Joe has worked in education for over 20 years as a teacher, principal, and district administrator, and is the founder and CEO of Crescendo Education Group (crescendoedgroup.org), which since 2013 has supported K-12 schools, districts, and colleges/universities nationwide to improve grading and assessment practices. He leads the Equitable Grading Project (gradingforequity.org), has presented at numerous education conferences, and his writings have been published in Education Week, Kappan, Education Leadership, District Administrator, and Black Press USA. His book, Grading for Equity: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms (Corwin) was published in 2018. Crescendo Education Group has partnered with the National Education Association as well as the American Federation of Teachers, National Association of Independent Schools, and Stanford University’s Challenge Success.
Joe earned his B.A. from Stanford University and a Master’s degree in Teaching and Curriculum from the Harvard School of Education, and is also the author of Teaching Without Bells: What We Can Learn from Powerful Practice in Small Schools (Paradigm, 2010). He lives in Oakland with his wife and two children.
Melanye has worked in the education industry for over 15 years with a focus on consulting, coaching, and training services to support student success. Throughout her career, Melanye has partnered with students, educators, and administrators to improve educational outcomes for learners. Most recently, Melanye served as the Vice President of Operations for a mission-driven non-profit where she led the significant growth of her team, implemented new services and programs, and demonstrated measurable impact across both the organization and the clients they served.
Melanye is committed to fostering an environment and culture where employees are connected to the mission and feel seen, heard, and supported. She specializes in strategic planning, client management, operational effectiveness, employee engagement, and change management. Melanye earned her B.S. in Social Science Teaching from Brigham Young University and as a working professional, returned to school to receive her MBA from Western Governors University.
Melanye lives with her three sons and husband in Portland, Oregon, and can often be found teaching group exercise classes in the early morning at a local gym.
Dr. Shantha Smith
Director of Facilitation
Dr. Shantha Smith leads equitable grading workshops, provides coaching to leaders and teachers, develops curriculum, and supports talent development of our team. She was born and raised in Washington, D.C. She attended Virginia State University, where she received her BA in Special Education. Next, she obtained her Master’s of Education from Trinity College in Curriculum and Instruction, with a minor as a Reading Specialist. In 2015, She earned her PhD, in Special Education/Special Education Leadership from George Mason University.
Dr. Smith most recently was an instructional leader and Equity and Excellence Coordinator in Northern Virginia and the 2020 recipient of Virginia’s Mary Peake Award for Excellence in Education Equity. For over 20 years, she has served as an advocate for students of color to reimagine schools that support all learners. Her teaching and coaching experiences range from Pk-12. In addition to changing the world one educator at a time, she also enjoys traveling the world and is a Peloton enthusiast!
Courtney Fenner is a career educator with 19 years of experience across a breadth of schools where her roles have included classroom teacher, grade team leader, and Director of Equity & Inclusion. She holds an MA in English Education from Brooklyn College, an MFA in Creative Writing from Virginia Commonwealth University, and a BA in Studies in Women & Gender from the University of Virginia.
She is the author of the book, Kollege Knowledge: A Grrrl’s Guide to Surviving the First Year, and was the 2013 Young Women’s Leadership Network’s Teacher of the Year.
Courtney first joined Crescendo Education Group as a remote equitable grading coach. She has used equitable grading practices in her classrooms and has seen firsthand success with her students’ skill-building and confidence. When not facilitating and coaching, you can find her making homemade ice cream by hand, eating her way through new cities, and saving home design inspiration posts on Instagram.
Nikole Joshi holds a B.A. from Radford University in Middle School Education as well as an MAEd in Curriculum & Instruction from Virginia Tech, and she recently obtained her MEd in Education Leadership and Administration from George Mason University. Nikole served for 11 years in Arlington Public Schools in Arlington, VA, in various capacities. She joined the Gunston Middle School Community in 2011 as the second Middle School Montessori program teacher and worked to grow and develop authenticity within the program.
During the past several years in APS, Nikole worked with schools to transform their grading policies while supporting and coaching teachers in standards-based grading implementation. Nikole has experience teaching special education and holds an ESOL endorsement and a Secondary Montessori I-II credential.
Nikole worked part-time with Crescendo Education Group as an equitable grading coach for the 21-22 school year before joining the team full-time. She is passionate about this work and wants all teachers to understand the power of equitable grading. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) area with her 8-year-old son, eating sushi, and traveling to new places.
Jen Brown, MBA
Jen Brown, MBA works in Operations and Marketing at Crescendo Education Group. She has expertise in supporting high-level teams and getting things done efficiently yet thoughtfully. Jen has over ten years of experience in business administration, operations, and marketing in various non-profits, charter schools, and international schools.
Jen is also a former TESOL/TEFL teacher in South Korea, Japan, China, and Kenya, and she also taught Pre-K for three years in Minneapolis, MN. Her diverse teaching experiences led her to advocate for educational equity, culturally-responsive teaching practices, and social-emotional learning in the classroom. Jen approaches her work at Crescendo Education Group with an open mind and global perspective.
Jen earned her MBA and MA in Strategic Leadership in 2020 from Bethel University. She also holds a BA in Psychology and Sociology with a minor in Spanish and Italian from the University of Minnesota, Morris. Jen loves to travel. She is fluent in 4 languages, explored over 49 states in the U.S. and 35 countries. Jen is a Minnesota native but currently lives in Longmont, CO. She can be found hiking, camping, paddle boarding, and exploring the outdoors with her four-legged pal — Zoe.
Manager of Coaching
Chris Love supports our online and remote coaches in their work improving teachers’ equitable grading practices. Chris moved from the Science laboratories to the classroom to encourage and support students from his local community, and is a “people-first” educator, having served the Bay Area community as a Science educator and Department lead for nearly a decade in addition to working with a breadth of students from 6th to 12th grade in the general classroom, credit recovery and afterschool clubs.
He is a dedicated equitable grading practitioner, first as a classroom teacher in a Crescendo Education Group workshop series, then graduated to coaching other teachers and, after a number of years of research into his own practice, now enjoys supporting teachers and coaches alike in the grading for equity movement. Chris strikes a unique balance of calm enthusiasm that engenders unity and growth in our organization.
Lead Remote Coach, Online Course Management
Stefania came to Crescendo last year as a contracted coach. She has an MEd and 5 years of experience as a certified secondary ELA teacher. She carries a long list of traditional practices reimagined through the equitable grading framework from her own classroom that she hopes will serve as a grounding element in her exchanges with teachers.
At the root for Stefania, being a Lead Remote Coach at Crescendo means honoring lived experiences and walking beside teachers on their equitable grading journey. She aims to provide a safe space to explore and question and grow equity-driven mindsets within teacher identity, fostering student empowerment that moves beyond grade books and state standards.