This year we welcomed our inaugural class of DreamTeacher Fellows — comprised of extraordinary teacher-leaders that come from nine states across the country that are true trailblazers in their schools and communities. The DreamTeacher Fellows were selected based on their proven dedication to their students, willingness to embrace technology in the classroom, and overall ability to ignite passion and future vision in all students. Throughout the Spring 2017 semester, our #DreamTeachers have hosted a series of ten flashchats with top DreamWakers’ speakers, received exclusive education news, and have had first access to our brand new portfolio of DreamWakers lesson plans. This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, and while we are thankful for them each and every day, we wanted to take the opportunity to shine a light on the incredible work that they do and the invaluable role that they play in the lives of their students. Get to know them below.


Amanda Koonlaba: 4th grade Art; Tupelo, MS

If you could change one thing about your students’ world, what would it be?

In the big picture, I wish I could change the political drama we are experiencing in this country. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, you can surely acknowledge that there is a lot of division in America. There’s division at the national level and down to the community level. I do what I can to have an impact in this area, but I truly wish I could wave a magic wand and make it all work out for everyone. On a smaller scale, but related to the big picture, I wish I could change some of the insecurities they face in their personal lives. Many of my students face not having enough food to eat and not living in a safe place. I believe in active hopefulness (not just wishful thinking), and I do what I can to impact this. Yet, again, I wish I could wave a magic wand and fix it for them. I want them to have hope for their futures. I want them to know that they do have opportunities to impact their future to be what they want it to be (self-efficacy). I want them to practice active hopefulness as well. I think DreamWakers helps them see outside their own bubble and think about what is out there for them in the world.

Nicholas Lundberg: 5th grade; Spokane, WA

What inspires you about your students?

My students inspire me by their resilience through difficult life experiences and desire for authentic relationships.

Heather Shotke: 7th grade Leadership; Rosemead, CA

Why do you #DreamWake?

I #DreamWake because learning is more than information in textbooks. Learning is exposure and experience. The exposure that DreamWakers provides my students to the outside world is invaluable. The direct connections with reputable professionals that DreamWakers flashchats provides inspires and empowers students.

Erik van Houten: 6th grade Big History; Las Vegas, NV

If you could change one thing about your students’ world, what would it be?

One thing?! I would change the lack of empathy. Many people lack the ability to comprehend the life, experiences, and feelings of other people. This lack of empathy divides people. It is easier said than done, but developing empathy begins with the ability to listen.

Joy Delgallego: 5th grade; El Cajon, CA

If you could change one thing about your students’ world, what would it be?

If I could change one thing about my students’ world it would be the lens through which they see it. I would give them ‘rose colored glasses’ where each one could see the potential that I see in them. I would let each of them see that every single one of them has the ability to attend college or technical training upon high school graduation.

Adam Kohler: 6th grade World History; New Orleans, LA

What inspires you about your students?

One thing I would love to help change about the world our students have surrounding them would be an increase in the moments that build self confidence. Our students do not have enough interactions with events and scenarios to build this crucial piece of their identities. Self confidence is such an important driver in our students’ education and I believe programs like DreamWakers are a step in the right direction to getting diverse speakers and experiences in front of our students to drive the self confidence piece.

Fadesola Ojeikere: 6th grade History; Newark, NJ

What inspires you about your students?

My students inspire me to continue working on new ways to challenge their minds, their beliefs, and slowly build young leaders who have a global perspective of their world. It is especially crucial that my students and other students around the nation recognize that regardless of all the hate that seems to live on in this country they will remember the words of Maya Angelou:

“You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

Valencia Angles: 6–8th grade Gifted Students; Tazewell, VA

If you could change one thing about your students’ world, what would it be?

Geographically, my students live in a small rural area, several hours away from any city. This is an advantage because of the close-knit relationships that develop within small communities. There is a feeling of safety and the students truly have a village taking care of them. Economically, our area is suffering. This area has been primarily supported by the mining industry and related services. In the past several years, the mines have closed and the supporting businesses have also had to close. This has caused a large exodus from our area and our economy has tanked. While it will make the students stronger in the future, it’s difficult to hear them talk about the hardships faced in their families. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer young people return to the area after college, choosing instead to live where they can support themselves and their young families. I would like to change the economic situation so that the students wouldn’t have finances as a concern and so that they would return to the area after college. Hand-in-hand with the slowing economy, our education system is also suffering. The state provides some funding, but the bulk of the funding comes from local sources. The declining tax base and the declining enrollment are negatively impacting our school system. Our students are not able to be exposed to many of the opportunities offered to students from more affluent areas of our state. This makes them less competitive for college admissions. Fortunately, they have access to online courses, our teachers are dedicated and well-trained, and now we have DreamWakers to open more doors.

Donald Saint-Germain: 10–12th grade Computer Science & English; Bronx, NY

If you could change one thing about your students’ world, what would it be?

Provide them with more local opportunities to see examples of people who look like them and are successful in multiple facets of life. I DreamWake to open doors of opportunities for my students.


DreamWakers is a national nonprofit organization that harnesses technology to connect classroom learning to real-world careers. Using free video chat services, DreamWakers virtually links top professionals working across a variety of industries in the public and private sectors to 4th — 12th grade high-need classrooms where over 50% of the student body is on free or reduced lunch. Each virtual session, called a “flashchat,” lasts 45 minutes and is designed to shed light on the real world applicability of course lessons, while at the same time empowering and inspiring students to prepare for personal and professional opportunities.

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