a Bachelor in Sociology. Tahmid will be teaching math at Hope in the fall.

At Arkansas Tech, Tahmid was:

  • A Resident Assistant,
  • A Student Ambassador for the International Multicultural Student Services Office,
  • An Arkansas Tech summer Orientation Leader/Student Ambassador for incoming freshmen,
  • A sociology, psychology, anthropology, history, and English tutor,
  • A member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity,
  • A member of Because We Can (a non-profit student organization at Tech that tackles social issues in the community and encourages the student body to get involved),
  • President of the Tech Soccer Club,
  • A founder and member of the International Student Organization at Tech.

During his last three spring semesters, Tahmid was co-director of TopSoccer, a program geared towards helping children with special needs to learn how to play soccer.

2017 Cohort:

Aaron Wood

Addie Pittman

Arzoo Parbatani

Audrey Parker

Ben Muller

Bernard Smith

Breanna Franklin

Clifford McLeod

Dedrick Cross

Emily Ferrington

Henry Sallee

Jessica Rayner

Jill Carlson

Josiah Simpson

Kader Gray

Kallie Simmons

Kelsey Gourd

Kerri Lee

Kyle Marshall

Moriah Houser

Romerse Biddle

Ron Pense

Ryan Acker Lewis

Sarah Sabin

Shane Gosselink

Tanessa Robinson

Tiffany Roster

Vanessa Jefferson