Staff and Specialists

After fifteen years working as an immigration attorney and advocate, Rhonda Berkower returned to school and received a masters degree in Language and Literacy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Before joining our staff as Senior Researcher and Editor, she worked as an editor and curriculum developer for Houghton Mifflin, Zaner-Bloser and the WGBH Educational Foundation. Rhonda has a passion for children’s literature and has taught Latino Children’s Literature at Wheelock College. She loves putting a good book in a child’s hands.

Ms. Shoshana Jacobs, literacy coach, has been a classroom teacher and literacy coach for the last twenty years in public, private and charter schools.  She launched her career as a classroom teacher in the New York City Public Schools. After several years, Shoshana was selected as a mentor teacher under the auspices of the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University. During her time with the Project, she worked with many literacy leaders, including Lucy Calkins, on the craft of Reading and Writing Workshop. After moving to Boston, Shoshana began coaching teachers, helping them enrich their literacy practices. She worked in several Boston Public schools and in private school before joining the CLCS staff in 2009. Shoshana spends much of her time outside of school parenting her three children and developing her skills as a hockey mom.  When she has time for herself, she can be found with her a face in a book, or trying to find some time to exercise.

Kate Idlebrook, Special Education Administrator, has been teaching since 2003. She has earned two masters degrees from Lesley University, one in special education and one in creative writing with a focus in children’s literature. Since receiving her first degree, she has taught for public and private schools, but was no stranger to charter schools. She began career at a charter school and is very excited to be returning to the Conservatory Lab this year. When not at school, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, writing, and running.

Nirith Avraham, Learning Specialist, is originally from sunny Israel. She then moved and grew up in Belgium where she earned her Master’s degree in Psychology and Special Education. She moved to MA with her husband and two boys and has been serving various communities as a learning specialist in the Boston area since 2002. She worked as a Learning Specialist and ABA consultant for over twenty five years in a variety of educational settings, serving a wide range of students from 1st grade to 12 grade. Nirith has been an active member of a group in Newton, MA since 2004 which promotes better services for students on the Autism spectrum in the Newton Public Schools. Since 2012 she has been a board member of the Art of Autism Shifting Perception, an organization that promotes artists on the autism spectrum. She is trilingual and loves the outdoors.

Lavonne Bishop, Student Support, was born and raised in Boston, MA. and  graduated from Wheaton College with a BA in English and a minor in Education. She has been working with children since she was 14 and knows that this is her passion. For the past six years she worked at Bright Horizons, where she was a lead toddler teacher. She loves giving children a voice, encouraging them and letting them know they can be anything they want in life. One of her favorite books is “Snip Snap, What’s That?” by Mara Bergman.

Jillian Watts is excited to take on the challenges of a new role for her this year, as ELL Specialist at the Primary School site, helping students to learn English. She received her BS in Childhood Studies from Plymouth State University, and is working on her M.Ed. in Integrated Arts. She has taught abroad at international schools in Turkey and South Korea, and loves travelling all over the world. In her free time, she enjoys salsa dancing, singing in choir, reading, playing piano, and exploring Boston.

Mary Ann Rufo, Speech Language Pathologist

Lisa Spagnuolo, Paraprofessional/Math & ELA Tutor, was born and raised in Boston. After graduating from Beaver Country Day School, she received a BA in psychology from Boston College. Her travels brought her to Seattle where she was a lead teacher at Childhaven, an early intervention, non-profit school for at risk children. Her love for her family brought her back to Boston where she continued her passion of teaching in Newton and Wellesley Public Schools. Lisa’s desire to work with children has spanned over many years and brought her to a wide variety of educational environments, including Montessori, non-profit, private and public school settings. She has a background in Applied Behavior Analysis and is currently looking to pursue her Master’s in Special Education. She believes that building a child’s self-esteem, instilling discipline, fostering the joy of learning and creating a strong community through music and curriculum will lead to successful students. Lisa enjoys volunteering and does so for The Best Buddy Challenge, The Doug Flutie Junior Foundation and the Bristol Lodge Soup Kitchen throughout the year. Lilies, anemones and roses in the garden, big, tall mountains and smooth sandy beaches, the sweet smell of cookies baking in the oven, these are a few of her favorite things.

Andres Zuniga, English Language Learners

Cybil Ransom, Occupational Therapy

Becky McCarthy, Student Support,provides additional support and interventions for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade students throughout many aspects of the school day with a particular focus in math. Becky was born and raised in Boston and attended Boston Latin School. She graduated from Bucknell University as a Posse Scholar with an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Sociology with a concentration in human services. Before joining the Conservatory Lab crew, Becky worked at Citizen Schools, The Posse Foundation, Rosie’s Place, and the English Language Center and volunteered for tutoring organizations such as the Bucknell Buddies. Last year Becky supported David Cordes’ K2 Paper Orchestra and so she tells her students that she plays the violin at a kindergarten level but, her original love of music is rooted in singing. During school vacations, Becky loves to travel!

Roxanne Griffiths, Interventionist, earned her BA in Education from Lesley University, and is looking to pursue a MEd at UMass Boston starting in the spring. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, reading, traveling, and being outdoors, and is a huge Boston sports fan! She was the President of her a cappella group in college, and values the incredible power and versatility of music in education. She is passionate about working with students of all abilities to help them recognize their full potential.