Board of Directors

From across the country, we help to promote PEN’s message and progressive education. We love what we do and who we get to work with.

Current Board

Azizi Williams

Azizi Williams attended the University of California, Berkeley for undergrad as a California Youth Leadership Scholar. At Berkeley, Azizi earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology while working as a teacher at the Harold E. Jones Child Study Center and discovered her passion for creating learning environments to support children’s thriving.
Azizi took a position in 2004 teaching elementary school before transitioning to assistant head of school at Sequoyah School in Pasadena, California. As assistant head of school, Azizi oversaw admissions, curriculum development, student support, and diversity equity and inclusion work. She helped the school transition from a K-8 to a K-12 institution. Azizi received a Master of Arts in educational leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University in May 2017. In 2020, Azizi was hired to be the Head of School at Children’s Community School- only the second person to lead the school in its 40-year history. Azizi actively participates in the community beyond her own school campus: she serves on the boards of Wildwood School, The Independent School Alliance for Minority Affairs, and Southern California People of Color in Independent Schools. Azizi resides in Pasadena, Ca with her husband and two daughters and enjoys creating a weekly podcast about happiness with her sister in her spare time.

Azizi Williams

Azizi Williams attended the University of California, Berkeley for undergrad as a California Youth Leadership Scholar. At Berkeley, Azizi earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology while working as a teacher at the Harold E. Jones Child Study Center and discovered her passion for creating learning environments to support children’s thriving.
Azizi took a position in 2004 teaching elementary school before transitioning to assistant head of school at Sequoyah School in Pasadena, California. As assistant head of school, Azizi oversaw admissions, curriculum development, student support, and diversity equity and inclusion work. She helped the school transition from a K-8 to a K-12 institution. Azizi received a Master of Arts in educational leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University in May 2017. In 2020, Azizi was hired to be the Head of School at Children’s Community School- only the second person to lead the school in its 40-year history. Azizi actively participates in the community beyond her own school campus: she serves on the boards of Wildwood School, The Independent School Alliance for Minority Affairs, and Southern California People of Color in Independent Schools. Azizi resides in Pasadena, Ca with her husband and two daughters and enjoys creating a weekly podcast about happiness with her sister in her spare time.

Kavan Yee

Kavan earned his BS in biology from North Park College and his MEd in educational leadership from the National College of Education at National-Louis University. Before arriving to Lowell School (Washington, D.C.) in 2010, he taught at the Carleton W. Washburne School in Winnetka, IL and the John G. Shedd Aquarium, in Chicago. At Lowell, he has served in a variety of roles, including Middle School science teacher, science curriculum coordinator, and director of Middle School student life. In 2013, he was selected by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Education to blog his observations of the Finnish school system. Throughout his career, Kavan has been a student and an advocate for progressive practices in both public and independent schools. He became Lowell’s director of Middle School in 2015. Kavan spends most his time afterschool enjoying a glass of wine or walking his dog, Ruth Bader Ginsbark, with his daughter. Kavan has served on many National Conference committees, and is the Vice President of the PEN Board. 

 

Kavan Yee

Kavan earned his BS in biology from North Park College and his MEd in educational leadership from the National College of Education at National-Louis University. Before arriving to Lowell School (Washington, D.C.) in 2010, he taught at the Carleton W. Washburne School in Winnetka, IL and the John G. Shedd Aquarium, in Chicago. At Lowell, he has served in a variety of roles, including Middle School science teacher, science curriculum coordinator, and director of Middle School student life. In 2013, he was selected by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Education to blog his observations of the Finnish school system. Throughout his career, Kavan has been a student and an advocate for progressive practices in both public and independent schools. He became Lowell’s director of Middle School in 2015. Kavan spends most his time afterschool enjoying a glass of wine or walking his dog, Ruth Bader Ginsbark, with his daughter. Kavan has served on many National Conference committees, and is the Vice President of the PEN Board. 

