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Caroline Novak, President

As a member of the charter class of Leadership Alabama I learned about the depth of our challenges in education, and also about the role citizens played in organizing efforts to improve education in states such as Kentucky. I challenged our class to promote excellence and equity for all children in our state. With the leadership of classmate Bill Smith, chairman of Royal Cup Coffee, we launched A+ in 1991. We were fortunate that committed Alabama educators and other business and civic leaders joined us from the very beginning.

The message that we can succeed with the right mix of high expectations, support for educators and students, and accountability for all stakeholders has helped to build strong partnerships throughout the state. I believe that we can create opportunities for all Alabama students to pursue their dreams by ensuring that we are constant learners ourselves. So we worked to build support for improving schools and then developed programs to actually deliver support to educators and students through the Alabama Best practices Center and A+ College Ready.

To stay connected to national resources and local issues, I serve on the boards of the Education Commission of the States, the Southern Regional Education Board, the Business Council of Alabama, Sterling Bank and Leadership Alabama. Tabor and I are proud that our children, grandchildren and grand-dogs call Alabama home.

Cathy Gassenheimer, Executive VP for ABPC

I’ve been with A+ from almost the very beginning, joining in August 1991. In 1999, we launched the Alabama Best Practices Center, which works directly with educators through our four professional learning networks: the Superintendent Leaders Network, the Key Leaders Network (school and district leaders), the Powerful Conversations Network (school teams), and the Instructional Partners Network (school-based instructional coaches).

I’m a real learning nerd and love nothing more than to learn more about things that matter. I’m also quite a lover of all types of music! Personally, I’m married to Rick Gassenheimer and together we have three children and three grandchildren. You can connect with me through this website, and also on Twitter (@cathygassenheim) and the ABPC Facebook page.

Tammy Dunn, VP for Academic Affairs, A+CR

Vice President for Academic Affairs
A+ College Ready

I am a 28 year career educator. The first 17 years of my career were spent in science classrooms in Tennessee and Hoover, Alabama, teaching biology, chemistry, physics and AP biology. In 2007, I went to work as the science supervisor for Jefferson County Schools where I facilitated the curriculum, instruction, professional learning, and assessment for 6 - 12 science education in 14 high schools and their feeder middle schools. While working with Jefferson County schools, I helped manage the A+ College Ready grant program, and in 2010, I became the Program Manager for A+ College Ready. In 2013, I went to serve as the Chief Academic Officer for Mathematics and Science for Hoover City Schools, and in 2016 I returned to A+ College Ready as the Chief Academic Officer.

I earned a bachelor's degree from the University of North Alabama, a master's degree from the University of Alabama in Birmingham, and an Education Specialist's Degree from Samford University where I currently serve as an adjunct teacher for the School of Education.

I achieved certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) in 1999 and renewed the certification in 2009. I have mentored over 100 teachers who have undergone the NBPTS certification process. I currently serve on the NBPTS board of directors. I was honored to be the 2001 recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching and the 2003 Alabama Teacher of the Year.

My husband Ray and I love to travel and play golf. The joy of my life is enjoying my family, especially my two granddaughters, Ava and Olivia.

Teri Thompson, VP for Operations, A+CR

Vice President for Operations
A+ College Ready

I have spent the last 33 years involved with public education in Alabama, then retired from the classroom and began working with A+ College Ready.  My classroom experience includes teaching high school English, grades 9-12 and AP literature and Composition in diverse educational settings from urban to rural to magnet.

I graduated from Bradley Central High School in Cleveland, TN, in 1979, and then attended The University of Alabama and The University of Alabama at Birmingham.  I began teaching in 1984.

In 2010, I became a certified Laying the Foundation trainer and have presented at summer trainings across the state as well as presenting at Advanced Placement (AP) Literature Saturday Study Sessions in Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia.

I joined the staff of A+ College Ready in 2014 as the manager for Partner Schools.  I am currently the Chief Program Officer for the organization.

