The Saul Zaentz Fellows Program

Building a pipeline of leaders equipped to drive transformation in early education.

Program Overview

The Saul Zaentz Fellows Program is designed for exceptional students invested in early childhood education who enroll full-time in HGSE’s Master’s (Ed.M.) Program or the Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) Program, both of which prepare leaders for critical roles in education policy and practice.

The fellowship was established in response to the urgent demand for exemplary leaders in the field of early education. Designed for those with a background and interest in early education policy, practice, and research, the Zaentz Fellows Program provides co-curricular programming, networking events, and mentoring that enhance the program experience while the cohort is on campus. Long after commencement ceremonies have passed, Zaentz Fellows are part of a community that is committed to promoting strong early learning environments and experiences.

To learn more about the fellowship experience and application process, please view the informational webinar here.

The Award

Zaentz Fellows in the Ed.M. Program receive an award package covering half of the HGSE tuition.

Who Should Apply?

The ideal applicant demonstrates a strong commitment to pursuing a career in the field of early education. We also look for an outstanding academic record and at least three years of direct work experience (paid or as a volunteer) in the broad field of early education. Preference is given to candidates who demonstrate financial need as determined by the HGSE Financial Aid Office.


Join the Zaentz Fellows

As part of the HGSE Ed.M. application, those interested in the fellowship will be prompted to submit a statement describing their work and goals. Be sure to also complete the HGSE Financial Aid Application and the FAFSA. Learn more about applying to HGSE and upcoming information sessions about the Saul Zaentz Fellows Program.