 

Sung-Joon (Sunny) Pai

Sung-Joon (Sunny) Pai began his career as a student teacher at the Fenway High School in 1998. The following year, he became a founding faculty member teaching science at the Boston Arts Academy (BAA). In 2005, Sunny was hired as the founding principal at the Media Communications Technology High School. After a year of world travel in 2010, Sunny became an administrator at Charlestown High School, where he first worked as Director of the Diploma Plus (DP) Programs, serving students in need of alternative education, and then held schoolwide roles including Chief of Staff until 2021.  Currently, Sunny is at Hale Education, a non-profit on 1,100+ acres of forests, ponds, and meadows outside of Boston.  At Hale, Sunny works primarily with the Perrone-Sizer Institute for Creative Leadership, training aspiring school leaders. Sunny holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard Graduate School or Education, UMass-Boston.  Recently, Sunny won the Lawrence W. O’Toole Award and was recognized in 2016 by the Boston Globe as a Bostonian of the Year. Sunny completed a two-year term as President of the PEN Board of Directors in 2023, and now serves as Treasurer.

Sung-Joon (Sunny) Pai

Sung-Joon (Sunny) Pai began his career as a student teacher at the Fenway High School in 1998. The following year, he became a founding faculty member teaching science at the Boston Arts Academy (BAA). In 2005, Sunny was hired as the founding principal at the Media Communications Technology High School. After a year of world travel in 2010, Sunny became an administrator at Charlestown High School, where he first worked as Director of the Diploma Plus (DP) Programs, serving students in need of alternative education, and then held schoolwide roles including Chief of Staff until 2021.  Currently, Sunny is at Hale Education, a non-profit on 1,100+ acres of forests, ponds, and meadows outside of Boston.  At Hale, Sunny works primarily with the Perrone-Sizer Institute for Creative Leadership, training aspiring school leaders. Sunny holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard Graduate School or Education, UMass-Boston.  Recently, Sunny won the Lawrence W. O’Toole Award and was recognized in 2016 by the Boston Globe as a Bostonian of the Year. Sunny completed a two-year term as President of the PEN Board of Directors in 2023, and now serves as Treasurer.

Andrew Williams

Andrew Williams is a classroom teacher at Wickliffe Progressive Elementary School in Upper Arlington, Ohio, and he is one of the co- chairs of the 2024 National Conference.  As a teacher in a progressive public school he has had the opportunity to grow and explore learning with (and from) children and to engage in dialogue about how to do so in an age of high-stakes testing.  Inspired by strong, progressive educators, Andrew has explored pedagogy and praxis through NIPEN, PEN National Conferences, local Reggio study groups, and regular conversation with local and national progressive leaders.  He is a proud graduate of the University of Montana in Missoula and is most happy to be in nature and exploring new places around the world.

Rinaldi and Moss say, “…learning is a process of constructing, testing and reconstructing theories, constantly creating new knowledge.”  Progressive educators support students in co-creating and using that knowledge to critically examine the world and affect change.

Andrew Williams

Andrew Williams is a classroom teacher at Wickliffe Progressive Elementary School in Upper Arlington, Ohio, and he is one of the co- chairs of the 2024 National Conference.  As a teacher in a progressive public school he has had the opportunity to grow and explore learning with (and from) children and to engage in dialogue about how to do so in an age of high-stakes testing.  Inspired by strong, progressive educators, Andrew has explored pedagogy and praxis through NIPEN, PEN National Conferences, local Reggio study groups, and regular conversation with local and national progressive leaders.  He is a proud graduate of the University of Montana in Missoula and is most happy to be in nature and exploring new places around the world.

Jaime Danen

Jaime Danen is a literacy and equity and inclusion coordinator at Notre Dame Academy High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin. She is a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Teacher Fellow and facilitates workshops for teachers and future teachers on Holocaust and genocide studies. She also works locally delivering leadership coaching and diversity training for principals, administrators, staff and students.

She loves watching students find happiness with who they are and confidence in what they can do.  She knows that every kid has a book they will love and can always do way more than we expect.

She most enjoys spending time with her two girls, watching them in sporting events or traveling and experiencing new things together with her family. 

