The Hiawatha Academies Leadership Team ensures that our scholars have the environment and resources to succeed in their education, by providing them with a dynamic and nurturing school community.
The leadership team is comprised of Eli Kramer, Executive Director | Sean Elder, Chief Operations Officer | Rochelle Van Dijk, Chief Academic Officer | Dawn Gunderson Taylor, Chief Talent Officer | Ambar Hanson, Chief External Relations Officer | Catherine Chu Lapiska, Principal, Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Morris Park | Daniela Srini Vasan, Principal, Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop | Sabrina Edwards, Interim Principal, Hiawatha College Prep-Kingfield | Sherene Judeh, Principal, Hiawatha College Prep-Northrop | Nicole Cooley, Principal, Hiawatha Collegiate High School.
Chief External Relations Officer
Ambar Cristina Hanson, M.P.A., is the director of community engagement at Hiawatha Academies. Since moving to the United States from the Dominican Republic eighteen years ago, Ambar has been dedicated to advocating for immigrant communities and communities of color to have equal opportunity and access to higher education, jobs that provide livable wages, health, housing and safety. Over the past ten years, Ambar advocated for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors through several roles at Casa de Esperanza and National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities. Currently, Ambar oversees the recruitment, marketing, parent engagement and community collaborations for the Hiawatha Academies network. Recently, Ambar received the Mano Amiga Award from the Minnesota Latino Economic Development Center for her commitment and generous contribution of time and work in behalf of the Latino community.
She lives in St. Paul and enjoys spending time with partner and two children.
Principal | Hiawatha Leadership Academy - Morris Park
firstname.lastname@example.org | 612-408-3379
Born and raised in Minnesota, Catherine is thrilled to return home and join the Hiawatha team after a spell on the East Coast. Catherine earned her undergrad at The University of William & Mary in Virginia, and her M.A.T. at American University. She is a Teach for America alum and taught first through fifth grades in Washington, DC. Catherine also enjoyed several years of teaching teachers at Relay Graduate School of Education in New York City. Catherine is excited to be a part of the Hiawatha team supporting students, families and teachers in achieving and exceeding their goals.
Daniela Srini Vasan
Principal | Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop
email@example.com | 612-462-2369
Daniela Srini Vasan is the founding principal of Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop. Daniela speaks Spanish and French. She attended the University of Virginia and earned her Master's Degree in Education from Georgia State University. After graduating, she served as a Teach For America corps member in Atlanta, Georgia where she taught third and fifth grade. Daniela loves to spend time with her family, travel and experience new cultures, study languages, volunteer in the community, and explore the Twin Cities. One of the best parts about working at Hiawatha Academies is working with families and students every day.
Dawn Gunderson Taylor
Chief Talent Officer
firstname.lastname@example.org | 612-998-6015
Dawn Gunderson Taylor holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University Moorhead. She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia where she taught English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) to tenth grade students and a 2001 Teach For America corps member. She taught high school English for six years in Baltimore, MD, and returned overseas to continue teaching in Istanbul, Turkey. In 2008, Dawn joined the staff of Teach For America where her work focused on alumni affairs for over seven years. Dawn returned to the Midwest in the summer of 2014 and joined Hiawatha Academies as Chief Talent Officer.
Dawn's daughter, Neela, is a student at Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop.
Eli Kramer has been the Executive Director of Hiawatha Academies since 2012. Before joining Hiawatha, Eli was a founding Dean of Curriculum and Instruction with Uncommon Schools in New York. Prior to that, he taught for six years in New York City at the elementary and middle school level. Eli was a 2003 Teach for America corps member in the Bronx, NY. He holds a B.A. in government from Harvard, a Master's in Education from Bank Street College, and a Master's in Educational Leadership from Brooklyn College.
Eli grew up in Minneapolis and is happy to be home.
Principal | Hiawatha Collegiate High School
email@example.com | 612-547-9746
Ms. Cooley is the founding Principal of Hiawatha Collegiate High School. She began her career in education teaching in St. Louis through Teach for America. She then moved to Chicago, where she worked as a teacher and administrator at Gary Comer College Prep, a campus of Noble Street Charter School, the highest performing high school charter network in the city. While there, she led both students and teachers to unprecedented successes, most notably, 100 percent graduation and enrollment in college. In 2013, she joined the Hiawatha Academies as director of teaching and learning. When asked about her work, she said, "I feel amazingly grateful to be part of a network wherein one hundred percent of students will not only graduate from high school, but will be academically and personally be prepared to experience both the success and challenge that will exist for them in college".
Rochelle Van Dijk
Chief Academic Officer
Rochelle Van Dijk is a proud African-American and Cherokee educator and mother of three. Rochelle graduated from Harvard University in 2005 with a degree in psychology and earned her Master's in Educational Psychology from the University of Colorado. She joined the '05 Teach For America corps and taught science in the Rio Grande Valley. In 2011 she founded the top performing high school in Denver: Denver School of Science and Technology in the Green Valley Ranch neighborhood. Each of the students in her founding class was accepted to a 4-year college, 80% of which were first generation college-students and over 75% qualified for free-and-reduced lunch. Rochelle went on to become Chief of Schools for Denver Schools of Science and Technology and oversee 4500 students across 12 schools. Rochelle now serves students and families in South Minneapolis as the Chief Academic Officer at Hiawatha Academies.
Iterim Principal - Hiawatha College Prep-Kingfield
firstname.lastname@example.org | 612-310-7792
Chief Operating Officer
email@example.com | 612-251-3139
Sean Elder has been the Chief Operating Officer of Hiawatha Academies since May 2011. Before joining Hiawatha, Sean was an Area Manager for Skyhawks Sports Academy, the nation’s largest provider of youth sports programs and served several years as an Undergraduate Admissions Counselor at the University of Minnesota. Sean was also a 2010 Chicago Cohort Fellow with Education Pioneers. An active community member, Sean currently sits on the Education and Jobs Committee for the Greater Twin Cities United Way. He holds a B.A. in Sociology - Law, Criminology, and Deviance from the University of Minnesota and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas.
Principal | Hiawatha College Prep - Northrop
firstname.lastname@example.org | 612-559-6546
Sherene Judeh has been a teacher, school administrator, and advocate for equity in education for over 12 years. She has taught and led in district and charter schools and seeks continuous improvement in service of high expectations, strong community, and strong achievement results for students. Sherene has experience in interdisciplinary learning. social-emotional learning, change management, arts integration, and restorative practices. Through research, collaboration, and design, Sherene has worked with several schools to transform academic programming into authentic, community centered learning experiences for students resulting in dramatically increased student achievement. For the past three months, Sherene has been the Founding Principal, leading the research, development, piloting, and codification of the newest Hiawatha Academies school focused on equity, community and student agency.