Meet the Teachers

Meet the Educators of the

Teacher PD Launchpad

Rocketship’s Teacher PD Launchpad was created as part of the Pay It Forward campaign – an opportunity to share our best practices with teachers all across the state of Tennessee. At the beginning of this school year, the state of Tennessee recognized our work and awarded us with a grant to share what’s worked for our teachers during the COVID-19 crisis in efforts to help other educators.

Meet the teachers who will be hosting upcoming webinars on topics such as boosting engagement, prioritizing equity, and cultivating empathy in the classroom.

Sara Amick (M.A, Education) is the founding second-grade humanities teacher at Rocketship United Academy in Nashville, TN. She is currently teaching fourth grade humanities. She also serves as a member of the Rocketship Rising Leader program where she specializes in school culture and teacher retention. She is a former third-grade teacher at Jefferson City Public Schools and has been teaching since 2011. Sara received her Master’s in Elementary Education from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. To serve her multilingual students more effectively, she also received her English as a Second Language Certificate from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee. Sara is passionate about creating equitable spaces for students to express their authenticity and creativity while gaining the academic knowledge needed to reach their dreams. She believes all students have a limitless potential and believes educators collaborating together is the key to make this possible!

Keisha Cogdell has been in the education field for the last seven years and is passionate about early education. She is currently a kindergarten humanities teacher at Rocketship Nashville Northeast Elementary. Originally from Connecticut, Keisha graduated from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC in 2011. She received her B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in Elementary Education and Psychology. Her career in education started as a pre-kindergarten teacher in Raleigh, NC. In her fifth year, Keisha transitioned to teaching kindergarten and first grade and has been since. She is currently new to the Nashville area and enjoys the mountain air. Keisha has a passion for teaching and believes that every child deserves a quality education.

James Cross (M.A., Education) is a fourth-grade teacher with eight years of experience teaching kindergarten through fourth grade. James was awarded his Masters of Education in 2015 from Johns Hopkins University. He is currently pursuing an Ed.S degree from Lipscomb University. A native of Seattle, James joined Rocketship Nashville in 2017 after beginning his teaching career with Oklahoma City Public Schools in Oklahoma City. In addition to classroom teaching, James has been responsible for numerous roles within Rocketship, Teach For America, and Oklahoma City Public Schools. He’s been with his current group of students for four years and believes that the best way to ensure student achievement is through building relationships. He’s a firm believer that we need to bring social studies back to the forefront of our classrooms.

Francesca Furci (M.A., Teaching & M.A., NCSP) currently serves as Rocketship’s Manager of Psychological Services and Social Emotional Learning, as well as the School Psychologist for Rocketship’s Nashville campuses. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and her Masters in Teaching from Sacred Heart University, and realized early on she was passionate about the part of education that looked beyond the test scores, and into the hearts and minds of our students. Through her continued studies at Iona College, Francesca earned her Masters in School Psychology while teaching second grade in Stamford, CT. Upon graduation, she moved to Nashville to join Rocketship, where she has since been able to partner with a team that not only acknowledges the importance of social emotional learning as part of a child’s educational experience but acts on it every day. She’s proud to support Rocketship Nashville, and school psychologists across the network, with her belief that every student deserves high-quality education that’s designed to meet their academic needs, as well as drive their personal development and social emotional success.

Brianna Gargano (M.A. Teaching) is currently in her fifth year of teaching as a Multilingual Specialist (formally ESL), at Rocketship Nashville Northeast. She began her teaching career in pre-kindergarten and has experience from there through fourth grade. As a Tennessee native, she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education with a minor in Family Studies from Tennessee Technological University and a Master’s in Teaching from Relay Graduate School of Education in 2019. Brianna became a part of the Rocketship Team in 2017 and has transitioned from a first-grade teacher to the Multilingual Specialist who believes collaboration, creativity, and equity is the key to language acquisition while maintaining a rigorous curriculum.

Amy Mirlisena has been an early childhood educator for the last 5 years. Beginning her journey in the Cincinnati area public schools and later taking her talents to Rocketship here in Nashville, Tennessee. Amy has a huge heart for loving kids, particularly in our inner-city schools. Having a strong background in Educational Technology, Instructional Design, and theatre she has been able to create an innovative, entertaining, and whimsical environment for her kids in this distance learning world. When she is not teaching she is brushing up her Spanish, singing in a jazz band in the heart of downtown Nashville, and is a director and producer for local musicals/plays in the tri-state area.

Piairra Pettus (M.A., Teaching) was born in Charleston, South Carolina, but moved to Tennessee in her early years. She loves calling Music City her home and enjoys spending time with her family. She is a 3rd grade STEM teacher at Rocketship United Academy. She started her educational journey in 2016 as a teaching fellow. The following year, she transitioned to a kindergarten teacher in a self-contained classroom. In 2017, she joined the Rocketship United Academy team. She continued teaching kindergarten literacy up until last year in which she transitioned to 3rd grade STEM. In 2015, she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education with a minor in Spanish from Middle Tennessee State University. In 2018, she received her M.A.T from Relay Graduate School of Education. Throughout her educational career, Piairra has coached teachers and led numerous professional developments. She is very dedicated to this work and ecstatic to be a part of a community of driven educators. She has a passion for teaching in such a rigorous environment that pursues student excellence. She believes social capital and relational trust can promote continuous academic success.

Krista Pupillo (M.S., Education) is an Integrated Special Education teacher at Rocketship Schools. She began her teaching career after earning her B.A. in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in early childhood education from the University of Connecticut. After 5 years as a lead prekindergarten teacher in Boston, MA, Krista went on to achieve her MS.Ed in Integrated Special and Elementary Education from Wheelock College in 2017. At Rocketship Schools, she taught kindergarten and first grade, creating a classroom of joy and enthusiasm for achievement, before transitioning to special education. Krista strongly believes that tailoring education to meet each student’s individual and developmental needs is the best way to ensure student success, and uses a passion for creative curriculum, relationship building, and the love of learning to drive instructional strategies.

Sarah Strode began her career in education in 2016 as a Fellow of The New Teacher Project in New Orleans. After teaching in Louisiana Charter Schools, she joined Rocketship Public Schools as a 4th grade Humanities teacher in 2017. At Rocketship Nashville Northeast Elementary, she laser-focused on building a classroom culture rooted in academic rigor and a love of reading. Her students made over two years of growth in 2018 and 2019. Sarah served as the Humanities Lead before transitioning to her current role as Assistant Principal at Rocketship Nashville Northeast Elementary, where she continues to coach and support the development of teachers. She is passionate about equity in education and teaching students to have a deep desire to pursue ownership of their learning.