2023 Teacher & Librarian Scholarships

We are thrilled to recognize a group of individuals who are making positive impacts on readers in their communities. We’re delighted to offer these talented educators and librarians full scholarships to our 40th annual Seminar, “Singing America: A Celebration of Black Literature.” We hope and believe that participation in our vibrant literary community inspires fresh engagement with literature in schools and libraries around the country.

Thank you to all who applied, and congratulations to this year’s outstanding teacher librarian scholarship recipients!


Celine Aenlle-Rocha is a lecturer in undergraduate writing at Columbia University where she earned an MFA degree in creative writing. Her pedagogy is shaped by linguistic and racial justice, combining her dedication to engaging students with critical texts that reflect the world we live in with her determination to create a collaborative space where students can learn and grow on their own terms.


Sarah Chaves is a Portuguese-American educator and writer based in Boston. She has served Revere High School for more than a decade, teaching freshman English Language Arts and drama electives such as Theater Arts and Playwriting. She is excited to take on her newest role as a restorative practices interventionist where she’ll be able to provide struggling students the space and support they need to succeed.


Celeste McNeil Clark is a founding teacher of KIPP STRIVE Academy in Atlanta, where she currently serves as literacy coordinator, coaching teachers and conducting literacy initiatives. From orchestrating poetry slams, publishing student work in collaboration with local writers, coaching the school’s Reading Bowl team, and teaching creative writing in a coal bin basement turned writer’s vault, she has enjoyed fifteen years with hundreds of amazing young scholars.


Natasha Drax is a media librarian for the Long Beach Public Library in New York. She strives to inspire everyone with her love of literacy, and she aims to engage in meaningful dialogue to make the world a better place, one day at a time. She enjoys reading debut novels and short story collections from the Caribbean diaspora.


Isabel M. Duque has worked in education for fifteen years—as a research librarian (both academic and public) and as a teacher in Miami-Dade County public schools (English literature and creative writing). Her library programming strives to create a holding place for students and faculty to practice creative pedagogy and to build inclusive narratives in higher education in the shape of themed dialogue circles, poetry workshops, yoga, and the Human Library.


Jina DuVernay is a proud librarian. She actively contributes to a number of committees and initiatives that help advance the profession, especially as it relates to African Americans. She strives to positively impact her community with her work. She is currently a full-time doctoral student in humanities at Clark Atlanta University.


Aaisha Haykal is manager of archival services at the College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture. In her work, she assures the repository accessions materials fit their collection development goals of promoting Black Lowcountry community history and preserving the history and records of Black communities. She also instructs students about how archival records can be used to research underrepresented histories.


Kathie Klarreich has focused on the power of the written word in various ways for more than thirty-five years. She is a career journalist and founder and executive director of Exchange for Change, a nonprofit organization that teaches writing to inmates at Florida state prisons and Miami-Dade County jails. Her current work has allowed more than 2,000 incarcerated students to improve their writing skills, allowing their voices to reach the free world.


Sheri Lutz is a seventh grade teacher at Horace O’Bryant School in Key West, Florida. Originally from Pennsylvania, she has been teaching literature and English language arts for thirteen years and has reached a diverse population of students. She is passionate about setting her students up for success so they can become the best versions of themselves as possible.


Brande N. McCleese is an English professor dedicated to improving the literary imprint of the historically black college and university (HBCU) where she teaches. She is responsible for relaunching the university’s literary magazine and is faculty editor for that and the student-led newspaper. She can be found around campus recruiting students for both publications and working to re-establish a blog for the English department.


Vida Owusu-Boateng is an assistant professor in the Division of Arts and Letters at Governors State University where she teaches World/Postcolonial Literature with an emphasis on anglophone, Black, and African diasporic literature. She is actively involved in developing a Black Studies program in her division. Her main research interest is twentieth- and twenty-first-century African and African diasporic literature.


Casey Petty is a middle school social studies teacher from Medford, Oregon, who strives to create a classroom environment of high rigor and engagement where all students belong. At Kids Unlimited Academy, he empowers his students to reach their full potential through opportunities to read, think, write, and discuss ideas and perspectives they can resonate with or grow from.


Jessica Porter loves being the media and educational technology instructor at Woodland Elementary School in Sandy Springs, Georgia. She believes stories are the best way to cultivate empathy and inspire positive change because we all have the power to impact the world through the stories we share and the words we choose to hear. It is her hope to use the power of representation through shared stories as a catalyst for change within her community.


Ashley Rose is a Haitian-American multi-disciplinary artist from Boston. She serves as a race and restorative justice specialist at Suffolk University where she utilizes circle practice, writing, and courageous conversations to eliminate inequities within the university and surrounding community. She will take her experiences at the Seminar back to the university to support its Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Initiative.


Tenley Sablatzky has been the medical librarian for the Undergraduate Medical Academy at Prairie View University since 2020. Prior to that appointment, she interned at the Raymond W. Fox Law Library at the Kalamazoo Public Library and the library at Air Zoo Aerospace and Science Museum while completing her Master of Library and Information Science degree at Wayne State University.


Lola Shelton-Council is interim library executive director for Live Oak Public Libraries, a system of sixteen branches serving three counties headquartered in Savannah, Georgia. She has more than twenty years experience in library management at a variety of locations, including Trails Regional Library in Missouri, the Public Library Albuquerque and Bernalillo County in New Mexico, Cecil County Public Library in Maryland, and Christina School District in Delaware.


Jen Stastny has taught ninth through twelfth-grade English, Holocaust literature, and International Baccalaureate Literature at Omaha Central High School since 1998. She is a codirector of the Nebraska Writing Project and facilitates the Nebraska Warrior Writers workshop for veterans and military personnel in Omaha. She believes people should have the opportunity to read books that speak to them.


Kristin Taylor began her teaching career in Connecticut public schools in 1997. She moved to Los Angeles in 2005 and has taught English and journalism for seventeen years at the Archer School for Girls. She serves as the national Scholastic Press Rights Director for the Journalism Education Association (JEA). She can often be found standing on a soapbox denouncing censorship and defending students’ rights to read, report, and write about the breadth of the human experience.


Shaelan Turnipseed is the literacy coach at Merriam Cherry Street Elementary School in Panama City, Florida. Her goal for the community is to promote high expectations for all students through the implementation of twenty-first century skills that will prepare them for the future. She believes every child deserves the opportunity to demonstrate mastery through academics and character education by engaging with high quality texts and instruction.


Raysa Villalona is an ESL teacher in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City, where she spends her days teaching, interpreting, and translating. She’s an avid reader and has been journaling since before she knew how to write. She is passionate about her girlhood spent in Washington Heights and is working on a collection of essays.

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