Apply Now

Meet Our Current Fellows

Bethany Dill is an Ed.M. candidate in the International Education Policy Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is focusing her coursework on humanitarian response strategy and approaches to education in settings of crisis and displacement. Prior to studying at HGSE, Bethany worked on access to education and psychosocial support for displaced communities as an advisor of refugee youth programs in Greece, a teacher and program director of a catch-up initiative for Syrian families living in Lebanon, and a Fulbright grantee in Malta. She is interested in innovative and cross-sector efforts that honor learners' strengths, voices, losses, ambitions, personhood, and vision for change; and early childhood program design that nurtures curiosity and safeguards growth. During her time at HGSE, she hopes to connect policy and practice in a meaningful and relevant way. Bethany graduated with a B.S. in Education from Barry University, where she was a Stamps Leadership Scholar.
Samantha Fletcher is currently enrolled in the Technology, Innovation, and Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, hoping to research innovative ways technology can impact diversity and inclusion efforts. A teacher, equity practitioner, and racial dialogue facilitator, Samantha worked as a journalist and producer for newspapers, magazines, and radio before transitioning to independent schools. Samantha spent 11 years teaching early childhood at a D.C. independent school, weaving identity into the everyday life of her PK or Kindergarten classrooms and serving as an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Liaison. During these 11 years, Samantha earned a master's in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on Minority, Urban, and Multicultural Education from the University of Maryland and facilitator training through Arlington, Va.'s Challenging Racism. As such, she has spent years leading diversity initiatives, workshops, and presentations for educators and leaders regionally and nationally, with a particular emphasis on teaching educators how to incorporate race in teaching starting at the earliest of ages as well as inclusive practices with differing varieties of English and different cultures. Samantha hosts, produces, and edits the Daily Border Crossings podcast, where guests discuss the impact of othering, and readily shares educational resources.
Jane Kim is an EdM candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the Arts in Education Program. Prior to attending HGSE, Jane taught art to young children in the broader Los Angeles community, including the LAUSD public school district, UCLA Lab School, Hammer Museum, and Ad Astra School at SpaceX. Jane is passionate about empowering students through the arts, especially in underrepresented communities, as a basis of lifelong expression, skill, and appreciation. These themes also unify Jane’s personal artistic work, which in many instances takes the form of experimental mixed-media pieces exploring her own journey as a young immigrant to the US. Jane holds a BA from UCLA, where she majored in Design & Media Arts and minored in Visual and Performing Arts Education.
Jonathan Mendonca is an Ed. M. candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the International Education Policy Program. Recognizing the profound positive impact that early education can have on children, Jonathan co-founded Barefoot Edu Foundation with a vision that every child must have a strong foundation to think, feel, and dream. Over the past four years, he has worked as an educator, educator trainer, and policy advocate improving school systems across three states in India. Jonathan is interested in building a strong community and support system that empowers youth and organizations to contribute to the under-represented field of ECE.
Ruby Muller is an Ed. M. candidate studying Arts in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. During her undergraduate studies she had the opportunity to student teach in a Reggio-Emilia based preschool. This experience inspired her passion for empowering children through progressive, child-centered early childhood education. For the past several years, Muller has worked as a teacher in play-based preschools in New York and Los Angeles, including The Outdoor Classroom Project’s model site. She plans to focus her time at and after HGSE on exploring ways to expand equitable access to progressive early childhood education. Muller holds a B.S. in Early Childhood and Early Childhood Special Education from New York University.
Beatriz Perret is an Ed.M. candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the Technology, Innovation, and Education Program. Prior to joining HGSE, Perret worked at Georgetown University’s Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service, as an English and STEM tutor and coordinator at DC Public Schools. Her work at the CSJ inspired Perret to combine her computer science background to advocate for children’s right to education in rooms where technology is being developed. Perret comes to HGSE with an interest in studying and working on educational media and technology for early learners, particularly for immigrant children. Perret holds a B.A. from Georgetown University, where she majored in Computer Science and minored in Mathematics.
Jackie is an Ed.M. candidate in the Education Policy and Management Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Before Harvard, Jackie served as a high-school English teacher and girls’ soccer coach for three years, then for four years as a K-12 after-school program designer and manager. Most recently, Jackie consulted Philadelphia elementary schools on social-emotional learning and play. Any time spent with her hilarious niece is her favorite moment in early childhood education. Jackie is excited to be part of the Fellowship and looks forward to exploring the future of early childhood education.
Elena Speridakos is an Ed.M. candidate in the School Leadership Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Prior to joining HGSE, she was an educator and teacher leader in elementary schools in Seattle, Mumbai, and Washington, D.C. She is passionate about designing innovative curriculum for early childhood students and creating high quality teacher training programs. As an education leader, she strives to form structures, procedures, and trainings that help all students, families, and educators succeed. Elena holds a B.A. in educational studies with minors in psychology and women’s studies from Denison University.
