Our Team

5th Grade Team

Ansley Bartlett

Founding 5th Grade Social Studies Teacher

Ansley Bartlett (abartlett@strivecollegiate.org) received her Bachelor’s degree in Education with concentrations in Social Studies and English from the University of Mississippi in 2014. Ansley was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee and enjoys watching the city grow as a flourishing metropolis. Ansley began her teaching career as a kindergarten teacher at St. Paul Christian Academy, but found her career with STRIVE in 2015. This will be Ansley’s third year at STRIVE Collegiate Academy as the founding 5th grade Social Studies teacher and first year as the 5th grade Grade Level Chair. Ansley is returning to STRIVE because of the relationships she has built with the students, families, and the fellow teachers at STRIVE. One of Ansley’s educational heroes is Rita Pierson, who was an inspirational speaker that spent her life in and around the classroom. One of the most inspiring quotes from Pierson says, “Every child deserves a champion–an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possible be.” Ansley is dedicated to committing her time to students, families, and teachers to ensure the best that they can be while giving them the best education in Nashville. Outside of STRIVE, Ansley enjoys volunteering around town by being involved with the Junior League of Nashville and The Next Door. 

Cristina Descisciolo

Founding 5th Grade English Language Arts Teacher

Cristina DeScisciolo (cdescisciolo@strivecollegiate.org) graduated from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania with a Bachelor’s degree in Global Studies with minors in Health, Medicine, and Society (Public Health) and Spanish. Having grown up with a father in the Navy, Cristina had the opportunity to move around a lot – she lived in Rhode Island, California, and Virginia. She knows this lifestyle sparked her love for travel and meeting new people! She was able to do just that, on a much larger scale, during her semester in India, Argentina, and South Africa. Both her experience abroad and summer internship at the Bethlehem Heath Department helped her pinpoint her passion: working with kids to help them, too, find their passions and develop the skills necessary to become leaders. Ms. DeScisciolo feels that Nashville, TN has already become another home away from home, hugely due to the outstanding staff of teachers and students at STRIVE. She recently completed her 2-year Teach for America (TFA) commitment, as well as received her Master’s degree in Education from Lipscomb University.  She is ecstatic for a third memorable year as a 5th grade English Language Arts teacher!

Sarah Ellison

5th Grade Math Teacher

Sarah Ellison (sellison@strivecollegiate.org) holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology with a concentration in Mathematics from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. She is currently working on her Master of Arts degree in Teaching with a concentration in Secondary Mathematics from Relay Graduate School of Education in Nashville, Tennessee. While earning her Bachelor’s degree, she participated in two educational internships where she served as the Instructional Assistant at Oakwood Intermediate and later, Southwood Valley Elementary. Ms. Ellison was recently hired by STRIVE Collegiate Academy to teach 5th Grade Mathematics for the 2017-2018 school year and is thrilled to be working with her fellow colleagues and the students that will come to STRIVE! Ms. Ellison’s motivation to teach and work in education stems from her desire to continuously learn and expound upon previous knowledge. The drive that she has within to learn and become greater each day is something that she wants to share and see grow within her students. She strives to inspire them and motivate them to constantly seek greater knowledge and become excellent scholars.

Whitney Graham

5th Grade Science Teacher

Whitney Graham (wgraham@strivecollegiate.org) holds a Bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in Spanish from Tennessee State University. Graham’s career in education began during her time abroad in Costa Rica. While spending time there she began teaching students how to speak English, and her love for education manifested! She started her career in education through the Nashville Teaching Fellows Program after returning from her trip to Costa Rica so she could teach students in her community. Through Nashville Teaching Fellows, Graham started working at KIPP Nashville College Prep and became a sixth grade Social Studies and Science teacher. Ms. Graham has always had a passion for teaching and learning new information about science, and hopes to inspire her students to as well.  Ms. Graham is excited to serve the students, families, and community of the McGavock Cluster here at STRIVE!

