Meet Our Fellows

Astor Fellows are ten to twelve full-time classroom teachers from the New York City public schools, selected from a competitive application process. Fellows represent multiple boroughs and levels of experience within K-12 instruction. Read below to meet our fellows.

2014: Science Education Beyond Borders
Shanghai, China

Rowena Adalla
Bronx High School for the Visual Arts

Rowena Adalla teaches living environment, forensic science, and chemistry at the Bronx High School for the Visual Arts. She has taught for eight years in the United States and for ten years in the Philippines, where she received an undergraduate degree in secondary education and graduate degrees in biology and science education. She recently received an advanced certificate in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at the New York Institute of Technology. Adalla received a grant from the Fund for Teachers’ New York City Program and was nominated for an NYC Department of Education Big Apple Award.


Brigitte Bürgler            
PS 29, John M. Harrigan

Before becoming a teacher, Brigitte Bürgler lived in Brazil, Cameroon, Ghana, and Mozambique, working as an international development consultant for various United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the World Bank. At PS 29, she teaches science to more than 300 students, emphasizing sustainability, technology, and environmental studies through hands-on investigations. Bürgler has updated her school’s upper-grade science curriculum with lessons on issues such as climate change, energy-efficient models, and evolving ecosystems; created an early morning science inquiry club in which members explore individualized interests such as robotics, rollercoasters, wind-up boats, and air-powered cars; and initiated an annual fifth-grade science fair that culminates in her students’ participation in the STEM Matters NYC Elementary Science Expo.


Addae Cox
Fort Greene Preparatory Academy

Addae Cox teaches seventh-grade science at Fort Greene Preparatory Academy, where he is a grade team leader. The science department, which has been highlighted as one of the school’s strengths, organizes science-based events with high involvement from the community. Cox engages his students in project-based learning in order to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills across subjects.



Michael Holmes
High School of American Studies at Lehman College

Michael Holmes teaches advanced placement chemistry, physiology, and environmental science, incorporating disciplines from history to literature into his science discourse. He received an Alfred P. Sloan Award for Excellence in Teaching Science and Math and was selected as a Math for America Master Teacher Fellow and a Master Teacher in New York State. Holmes served on the Education Steering Committee at the New York Academy of Sciences, and was selected by the Fund for Teachers to explore the impact of the Cold War on nuclear chemistry and indigenous people in the American West.


Reina Joa
Brooklyn High School of the Arts           

Reina Joa is a Dominican-Chinese American educator who has taught all levels of high school math at a New York City public school since 2004, following a successful corporate career. Joa earned a BS in electrical engineering from Columbia University, an MBA in finance and marketing from Columbia Business School, and a master’s in education from Pace University through the New York City Teaching Fellows. She has been recognized for excellence in differentiated instruction and her classroom is often used as an observation classroom for administrators, math coaches, and Department of Education superintendents.


Verneda Johnson
Isaac Newton Middle School for Math and Science

Verneda Johnson has been a middle-school science teacher for the past 19 years.  She currently teaches sixth-grade science at the Isaac Newton Middle School for Math and Science in East Harlem. Johnson earned her EdD from Teachers College, Columbia University, exploring the role of social justice as a tool for middle-school reform, and has created and facilitated professional development materials and sessions for science teachers and families. She is passionate about the intersections of schooling and culture as they resonate in the urban landscape. 


Alfred Lwin
Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day High School

Alfred Lwin teaches biology (living environment), earth science, and chemistry to tenth- and twelfth-grade students.  He has a BS and MS in zoology from Rangoon University, and a MA in teaching biology from New York University. Before he began teaching in the public school system, he worked as a scientific assistant

at the Invertebrates Department of the American Museum of Natural History. He has completed trainings in biotechnology at the Cold Spring Harbor DNA Lab and Cornell University, and mentors and sponsors teams of students to participate in the NYC Urban Barcode Project.


Mira Rubens
PS 230, Doris L. Cohen

Mira Rubens is a science specialist who teaches second and third graders about forces and motion, energy, and plants and animals. Her students are delighted to use the materials and science tools she provides for them. Formerly a professional baker, she is working on a cooking video for her school’s annual auction.




Lauren Verdeflor         
Bronx Lab School

For the better part of a decade, Lauren Verdeflor has taught the natural and physical sciences throughout New York State, and with students from pre-K through grade 12. As a district master science teacher, she has shared best classroom practices with her peers in both formal and informal settings. She recently launched her school’s first advanced placement program. Her vision has always been to provide an educational experience that is challenging and engaging, memorable and enjoyable, and practical and meaningful. 


Diane Weisen
P.S. 120, Magnet School 2000

Diane Weisen is an elementary school science teacher who specializes in teaching kindergarten and first and second grades. She presents inquiry-based STEM experiences that engage and excel her students to their greatest capacity. At P.S. 120, Weisen is a leadership point person, staff developer, and curriculum writer providing ideas and innovations that lead to more rigorous instruction and student advancement. She participated in the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy and wrote, received, and coordinated grants from the Annenberg Foundation, Parents as Partners, Gardening in the Classroom, and


Maribeth Whitehouse
I.S. 190, The Environmental Science, Mathematics, and Technology School

Maribeth Whitehouse did her undergraduate studies at New York University, obtained a law degree from Fordham Law School, and received a master’s in education from Mercy College through the New York City Teaching Fellows. She has been teaching special education at I.S. 190 for the past 11 years. Over the last decade, she has participated in programs that exposed her to and advanced her ability to teach the arts, science, writing, math, and New York City and American history, and has delivered professional development workshops for teachers at the school, district, network, regional, and national levels.


Joshua Wickline
Talent Unlimited High School

Since 2005, Joshua Wickline has been teaching biology, chemistry, and physics at a performing arts high school in Manhattan. He has focused on developing a rich repertoire of arts-infusion lessons to enhance science instruction. Wickline believes that his students are artists as much as they are academics, and he works alongside teaching artists who are leaders in their fields. With his students, he works to universalize science studies and discuss science in the context of art.