Lizzie Baird is an Ed.M candidate in the Human Development and Psychology program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Prior to her studies, Baird served in early childhood classrooms for eight years. Most recently, she taught Spanish and preschool while collaborating with her team to redesign their play-based curriculum to focus on the local environment, social-emotional learning, and child-directed inquiry. Baird is passionate about harnessing the power of early childhood education and equitably supporting children. In addition to working with young learners, she taught undergraduate students in Bogotá, Colombia as a Fulbright Scholar. Baird holds a BA in sociology with minors in education and Spanish from Bates College.
Anna Brouillette is a Ed.M. candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the Education Policy and Management Program. Prior to her time at HGSE, Brouillette worked at Let’s Grow Kids, a Vermont-based early childhood advocacy organization where she supported the organization’s policy and research work. Her work at Let’s Grow Kids included conducting a supply and demand analysis of child care in Vermont’s counties and advocating for increased investments in the state’s child care financial assistance program. Brouillette comes to HGSE with an interest in studying and working on scalable policy solutions that expand access to high-quality early learning experiences, particularly for low-income families and women. Brouillette holds a B.A. from St. Lawrence University, where she majored in Government and minored in Education Studies.
Suna Hanoz-Penney is a candidate for a Mid-Career Master in Public Administration at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, focusing studies in public leadership, development, and education policy. For the past nine years, Hanoz-Penney has been working at ACEV, the Mother Child Education Foundation, Turkey’s leading nonprofit building leadership and expertise in addressing early childhood development challenges facing children and families living in economically impoverished regions in Turkey and internationally. Her work involved designing and scaling up best-practice early childhood programs with organizations and governments, successfully expanding models ranging from Turkey to Lao PDR, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and Lebanon. She hopes to promote early childhood development services and investment to promote peace and conflict reduction. Hanoz-Penney received an M.A. as a Fulbright scholar from Teachers College, Columbia University and a B.A. from Boğaziçi University, Istanbul.
Sarah Hernandez is a candidate for an Ed.M. in the Learning and Teaching Program with a focus on Instructional Leadership at the Harvard Graduate of Education.  Prior to her studies, Hernandez was a Kindergarten teacher for 11 years at progressive independent schools in Santa Cruz, California and Kona, Hawaii.  During her years in the classroom, she utilized project-based learning to design developmentally appropriate curriculum that empowered young learners to find their voice and become agents of change in their own community. Inspired by her experiences in the classroom, Hernandez has hosted conferences, facilitated professional development, and presented at national conferences in order to share resources and build community amongst fellow educators. In her time at HGSE, she plans to gain a deeper understanding of early childhood development and adult learning and hopes to explore the challenges early childhood educators face when accessing high quality professional development. Hernandez holds a B.A. from the University of California, Irvine.
Keya Lamba is an Ed.M. candidate in the International Education Policy program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. For the past six years, Keya has worked in education both in the US and internationally. She started her career as a Kindergarten teacher in California, first as a Teach for America corps member and then as a founding teacher at an early childhood charter school. Keya then joined the personalized learning team at Rocketship Public Schools, where she partnered with the humanities and math content teams to create early childhood curriculum and resources. While there, Keya also designed and facilitated professional development sessions for early childhood teachers. Most recently, Keya worked at Global Schools Forum where she interacted with early childhood programs implemented in low-resource classrooms in various developing countries. Keya graduated from UCLA with a degree in International Development Studies and Chinese.
Disha Mathur is an Ed.M. candidate in the School Leadership Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Prior to joining HGSE, Disha spent four years as an early childhood educator in New York City. She began teaching Pre-K as a Teach for America Corp Member in 2015 and spent the past two years teaching Kindergarten at a charter school. Inspired by her experiences, Disha strives to expand high-quality early education programs. Disha received her M.S.Ed. in Early Childhood and Special Education from Hunter College and her B.S. in Public Health from Rutgers University.
Jojo Miller is an Ed.M. candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the Education Policy & Management program. Prior to attending HGSE, Miller was an Assistant Principal and former teacher at an elementary charter school in New York City, leading professional development for teachers, designing curricula, and managing grade teams. Additionally, Miller worked as a teacher for the International Rescue Committee’s Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA), also in New York City. Miller holds a B.A. in Geography from Dartmouth College and an M.S. in Early Childhood Education & Special Education from Touro College.
Dakota Willis is an Ed. M. candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the Language & Literacy program. Before coming to HGSE, Willis was a Peace Corps Response Volunteer promoting girls' education in rural Malawi. She also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Rwanda, where she facilitated ongoing professional development for literacy teachers and encouraged a culture of reading at local primary schools. Additionally, she taught first grade on the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona and kindergarten in Richmond, VA. Willis holds a B.A. in Sociology and Elementary Education from the College of William & Mary.