Jaime Danen

Jaime Danen is a literacy and equity and inclusion coordinator at Notre Dame Academy High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin. She is a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Teacher Fellow and facilitates workshops for teachers and future teachers on Holocaust and genocide studies. She also works locally delivering leadership coaching and diversity training for principals, administrators, staff and students.

She loves watching students find happiness with who they are and confidence in what they can do.  She knows that every kid has a book they will love and can always do way more than we expect.

She most enjoys spending time with her two girls, watching them in sporting events or traveling and experiencing new things together with her family. 

Tracy Drummer-Aiden

Tracy has been teaching young children in Progressive Schools for 22 years.

Tracy holds a BS in Law Enforcement and Sociology from Western Illinois University, a MS in counseling from National-Louis University and a MAT from National-Louis University.

Before arriving to University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in 2018, she taught at Baker Demonstration School, in Wilmette, IL for 13 years and School for Little Children in Evanston, IL for 4 years.

At the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, Tracy is currently a N-K teacher. The energy in her classroom is not just representative of her life as a Black woman, but also as a progressive educator, ally and social justice advocate.  Tracy creates spaces where children can begin to grow their abilities to be more empathetic and become confident and competent in using their voices to advocate for themselves and others by questioning systems that prevent marginalized folks from obtaining equity and justice.  Through this teaching it is her dream that her students will realize that the culture they create now can be one which gives everyone the fair chance to prosper. Tracy believes that starting small and starting young is key to creating future citizens that will go on to repair the world.

Tracy joined the PEN Board in 2021, and currently serves as secretary.

Tracy Drummer-Aiden

Tracy has been teaching young children in Progressive Schools for 22 years.

Tracy holds a BS in Law Enforcement and Sociology from Western Illinois University, a MS in counseling from National-Louis University and a MAT from National-Louis University.

Before arriving to University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in 2018, she taught at Baker Demonstration School, in Wilmette, IL for 13 years and School for Little Children in Evanston, IL for 4 years.

At the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, Tracy is currently a N-K teacher. The energy in her classroom is not just representative of her life as a Black woman, but also as a progressive educator, ally and social justice advocate.  Tracy creates spaces where children can begin to grow their abilities to be more empathetic and become confident and competent in using their voices to advocate for themselves and others by questioning systems that prevent marginalized folks from obtaining equity and justice.  Through this teaching it is her dream that her students will realize that the culture they create now can be one which gives everyone the fair chance to prosper. Tracy believes that starting small and starting young is key to creating future citizens that will go on to repair the world.

Tracy joined the PEN Board in 2021, and currently serves as secretary.

Photo of Chris Thinnes, Board Member of PEN

Chris Thinnes

Chris Thinnes is a former English teacher, a veteran independent school leader, an active collaborator with educators and activists from the public and private sectors, and a consultant and facilitator with a variety of schools and organizations. Chris joined the PEN Board of Directors in 2016, after serving on the local planning committee for the 2013 PEN National Conference in Los Angeles. In the past he has served on NAIS’s advisory council on diversity (‘Call to Action,’), was named one of Carney Sandoe’s “8 Thought Leaders to Follow Now,” and was featured as a panelist for the ASCD Whole Child Town Hall. His writing about education issues has appeared in GOOD, Living in Dialogue, and Independent School Magazine.

“I’m a proud progressive educator because, as Carla Rinaldi reminds us, ‘we must not forget how closely the school is connected to the society in which it is situated.’”

Photo of Chris Thinnes, Board Member of PEN

Chris Thinnes

Chris Thinnes is a former English teacher, a veteran independent school leader, an active collaborator with educators and activists from the public and private sectors, and a consultant and facilitator with a variety of schools and organizations. Chris joined the PEN Board of Directors in 2016, after serving on the local planning committee for the 2013 PEN National Conference in Los Angeles. In the past he has served on NAIS’s advisory council on diversity (‘Call to Action,’), was named one of Carney Sandoe’s “8 Thought Leaders to Follow Now,” and was featured as a panelist for the ASCD Whole Child Town Hall. His writing about education issues has appeared in GOOD, Living in Dialogue, and Independent School Magazine.

