CMO Team

Kasar Abdulla

Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer

Bio

Kasar Abdulla

Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer

Ms. Abdulla, a Nashvillian for over 20 years, is a native of Kurdistan of Iraq. A long-time social-justice educator, advocate, and organizer since experiencing life in a refugee camp with her family, Ms. Abdulla has received numerous honors for her community activism in Nashville. President Obama named her a “Champion of Change” in September 2013 for her work on immigrant integration in Tennessee. Ms. Abdulla has been featured in Nashville Public Television’s “Next Door Neighbor “, the Nashville Scene’s “The People Issue 2010”, SplashLifeMagazine’s “30 Under 30: Civic Leaders”, and in 2016 featured in the StyleBluePrint Magazine’s “Faces of Nashville”.

Ms. Abdulla graduated from Lipscomb University with Masters in Conflict Management in 2016 and Tennessee State University in 2005 with Bachelor of Science in Sociology. She completed the University of Southern California’s fellowship on American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute (AMCLI) in 2010, and is a Leadership Nashville and Leadership Tennessee Alumna.

In pursuit of graduate school, in 2012 Ms. Abdulla resigned from her position as the Director of Advocacy & Education at Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, where she worked in the areas of policy research, advocacy, strategic communication, and education in the area of immigrant integration and leadership development. Currently, Ms. Abdulla serves on many boards, such as the community advisory board of Nashville Public Television, and is currently serving as the Board of Director of Young Women’s Christian Association, American Muslim Advisory Council, and the PENCIL Foundation.

Ms. Abdulla has been a founding team member at Valor. She enjoys educating families about their school choice options and getting to know Valor families. In her spare time, she loves hiking, reading, cooking, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.

Daren Dickson

Chief Culture Officer

Bio

Daren Dickson

Chief Culture Officer

Mr. Dickson joins Valor after spending 16 years developing his skills as a therapist, social worker, clinical and program director, and social justice advocate. He is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and has spent much of his career working with vulnerable youth and communities through Seneca Center, a non-profit agency in the Bay Area, California. At Seneca, Mr. Dickson helped to envision, build, and implement a range of programs, including schools, aimed at empowering youth, families, and communities to create more satisfying lives for themselves.



Mr. Dickson has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering (Denver University and Stanford University) and a Master’s degree in Integral Counseling (California Institute of Integral Studies). Having studied traditionally left-brain and right-brain disciplines, he finds great value in striking a balance between them and in helping young people develop this capacity in their own lives. 



In his free time, he likes to revel in his twin three-year-olds who remind him to be present, wild, and embodied. He also loves spending time with his wife, Lauren, who is his rock and partner in social work, and with his dog, Jetsan, who reminds him daily what it means to give goodwill freely to the world. He’s also Founder and CEO Todd Dickson’s identical twin brother and plans to have fun confusing everyone.

Todd Dickson

CEO

Bio

Todd Dickson

CEO

Mr. Dickson came to the field of education as a second career in 2000 after successfully building the Melton Group, a residential real estate company in Colorado, from 1995-2000. After attending Stanford for a Master’s degree in education, he taught physics for five years at the nationally acclaimed public Hillsdale High School, the private International School of Lisbon, and Summit Preparatory Charter School (Summit Prep) before taking the role of Executive Director at Summit Prep. Under his leadership, Summit Prep was named the #118 best public high school in America for the first time in 2008, and the #76 best public high school in 2009. In 2010, Summit Prep was named one of the top 10 Transformational Schools in the country by Newsweek (using comparative graduation rates, SAT scores, AP performance, and number of low-income students).

Mr. Dickson holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Denver where he was named the Colorado Engineering Student of the Year amongst all Colorado colleges. He was also was an All-American lacrosse player and team captain. In addition, he holds a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University. When not thinking about how to transform public education, Mr. Dickson enjoys spending time with his wife of 14 years and their three young children. He also enjoys running, surfing, and watching all things Colorado sports.

Lauren Smith

Chief of Staff & External Affairs

Bio

Lauren Smith

Chief of Staff & External Affairs

Lauren is excited to enter her fourth year with Valor Collegiate Academies as the Chief of Staff and External Affairs, where she manages talent recruitment and hiring, marketing, and external partnerships.

