INSTRUCTIONAL STAFF

Close Up’s Program Instructors (PIs) are the lifeblood of our programs, and ensure that your students have a safe, rewarding and fun experience! Our PIs are not just contracted tour guides – they are college-educated instructors who are carefully selected for our programs and receive over 120 hours of training with our curriculum and methodology prior to working with students. Additionally, all PIs are trained in First Aid, CPR and have passed a criminal background check as part of Close Up’s hiring process. Our dynamic and engaging instructors come from some of the nation’s top universities as well as from distinguished programs such as the Peace Corps, Semester at Sea, and AmeriCorps. All Program Instructors are supported by Curriculum staff members and receive additional professional development every week in an effort to keep our curriculum relevant to current events, as well as to ensure our practice of providing cutting-edge experiential education.

Program Leaders

Katie Chandler: St. Catherine’s University, BA-French & History; Jagiellonian University, MA-European Studies


Hometown: Platteville, WI

“The things I love best about Close Up are the diversity of students we work with and that all our instructors share a genuine passion for civic education.”

 

 

Julianne Forzano: West Virginia University, BA-Secondary Social Studies Education


Hometown: Wheeling, WV

“The best part of being a program instructor is working directly with the kids, helping them grow their democratic skills.”

Freya Yskes: Aquinas College, BA-Political Science & International Studies; Marquette University, MA-International Affairs


Hometown: Grandville, MI

“My favorite part of Close Up is helping students find their voice and place in our democracy. As a two-time alumnus of the high school program, Close Up helped me find my passion for government and I haven’t looked back since!”


Senior Program Instructors

Whitney Hughes: University of Florida, BA Political Science


Hometown: St. Petersburg, FL

“The most exciting part of being a program instructor is getting to hear the conversations amongst students as they challenge one another to speak up and share their opinions.”

 

 

Josh McDonnell: University of South Carolina Upstate, BA History


Hometown: Spartanburg, SC

“The most rewarding thing about being a program instructor is being able to help create empowered young citizens.”

Melissa Morgan: George Washington University, BA Geographic Information Systems and American Studies


Hometown: Garden Grove, CA

“It’s so exciting to meet new students and help teach them about government and civic engagement, all while showing them around the city that I love!”

Shawn Ralston: Binghamton University, BA English, Gen. Literature


Hometown: Cattaraugus Indian Reservation, NY

“The most exciting part of being a Close Up Instructor is interacting with students from a variety of backgrounds. It is always beneficial to understand the youth experience in different communities across the United States.”


Program Instructors

Stephanie Alexander: Clark Atlanta University, BA Political Science, The American University of Paris, MA International Affairs


Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

“The most exciting part about being a Program Instructor is the opportunity to inspire and equip students with the intellectual tools they need to be civically engaged.”

 

 

Jeremy Blake: Marshall University, BA Secondary Education


Hometown: Wheelersburg, OH

“The best part of being a Program Instructor is getting to see young people grow and become confident in their opinions.”

Tanya Bouillon: CUNY Hunter College, BA Political Science and Chinese Language & Literature


Hometown: Endicott, NY

“The best part about being a Program Instructor is watching young people interact with other students from across the country and share their thoughts and values with them."

Becca Brehm: Virginia Commonwealth University, BA Political Science


Hometown: Falls Church, VA

“The most exciting thing about using DC as a living classroom is allowing students to see real historical sites, and helping them to apply what they learn in the classroom to the real world."

Aleksandra Chernyak: Bay Path University, BA Liberal Studies


Hometown: Portland, ME

“I enjoy getting students to talk about current events and I love to learn new things from them.”

Jared Conn: Otterbein University, BA Political Science


Hometown: Wintersville, OH

“I enjoy helping students think about and express their own viewpoints about government and what it means to be an active citizen in the US.”

Michael Covin: Rutgers University, BA Political Science and History


Hometown: Clifton, NJ

“The most exciting part of being a Close Up instructor is getting to work with different students from around the country and utilizing different learning environments in DC as a classroom to further expand ways to inform, inspire, and empower students.”

Maxine Davis: American University, BA International Studies and Public Health


Hometown: Washington, DC

“Washington, DC is a place where you get to see your history textbook come alive, from visiting the monuments and museums to seeing the inner workings of the Federal government. You get to experience a piece of American history with every step you take.”

Thomas Devine: University of New Hampshire, BA Political Science


Hometown: McLean, VA

“Most high school students do not realize what impact they can make on their local communities, Close Up programs show them that.”

Cory Gassett: University of Central Florida, BA History


Hometown: Jacksonville, FL

“I love working with young people in an impactful, non-traditional manner with a focus on civic engagement.”

Jan Gundersen: Philipps University Marburg (Germany), BA and MA Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic


Hometown: McLean, VA

“DC is a campus for learning and I hope to inspire students to become active and engaged citizens in our democracy.”