6th Grade Team

Travis Batista

Founding 6th Grade Social Studies Teacher

Travis Batista (tbatista@strivecollegiate.org) graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Global Studies with a minor in History. From White House, TN, Mr. Batista started his career in education through the Nashville Teaching Fellows program during the summer of 2016. In college, Mr. Batista found a love for experiencing new cultures and travel. So far, Mr. Batista has made it to three continents and several countries. He hopes to bring his travels to the classroom while teaching Social Studies and inspire his students to experience the world beyond their front yards. In his spare time, Mr. Batista enjoys cooking with his wife, taking his dog, Mabel, to the dog park, and planning his next getaway.

Bethany Eschman

6th Grade English Language Arts Teacher

Bethany Eschman (beschman@strivecollegiate.org) holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Nonprofit Leadership from Murray State University in Murray, KY. Ms. Eschman started her career in education during the summer of 2016 with the Nashville Teaching Fellows program. After teaching 7th and 8th grade social studies and teaching English abroad in Thailand during the summer of 2017, Ms. Eschman is very excited to make the transition to STRIVE Collegiate Academy. Ms. Eschman believes that all children should feel save and supported in their educational environment. This year, she is very much looking forward to diving into meaningful texts with her scholars. When not teaching, Ms. Eschman loves to spend time with her family and 80 lbs tortoise, Crash, back home in St. Louis, MO. She also loves to knit, eat fish tacos, and read!

Will Haynes

6th Grade Science Teacher

Will Haynes (whaynes@strivecollegiate.org) is from Dothan, AL and received both a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences and a Master’s of Education in Secondary Science from Auburn University. With a background in pre-medicine, Haynes’ graduate school research was done as a NanoBio Fellow under the NSF funded Math and Science Partnership. In collaboration with Tuskeegee University, Haynes worked with Education, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering faculty to build middle school sciences lessons on nanobiology technology for schools in the Alabama Black Belt region. Before arriving at STRIVE, Haynes spent six months teaching, counseling and leading trainees from 4th grade to adults at U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, AL. Space Camp allowed Haynes to gain valuable experience working with students of all ages from over 10 countries and countless states. He is eager to share his experience from this STEM focused camp with the students at STRIVE.

Emily Martin

Founding 6th Grade Mathematics Teacher

Emily Martin (emartin@strivecollegiate.org) received her Bachelor’s degree in NonProfit Management with a minor in Fundraising from Indiana University in 2011. She spent 2 years in the nonprofit sector before leaving to persue her dream to work with children. Ms. Martin began her career in education working and volunteerning with students from the Ferguson/Normandy area of St. Louis for 2 years before joining Teach For America Greater Nashville Corps in 2016.  Ms. Martin is currently a 2nd year student at RELAY Graduate School of Education working towards her Master of Arts in Teaching. In her free time Ms. Martin enjoys traveling, exploring Nashville, and trying new foods!

 7th Grade Team

Yamini Bhat

7th Grade Social Studies Teacher

Yamini Bhat (ybhat@strivecollegiate.org) holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies (minors in French and Legal Affairs) from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and a Master’s degree in Education from Lipscomb University. Bhat’s career in education began in 2015 as a corps member with Teach for America in Nashville, Tennessee where she taught Dance, Math, Science, and Social Studies at I.T. Creswell Prep Schools of the Arts Magnet.  After fulfilling her two year commitment, she started teaching 7th grade Social Studies at STRIVE Collegiate Academy in Nashville. Having been born in Mumbai, India and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Ms. Bhat has a deep love for culture and social justice. This year she plans on teaching Social Studies through the lens of social justice and anthropology. Her goal is to show students how relevant the past is to the present. She teaches because for her, as an immigrant, education has been the key to the golden door of freedom. For her, it was never the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. Education was never a preparation for life, but life itself. And if education can do all that for her, she believes it can do the same for STRIVE students. Ms. Bhat is excited to serve the students, families and community of the McGavock Cluster.