A native of Abbeville, Alabama, Lauren received her bachelor’s degree in public administration and German from Auburn University in 2009, where she served as Student Government Association President. Following graduation, Lauren worked as the Research Assistant at Forbes-Tate, a Washington D.C. consulting firm before attaining a Master of Philosophy in Education at the University of Cambridge as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar.

When not at Valor, Lauren loves to travel, watch the Food Network, workout, and spend time with her husband, family and friends.

Travis Commons

Director of Sharing and Learning

Bio

Travis Commons

Director of Sharing and Learning

Dr. Commons began his lifelong career of working with and for children as a Child Care Specialist in his home state of Indiana. Humbled by this important, but under-appreciated work, he began to explore the ways in which children learn, grow, and are often misunderstood. After his teacher training at Ball State University Teachers College, he worked as an elementary school teacher and then migrated from his Indiana roots to Chicago to take on the challenge of clinical special education in an urban hospital setting. His deep work with children and their families piqued his curiosity about how to prepare teachers to be influential in the lives of their students, and he left the classroom to pursue academia. While acquiring his Ph.D. at UIC, he had the opportunity to coordinate an alternative certification program for urban special education teachers in Chicago and to teach as part of the College of Education faculty. This work provided Dr. Commons with a valuable perspective on the complexity of the teaching profession and inspired him to return to the classroom and teach in the charter schools in Chicago.

As Dean of Scholars at Rowe Elementary, Dr. Commons revamped and oversaw the implementation of the scholar culture program at the school, creating significant measurable improvements in the school’s climate. As he transitioned to Assistant Principal at Rowe, his leadership work was recognized by the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, who recognized him as the state’s Charter Innovator of the Year in 2012.

Dr. Commons has been honored and privileged to be a part of the founding team at Valor. Outside of Valor, he loves all things culinary (especially the eating part!), reading a great piece of fiction, and playing with his Great Dane, Wyatt.

Katie Preston

ELL coordinator

Bio

Katie Preston

ELL coordinator

Born in Kentucky and raised in North Carolina, Dr. Preston moved to Nashville in 2003 to attend Lipscomb University for her undergraduate education. She majored in both Spanish and Interdisciplinary Education in 2007 and got a job at Maxwell Elementary School teaching third grade in 2008. She returned to Lipscomb to get her Master’s degree in teaching English Language Learners in 2009 and completed her Ed.D. in educational leadership in 2014.

Joining Valor’s founding team three years ago as a 5th grade ELA teacher, Dr. Preston moved up with her scholars to 6th grade last year. She feels incredibly fortunate that her new position as ELL coordinator will allow her to support teachers and students in a community for whom she cares so deeply.

Outside of school, Dr. Preston enjoys spending time with her husband, new baby, and friends. She finds peace in the outdoors and through yoga, and she loves live music, coffee, gardening, and Mexican food! She is so excited for the upcoming school year!

Brittany Iams

STEM Curriculum Writer

Bio

Brittany Iams

STEM Curriculum Writer

With the goal of becoming an educator, Mrs. Iams went to Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana and received a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education. Upon graduation, Mrs. Iams was honored as the recipient of the Saint Mary’s College Award for Excellence in Elementary Education. Mrs. Iams began her career in education in Ann Arbor, Michigan, teaching preschool and third grade. After moving to Nashville, Mrs. Iams taught fifth and sixth grade math and social studies at St. Bernard Academy before becoming a founding math teacher at Valor Voyager Academy. Mrs. Iams holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. Mrs. Iams is excited to continue her career at Valor as the STEM Curriculum Lead.
Mrs. Iams is a native of South Bend, Indiana. In her spare time, Mrs. Iams loves to spend time with her husband, Wade, and her son, Theodore. She loves to learn new things, travel the world, cook, and read. Mrs. Iams is an avid Notre Dame Football fan. She is honored to be part of the Valor community.

Seneca Rosenberg

Chief Academic Officer

Bio

Seneca Rosenberg

Chief Academic Officer

Dr. Rosenberg’s career in education began 15 years ago when she moved to San Jose, California to teach join Teach for America immediately after graduating from Smith College. Humbled by how much she needed to learn as a new teacher, she was also motivated by how clearly improvements in her teaching led to dramatic increases in her students’ learning.

Dr. Rosenberg’s passion for ensuring that all children have access to an excellent education every year in every class prompted her to enroll in graduate school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. There, she studied and researched instructional improvement, organizational learning, and social justice in education while teaching in Michigan’s teacher education and education policy programs. She completed her MA in educational research methods in 2006 and was awarded her PhD in education policy in 2012.