Emeritus Members

Theresa Collins

Theresa Squires Collins has led learning in a variety of schools, including Baker Demonstration School, St. Paul Academy and Summit School, The Francis W. Parker School, Evanston Township High School and Northwestern University. She joined the PEN Board of Directors in 2012, after serving on the planning committee for the 2011 PEN National Conference. Theresa, along with colleague Sven Carlsson, is co- director of the National Institute of PEN (NIPEN); she is also the new Program Director for PEN.

Ayla Gavins

At 18, Ayla Gavins left the small town life of a Pennsylvania suburb and moved to Boston to attend Boston University’s School of Education. Upon graduation she began five years of teaching in the Wayland Public Schools system. Following Wayland she taught in Newton for one year and finally in the Boston Public Schools. She taught ages 7-14 in the Boston Public School district for 6 years at Mission Hill School. Under the guidance of Deborah Meier she received her school administrative license from the Principal Residency Network. Ayla joined the board in 2014, and after 6 years of service, became a member emerita.

Dan Schwartz

Dan Schwartz is the Head of School at Blue Oak School, in Napa, CA. He has been a public and independent school administrator and educator for over 30 years. Dan is keenly interested in the relationship between progressive education and school leadership. Dan’s educational leadership philosophy is rooted in connecting people, purpose, practice, and passion. He believes that progressive education helps to foster students and teachers who think deeply, act courageously, learn passionately, and explore creatively. Dan served on the 2011 Steering Committee for PEN Chicago, and he coordinated registration for PEN 2013 in LA; he co-directed the National Institute of PEN from 2013-2016. He has also served on the Boards of the North Dakota Study Group and Erika’s Lighthouse; and was Co-Director of the Progressive Heads Group of the Independent Schools Association of the Central States. He has published articles in educational journals and given presentations at many organizational conferences including AERA, ASCD, PEN, ISACS, NDSG, International Network of Principals’ Centers, and the Museum Educators’ Roundtable.

Michèle Solá

Michèle Solá was originally a Spanish teacher and is now Director of Manhattan Country School. In her 20th year as Director, MCS has renewed its commitment to progressive education, access to a racially and economically diverse student body through a sliding-scale tuition system, sustainability and stewardship, and social and environmental justice in the neighborhoods of New York City and on a working farm in the Catskills. A lifelong advocate for progressive education in diverse communities, Michèle previously worked with migrant farmworkers in Indiana, bilingual preschools in Boston, and communities in transition in Nicaragua and Peru. She joined the PEN Board in 2012 and is pleased that Manhattan Country School inaugurated its 50th anniversary by hosting the PEN 2015 conference, “Access, Equity, and Activism: Teaching the Possible,” with over two dozen other public and private schools.

Maureen Cheever

Maureen is currently the Senior Director of Professional Learning for the Illinois Principals Association, for which she coordinates all the online Administrator Academies (annual continuing education). Previously, she taught graduate teacher leadership courses at Northwestern University (IL) after having served as a principal for 21 years and a teacher for 10 years. She is proud to be one of PEN’s founding members, a past president of PEN, and a creator and past facilitator of NIPEN.

John L. Pecore

John is an Associate Professor in the Department of Teacher Education and Educational Leadership at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, Florida. He also serves as Assistant Director for Science Education and Evaluation of Program Development and Assessment at the Institute for Biomedical Philosophy. His scholarly interests include situating learning in contextualized experiences with an emphasis in project-based learning and instruction.  He serves on several professional societies, advisory boards, and editorial boards including Schools: Studies in Education and International Journal of Progressive Education. John contributed as a section editor for chapters in the Intentional Handbook of Progressive Education. He is a founding member of the PEN board and served as treasurer.

PEN Board of Directors

(clockwise from L: Sunny Pai, Theresa Collins, Dan Schwartz, Sven Carlsson, Kavan Yee, Chris Collaros, Chris Thinnes, Ayla Gavins, Heather Schilling