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Local leaders in education

These outstanding educators are building a better Greater Cincinnati every day as they shape the minds, talents and hearts of our region's next generation of leaders.

Anthony Mize
  • Anthony Mize, 28, Interim Director of African American Programs at Northern Kentucky University
  • Hometown: Dayton
  • Current neighborhood: Cincinnati

Why he's so amazing: Change agent. Social justice warrior. Mentor.

Those are just a few of the words used describe Anthony Mize by those who nominated him as a Next 9 leader in education. As interim director of African American Programs at NKU, Mize leads one of the university's top inclusion efforts crafted to ensure academic success for minority students.

In his role, Mize oversees a host of mentoring programs, NKU R.O.C.K.S (Responsibility, Opportunity, Community, Knowledge and Success). The program caters to nearly 1,000 African American students each year, striving to ease their transition from high school through to college.

As part of that effort, Mize helps craft yearlong programming and aimed at helping students build networks on campus as they developer their academic, leadership and professional skills.

Amber Conley
  • Amber Conley, 27, Adjunct instructor and Marketing and Communications Coordinator for Center for Entrepreneurship & Commercialization at the University of Cincinnati
  • Hometown: Mount Orab, OH
  • Current neighborhood:Anderson Township

Why she's so amazing: Described by her nominee as a "multi-talented, young professional" Amber Conley wears several professional hats the University of Cincinnati. When she's not serving in her role as an adjunct instructor in UC's Management Department, she's holding down her full-time role as the marketing and communications coordinator in the Center for Entrepreneurship & Commercialization (CEC)

Among her top jobs at CEC: Making sure students and alumni are award of opportunities for exploring entrepreneurship and innovation at UC.

Back in the classroom, Conley's primary course is focused on organizational behavior where she teaches management principles and highlights the study of human behavior within organizations. Through case studies, guest lectures, and a supervised-student consulting project, Conley helps students understand what it takes to be a successful manager is today's business world.

Dominique Brown
  • Dominique Brown, 32, graduate teaching assistant, Miami University
  • Hometown: Florence, KY
  • Current neighborhood: Northside

Why she's so amazing: An instructor and Ph.D. student in education at Miami University, Dominique Brown's work beyond helping crafting great teachers.

Through her doctoral research in the Educational Leadership, Culture and Curriculum program at Miami, Brown is helping the next generation of educators understand identity and engage difference.

Previously, she worked at the Center for Faith and Justice at Xavier as an experiential educator helping students to find ways to weave community service work into their academic career.

Brown is also board members Elements, which supports creative expression of urban youth in Over-the-Rhine.

Akili Barnes
  • Akili Barnes, 24, First grade teacher at Frederick Douglas Elementary
  • Hometown: Forest Park
  • Current neighborhood: West Chester Township

Why she's so amazing: Throughout her childhood and teens, Akili Barnes said she struggled to connect with to the educators in her life.

"I never had an African American teacher that I saw myself in," said Barnes, a first grade teacher at Douglas Elementary in Walnut Hills.

There she works daily to make sure her students have what they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond. For students who have been forced out of their homes, she makes sure they have regular rides to school. She stays after school to help students who are struggling in certain subjects. She also works with a variety of community programs to make sure students whose families are struggling have meals for the weekend.

When she's not in the classroom, she's mentoring local youth and serving as the high school track and field assistant coach.

"I'm teacher because I want to make sure these students have someone like them to relate to," she said. "Sometimes that can make all the difference."

Samantha Gaier
  • Samantha Gaier, 28, Assistant Director of school-based learning at the Cincinnati Art Museum
  • Hometown: Piqua, OH
  • Current neighborhood: Woodlawn

Why she's so amazing: As the assistant director of School-Based Learning at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Samatha Gaier works daily to help teachers and students to engage with not only the museum's collection but the art community as a whole.

Gaier constantly works to connect local artists and organizations with local educators. Recently, she organized “Art and the Community,” which brought in 11 outside artists/organizations to the museum for vendor fair for educators. The event allowed educators to explore new resources for their students by interacting directly with these vendors.

Gaier also works closely with the region's homeschool community - crafting programming and new opportunities to engage students with the museum from preschool through their senior year.

Melissa Ponton
  • Melissa Ponton, 38, intervention specialist Fairfield Elementary
  • Hometown:
  • Current neighborhood: Fairfield

Why she's so amazing: As an intervention specialist, Melissa Ponton works daily with children who face a range of behavioral, emotional and developmental challenges. Add to that - for a large portion of Ponton's students and their parents, English is their second language.

"The kids who have the most severe behavioral issues are the students I'm usually working with," said Ponton. "It takes a lot of patience, and some days are harder than others, but I just treat them like their my own children."

For Ponton, her students are like any other student - they all have strengths and weaknesses.

"At the end of the day, these kids need someone cheering for them," she said. "That's what drives me. I love what I do, and I feel like I'm right where I need to be."

Alexis Rodgers, Alicia Rogers
  • Alexis Rodgers, 26, Cincinnati firefighter and paramedic.
  • Hometown: Columbus
  • Current neighborhood: Harrison
  • Alicia Rogers, 30, administrative technician with Cincinnati fire department
  • Hometown: College Hill
  • Current neighborhood: Northside

Why they are so amazing: Together Alicia Rogers and Alexis Rodgers lead the Cincinnati Fire Cadet Summer Program.

Launched three years ago, the program employs local teens ages 14 to 17 for eight weeks in the summer - teaching them leadership skills and what it takes to be a Cincinnati firefighter.

Rodgers, a firefighter, leads the teens through safety and host first responder training, including of search and rescue, CPR and how to extinguish fires.

Her co-leader Rogers crafts the soft skills and leadership curriculum focused on promoting respect and responsibility. As parting gifts - each teen receives a career portfolio that includes a resume and a list of interview questions they can use to prepare for their next employer.

Jeff Lyman
  • Jeff Lyman, 29, school psychologist, Oak Hills Local Schools
  • From: Cleveland
  • Current neighborhood: Clifton

Why he's so amazing: A school psychologist, Jeff Lyman works daily to help teachers and their students problem solve when challenging times arise.

Daily, he goes out of his way to help the hardest kids in the school succeed. He spends his own money on items for students to earn. He brainstorms ways to help feed the hungriest students on the weekends.

As his nominee put it: "In Jeff's mind, there is no shortcut, or easier way. Whatever is best for the students, is what he will do."

Jeremy Dubin
  • Jeremy Dubin, 42, Director of Creative Education and Outreach at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
  • Hometown: Milwaukee, WI
  • Current neighborhood: Kennedy Heights

Why he's so amazing: As director of creative education at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (CSC), Jeremy Dubin plays a host of roles education the region's rising stars. That's in addiction to working an actor, director, and teaching artist since 1999.

At CSC, he is also the director of the Shakespeare Summer Camp, as well as the CSC Groundlings Program - a year-long Shakespeare program for gifted high school students. Additionally, Dubin heads up CSC’s Intern Company, a group of young performers and teaching artists, who bring performances, workshops and residencies to schools throughout the tri-state.

Outside of those roles, Dubin is an adjunct professor of theatre at Xavier University, and works as a theatre consultant for several area high schools.

"Jeremy’s great gift as a teacher is his ability to create an atmosphere of safety, respect, and empathy among his students," wrote his nominee. "He instills these values in them from the very beginning of every class and camp, and the students take those lessons to build an ensemble based on trust and acceptance."

Under Dubin's leadership, CSC has developed one of the most robust and wide-reaching Education Programs in the tri-state, serving 50,000 students each year. With eight unique programs and over 400 arts education events each year.

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