Not long after, Dr. Rosenberg moved to Nashville, Tennessee where she met Todd Dickson and immediately connected with Valor’s unique approach to empowering both scholars and educators to succeed. In the summer of 2014, she became a founding member of Valor’s leadership team.



In addition to her work, Dr. Rosenberg enjoys good food, good fiction, and exploring greater Nashville with her husband and two young children.

Allie Pedinoff

Director of Scholar Support

Bio

Allie Pedinoff

Director of Scholar Support

Ms. Pedinoff is a New Jersey native who attend college at the University of Delaware. There she earned her Bachelors of Science in Elementary Ed and Special Education. Immediately following graduation, Ms. Pedinoff moved down to Nashville to join the 2013 Teach for America Corps. She spent her first two year in Nashville teaching at a Charter school where she taught 7th grade math and then found her heart in Special Education. While teaching, she earned her Master’s Degree from Lipscomb University in Teaching, Leading, and Learning (Administration). While teaching, she knew something was missing and that is when she discovered Valor. Becoming part of the Valor team was a natural choice as encompassed positive feedback, emotional growth and support for scholars, a diverse population, and high academic rigor. Ms. Pedinoff is beyond excited to be jumping into her second year at Voyager! In her spare time she enjoys anything active, exploring Nashville, and reading a good book!

Rachel Seymour

Director of Academics

Bio

Rachel Seymour

Director of Academics

Rachel Seymour joins the Valor Voyager team with 10 years of teaching and coaching experience in public and charter schools across the country. In 2005, Ms. Seymour graduated cum laude from Northwestern University, where she earned a B.A in English Literature and minored in Art Theory and Practice. That same year, Ms. Seymour joined Teach For America in Los Angeles, navigating a 5000-student high school as an English and ESL teacher. While in L.A, she completed a two-year Masters in Teaching program at Loyola Marymount University and became a certified teacher in the state of California. In 2008, Ms. Seymour left the ocean views of her teeny tiny Santa Monica apartment to return to the site of her alma mater, “sweet home” Chicago. There, she became a founding English teacher and advisor at a Noble Street charter high school campus and remained with Noble for four years, taking a “gap” year to serve as Director Literacy Instruction for TFA’s Oklahoma region. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Ms. Seymour has spent four summers coaching and operationalizing secondary literacy pilots at Teach For America’s summer training institutes in Mississippi and Chicago, respectively.

Ms. Seymour relocated to Tennessee with her significant other, who is also a school administrator, and their two-year old son in July 2013. Most recently, she taught, coached, and designed curriculum for RePublic schools in Nashville. Now a resident of West Nashville, she enjoys walking the Greenway with her son, cruising Parnassus for new titles for her students, trying new restaurants, and finding shows on Netflix to binge-watch during naptime. She is honored to be part of the Valor community and thrilled to be assuming the role of assistant principal at Voyager, where she has grand plans to stock the faculty fridge with Diet Coke and start a book club for staff and parents!

Thomas Branch

Chief Operations Officer

Bio

Thomas Branch

Chief Operations Officer

Thomas recently joined the Valor after serving for 7+ years in several financial and operational roles at KIPP Nashville. Thomas has been responsible for facilities management, human resources, transportation, food services, and technology support. Thomas helped to lay the operational foundation for the growth strategy the school is currently implementing. Prior to his time at KIPP Nashville, Thomas served as a highly successful Vice President and Financial Center Manager at Wells Fargo Bank. Thomas has nearly over eight years of experience in the banking industry, and he holds a degree in Finance and Economics from The Florida State University.

Thomas is a Florida State Football alum and college football fanatic. In his free-time you can find him hosting large BBQ events, and attending FSU football games in the fall. His role at Valor is Chief Operating Officer, and he will lead the operational strategy and policy work for both all Valor schools. His interests include college football, music, and learning golf.

D’Juan Epps

Athletic Director

Bio

D’Juan Epps

Athletic Director

As a Murfreesboro, TN native, Mr. Epps is excited to join the Valor team after serving multiple roles in the Middle Tennessee athletic community. In 2011, Mr. Epps successfully developed Next Level Athletics, a non-profit basketball organization that helps youth expand their athletic ability, encourages character development, and builds life skills. Over the past 4 years, he has also held multiple basketball coaching positions at various high schools and has been an instructor for numerous basketball camps in the community.

