Communication and Development Associate
Vice President of Policy and Research
Stephen brings over twenty years of policy, law, and education experience to Prospect Academy. After graduating from Emory University with Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctorate degrees, he practiced law for 13 years before entering the field of education. He received his Master of Education degree from Georgia State University with a focus on Behavioral/Learning Disabilities in May 2016. While working on his Master’s, he worked at a residential treatment facility for children with severe emotional and behavioral disabilities. Stephen was also in charge of a special education department at a large elementary school with approximately 980 students (95% English language learners and Title I) as a building leader. Stephen moved to Colorado to serve as Deputy General Counsel at an urban school district and later served as an educational advocate and pro bono attorney for families of children with special needs. He currently works at A+ Colorado, an education-focused action tank, as their Vice President of Policy and Research.
Stephen is also a PhD candidate in educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Denver where his research focuses on analysis of discourse that perpetuates systems of oppression, particularly as it relates to students labeled disabled. His dissertation examined legal discourse in Endrew F . Stephen also received a certificate in education finance from Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy in September 2020. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of Prospect Academy, Stephen is involved with the Special Olympics of Colorado subcommittee to the Board of Directors focused on competitive programs and unified schools.
When he is not working, he enjoys spending time with his partner Dale and their dog Phoebe. Stephen enjoys cooking (I am Italian…it’s a requirement before you leave home), hiking 14’ers, yoga, swimming, and traveling the world. He also volunteers his time as a mentor for the Colorado “I Have a Dream” Foundation.
Director of Research
Eden joins A+ as Director of Research. Eden was most recently employed by Family Counseling Center, Inc., where she managed a prevention services program implementing curricula at schools in the southern seven counties of Illinois. She also worked as a classroom teacher and interned for a nonprofit in Nicaragua. Her policy interests include utilizing data-driven educational and social policies to affect change, particularly for marginalized groups. Eden earned a master's degree in education from Southeast Missouri State University and a Master of Public Affairs from Brown University.
Eden's Favorite Trivia Category is Pop Culture 🎬
The Sorting Hat put Eden in the Gryffindor Hogwarts House, but she can speak parseltongue 🦁
If Eden was in the West Wing, she would be CJ Cregg 🇺🇸
Eden’s advice to Children is a Shel Silverstein quote: "Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me...Anything can happen, child. Anything can be." 📝
Director of Communications and Engagement
Mary Willson joins the A+ team as the Director of Communication and Engagement. Mary is from Colorado and attended Poudre School District, Front Range Community College, and Colorado State University. She joins us from EducationNC, a nonprofit newsroom with the goal of improving public education in North Carolina through analysis and storytelling. Previously, she was an early employee at the innovative newsletter startup, 6AM City, which distributes hyperlocal news and engages in conversations with audiences in 7 Southeastern cities. She is passionate about supporting local journalism and has worked at the Fort Collins Coloradoan and at the Denver Westword.
Valeria was raised in Aurora, CO. She attended Aurora Public Schools, and graduated from Hinkley High School. She previously worked as a Middle School Language Arts Teacher in Denver, and as a Community Organizer in Aurora. Valeria earned a B.A. in Ethnic Studies and an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Colorado Boulder. She is a first-generation U.S. citizen and college graduate.
Valeria's Favorite Trivia Category is Pop Culture. 🎬
Valeria's advice to Children is: Be yourself. Love yourself. 📝
Vice President of Strategy and Operations
Hayley joins A+ Colorado as the Vice President of Strategy and Operations. Prior to A+, Hayley worked as a teacher in Denver Public Schools and as a founding staff member of Reading Partners Colorado, a nonprofit focused on early childhood literacy. Before moving to Colorado, Hayley worked in public relations in Washington, D.C.
Hayley is passionate about the intersection of policy and practice in education. She is particularly interested in early childhood literacy and the growing role of technology in education.
Hayley earned her B.A. in Public Policy and Environmental Science from The College of William and Mary and her M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Colorado Denver.
Hayley's Favorite Trivia Category is Science & Nature 🌎🔬🍂
The Sorting Hat put Hayley in the Slytherin Hogwarts House 🐍
If Hayley was in the West Wing, she would be C.J. Cregg 🇺🇸
Hayley's advice to children: Be kind. 📝
Van Schoales is the President of A+ Colorado. He has thirty years’ experience leading education reform efforts from the classroom to the statehouse. Van has led or help found a number of non-profits, including the Odyssey School, Denver School of Science and Technology, Democrats for Education Reform Colorado, and Bay Area Coalition of Equitable Schools. He was an award winning high school science teacher in the Bay Area and has authored a variety of papers on school choice, charter schools, school accountability, student achievement, science education, school design, state policy, and other education improvement topics. He is regularly quoted in education news stories from The Denver Post, NBC, National Public Radio, Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, Education Week, Univision and Fox News. He is also a Denver Commissioner of Cultural Affairs. Van earned a B.S. from the University of California - Santa Cruz (Earth Sciences), M.S. from Brown University (Geological Sciences), M.A. from San Francisco State University (Education Administration), and an M.A. from Stanford University (Education).