Education Beat Podcast — Teens fight for the right to vote for school board — Listen Now!

Teachers Advisory Group

EdSource’s Teachers Advisory Group provides insights and perspectives from classroom teachers on California education issues and policies. The committee and EdSource staff engage in an open conversation about every six weeks on topics affecting them and their students.  The 14 to 16 teachers reflect the state’s diversity, geography, age and teaching expertise by grade and subject. EdSource selects school leaders who are recommended for their candor, thoughtfulness and interest in policy and practice. There is no formal application process.

Most of the discussions are on the record, though we set the ground rules before each meeting to encourage openness. Reporters occasionally sit in and ask questions for articles they are working on. In one meeting, we recorded views on how best to reopen school in the wake of the pandemic for a video on EdSource’s website. Several members have submitted commentaries, which we encourage.

Meet this year’s members.


Martin Blythe is originally from New Zealand, where he taught English for five years, shot a drama for television and reviewed movies weekly. Moving to the U.S. in the 1980s, he completed a doctorate at UCLA School of Film and Television. He also spent 27 years working in marketing and publicity at Disney and Paramount and as a consultant. He returned to teaching in 2016, this time in special education English, and he has been teaching at Canoga Park High School in Los Angeles. He plans to retire (again) in June 2022. He is also a UC master gardener and supporter of environmental causes.


Patricia Carlos teaches fourth grade for the Hawthorne School District. She is part of the leadership team and School Site Council. She is a National Board Certified teacher with 20 years of experience at the elementary school level. In 2015, she served as a state reviewer for the adoption of the California language arts curriculum. Patricia has a Master of Arts degree in educational administration from California State University, Dominguez Hills, as well as a multiple subject teaching credential with a BCLAD emphasis and a bachelor’s in liberal studies. She enjoys traveling to the Yucatán Peninsula, a place she calls her second home.


David B. Cohen is a National Board Certified Teacher in the Palo Alto High School English department. In addition to 25 years of teaching experience, he has held a variety of leadership positions in educational organizations and is currently the vice president of the Palo Alto Educators Association. Cohen is the author of “Capturing the Spark: Inspired Teaching, Thriving Schools” — a book consisting of observations and conversations with about 100 teachers from over 70 public schools throughout California.


Thomas Courtney is a fifth grade teacher at Chollas-Mead Elementary School in San Diego. He writes and presents about topics such as equitable policy and student access. He was selected as the 2021 SDUSD Elementary District Teacher of the Year. In his spare time, Courtney enjoys surfing and gardening and being a father to his two children.


Gwendolyn Delgado is a bilingual six-12 educator at La Mesa Junior High School in Santa Clarita. She has more than a decade of experience working with at-risk student populations and English learners. She is a Teach Plus California policy fellow. She holds a doctorate in education from the University of Southern California.


Gina N Gray, M.Ed “Ms. G” is a high school English Teacher at Middle College High School in Los Angeles Unified School District. After a furlough in the telecommunications industry, Gina decided to take the opportunity to live her dream! She is now in her 5th year as a teacher. Ms. G serves on CTA State Council, School Safety/School Management Committee. She also serves as Women’s Advocacy Coordinator for UTLA/NEA Equity Team and is a member of UTLA’s House Of Representatives. Ms. G was recently accepted as a Teach Plus California Policy Fellow for 2021-2022 cohort. Ms. G completed her masters degree in Education Policy and Leadership in 2020 and will finish her masters in Curriculum and Instruction Spring 2022. Ms. G is passionate about the work necessary to ensure equitable educational opportunities are available to students impacted by systemic injustices, while also elevating the needs of classroom teachers serving students, families and communities. When not working, Ms. G loves to host family get-togethers, listen to music and write poetry.


Marisol Leyba teaches first grade at Linda Vista Elementary School, her sixth year teaching primary grades in San Jose’s Alum Rock Union School District. Prior to completing her multi-subject credential, she worked eight years as a paraprofessional in Alum Rock, including Kindergarten SDC. Leyba is passionate about teaching reading and providing a solid foundation early in young learners’ academic journeys. A graduate of Alum Rock and the National Hispanic University, she lives in San Jose with her husband and their daughters.