I am a member of the 2017 class of Leadership Elmore County, the 2014 Wetumpka High School Teacher of the Year, the 2013-14 Building Leadership Team chairperson, and a member of ADK (Alpha Delta Kappa), an education sorority.  My husband, David, and I have one child and live in Wetumpka, AL.


Carrie Bates

Statistics Consultant
A+ College Ready

This is my fifth year as the A+ College Ready Statistics Consultant. I also teach full time at Buckhorn High School in the Madison County School System. I have been a secondary mathematics teacher for twenty years and currently teach AP Statistics, Discrete Mathematics, and Algebra with Finance.

My husband, Jack Jr., and I live in Huntsville, Alabama with our two children, Jack (7) and Caroline (3). I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from Birmingham-Southern College (1997) and my graduate degree in Mathematics Education from the University of Alabama in Birmingham (2000). In 2005, I became a National Board Certified teacher and then renewed that certification in 2014.

Michelle Condon

Chief Financial Officer

I came to A+ in 2010 as Chief Financial Officer. Prior to A+, I worked for 37 years in commercial banking, primarily in operations, finance, and mergers/acquisitions. I was a military brat who landed at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, and graduated from Sidney Lanier High School and then Auburn University with a B.S. in Economics.

I have one son who graduated from Auburn and lives in Winston-Salem, NC with his new wife. I enjoy my Lake Martin cabin, as well as traveling, cooking and spending time with friends. I'm very happy to be working with A+, and out of the pressure cooker world of banking!

Rennie Crabb

Special Projects Coordinator


I began working at A+ in August of 2008. I work with all the A+ divisions, handling special projects, board interactions, donor relations, meetings preparation, and other administrative duties. Before joining A+, I was a stay-at-home mom for 20 years while volunteering with various community groups and church activities. I also worked as an account executive with Automatic Data Processing after graduating from Auburn University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Personnel Management and Industrial Relations.

I was born in Birmingham and moved to Montgomery in elementary school. I attended Jefferson Davis High School, along with my husband, Barry, a CPA. We worked in Birmingham after attending opposing colleges (AU and UA) for 6 years before settling down in Montgomery to raise our two children. I love going to the beach, and I enjoy reading, cooking, and watching football.

Melissa Crook

Executive Assistant
A+ College Ready

I have served as the executive assistant for A+ College Ready since 2015. I earned a B.A. in Anthropology and Master of Public Health, both from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. My passion for the education field stems from my upbringing in a small, rural town. I graduated from Fayetteville High School in Sylacauga, AL, and am encouraged by the opportunities the A+ program offers to so many students in similar settings.

I live in Sylacauga, and have a four-year-old daughter, Madelyn. In my spare time, I enjoy photography and spending time outdoors.

Matt Dean

Science Content Director (AP)
A+ College Ready

I have taught AP Biology for 21 years and AP Physics for 5 years, and am currently the Science Content Director for A+ College Ready. I have presented at numerous AP professional development conferences and Saturday study sessions across the state. I attended Madison County High School in Gurley, AL, and earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Additionally, I earned Educational Specialist and Doctoral degrees from the University of Alabama. I was awarded National Board Certification in 2001 and 2011. I enjoy kayaking and farming in my spare time.

Katherine Dearing

Training & Data Manager
A+ College Ready

I joined A+ College Ready as the Training Manager in 2016.  Prior to joining this team, I worked in the legal profession while pursuing a long-held interest in education and completing an M.Ed from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  I graduated from Tulane University with a B.A. in Political Economy, and obtained a J.D. from the Birmingham School of Law.

I enjoy working as part of a team to help ensure the quality of public education and, in doing so, top open the doors of opportunity for every Alabama student.

Diann Frucci

English Content Director (AP)
A+ College Ready

I joined A+ College Ready to serve as the English Content Director in 2013 after retiring from the classroom. I taught for 28 years, 25 of those at LAMP High School in Montgomery, Alabama, where I taught both AP English Literature and AP English Language. I served as department chair at LAMP, as English lead teacher for Montgomery Public Schools, and as an AP reader; I have also been an LTF (Laying The Foundation) trainer for seven years. I was honored in 2011 to be named a NMSI All American Teacher and the College Board’s AP Teacher of the Year for the Southeastern Region in 2012.