Madeline Connors is an Ed.M. candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the Education Policy & Management program. Before coming to HGSE, Connors was a special education teacher at a charter school in Buffalo, NY. Additionally, she was a content specialist for Teach For America, where she provided ongoing professional development to a group of new special education teachers. Connors also supported research and communications efforts with Buffalo Promise Neighborhood. Connors holds an A.B. in History & Literature from Harvard College and a Masters of Science in Childhood Education from Canisius College.

Daniel Haack is an Ed.M. candidate in the Technology, Innovation, and Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. After beginning his career in advertising, Haack joined JibJab Bros. Studios to lead marketing and product for the children’s educational media brand StoryBots. His work has included overseeing the launch of StoryBots Classroom, a free platform for educators, as well as the premiere of the Netflix series Ask the StoryBots. As a producer of StoryBots’ digital products, Haack won a Daytime Emmy Award and was a Webby Award nominee. Haack is also the author of the children’s picture book “Prince & Knight” and co-author of “Maiden & Princess,” both published by Little Bee Books. He has been interviewed by HuffPo, GLAAD, Channel 4 News and more, and most recently spoke about children’s streaming television at the Media Industries Conference in London. He attended Ithaca College as a Park Scholar and graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in integrated marketing communications.

Juliet Menz is a candidate for an Ed.M. in the Technology, Innovation, and Education program. Prior to attending the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Menz worked at Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization behind “Sesame Street”, where she assisted in developing and producing original children’s programming for various platforms including YouTube, HBO, and Apple. She comes to HGSE with an interest in exploring the potential uses of emerging technologies to enhance educational media experiences for preschoolers.  Menz holds a B.A. from New York University with a concentration in Children’s Media and a minor in the Business of Media, Entertainment, and Technology.

Tomi Okuyemi joins the Harvard Graduate School of Education as an Ed.M. candidate in the School Leadership Program. Prior to her time at HGSE, Okuyemi was an elementary school classroom teacher in racially diverse, special-education inclusive settings. During her years as a teacher, Okuyemi designed and led workshops to help educators and administrators integrate anti-bias education into schools. Okuyemi also worked as a teacher development coach and supported schools with recruiting teachers of color. Currently, Okuyemi serves as a fellow with Harvard’s Reimagining Integration: Diverse and Equitable Schools Project. Okuyemi holds an Ed.M. in Childhood General and Special Education from Bank Street College in New York City, and a B.A. in Psychology and Women’s Studies from Saint Louis University in Saint Louis, MO.

Casey Peeks is a candidate for an Ed.M. in the Education Policy and Management program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Prior to her studies, Peeks spent four years teaching kindergarten. She began teaching as a Teach for America Corps Member in St. Louis, MO and spent the past two years as the founding kindergarten teacher at KIPP Bridge Academy in Oakland, CA. Before teaching, Peeks worked at both the U.S. Department of Education and Center for American Progress. Inspired by these experiences, Peeks wishes to improve access to early childhood education that promotes social emotional development in underserved communities of color. Peeks received her B.A. in Political Science and Communication & Public Service from University of Pennsylvania.

Brian Radley is a candidate for Ed.M in the School Leadership Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Most recently, Radley worked on the Teacher Preparation Team at Teach For America-Massachusetts where he helped to redesign new teacher programming for incoming corps members. Prior to working at Teach For America, Radley was a founding teacher, and later assistant principal, at a charter school in Boston. He also taught 3rd grade in a bilingual program in New Haven Public Schools. Radley became interested in early learning while working with a research project analyzing the “fade-out effect” on Boston-area preschool students. Radley hopes to join an emerging group of school leaders that improve and expand quality early learning in public schools.

Thelma Ramirez is pursuing an Ed.M in the Prevention Science and Practice Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Most recently, Ramirez served as the Program Director for the Oklahoma Serves AmeriCorps program, where she partnered with 21 non-profit agencies throughout the state of Oklahoma to increase academic engagement through in- and out-of-school programming which included arts education, equestrian therapy, academic tutoring, and mentoring. Prior to her work with AmeriCorps, Ramirez oversaw a home-based parenting education program that supported families with prenatal to five-year-old children. She now provides trainings to home visitors as a certified Infant Family Specialist (II) and Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework certified trainer. Ramirez has a A.B. in sociology from Princeton University.

Carly Riley is an Ed.M. candidate in the Specialized Studies Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. For nearly a decade, Riley served as a Public Montessori educator, coach, academic advisor, and most recently an instructor and the director of a nationally accredited Montessori teacher training program. Riley plans to study equitable organizational and leadership strategies and inclusive teacher development models while at HGSE. She earned a B.A. in Early Childhood Education, an Early Childhood Montessori Diploma through the American Montessori Society, and is a state licensed teacher in both Illinois and Tennessee.

Maggie Waldner is a candidate for an Ed.M. in the Learning and Teaching Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Prior to her studies, Waldner was a Kindergarten teacher and 2014 Teach For America corps member in New York City. During her years in the classroom, Waldner worked with the Relay Graduate School of Education, TFA New York, and the Bay Area Discovery Museum to create an engineering preservice teacher course for early childhood educators. She is also a member of the 100Kin10 Teacher Forum, through which she works with other educators to help guide the conversation around quality STEM education nationally. Waldner is passionate about disrupting systems of inequality and oppression from inside the classroom and preserving student-driven, exploratory curriculum in a world of high-stakes testing. Waldner holds an MAT in Early Childhood Education from the Relay Graduate School of Education.