- Mike ErwinPresident and Co-Founder
Mike ErwinPresident and Co-Founder
Mike Erwin is the co-founder and President of The Positivity Project. A 2002 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he served in the Army on Active Duty for 13 years, to include three deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and is currently a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserves. In 2010, Mike founded Team Red, White & Blue (Team RWB), a non-profit organization that enriches veterans’ lives by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. He serves as on the Board for the organization, now 198 chapters and 114,000 members strong. Mike earned his master’s degree in positive psychology and leadership, under the tutelage of Chris Peterson, from the University of Michigan — and taught leadership at West Point. He is the co-author of Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude. Mike and his wife, Genevieve, live in the Village of Pinehurst, NC, with their four children.
- Jeff BryanCOO and Co-Founder
Jeff BryanCOO and Co-Founder
Jeff Bryan is the co-founder and Vice President of The Positivity Project. A 2004 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he served in the Army for five years, to include two tours in Iraq. In 2006, Jeff was a platoon leader in Saba al Bour and in 2008-09, he was an engagements officer in southern Baghdad. After leaving the military, Jeff earned a master’s degree from the Fletcher School at Tufts University. He was subsequently a Presidential Management Fellow (PMF) in Washington and Jerusalem with the U.S. Department of State. A native of Niskayuna, New York, Jeff developed a passion for sports at an early age, leading him to serve as a lacrosse team captain and earn all-America honors twice while at West Point. He and his wife, Patti, an elementary school teacher, and their daughter live in Niskayuna, NY.
- Janene RitchieContent Manager
Janene RitchieContent Manager
Janene Ritchie is the Content Manager for the The Positivity Project. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Anthropology from Ohio State University, and dual Masters in Environmental Education and Outdoor Leadership from Ohio University. She spent 10 years in the outdoor and environmental education field, including 3 years as the director of a residential environmental learning center that used outdoor experience to teach a rigorous science curriculum. Janene is also a 2017 Team Red, White & Blue Eagle Leader Fellow, through which she has a hand in planning and facilitating leadership development experiences for local community leaders in the Midwest. An avid lover of all things outdoors, Janene has completed a number of trail races up to the 50k distance, and also enjoys backpacking, Crossfit, and traveling. Janene lives in Dayton, OH with her husband, Anthony, and son, Blane.
- Thaddeus SetlaChief Storyteller
Thaddeus SetlaChief Storyteller
Thaddeus is the Chief Storyteller and creative mind behind Setla Films. Since starting his own company in 2006 he has worked with Fortune 500 companies, broadcast networks and nonprofits to connect with audiences around the world through story. With over two decades of corporate communications and over 12 years working as a Cinematographer his attention to detail, camera motion, lighting and storytelling abilities has helped clients understand their storytelling eco-system and get the most out of the visual medium. Thaddeus has three kids from elementary school through high school and is passionate about helping his kids understand the #OtherPeopleMatter movement.
- Frank AdamoEd Tech Coordinator
Frank AdamoEd Tech Coordinator
Frank Adamo has been a public school teacher in Niskayuna, NY since 2001. He earned a master’s degree in Curriculum Development and Instructional Technology from the University at Albany, and has earned National Board Certification for Professional Teaching Standards in Early Adolescent English-Language Arts. Frank has worked with middle school English students throughout his career to build strong reading, writing and communication skills. He has developed curriculum to help students build an understanding of social media and the role that each of us takes in creating and maintaining our own digital footprint. Frank has presented to parents, students and teachers and administrators on the benefits of using technology in the classroom as well as the opportunities and drawbacks of social media in the digital age. He lives in Glenville, NY with his wife and two children.
- Sarah YangGrant Manager
Sarah YangGrant Manager
Sarah was born in Zimbabwe, grew up in South Africa, attended graduate school in England and now finds herself living in the United States. She works with organizations that seek to improve the quality of the two environments where children spend the majority of their time: school and home. Using her research and communication skills, she is excited to help expand the reach of The Positivity Project through strategic planning and fundraising. Sarah earned her first Masters degree in Psychology from the University of Cape Town. She was then awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and completed a second Masters in Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation at the University of Oxford. Sarah lives in North Carolina with her husband Eugene, who is a military officer.
- Esohe Osai, Ph.D.Pittsburgh Coordinator
Esohe Osai, Ph.D.Pittsburgh Coordinator
Esohe Osai is The Positivity Project's Pittsburgh Coordinator. After graduating from the Detroit Public School system, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Esohe served as a classroom teacher in Detroit and, after successfully graduating a cohort of high school students, returned to the University of Michigan where she completed a doctoral degree in education and psychology. For over 15 years, she has operated as an educator, collaborator, and researcher-practitioner serving in urban communities. Esohe employs a positive strengths approach in her community engagement practice, looking to identify innovative and practical solutions to challenges in schools and communities. She currently resides in the Homewood community of Pittsburgh, PA.