Jenifer Glover

Director of Finance
A+ College Ready

I joined the A+ team in 2014, serving as its Finance Manager. Before that, I worked with Southern Company in various roles for sixteen years- the last six years as a Budget Analyst. I earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and MBA from South University.

Originally from Spring Hill, Florida, I now live in Elmore County with my husband LaDon. We have four children with two of them currently in college, and one proudly serves in the Alabama National Guard. I enjoy reading, and volunteering in my community in my spare time.

Mallory Harp

Science Content Director (6-10)
A+ College Ready

It is a pleasure to be a part of the A+ College Ready team as the 6-10 Science Content Director. Prior, I served nine years in the classroom teaching physical science while also serving in various roles with student leadership, and as an A+ Coordinator. I began working for A+ as part of the 6th and 8th grade curriculum development teams and became a Laying the Foundation and A+ summer institute trainer. Additionally, I am an AMSTI presenter. I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Alabama in 2008 and my Master's degree in Secondary Science Education from the University of Montevallo in 2010. Originally from Trussville, I now live in Millbrook with my husband and daughter. I enjoy time at the lake, spending time with friends and family, and cooking and baking.

Dieatra Howie

Social Studies Content Director (6-10)
A+ College Ready

Where do I start? Well, I have taught World History, U.S. History, U.S. Government, Economics and AP U.S. History for several years and served as the Graduation Coach at Northview High School. I have also served as Social Studies Instructional Coach and supported both school and district level initiatives. Additionally, I served a summer instructor for history classes for the Upward Bound Program at Troy University and as an adjunct professor for Troy University’s College of Education.

I received both my Bachelor’s Degree of Science and Master’s Degree of Science in Social Science Education from Troy University, and a Master’s Degree of Science in Instructional Leadership from Jacksonville State University. I have facilitated several professional development workshops and developed curriculum on the local, state, and national level.

I was a member of the University of Alabama Advanced Placement Team, and have been a consultant and trainer for the Alabama Department of Education with the implementation of the Social Studies Career and College Readiness Standards. I also served on the A+ College Ready Social Studies Development Team and as an AP U.S. History Saturday session presenter, was honored to be named the 2014 Alabama History Teacher of the Year.

I am happily married, and enjoy traveling, scrapbooking, and writing in my free time. I believe that education is the key that can open endless doors, and one of the greatest gifts educators have is the ability to truly make a difference in another’s life.

Pat Johnson

AL Best Practices Center

abpc_pat-johnsonI do not think I can remember a time when I have not been involved in education: I have been in school, teaching school, managing a school or consulting with schools. My career began in kindergarten in North Carolina, then to Florida, and now in Alabama. I taught multiple grade levels and content areas from kindergarten to college. In addition, I have had the opportunity to visit classrooms in Kenya, Bolivia, and Honduras. I never dreamed I would leave the classroom. From the classroom, I worked as Teacher-In-Residence with the University of Alabama, and began to realize the importance of administrative leadership. I spent the last years in public education in administration.

My goal is to always be a learner—in education and in life. I believe that no matter the age or stage in life there is always something new to learn.

Away from the work of education, my husband and I enjoy traveling, involvement in mission outreach through our church, and gardening.

Lee Ann Latta

Mathematics Content Director (6-11)
A+ College Ready

I am a 20-year veteran in the Birmingham City School system where I taught everything from Algebra I to AP Statistics and AP Calculus. I served as the AP math lead teacher for the district. I have been a National Math and Science Initiative / Laying The Foundation trainer for six years; I also present at Saturday study sessions, ACT study sessions, and am AMSTI trained. I am married and have two daughters.

Beth McDavid

AL Best Practices Center

bethmcdavidI started my career in education thirty-nine years ago as an art teacher with the Tarrant City School District and was honored to receive the National Elementary Art Educator of the Year award. After a number of years teaching I served as assistant principal and then in central office as an administrator. My responsibilities have included staff development, curriculum, technology, English as a Second Language, accreditation, and Federal Programs.