Daniel Hastings: Hobart and William Smith Colleges, BA History


Hometown: Geneva, NY

“I love working at Close Up because it uses Washington, DC as a classroom, which allows for hands-on learning.”

Charles Howell: Clark Atlanta University, BA History and Education; Virginia Union University, M.Div. Theology


Hometown: Springfield, MA

“I love teaching outside the traditional classroom – it’s such a unique experience.”

Greg Johnson: Western Carolina University, BA English; Western Carolina University, MAEd.; North Carolina State University, Ed.D. Adult Education


Hometown: Midland, NC

“I’m proud to work for Close Up because they give students the skills they need to be active and engaged in our democracy.”

Laziza Lambert: University of Central Florida, BA International Global Studies


Hometown: Orlando, FL

“The best part about Close Up is that students get to learn with other students from across the country who have differing viewpoints. It’s amazing to watch them come together.”

Joelle Leib: Scripps College, BA American Studies


Hometown: San Diego, CA

“The most rewarding part of my job is working with young people from across the country and teaching them about the power of history and government.”

David Leviev: West Virginia University, BA Political Science


Hometown: Charlotte, NC

“I enjoy working at Close Up because I’m able to have the opportunity to show young students history and civics from a creative and unique perspective. I think it’s a great honor to be able to educate the youth on civics and democracy.”

Sante Mastriana: University of Pennsylvania, BA International Studies and Chinese Language & Culture; MA TESOL Education, Hunter College


Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

“Now is the time to encourage civic education and Close Up is the ultimate immersive experience.”

Noelle Nelson: Duquesne University, BA History and Political Science


Hometown: North East, PA

“The most exciting part about using DC as a classroom is the opportunity to show students their nation’s capital as a tangible concept.”

Hannah Newman: American University, BA International Studies


Hometown: Wake Forest, NC

“DC is an amazing city and being able to see where everything happens really helps reinforce topics that we cover and creates memorable experiences for the students.”

Gabriel Parker: University of Wisconsin at Madison, BA Education and Political Science


Hometown: New Orleans, LA

“I love being able to see tomorrow’s young leaders as they become inspired on Close Up.”

Allen Pinn: University of Virginia, BA History


Hometown: Lynchburg, VA

“I love working with students from all over the country. It’s interesting to see how they interact with one another and how their viewpoints differ.”

Zach Sturiate: Arcadia University, BA Political Science


Hometown: Baltimore, MD

“I love being able to witness the growth Close Up students make over the short time they are with us.”

Jackie Sutherland: Northwest Nazarene University, BA History and English, MEd Curriculum, Innovation, and Instruction


Hometown: Nampa, ID

“Teaching students through hands-on experiences is so rewarding.”

Kyra Watkins: University of Mary Washington, BA Spanish and Political Science


Hometown: Chesapeake, VA

“Close Up’s mission is so important because it inspires people to have a voice in the world we live in.”

Brady Watson: State University of New York, BS Environmental Policy, Planning, and Law, MS Environmental and Outdoor Education


Hometown: Croning, NY

“Washington, DC is the perfect social studies classroom because there is an intersection of local, state, and national governments in a concentrated area.”

Meadow Wiggington: James Madison University, BA Political Science and Philosophy


Hometown: Falls Church, VA

“Washington, DC is the perfect social studies classroom because there is an intersection of local, state, and national governments in a concentrated area.”

Destiny Williams: University of Mary Washington, BA International Affairs


Hometown: Woodbridge, VA

“The most exciting part of being an instructor is learning new things about domestic policy and getting to teach the students that come on program.”


Teacher Program Specialists

Michael Kofi Boateng: Brigham Young University (Hawaii), BA-Political Science; Norwich University, MA-Diplomacy


Hometown: Koforidua, Ghana

“My favorite part of Close Up is the unique non-partisan approach to teaching.”

 

 

 

John Cheeseman: George Mason University, BA History


Hometown: Alexandria, VA

“The best part of being a TPS is working with teachers from all across the country and overseas, imparting knowledge of our history and government, and learning from them in return.”

Olivia Dumboski: University of Arkansas; BA- International Relations, Minors- European Studies and Political Science


Hometown: Little Rock, Arkansas

“As a former educator, I enjoy working with Close Up teachers from all over the country as they continue to enrich their dedication to civic education in the classroom.”

Joe Geraghty: Le Moyne College, BA-Religious Studies


Hometown: Yorktown Heights, NY

“I love working at Close Up because I believe that our mission to inform, inspire, and empower the youth of America is vitally important for the future of our great country.”

Nora Hoffman-White: Fordham University, BA History


Hometown: Silver Spring, MD

“I love this city and want to show teachers and students all the resources here.”

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"The great thing about Close Up is that every day is exciting! I constantly learn new things from my students and colleagues and I work with people who share the same passion for our democracy that I do!"

   – Madison K., Instructor
Educating for democracy since 1971