- Kerri Walsh JenningsU.S. Olympian
Kerri Walsh JenningsU.S. Olympian
Kerri Walsh Jennings is a professional volleyball player and 3-time Olympic gold medalist in Beach Volleyball. In route to those 3 gold medals, Kerri and Misty May-Treanor won 21 consecutive Olympic matches. She is a 2001 graduate of Stanford University, where she was four-time All-American for The Cardinal. A big believer in the power of positive thinking, Kerri is pursuing her fourth gold medal in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. She is married to fellow American volleyball player, Casey, and they live in Manhattan Beach, CA, with their three young children—Joseph, Sundance and Scout.
- Jake WoodCo-founder and CEO, Team Rubicon
Jake WoodCo-founder and CEO, Team Rubicon
Jake Wood is co-founder and CEO of Team Rubicon, a non-profit organization that utilizes the skills of military veterans to deploy disaster response teams. Under Wood’s leadership, Team Rubicon has responded to over 100 disasters since the 2010 Haiti earthquake and grown from eight to 35,000 members. Wood is a leading veterans’ advocate who has briefed President Obama on veterans’ issues, met with former Presidents Bush and Clinton on disaster response and testified before the Senate. As a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, Wood deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as a Scout Sniper and earned the Navy-Marine Commendation Medal.
- Will ReynoldsSenior Consultant, Deloitte
Will ReynoldsSenior Consultant, Deloitte
As first generation U.S. Citizens, Will Reynolds’ parents used strong character development to help their five children assimilate and succeed. That upbringing led Will to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Upon graduation, he served for six years as an Army infantry officer and was severely wounded in Iraq while serving as Chief of Reconnaissance and Sniper Employment. After medical retirement, Will earned a dual Master’s in Business Administration and Public Health from the University of Rochester, leading to his career as a Manager in Deloitte’s Federal Healthcare practice. During this time, he gained experience in non-profit leadership as a charter Board member for Team Red, White & Blue. Will lives in Bethesda, MD with his wife, Cassandra, and their four children.
- Elisabeth HasselbeckTelevision Host
Elisabeth HasselbeckTelevision Host
Elisabeth Hasselbeck graduated from Boston College in 1999, where she played on their Division I softball team while majoring in Studio Art. After graduating, Elisabeth designed footwear for PUMA. In 2002, she competed in Survivor: The Australian Outback, taking fourth place. For the next ten years, she co-hosted the daytime talk show, The View on ABC, and became and Emmy Award recipient. In 2013, Elisabeth joined FOX & Friends, where she served as a co-host for two years. As a gluten-free celiac, Elisabeth has written two New York Times best-selling books. She has also founded a gluten-free food company named nogii. Elisabeth is married to former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst, Tim Hasselbeck, and they have three children, Grace, Taylor and Isaiah.
- Rebecca OttoFormer Minnesota State Auditor
Rebecca OttoFormer Minnesota State AuditorRebecca Otto served for 12 years as the Minnesota State Auditor, overseeing over $20 billion a year in taxpayer dollars spent at the local level. She served on many state boards, including the State Board of Investment where they invested $100 billion. Otto has a deep commitment to civic duty. In the 1990s, Otto left a successful contracting business that she cofounded with her husband because she wanted to give back. She obtained a Masters of Education and taught 7th grade Life Science in the public schools. Later, Otto was elected to the local school board, then as a State Representative and finally as the State Auditor.
- David Van RooyVice President, Talent Development for Vail Resorts
David Van RooyVice President, Talent Development for Vail Resorts
David Van Rooy is presently Vice President, Talent Development for Vail Resorts, the premier mountain resorts company. He has previously held leadership roles building global talent programs for Walmart, Marriott, and Burger King Corporation. He was most recently VP, Talent Management for Walmart Canada based out of Toronto. He has published over 20 articles and chapters, and his book Trajectory: 7 Career Strategies to Take You From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be was published by the American Management Association. David was awarded the Distinguished Early Career Contributions Award from the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology and Distinguished Alumni award from Florida International University, where he received his PhD in Psychology. David and his wife live in Broomfield, Colorado with their two daughters, Ana and Ella.
- Tova Walsh, Ph.D.Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin
Tova Walsh, Ph.D.Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin
Tova Walsh is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She teaches on social work interventions with children and families, and development over the life course. As a researcher, Tova seeks to identify ways of strengthening parent-child relationships and improving child and family wellbeing. She has worked with children and families in a variety of settings in the U.S. and abroad. She holds a joint Ph.D. in social work and psychology from the University of Michigan, and completed postdoctoral training in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Tova’s research has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Kellogg Foundation, Doris Duke Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health. Tova and her husband Elias, an education policy researcher, live in Madison, WI with their two children.
