Education Advisory Council

The Academy of American Poets' Education Advisory Council was formed in 2017 to help guide and champion the Academy's growing Education Program, which includes creating and distributing free resources, classroom activities, and student projects; organizing teacher meet-ups and trainings; and speaking about the benefits of poetry in young people's lives. With a fifty year track record of serving K-12 teachers, the Academy of American Poets is the leading advocate for the importance of poetry being taught in our nation's classrooms. 

Kristen Amundson

Kristen Amundson is the president/CEO of National Association of State Boards of Education. She represented the 44th District in the Virginia General Assembly from 1999 to 2009. During that time, she was a member of Virginia’s P–16 Council and the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB). Before her election to the General Assembly, Amundson—a former teacher—served for nearly a decade on the Fairfax County, Va., School Board, including two years as its chairwoman. Most recently, she was the senior vice president for external affairs at Education Sector, an independent think tank. She writes frequently on education issues and has been published in The Washington Post and the Richmond Times-Dispatch, among others. In 2017, she was appointed by Gov. McAuliffe to serve as one of Virginia's Commissioners on the Education Commission of the States.

Eric Contreras

Eric Contreras is the Principal of Stuyvesant High School in New York City. Contreras has an extensive background in the education field. He originally worked as a social studies teacher in the Bronx and Queens and moved on to become the Assistant Principal and Principal of the Queens High School of Teaching for seven years. Contreras also served as the Executive Director of Social Studies for New York City’s DOE.

Lisa Fink

Lisa Fink is the Project Manager for ReadWriteThink, the website of the National Council of Teachers of English. After teaching grades K-4 for almost nine years, she brought her varied experiences full-time to the ReadWriteThink website. Fink is also an Instructor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Danielle Legros Georges

Danielle Legros Georges is the author of two poetry collections: The Dear Remote Nearness of You (Barrow Street Press, 2016), winner of the New England Poetry Club’s 2016 Sheila Margaret Motton Book Prize, and Maroon (Curbstone Books, 2001). She has received fellowships from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, the Boston Foundation, the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. In 2014 Legros Georges was chosen as Boston’s second poet laureate. She is a professor at Lesley University and lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Jim Johnson

James Johnson is an of counsel who retired from the partnership of the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton in March of 2016 and has focused his efforts on social justice issues. He has held several senior positions in the United States Department of the Treasury, including Under Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement (1998-2000) and Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement (1996-1998). He oversaw the operations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the Secret Service; the United States Customs Service; the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center; the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network; and the Office of Foreign Assets Control. In total, Johnson also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (1990-1996), where he rose to Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division (1993-1996). Johnson has received numerous awards for his service and accomplishments in both private practice and public service. He is the recipient of the Alexander Hamilton Award (the Department of Treasury’s highest award, given to officials for excellence in service) and the Attorney General’s Certificate for Excellence in Prosecution. In 2003, Johnson was named to Black Enterprise’s List of the Nation’s Top Black Lawyers and to Crain’s New York Business’s List of Most Powerful Minorities. Johnson was recently elected as a member of the Harvard College Board of Overseers. He is former Chair of the Board of the Brennan Center for Justice and is also a trustee of the Montclair Art Museum. Johnson joined Debevoise in 1987 and rejoined in 2004 as a partner. He served as a law clerk to the Hon. Robert E. Keeton, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts (1986-1987). He received his J.D. cum laude in 1986 from Harvard Law School, where he contributed to the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, and received his A.B. cum laude from Harvard College in 1983.

Olivia Morgan

Olivia Morgan is the Vice President, Strategic Programs for Common Sense, the nation’s top organization rating, educating and advocating for kids around media, technology and child development. Previously, she worked with Maria Shriver as Senior Advisor to A Woman’s Nation, and Managing Editor of The Shriver Report, a series of book-length examinations bringing academic and on-the-ground expertise to exploring cultural transformation across multiple platforms and partnerships. She is currently serving on a multi-year roundtable of the National Academies of Science, tasked with improving the communication of social and behavioral science research toward the public good, and is honored to serve on the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, and the boards of Youth Speaks and the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers.

Laura Sillerman

Laura Baudo Sillerman is Chair of the Gilder Graduate Center at the American Museum of Natural History and past Chair of the museum's Education Committee. Sillerman is a member of the Board of Trustees of Harlem Academy and serves on PEN America’s Board. She is also a member of the advisory Boards of Stony Brook University’s Southampton Campus, The Southampton Writers Conference, and The Southampton Review as well as the Poetry Society of America. Along with her husband, Robert F. X. Sillerman, she is co-founder of The Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy at Brandeis University where she serves as consultant to the Center. She is a cofounder of The African Poetry Fund and Series with Kwame Dawes and has served as a trustee of Marietta College and on numerous advisory boards and ad hoc committees of that institution. Her poems and essays have appeared in numerous publications in print and online.

Amy Swauger

Amy Swauger is the Executive Director of Teachers & Writers. Swauger was formerly executive director of the National Academy of Education and of Washington Independent Writers. Prior to that, she held a number of positions at the American Association of University Women (AAUW), including director of the Association and of the AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund. Swauger has served on the boards of directors for several nonprofit organizations, including CFRE International, the credentialing board for philanthropic fundraisers, and the DC Rape Crisis Center. Swauger is an advisor to The Schimel Lode, a family foundation in Washington, D.C. She has a degree in journalism and political science from The American University.

Elizabeth Wade

Elizabeth Wade taught literature and writing courses for over a decade before turning her focus to elementary ELA. As a content specialist, she currently oversees Grades 3-5 of the Core Knowledge Language Arts curriculum at Amplify's Center for Early Reading. Wade's poetry and prose appear in such journals as Kenyon Review Online, AGNI, Brevity, and Oxford American. During her graduate studies, she worked closely with Heather Cass White on two Marianne Moore monographs, Adversity & Grace (ELS, 2012) and A-Quiver With Significance (ELS, 2008). When she's not thinking about literature, Wade volunteers in conservation education at the Smithsonian National Zoo's Reptile Discovery Center.

Renée Watson

Renée Watson is a young adult and children's book author whose books include the novels Piecing Me Together (Bloomsbury, 2017) and This Side of Home (Bloomsbury, 2015), which was nominated for the Best Fiction for Young Adults by the American Library Association. Her picture book, Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2012) received several honors including an NAACP Image Award nomination in children’s literature. She has worked as a writer in residence for over twenty years teaching creative writing and theater in public schools and community centers throughout the nation. Watson is also on the Council of Writers for the National Writing Project and is a team member of We Need Diverse Books. She currently teaches courses on writing for children for the Solstice MFA program at Pine Manor College. Along with being a writer, educator, and community activist, Watson has worked within the nonprofit sector, specifically around teaching for social justice and the role of art in social justice a consultant, providing professional development workshops and leadership trainings to artists, staff, executives, and board of directors, providing tools to support organizations committed to equity and diversity. Some of her past clients include Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, RAW Art Works, and Writers in the Schools. In the summer of 2016 Watson launched I, Too, Arts Collective, a nonprofit committed to nurturing underrepresented voices in the creative arts. She launched the #LangstonsLegacy Campaign to raise funds to lease the Harlem brownstone where Langston Hughes lived and created during the last twenty years of his life. Her hope is to preserve the legacy of Langston Hughes and build on it by providing programming for emerging writers.

In addition, Academy of American Poets Board Members Liza Bennett, Camille LannanBruno Navasky, and Gerald Richards serve as liaisons to this council. Richard Blanco serves as the Academy's Education Ambassador and Dr. Madeleine Fuchs Holzer serves as the Educator in Residence.