Since retiring last year I have been with the Alabama Best Practice Center (ABPC) working with Alabama educators in supporting the ABPC’s work with Key Leader Network (KLN), Powerful Conversation Network (PCN), and Instructional Partners Network (IPN).

It has been a pleasure and very rewarding to continue my work with teachers and leaders as we all learn together to further learning and success for Alabama children. I enjoy yoga, reading, and cooking new and interesting foods. My family includes my husband, Bill McDavid, four children, and eight grandchildren.

Kitty Morgan

Mathematics Content Director (AP)
A+ College Ready

I have taught AP Calculus AB and BC for 20 years, and am currently the Math Content Director for A+ College Ready. I have been an AP Calculus Reader for six years, have presented at state, regional, and national conferences on math education and am an "Laying The Foundation" (LTF) presenter. I attended Stanhope Elmore High School in Millbrook, AL, and earned a degree in math education from Troy University. I hold a Master’s Degree from UAB, and earned National Board Certification in 2005. I love to sing and twirl baton!

John Norton

Communications Consultant
AL Best Practices Center

abpc_johnI made my first connection with A+ more than 20 years ago during a chance phone encounter with Cathy Gassenheimer, while I was vice president for information at the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB). As a communications consultant for the A+ Alabama Best Practices Center, I spent a decade writing and editing the ABPC journal Working Toward Excellence and now serve as editor for the ABPC Blog. In my first career, I reported on education for newspapers in South Carolina. I was also the first executive director of the state-supported SC Center for Teacher Recruitment (now CERRA).

A Clemson graduate, I attended "small-town" public schools while growing up near Myrtle Beach. My wife, Janice and I live in Little Switzerland, NC, but spend lots of time in Atlanta with grandson Wyatt and daughter Laurah, an English professor at Georgia State.

Candice Powers

Administrative Assistant
A+ College Ready

I received my B.A. in International Studies from the University of South Alabama in May 2015. In college, I found my passion for service through Greek life. After graduating, I applied for AmeriCorps Building Communities, Bettering Lives program hosted by the YWCA of Central Alabama. Throughout my two-year position in AmeriCorps, I served with Girls on the Run in Birmingham, assisting with program coordination and general office management. I was able to act as a mentor and coach to more than 120 young women over 4 seasons.  I strive to enable our future leaders through education and emotional intelligence. I enjoy the Birmingham Museum of Art, downtown's upcoming social scene, and exercising at Railroad Park.

Thomas Rains

Vice President of Operations & Policy

I joined A+ in 2011 and promote state education policies focused on ensuring all students graduate from high school ready for college and careers. I am currently vice chair of the Alabama Public Charter School Commission, and serve on the advisory boards for Teach For America-Alabama and the Family Guidance Center. I am also a member of the PARCA Roundtable and an alumnus of the Alabama Leadership Initiative and Leadership Montgomery’s Torchbearers Class. Before joining A+, I was a middle school teacher in Marks, MS, and also worked as a journalist in New York and Washington, DC. I hold a Master of Public Administration from Columbia University and dual bachelor’s degrees in history and journalism from Boston University. Originally from Atlanta, I am a preacher’s kid raised in Birmingham and Lanett, AL.

Lauren Roberts

Vice President of Strategic Communications & Development

I joined the A+ team as VP of Strategic Communications and Development in 2018. I am passionate about improving the lives of women and children and have volunteered over the past 27 years in the community in numerous capacities doing so. I’ve been a camp counselor for children with cancer, a court-appointed guardian ad litem for children in foster care, and volunteered in many ways at the Junior League of Birmingham, where I served as President from 2016-2017.

I am a native of Baton Rouge and received my undergraduate and law degrees from LSU. I practiced law in Baton Rouge for eight years before moving to Birmingham in 2003, where I joined the firm of Lloyd, Gray & Whitehead. In 2005 I “retired” from law and became a stay-at-home mom and community volunteer. I am a 2016 graduate of Leadership Birmingham and serve as President of its Members Council. I live in Homewood, Alabama, with my husband, Stuart, our children, Jack, Rosemary, and Evelyn, and our dog Praline.