- Kate Ryan Kuhlman, Ph.D.Assistant Professor, University of California Irvine
Kate Ryan Kuhlman, Ph.D.Assistant Professor, University of California Irvine
Kate’s purpose in life is to mitigate the negative health impact of childhood adversity on health across the lifespan. Kate is a clinical scientist and child & adolescent psychologist who studies the impact of childhood adversity on physical and mental health across the lifespan. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology & Social Behavior at the University of California Irvine and in the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology. Dr. Kuhlman's research is currently funded by the National Institute of Mental Health through a career development award that will allow her to continue to examine how the mind and immune system work together. Kate is also the Founder of ScienceForWomen.org — an organization dedicated to the honest public dissemination of recent findings in psychology and women’s health. In the past two years, ScienceForWomen.org has reached thousands of readers across six continents. Kate grew up in Southern California, earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at New York University, her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at the University of Michigan, and completed her postdoctoral fellowship in psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA.
- Chaveso CookDoctoral Student and Army Officer
Chaveso CookDoctoral Student and Army OfficerChaveso “Chevy” Cook is an active duty Army Officer in the special operations community. A published author who’s taught at the United States Military Academy at West Point, the science of psychology has always intrigued him and he now studies character development as a Doctoral Student at Tufts University. Chevy is also a champion of diversity & inclusion efforts, as his nonprofit and community leadership experiences have garnered recognition from the Secretary of the Army. A self-proclaimed “eternal optimist”, his life’s purpose is to serve others so he invests in ensuring others see more than just a half-filled glass.
- Pavani ReddyManaging Director, EAB Global, Inc.
Pavani ReddyManaging Director, EAB Global, Inc.
Pavani Reddy leads product management and user experience design for EAB’s Student Success platform. She has over 15 years of experience in product strategy, innovation, technology development, launch and management of education, content and research solutions at scale. Pavani is passionate about practical, student-centered education. She holds an MBA and a law degree from the University of Virginia and a degree in Economics from Brown University.
- Brian JohnsonFounder & CEO, Optimize
Brian JohnsonFounder & CEO, Optimize
Brian Johnson is a Professional Optimizer. He loves studying and embodying wisdom while helping people Optimize their lives so we can change the world together. Optimize with Brian Johnson features the best Big Ideas from the best optimal living books. More wisdom in less time to help you live your greatest life. Over the last decade, Brian has created over 500 PhilosophersNotes. And, he also created over 45 Optimal Living 101 master classes on everything from Optimizing your energy and confidence to your productivity and happiness. Brian's Optimize podcast launched as the #1 podcast on iTunes and has been featured as the #1 Health podcast with over 8 million downloads. His YouTube channel has over 150,000 subscribers and 15 million views. Brian is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from UCLA where he studied Psychology and Business. He loves his wife and two kids, burpees and sunrise trail runs.
- Yolanda BarhamKindergarten Resources
Yolanda BarhamKindergarten Resources
Yolanda Barham is a dynamic kindergarten teacher who resides in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is an Indiana native who graduated with a B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Southern Indiana with a focus in early childhood literacy. She is a National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, UNC Chapel Hill Borchardt Award recipient, and a Fulbright-Hays ambassador who has represented U.S. teachers. As a young student, Yolanda realized the magic of education and wanted to teach her own students with the same positive passion as her elementary teachers. She recognizes the power of education; it allows for more options and opportunities that kids may not have without one. When she’s away from her students, Yolanda enjoys travel, spending time with friends, and attending cultural events.
- Colleen Dembs1st Grade Resources
Colleen Dembs1st Grade Resources
Colleen Dembs is a resource developer for the first grade resources for The Positivity Project. A graduate of Syracuse University with a masters degree from St. John Fisher College, she's been teaching since 2006. Though she's taught many grade levels, first grade is where her heart is! She is passionate about her family and friends, photography, and most recently spreading the P2 fire! She resides in a suburb of Syracuse, NY and teaches in the Baldwinsville Central School District.
- Lexie Feldman, Ed.D.2nd Grade Resources
Lexie Feldman, Ed.D.2nd Grade Resources
Lexie Feldman is currently a 3rd grade teacher in Northern Virginia. She has recently become a Doctor of Education with a focus on Curriculum and Instruction. She earned her Ed.D. from the University of South Carolina. Her dissertation focused on performance assessments and their impact on mathematics instruction in the classroom. Lexie previously earned her Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She has taught 2nd grade for five years before moving to the 3rd grade Advanced Academics Program this school year. She is currently the P2 Leader in her school and is looking forward to another wonderful year!