Shauna Carter

Founding 7th Grade Science Teacher

Shauna Carter (scarter@strivecollegiate.org) earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Tennessee State University and a Master’s in Business from Bethel University here in Nashville, Tennessee. Shauna began her career by substitute teaching in MNPS, working with children in Junior Achievement and SACC in Williamson County. After several years in banking, she decided to go back and follow her passion of teaching children. Shauna started her career at STRIVE Collegiate Academy through the Nashville Teaching Fellows Program. Shauna is the founding 7th grade science teacher, 7th Grade Level Chair, Head Girls Soccer coach and was a founding 6th grade ELA teacher.  When not teaching at STRIVE, she enjoys playing with her two young children. Shauna has a lifelong love of soccer and is excited to coach her second season of soccer here at STRIVE. She believes playing sports is an integral part of forming a dynamic learning experience for children and the skills they pick up while playing on a team is essential for becoming successful members of society both socially and academically.

Andre Reaves

7th Grade English Language Arts Teacher

Andre’ Reaves (areaves@strivecollegiate.org) is an Atlanta native currently teaching English Language Arts at STRIVE Collegiate Academy. Andre’ holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Agriculture from Tennessee State University. He is currently attending Relay Graduate School of Education for his Masters. Andre’ enjoys music and trying new foods. Andre is ecstatic to come back to Nashville to and watch the city continue to develop.  Andre’ formerly served as a college adviser with Americorps in several high schools in the Atlanta Public Schools district. Mr. Reaves is a 2017 corps member with Teach For America. Andre’ is excited to work at STRIVE because he believes, “ STRIVE is a team filled with innovative leaders, all aligned with one purpose; student success and development.” Mr. Reaves is dedicated to becoming a prominent pillar in the community and serving the students effectively.

Special Education Team

Travis Powell

Special Education Intervention Specialist

Travis Powell (tpowell@strivecollegiate.org) received his bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus in English Language Arts in 2008, and then later obtained a Master’s in Special Education from Xavier University in Cincinnati in 2013. Mr. Powell’s teaching journey began as a teacher of sophomore and junior English in rural Southwest Ohio, later to become a founding member of Village Christian School’s faculty in the Cincinnati area. This school catered to students with emotional and behavioral needs, and Mr. Powell filled roles as Tech Director, Testing Coordinator, State-Sponsored Mentor, and Lead Teacher while full time 7-12th grade English Teacher, while moving into a special Education position.  A job opportunity landed Mr. Powell in Nashville with the opportunity to teach at STRIVE, where he is currently an Intervention Specialist. He has been married to Dr. Maria Powell, a post-doc fellow at Vanderbilt’s Voice Lab, for five years and the two enjoy traveling locally and internationally as well as cooking together. Recently, they were blessed with the birth of their son, Henry. After teaching a total of nine years, Travis considers it a privilege to educate, especially at STRIVE, and believes every child deserves the highest quality education.

Victoria Ziegler


Special Education Intervention Specialist

Miss Ziegler is a recent graduate from Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. She graduated in April 2017 with a Bachelor in Science for Special Education, with a focus on American Sign Language. During her studies, she spent time teaching at a Charter school in Manurewa, Auckland, New Zealand. Miss Ziegler grew up in a Marine Corps family, with both of her parents being active duty Marines. While growing up she spent time in Okinawa, Japan where she took Japanese classes and spent 4 years immersed in the culture. Before beginning her teaching career, Miss Ziegler spent 5 years in the Marine Corps herself, where she deployed to Iwakuni, Japan. Because of her multiple experiences abroad, she has developed a love for traveling and learning all she can about different cultures. During her free time she loves spending time at home with her two dogs, Auggie Rose and Hilton, visiting her family, and building up her personal library with books she will never have time to read.

Physical Education & Operations Team

Marycruz Baylon

Physical Education Teacher & Operations Leader

Coach Baylon (mbaylon@strivecollegiate.org) played Varsity volleyball as the libero and soccer as a forward in high school.

