Design Team

The REAL Schools Design Team Bloggers

Gabriel Kuriloff: 

I grew up in Mount Airy and went to the Miquon Elementary School. I attended Brown University as an undergraduate where I earned a BA in Urban Studies and my teaching certificate in English Language Arts. I wrote my honors thesis on the politics of school reform in Philadelphia and, after a year teaching English in Italy, I came back to Philly to teach. I taught and administered at a charter school in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia and earned my principal certificate and my Masters in Educational Leadership from Penn. I then served as CEO and principal of Arise Academy, a small charter school serving youth in foster care for two years.

I am now working as a school design consultant and project manager while completing my dissertation on school design for a doctorate in educational leadership at Penn. I serve on the advisory board for the Manhattan Early College School for Advertising ( and on the board of the Save a Mind Foundation, a local foundation supporting low income middle school students (

Finally, and most importantly, I have three young children (6, 4, and 6 months) and a wonderful wife who teaches and studies math education at the Drexell Math Forum, I have a host of amazing former and current students who enrich my world, and I am deeply invested in the education of all of the young people in Philadelphia.

Melissa Hentges:

Melissa began her teaching career in 2005 as a Teach for America (TFA) corps member in New Orleans, LA. During this time she taught pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, while also having the opportunity to help found a K-8 school for New Orleans evacuee children and a dual language early childhood and elementary school in Houston, TX. As a founding staff member of two schools, Melissa mentored first year Teach for America corps members, and provided leadership in areas of school design, curriculum, and culture. Although she loved teaching, she moved to Philadelphia and enrolled in a Masters program at Temple University to expand her expertise of issues in urban education. She quickly realized that she was not ready to completely remove herself from the classroom so she taught at a KIPP middle school in North Philadelphia while completing her Master’s degree. Melissa is currently a second year doctoral student in the Reading, Writing and Literacy program in the School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania and is also enrolled in their Aspiring Principal Leadership Program.

Claire Yates:

Claire graduated from the University of Hartford in 1999 with a double major of Secondary Education and History. In 2003, she earned her Masters’ degree in History at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst).

Claire taught for three years at Rockville High School, located in Vernon, CT, where she taught a wide range of social studies courses. She moved to Philadelphia in 2003 and worked at Mariana Bracetti Academy Charter School (MBA) as the social studies curriculum coordinator for five years. During this time she developed the social studies curriculum for the entire the senior academy and taught courses including U.S. History, World History, Street Law, Modern Middle Eastern History, Psychology, Sociology, Public Speaking, and Music History.

Claire also served on the High School Design Committee for three years; for two of which she was the chairperson of the committee. She took the lead in areas ranging from the creation of an honors and AP track to school wide curriculum mapping for the incorporation of student majors to creating a student support program.

In the fall of 2009, Claire matriculated as a doctoral candidate at Michigan State University in Curriculum, Teaching and Educational Policy.  At Michigan State Claire won the Summer Research Fellowship through which she studied how department heads utilize curriculum and combine that with areas of teacher agency in the classroom. She also won the Marianne Ameral Fellowship which will enable her to study pre-service teacher agency and how the redesign of the intern level courses impacts student teachers. Claire will also present a session at NCSS this fall about Middle Eastern History curriculum.


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