Tara Roberts

AP Government & Politics Consultant
A+ College Ready

I am the AP U.S. Government and Politics Content Manager, and the AP Government teacher and IB History teacher at Fairhope High School in Fairhope, Alabama. I have also taught AP U.S. History at Fairhope. I received my B.A. in History from The University of Alabama in 2004 and my B.S. in Education/Social Studies from The University of South Alabama in 2009. I am currently working on my Masters in Administration/ESL at The University of South Alabama.

Rhonda Rush

AP Social Studies Content Director
A+ College Ready

I have taught social studies in Alabama for 33 years and am currently the Social Studies Content Director for A+ College Ready. I am a graduate of Etowah High School and earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Jacksonville State University.  I taught my first AP course in 1986 and have since taught AP United States History at Saks High School in Calhoun County, at Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa County and at Bob Jones High School in Madison County. In 1998, I began teaching at Homewood High School where I taught AP United States History  and in 2006 added AP United States Government and Politics. I have served as an AP exam reader and a consultant leading AP Summer Institutes. Through the years I have presented at numerous conferences on the state, regional and national level. I achieved certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) in 2009 and have served as a mentor and facilitator for NBCT candidates. Reading and sewing occupy my free time. I love to spend time at the lake with my family!

Beth Sanders

Technology Integration Consultant
AL Best Practices Center

I am a connected educator, lifelong learner, and proud millennial. My full-time position is as the Technology Integration Coordinator for Pike Road Schools. I am a member of the Powerful Conversations Network, Key Leaders Network, and for the past six years I've served part-time as the Technology Integration Consultant for Alabama Best Practices Center.

I am passionate about all things future-ready, leading. and learning. I have been fortunate to partner with APBC in a number of ways to provide support and access to connected and blended-learning experiences for educators, administrators, and instructional partners all across the state. One of the most exciting parts of my work with ABPC involves the online professional-learning community I've created and manage through Ning, which connects and empowers our Instructional Partners Network. Although our partners are in districts all over the state, the Ning connects them to each other and to resources whenever it is most convenient for them. It also keeps the learning going long beyond our face-to-face meetings. You can learn more about my work at my page, connect with me on Twitter @MsSandersEdu, and with ABPC at #ALPartners.

Megan Skipper

Director of Communications

I joined the A+ team in December 2018 as Director of Communications. I love my home state of Alabama and want to work to improve outcomes for those who live here—especially our children. After college, I began my career in Montgomery at the Montgomery Education Foundation as a communications and research coordinator. After two years at MEF, I left the non-profit world briefly to be a political strategist during the 2018 Midterm Election season. Now, I'm happy to continue my work in education policy and communications at A+.

I like to keep myself busy with community work, including assisting local Montgomery non-profits with communications and development. I received a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies, focused in public policy from Auburn University. I currently hold a master’s in strategic communication from Troy University. Originally from Daphne, AL, I’ve made a home in Montgomery with my cat and loved ones.

Hannah Spivey

Logistics Manager
A+ College Ready

I received a B.S. in Biology from Birmingham-Southern College in May 2016. After graduating, I committed to a year of AmeriCorps service with Impact America. During my time as an AmeriCorps member, I participated in a range of service initiatives including volunteer income tax preparation, vision screenings for children, a debate program for Birmingham city middle school students, and an AP summer workshop for Tuscaloosa high school students. After my year of service, I served as the organization's Program Officer. I assisted the Executive Director in areas of grant management, program implementation, and office management. I am passionate about education and excited to work for an organization that is increasing opportunities for students in Alabama.

Emily Strickland

Program Coordinator
AL Best Practices Center

Being the newest member of the Alabama Best Practices Center has been a whirlwind of a learning experience so far. I came on board in July and have not stopped growing and building relationships in this short time - and I know it's only the beginning. A native of Montgomery, I attended Saint James School from kindergarten through graduation and still talk to my best friends from ​primary school everyday. In 2012​,​ I graduated from Auburn University with a degree in English. I've worked with nonprofits since graduation, but am new to this side of the education world and loving it.