Coach Baylon graduated from DePauw University and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Communications & Spanish.  She has also earned her ESL endorsement from Tulane University as well as her Interpreter in a School Setting certificate from Loyola University in New Orleans. Originally from Chicago, Illinois she moved to New Orleans by earning the opportunity to be a Teach For America corps member. Coach Baylon taught Spanish and English as a Second Language in New Orleans, Louisiana. She had been Head Coach for the Boys Soccer Team for 3 years.

 She has traveled and lived in several cities, including Miami, and Philadelphia. Traveling is a big priority in her life. She loves exploring and learning from others. She is a huge advocate for her students and believes in the power that one person can make a difference. She loved teaching Spanish to non-native Spanish speakers for the last three years in New Orleans.

Joseph Howell

Founding Physical Education Teacher

Joseph Howell (jhowell@strivecollegiate.org) graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Performance and Sports Science from Tennessee State University, and he is the Founding Physical Education Teacher at STRIVE Collegiate. He has worked in the nonprofit industry for over 10 years as a recreational leader, manager, and program coordinator for regional community centers in Tennessee. Additionally, he has been mentoring and coaching young, inner-city youth for over 10 years in various sports, including basketball, softball, soccer, and street hockey. During his spare time, he enjoys playing basketball, coaching youth basketball, playing with his dogs, and being a father to his precious daughter named Kennedy.

Monica Santoyo

Founding Office Manager

Monica P. Santoyo (msantoyo@strivecollegiate.org) is a graduate from Illinois State University (GO REDBIRDS!) She holds a  Bachelor’s degree in English Studies with a focus on literature in the fantasy genre. Ms. Santoyo’s passion is reading and writing and spends most, if not all, of her free-time engaging in said activities. Monica hopes that through her work with STRIVE Collegiate Academy she can help others discover their own passion for literature and/or writing.

Leadership Team

LaKendra Butler

School Leader, Founder

LaKendra Butler (lakendra@strivecollegiate.org) holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Master’s degree in Education Administration & Supervision from National Louis University. Butler’s career in education began in 2005 as a corps member with Teach for America in Atlanta, Georgia, where she taught Civics, Law, and Geography at Booker T. Washington High School.  After fulfilling her two year commitment, she started teaching fifth and eighth grade Social Studies and assumed the role of eighth grade level chair at KIPP TRUTH Academy in Dallas, Texas.  Butler participated in the KIPP School Leadership Pathways program and became KIPP TRUTH’s first Assistant Principal.  During her third year as the Assistant Principal, she became the School Leader and held both roles simultaneously, but eventually transitioned into the School Leader role full-time.  During her tenure as a teacher, Assistant Principal, and School Leader, KIPP TRUTH Academy continued to be a “Recognized” school (based on Texas’ rating system) and continued to outperform the district in several subject areas.  During her final year with KIPP, Butler transitioned into the Director of KIPP Through College role where she led the KIPP Through College Managers and developed a strategic plan for KIPP Through College in addition to supporting several departments throughout KIPP Dallas Ft. Worth. Mrs. Butler was hired by the Tennessee Charter School Center to move to Nashville to start a charter school.  She has spent the last two years writing her charter application, engaging in the community and building a great middle school option for students in the McGavock Cluster.  In August 2014, STRIVE was approved to open in July 2015. Ms. Butler is excited to serve the students, families and community of the McGavock Cluster.

Whitney Hawkins

Founding Director of Academics

Whitney Hawkins (whawkins@strivecollegiate.org) holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from DePauw University, and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree at Lipscomb University. Throughout college, Whitney taught Spanish to middle school aged students in an after school program put together by her and other peers for kids in their college town. Whitney’s educational career began in 2013 when she joined Teach for America Greater Nashville corps as an English teacher at Hunter’s Lane High School in north Nashville. From there she went on to coach and develop teachers as a Manager of Teacher Leadership and Development on the Greater Nashville Teach for America staff. Ms. Hawkins is now bringing her coaching and development experience to STRIVE. She plans to support teachers in their development and in the execution of excellent instruction. In her spare time Ms. Hawkins enjoys attending festivals and travelling. She also enjoys playing sports like volleyball, and cooking.