Mr. Epps holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Management from Middle Tennessee State University. He is extremely passionate about community outreach and worked as a Community Outreach Coordinator for the Department of Veterans Affairs from 2012-2016. Mr. Epps feels extremely blessed to be a part of the Valor family. He is looking forward to engaging with the scholars and developing an athletic program that mirrors Valor’s mission and values.

Outside of work, Mr. Epps is a huge basketball fan, specifically for his favorite player LeBron James. When he is not in the gym, Mr. Epps enjoys spending time with his lovely wife, Megan, and their incredible 5 year old son; along with reading/listening to motivational speaker, Eric Thomas.

Jackson Sprayberry

Founding High School Principal

Bio

Jackson Sprayberry

Founding High School Principal

While working towards his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at Lipscomb University, Mr. Sprayberry believed he would end up working as an attorney. However, his experience as a corps member with Teach For America altered that trajectory. As a corps member, he taught US Government at Central High School in Memphis, Tennessee. He also served as a Corps Member Advisor and School Director for Teach For America’s summer institute, where he trained new teachers and their coaches as they prepared to enter the classroom.

After his corps commitment, Mr. Sprayberry remained in Memphis and in the field of education, transitioning to Freedom Preparatory Academy Charter Schools, where he joined the founding high school team. While at Freedom Prep, he served as a Pre-AP World History Teacher, Social Studies Instructional Coach, and Dean of College Counseling on the school’s leadership team.

Most recently, Mr. Sprayberry served as Development and Partnerships Officer with The College Initiative, a college-access nonprofit, based in Memphis. However, after earning his Master of Science in Secondary Education from The Johns Hopkins University, he decided to step back into a school setting.

While his love for the city of Memphis runs deep, the incredible work happening at Valor made it hard to resist the opportunity to move back to Nashville and join the Valor team. He considers himself lucky to be given the opportunity to work with the families, scholars, and staff members that comprise the Valor community. When not at Valor, you can catch Mr. Sprayberry reading The New York Times, listening to NPR, drinking coffee (black, of course), or maybe playing his Xbox One.

Rachel Carlson

Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum Designer

Bio

Rachel Carlson

Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum Designer

Rachel Carlson joins Valor as a Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum Designer. Rachel’s career began in the classroom as a 4th grade teacher, at which time she also pursued her Masters in Education. Her experience led her to an awareness of the deficiencies in public education and the need for more restorative and balanced approaches for student, and whole school community, growth and healing.

Following her time in the classroom, her passion for supporting students led her to pursue a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology. She worked as a counselor and as a project-manager bridging the divide between higher education and K-12 schools, before founding Neuro Doodling, an education consulting company with underpinnings in neuroscience, child development, family systems, brain-based movement, meditation, and best practices in education pedagogy.

In her free time, Rachel enjoys adventures in the outdoors with her husband and their hound-dog, reading, and doing yoga.

Kat Tuckett

Director of Special Projects

Bio

Kat Tuckett

Director of Special Projects

Kat is excited to join Valor Collegiate Academies as the Director of Special Projects for the 2017-2018 school year!

Before joining the Valor team, Kat spent six years at Match Education in Boston. While at Match, Kat had a variety of roles in the Match Charter Schools and the Match Teacher Residency / The Sposato Graduate School of Education including Director of Operations, Director of Teacher Recruitment and Chief of Staff.

Kat graduated from Georgetown University in 2011 with a degree in Sociology with a Social Justice Concentration.

In her spare time, Kat loves rooting for Boston-based sports teams, attempting to do home-improvement projects and exploring her new neighborhood in Nashville.

Danie Boro

School Nurse

Bio

Danie Boro

School Nurse

Danie is originally from Sydney, Australia but now a Nashville local. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing with the University of Western Sydney in 2009, and specialized with a Postgraduate in Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing with the Australian College of Nursing in 2012. As a Registered Nurse, Danie has nearly 10 years of clinical experience working in variety of nursing roles, including as a NICU (level 6 Surgical/Cardiac) RN, Pediatric Cardiothoracic ICU RN, a Director of Healthcare Programs and as an Executive Board of Director for healthcare organizations. She is part of Open Heart International, where she volunteers her time to countries, such as Cambodia, to perform and educate local staff to care for infants and children requiring open heart surgeries.