Mike Patterson currently teaches automotive technology at South Tahoe High School in Lake Tahoe Unified, where he has taught for 30 years. Before his teaching career, he worked as an auto and bus technician and is a strong advocate for career technical education. He is serving his second term on the CTA Board, representing a district covering 23 counties from Tuolumne north to the Oregon border. He was a three-time president of the South Tahoe Educators Association. He served on the El Dorado County Democratic Central Committee and also coached his high school’s golf team for 12 years. Patterson holds a bachelor’s in industrial technology from California State University, Chico.


Al Rabanera is a high school math educator at La Vista High School in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District. With 17 years of teaching experience, Rabanera is a passionate advocate for growth, stability and success for those who are currently in or considering the teaching profession. He facilitates the North Orange County Think Tank for the Institute for Teaching, co-chairs the Alumni Advisory Council for the NEA Foundation – Global Learning Fellowship, is a member of the National Policy Advisory Council for Teach Plus, serves on the Board of Directors for California Teachers Association’s Institute for Teaching, and the Board of Directors for the Council of Accreditation for Educator Preparation. In his free time, he enjoys taking his son (Nehemiah, 2.5 years old) and daughter (Aurora, 9 months old) on walks to the park.


Jose Rivas is a 2020-21 Teach Plus California policy fellow and emergent bilingual change agent. He teaches digital art, AP physics, electronics and product development to 11th and 12th graders at Lennox Academy in Lennox. He is the adviser for several STEM teams that include the Solar Boat and Exploravision. Jose serves on the Infiniscope Advisory Board in partnership with NASA and Arizona State University and is an educator collaborator for national radio program Science Friday. He received the Northrop Excellence in Engineering Education Award in 2016 and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching in 2019. Rivas holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, a master’s in secondary education and is a certified transformational teacher leader from Loyola Marymount University.


Manuel Rustin is a high school social science teacher enjoying his 18th year in the classroom. He currently teaches ethnic studies, American government and economics at John Muir High School Early College Magnet in Pasadena, where he has been teaching since 2008. In addition to teaching, he chairs the California Department of Education’s Instructional Quality Commission, a body that directly advises the State Board of Education on matters pertaining to curricular frameworks and resources. Rustin is a recipient of the Milken Educator Award as well as the Pasadena NAACP Ruby McKnight Educator Award. He earned his doctorate in educational leadership at UCLA and received his master’s in teaching and curriculum at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Meghann Seril is a third grade teacher in the Mandarin immersion program at Broadway Elementary in Venice. She serves United Teachers Los Angeles as a chapter chair and House of Representatives member. Seril earned her credential and master’s in teaching from the University of Southern California. She is a National Board Certified teacher and new teacher mentor. When Seril is not in the classroom, she enjoys baking, traveling and listening to podcasts.


Tamra Simpson is a California policy manager for Teach Plus and a science of reading coach. Prior to that, she was an assistant administrator of instructional improvement and academic coaching for Adelanto Elementary School District. There she served as a site leader and focused on building the capacity of educators to create equitable learning opportunities. Simpson previously served as a K-12 literacy coach in Riverside County. Her career in education began in Southern California, where she developed a passion for providing intervention support to students slipping through the cracks of our education system. She holds a bachelor’s from UC Riverside, a master’s in English language learning from Western Governors University and a master’s in education administration from California State University, San Bernardino. She enjoys learning new things, cooking and exploring new places.


Marion Siwek has worked as an education specialist in elementary and high school for the past 20 years. More recently, she has been the special education coordinator for Alliance Tennenbaum Technology High School in Los Angeles. Prior to that, she taught a special day class for students with mild/moderate disabilities in LAUSD. In addition, she participates as a coach in the induction programs at both LACOE and the Alliance. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in film and media studies from USC and multi-subject and mild to moderate credentials at Cal State Los Angeles and National University. In her spare time, Siwek enjoys traveling, hiking and baking delicious concoctions.


Nora Wynne is a learning specialist at the Humboldt County Office of Education working with teachers in Humboldt County. She has taught high school and middle school Spanish in Humboldt County for 20 years. She has served as the immersion coordinator for the Spanish immersion schools and as an instructional coach in McKinleyville Union School District. She has been teaching since 1997, beginning in rural Guatemala, as a Peace Corps volunteer. Wynn has taught in Humboldt State University’s Education Department since 2000. She completed her Master of Arts in multicultural education, with a focus on racism and homophobia in teacher preparation. She loves to travel, cook, run, read, spend time with her family and listen to music. She is one of the 2021 California Teachers of the Year.