- Katherine Hughes3rd Grade Resources
Katherine Hughes3rd Grade Resources
Katherine Hughes is a third grade Advance Academics teacher in Fairfax County with more than 16 years of teaching experience in Michigan and Virginia. She earned a Master’s degree in the Art of Teaching from Marygrove University. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary education with a focus on English and Communications from Michigan State University. Katherine is currently part of a Project TEAM: Preparing Teams of Educators to Assess and Instruct English Learners with and without Disabilities through Old Dominion University. She specializes in developing character education curriculum. Her mission is to empower students to be innovative, creative, and thoughtful thinkers. Katherine fosters a safe environment where students are challenged to learn and build critical thinking skills. Students are encouraged to create, test, and make changes to be successful through Kagan Strategies and Problem Based Learning activities. Katherine’s daily goal is for her students to feel loved, to cultivate a growth mindset and to understand that they are “change makers” in their school, community and beyond.
- Latoya Wilson3rd Grade Resources
Latoya Wilson3rd Grade Resources
Latoya Wilson is a third grade teacher living in Herndon, Virginia. She is in her 14th year of teaching. Latoya grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and attended the Cleveland School of Performing Arts in High School as a vocal music major. Latoya obtained her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, before earning a Master of Arts in Education in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis of English as a Second Language. As a teacher, she prides herself on relationship building. Creating positive relationships with students, parents and staff is her number one priority in education. Latoya's motto is, “You can’t teach a kid who doesn’t like you, you can’t reach a parent if you’re not willing to be a partner and you can’t do what’s best for kids if you’re not a team with a common goal.” She attributes her success with building strong relationships that foster unconditional love and understanding for all. Latoya spends her spare time exploring new places with her two children Mikey and Mya, her husband Mike and her chocolate labradoodle Mylo.
- Sarah Riley4th Grade Resources
Sarah Riley4th Grade Resources
Sarah Riley is a current third grade teacher living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She grew up in both Long Valley, New Jersey, and Raleigh, North Carolina, where she attended public school from kindergarten through 12th grade. She went on to obtain her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education with a concentration in Spanish from Appalachian State University and was a recipient of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows while earning her degree. As a teacher, Sarah has discovered her passion for creating equal access to opportunities for all children and works diligently to instill creativity, innovation, collaboration, and empowerment in her students. Above all else, she values the importance of the relationships students have with their peers, teachers, families and themselves. Outside of the classroom, Sarah enjoys exploring local events and businesses in her city, practicing yoga, and reading.
- Meg Engleman5th Grade Resources
Meg Engleman5th Grade Resources
Meg Engleman is a 5/6 S.T.E.M. Teacher at Springview Elementary in Flushing, Michigan. She has a degree in Elementary Education with a focus on Science and Math from Michigan State University. In 2016, she received her Masters in Public Administration from the University of Michigan-Flint. In her free time, she and her husband Duane, who also teaches at a Positivity Project Partner School, like to travel, complete home renovation projects, play with their cats Socks and Shorts and make memories with their families.
- Susan Arnold6th Grade Resources
Susan Arnold6th Grade Resources
Susan Arnold is in her 13th year as a middle school teacher in North Carolina. She earned a bachelor's degree in marketing from Western Michigan University and a teaching certificate from North Carolina Central University. Susan became involved with the Positivity Project when her school, West Millbrook Middle School, implemented the program in 2017. She served on the school's P2 leadership team, providing guidance to her peers during implementation. During the summer of 2018, Susan was hired by the Positivity to Project to develop resources for sixth grade classes in P2 Partner Schools. Susan lives in Raleigh, NC with her husband, Chris and their twins, Jack and Nora.
- Susan Nielsson7th Grade Resources
Susan Nielsson7th Grade Resources
My name is Susan Nielsson and this is my 20th year as a teacher. I graduated from the University of Delaware with a B.A. in English. I received my certification from Meredith College in Raleigh, NC. I was a Special Education teacher at Bunn Middle School for 11 1/2 years. For the past 7 1/2 years, I have been at Endeavor Charter School, the last 6 years teaching 6th and 7th grade. I love middle school and am passionate about helping students embrace #OtherPeopleMatter!
- Stephanie DiNolaProject Based Learning Resources
Stephanie DiNolaProject Based Learning Resources
Stephanie DiNola is a part-time employee of The Positivity Project writing Project Based Learning opportunities. She graduated from the University of San Diego in 2007 with her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts for elementary education. She completed her student teaching opportunity abroad in an international school in Padua, Italy with all Italian speaking students. After graduation, Stephanie taught fifth grade language arts and social studies for three years in Austin, TX. She served as the school lead for the district language arts committee. In 2011, she began her pursuit of her master’s degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Kansas. After one year of being a full-time student, she moved to North Carolina where she taught seventh grade language arts for four years and concurrently worked on and completed her master’s degree. During her time in NC, her district nominated her as one of the two seventh grade curriculum writers for the district pacing guide. She now lives in Greenville, SC with her husband and daughter.