She is passionate about healthcare and working with children and their families. Danie is enthusiastic and strives to find ways to collaborate with resources available to empower the younger generation and their families to continue living healthier, quality lives.

In her spare time, she loves to cook, taste different cuisines, and enjoys cleaning when her daughter is napping.

Kristy Presmyk

Enrollment and Outreach Coordinator

Bio

Kristy Presmyk

Enrollment and Outreach Coordinator

Kristy moved with her husband from Austin, TX to Nashville in 2017. She is excited to serve as the Enrollment and Outreach Coordinator for Valor!

Kristy grew up in Texas and received a bachelor’s degree in International Politics and Diplomacy from Texas A&M University in 2009. After graduating, she managed international adoption programs in Europe, Latin America and Africa that started her devotion for working with children and families. Kristy transitioned to working locally in Austin serving as a Guardian ad Litem and court appointed advocate for children in foster care through CASA of Travis County. During this time she became a certified educator of Trust Based Relational Intervention, a trauma-informed modality through Texas Christian University. Kristy is excited to continue working with children and families here at Valor!

In her spare time Kristy enjoys escaping to the mountains, cooking, keeping her garden alive and reading. She’s also exploring and continuing to get to know her new hometown of Nashville.

Jackie Graham

After School Coordinator

Bio

Jackie Graham

After School Coordinator

Jackie is excited to join the Valor team this year as the After School Coordinator.

Jackie received her bachelor’s degree in English from Hillsdale College before spending a term at Oxford studying 19th Century Russian Literature and C.S. Lewis. As an undergraduate, Jackie worked as director of volunteer programs on campus and spent a summer in Washington working with No Labels, a political activist group facilitating bipartisan collaboration on Capitol Hill. After college, she spent a year coordinating marketing and operations efforts for The Coffman Organization, an international management consulting firm specializing in employee engagement. She left the incredible team at Coffman to pursue further education in the arts.

When not spending afternoons in the Voyager office, Jackie is probably at the library writing plays and learning Hebrew, or at The Factory in Franklin, interning with Studio Tenn. She enjoys baking all manner of breads and cakes, listening to film scores, and taking very long walks with her husband.

Lucie Rhoads

Talent & Development Coordinator

Bio

Lucie Rhoads

Talent & Development Coordinator

Lucie is excited to enter into her role Valor Collegiate Academies as the Talent & Development Coordinator, where she works on talent recruitment and hiring, development and external partnerships.

Lucie received her bachelor’s degree in Human & Organizational Development from Vanderbilt University in 2011, where she served as President of Manna Project International. After completing her degree, Lucie was a 2011 Teach for America corps member in Memphis, TN, where she taught Kindergarten and 7th Grade ELA. Lucie found her passion for school startup, and was a member of the founding team at KIPP Infinity Elementary School in Harlem as well as Grizzlies Preparatory Charter School in Memphis. After completing her commitment with Teach for America, Lucie moved back to Nashville and started Nashville Classical Charter School as the Founding Director of Operations, serving there for its first 3 years.

When not at Valor, Lucie loves to spent time with her dog, check out new restaurants in Nashville, watch SEC football, and spend time with family and friends.

Rebecca White

Compass Counselor and School Psychologist

Bio

Rebecca White

Compass Counselor and School Psychologist

Born in California and raised in Texas, Rebecca attended Texas A&M University for her undergraduate education, majoring in Psychology. She did her graduate work at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas for her Masters in School Psychology.

Rebecca has worked in both the Houston and San Antonio areas as a school psychologist, and moved to Tennessee in 2008. In her time in Tennessee, Rebecca has served as school psychologist for Franklin Special School District and several charter schools in the greater Nashville area. Additionally, Rebecca is a registered yoga teacher through Yoga Alliance (RYT-200) and has been teaching over 8 years.

Over her years in the school system, Rebecca continued to see increased need for enhanced social-emotional supports for students. Drawing upon her experience and expertise, she developed a thoughtful approach to providing counseling services to students in the school setting. Integrating elements of yoga and mindfulness with both creative and traditional therapeutic approaches, she delights in leading individual and group sessions tailored to individualized student needs.

In her free time, Rebecca enjoys spending time with family, practicing and teaching yoga, cooking, being outdoors, and painting. She is thrilled to be a part of the Valor team, and excited for the upcoming school year!