In my spare time I enjoy snuggling with our 2.5 Golden Retrievers (one is half Golden​ / ​half Bassett Hound, and yes, she's as cute as she sounds), spending time with family and friends​,​ watching all genres of movies​,​ laughing at inappropriate jokes during Taco Tuesday, yelling at the TV during college football, reading with a glass of wine​,​ and most recently, traveling and visiting breweries that are popping up all over the southeast. You can check out how cute my dogs are on Instagram/twitter ebs0010​/@Emily_Strick​.

Kanita Sturdivant

Instructional Consultant

I became a Laying the Foundation/ NMSI ELA teacher in 2014 and joined A+ College Ready as a teacher trainer in 2016. Since joining the organization, I have had the pleasure of training
teachers in Ohio, Michigan, Texas, Pennsylvania and Alabama. I currently work to support teachers with A+ Curriculum implementation at secondary schools. I live in York, AL with my husband and three children.

Pam Walker

English Content Manager (6-10)
A+ College Ready

I joined A+ College Ready in June of 2015 as the English Content Manager. I am a twenty-year veteran English teacher who has taught in both Georgia and Alabama public schools where my primary teaching roles have been freshman English and AP Language and Composition. I have served as an AP study session presenter, and am also a certified Laying The Foundation trainer. I was honored to be named Elmore County Teacher of the Year for Secondary Schools for 2015-2016. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Language Arts Education from Auburn University in 1995. Originally from Auburn, I now live in Wetumpka with my husband and our three children.

Kim Wallace

Administrative Assistant
A+ College Ready

I am very excited to join the A+ team.  I have worked in various support staff roles at Informations Transport Solutions and Caddell Construction.  I am a Mississippi State University graduate with a Bachelors in Business Administration.

I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, and now call Wetumpka my home with my husband Michael. We have two children, one in college and one that will graduate from high school soon. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, traveling to high school sporting events, and reading.

Jackie Walsh

Primary Consultant
AL Best Practices Center

Since 2008, I have served as senior consultant to the ABPC with primary responsibilities for design and facilitation of professional learning. Previously, I collaborated with A+ in my role as consultant to the Governor’s Commission on Quality Teaching. I began my career as a high school social studies teacher and, over the years, have worked in multiple educational organizations, including universities, a state department of education, a regional educational laboratory, and as consultant to the USDOE, national professional organizations, multiple SDEs, regional agencies, and school districts across the country. Phew! I should be really tired!

My passion is classroom questioning. I have co-authored four books on this topic, most recently Quality Questioning, 2nd Edition (Corwin Press, 2017) and Questioning for Classroom Discussion (ASCD, 2015), numerous articles in national journals, and presented at many national conferences. I partner with teachers in schools and districts across the country to improve questioning practices.

A native of Georgia, I received the A.B. from Duke University, M.A.T. from the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), and Ph.D. from the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa). In my spare time, I enjoy time with my adult children, two granddaughters, and two grand-dogs. I also travel whenever a good opportunity arises, read recreationally (as well as professionally), and am a huge college basketball and football fan.

Carol Yarborough

Computer Science Content Director
A+ College Ready

I began teaching high school in 2007, embarking on a second career after working in the computer industry for 20+ years. I am currently teaching computer science full-time at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, in Birmingham, Alabama, and serving as the A+ College Ready Computer Science Content Specialist.

I graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in Computational Mathematics. I then was employed in just about every aspect of the computer industry, doing both scientific and business programming. In addition to being a programmer, I have been a designer, analyst, system administrator, database administrator, technical architect, corporate trainer and curriculum developer. But, I always wanted to teach, so I studied Secondary Mathematics Education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I have been a College Board pilot teacher for the AP CS Principles course and a Teacher Leader with the CS4Alabama project. CS4Alabama is training in-service teachers in Alabama to teach the APCS Principles course.

I enjoy working with bright and creative people and the satisfaction of knowing that my work matters.