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Alumnus Spotlight: Rachel Tommelleo

Mercy College alumna Rachel Tommelleo was awarded a 2018 Milken Educator Award and $25,000 cash prize. Rachel earned her Master's in Elementary Education from Mercy in 2006.
Tommelleo is the Principal at Center City Public Charter Schools' Brightwood Camps in Washington, D.C., where she creates a strong, positive school culture, ensuring every student has a support system with her "Brightwood Families" program. These inter-grade groups meet every four to six weeks for get-to-know-you activities and service projects, giving older students leadership opportunities to mentor younger students.
The Milken Educator Awards were conceived by the Milken Family Foundation to attract, retain and motivate outstanding talent to the teaching profession. It is the nation's preeminent teacher recognition program, hailed as the "Oscars of Teaching" by Teacher magazine. For more than three decades, the Milken Family Foundation has devoted over $135 million in funding to the Milken Educator Awards, including $68 million in individual Awards to more than 2,700 recipients, plus powerful professional learning and networking opportunities with leading education stakeholders.
Tommelleo is one of up to 40 recipients of the Milken Family Foundation's Award for this school year and is the only educator from D.C. to receive the award.

Alumni Spotlight

Alumnus Spotlight: Meisha Ross-Porter

Meisha Ross-Porter, M.S. '03 currently serves as the Bronx Executive Superintendent where she is deeply invested in deepening school leaders equity lens and building collaborative practices across schools. Prior to taking the helm as the Bronx Executive Superintendent Meisha served as Superintendent for Community School District #11 and Principal of The Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice (LGJ). During her tenure at LGJ, Meisha served as Community Coordinator, Internship Coordinator, and taught English before becoming an Assistant Principal and then taking the helm as Principal in 2004. Having worked her way up through the ranks, she is exceedingly aware of the challenges city schools face and has dedicated her life to improving the learning environment for all students. Meisha also believes that if school leaders, teachers and parents focus on empowering students to achieve their unique individual potential they will be prepared to meet the demands of the 21st century.

Born in 1973 in Far Rockaway and raised in Jamaica, Queens, Meisha Ross-Porter began her life just as her students do. A product of the New York City Public Schools, she graduated from Queens Vocational and Technical High School and went on to receive her Bachelor of Arts in English concentrating in Cross Cultural Literature and Black and Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College. She later received her Master’s Degree in Administration and Supervision from Mercy College and completed her School District Leader certification through the NYC Advanced Leadership Institute and is currently pursuing her EdD at Fordham University. Meisha lives in the Bronx with her husband Norris Porter, her a daughter Jordyn and honored daughters Deshauna Lakara and Jydin.

Alumnus Spotlight: Melissa White

Mercy College Alumna Melissa White '07 was named a Perkins Scholar by Today’s Students Tomorrow’s Teachers (TSTT) for reaching the milestone of teaching for 10 years. She and five other educators — all TSTT alumni — were presented with Perkins Scholar Golden Apple Awards at TSTT’s Recognition Brunch at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Tarrytown on May 24, 2018. This annual event honors education leaders, dedicated teachers and future educators for their accomplishments across the year.

TSTT is a nonprofit that mentors and trains culturally diverse and economically challenged students in order to help them become effective, committed teachers who strengthen schools and communities. The program was designed to address the growing shortage of teachers, specifically teachers of color. Only 13 percent of America’s teachers are teachers of color, even though 45 percent of all public school students are students of color.

More than 180 guests attended the Recognition Brunch, including government officials, prominent educators, supporters and current and future teachers. Both Westchester Legislator Alfreda Williams and New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa spoke about the critical role TSTT plays in diversifying the teacher workforce.

Serving others is one of Mercy’s deepest values, and we are proud of White’s dedication to her students.

Alumnus Spotlight: Jason Skeeter

It’s not every day that a former student contacts a professor to thank them for being a great teacher. But late last summer 2018, Jason Skeeter, M.S. ’17, Ph.D., reached out to Esther Wermuth, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership in the School of Education, to share his good news. Thanks to her skillful mentorship and encouragement, Skeeter had earned his doctorate in executive leadership.
“I was pleased although not surprised to hear from Jason, because he’d always been a superb student,” said Wermuth. “What surprised me was how soon he accomplished his goal. He entered the Ph.D. program less than a week after I’d suggested he’d be a great candidate.”
Armed with a bachelor’s in business economics and a master’s in education, Skeeter was teaching math at The Equity Project Charter School in Manhattan. His innovative ideas and knack for inspiring students were turning heads. Hoping to spread his positive influence to a greater number of students, Skeeter enrolled in Mercy’s educational leadership program, earning his Master’s in School Building Leadership and an advanced certificate in School District Leadership.
There he met Professor Wermuth, who recognized his passion for teaching and encouraged his development. In 2017, just before his graduation from Mercy, she took Skeeter aside for one last piece of advice. “I told him to consider earning a doctoral degree,” she recalled. “Even though it would require sacrifices, I felt he had the potential to help thousands of students as an effective leader of schools and teachers.”
Propelled by Wermuth’s glowing recommendation, Skeeter took the leap. He started his Ph.D. studies at Saint John Fisher College within days of his Mercy graduation, and by August of 2019, Skeeter had his doctorate. One of the first people he told was Professor Wermuth.
“I couldn’t wait to call and say I was now Dr. Skeeter,” he said. “It never would have happened without Professor Wermuth’s support and guidance.” Skeeter continues to teach math and develop as an education leader, creating innovative programs to increase proficiency in math teaching. “I gained so much from Mercy College and I want to give something back,” he declared. “I would love to teach at Mercy. There’s no better way to return the favor tenfold.”