Dr. Debbie Almontaser is an internationally recognized, award-winning educator, speaker and authority on cross cultural understanding. She is an influential community leader and the Founder and CEO of Bridging Cultures Group, Inc.
Dr. Almontaser was the founding and former principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn, NY. A twenty-five year veteran of the NYC Public School System, she taught special education, inclusion, trained teachers in literacy, and served as a multicultural specialist and diversity advisor. Currently, she is the Board President of the Muslim Community Network (www.mcnny.org). She frequently lectures, serves on panels, and facilitates teacher and public workshops on cultural diversity, conflict resolution, Arab Culture, Islam, Muslims in America, interfaith coalition building and youth leadership at schools, universities, libraries, museums, faith-based organizations, churches, synagogues, as well as national and international conferences.
Dr. Debbie Almontaser
Jonayah Marie Jackson (Jo) is a data analysis consultant with 4 years of experience working in higher education. In her last role, she was the project manager for the Center on Culture, Race & Equity at Bank Street College of Education. There, she managed research projects, conducted interviews, administered focus groups, and co-facilitated professional development sessions for educators and caregivers. In addition, Jo supported her team with graphic design, website maintenance, and administrative/technical support. A graduate of Williams College with a major in Anthropology and a concentration in Africana Studies as well as a certificate of Software Engineering from Columbia University School of Engineering, Jo brings her experience conducting fieldwork, creating materials, and working in nonprofits and higher education to her teams. Currently, she is bridging her passion for data and technology by working on educational- and medical-themed applications.
Dr. Simran Jeet Singh is an award-winning educator, writer, activist, and scholar who believes deeply that love, equity, and justice are closely intertwined. He writes and speaks regularly on issues of diversity, inclusion, civil rights, religion, and hate violence, and his thought leadership extends to a number of audiences, from the White House and the Pentagon to university campuses and social justice groups.
Simran is a professor of religion at Trinity University and Senior Religion Fellow for the Sikh Coalition, a civil rights organization based in New York City. This year, Simran serves as the Henry R. Luce Fellow for Religion and International Affairs at NYU’s Center for Religion and Media. He frequently contributes opinion pieces to various news outlets, and he has become a consistent expert for reporters around the world in television, radio, and print media. Simran is also on the board for Religion Newswriters Association, a fellow for the Truman National Security Project, and a term-member with the Council on Foreign Relations.
Simran Jeet Singh
Hana Kaur Mangat is currently a senior at Winston Churchill High School in Maryland. She will be attending Columbia University in the fall of 2018 as a hopeful major in Political Science and Human Rights. She is an active believer in the power of student voice, empathy, and dialogue building.
In 2012, Hana co-founded the youth-run organization, Sikh Kid 2 Kid, with the mission of eradicating ignorance with the power of education. Through Sikh Kid 2 Kid, she has played a key role in developing and implementing a religious literacy professional development program for educators. She facilitates the student-run Sikhism portion of the program, and develops resources for educator use. Hana has been a Sikh student advocate, speaking to the bullying of Sikh students and overall school climate issues at the Obama White House, the Department of Education, the National Academies of Science, Facebook HQ, etc. She served as a steering committee member to organize the first ever National Interfaith Bullying Prevention Summit.
Bridging Cultures Group is proud to partner with a thought leader and subject matter expert like Zipporiah Mills. She brings over 30 years’ experience as both a teacher and school leader and will be the project’s central facilitator and director. Zipporiah (Zipp) spent all her career as an educator in schools throughout Brooklyn. She most recently retired from the New York City Department of Education as the principal of PS 261, one of District 15’s most diverse elementary schools. Zipp is currently an Equity Specialist for Culture, Race & Equity at Bank Street College of Education.
At a young age, Zipp understood that education plays an important role in creating an anti-racist, equitable society. She sought to bring cultural pride, respect for all, and a progressive education to her students. Zipp believes that equity begins with caring, supportive partnerships between teachers, parents, and students. Her goal is to support schools through this demanding, ever changing terrain. Her mission is to create culturally responsive communities for learning and success.
Dr. Salma G. Waly
Dr. Salma G. Waly is an educator and a life-long learner who strongly believes in the power of dialogue in bridging gaps and bringing communities together. She started her career as a special education teacher; an experience that helped her realize the role that one can play in the lives of others. She then realized that for her to make the biggest impact, she has to become a well-rounded educator who specializes in more than one area of education. Therefore, she started her Master’s program in TESOL through which she began to teach refugees from Asia and Africa, adults and undergraduate students. She helped prepare Arabic-speaking groups of students to study internationally by teaching them English as well as introducing them to the culture of the United States. She also trained professionals in the business and medical fields to better communicate in English and develop the skills and capacities to work in multicultural and multilingual settings. Throughout her teaching career, Dr. Waly developed TESOL programs to cater to the needs of various groups of learners.