donate now donate now cwi banner



service learningJOE BROOKS—is the Founder and Director of Community Works Institute (CWI) and a veteran teacher. He is an international advocate, speaker, and workshop leader for embedding place based service-learning and sustainability in K-16 education. Joe is also channeling his extensive experience and personal passion for place based education through the CommonLore program as part of an effort to create opportunities for students to bring their communities together through purposeful local people-oriented projects.

He travels widely working with schools and teachers through a process that includes the use of Collaborative Ethnography as a teaching tool to develop understanding, empathy, and compassion. Over the past three decades Joe has worked across the U.S. and internationally with students, educators, and administrators, at every grade level, both in urban and rural contexts. As a public school teacher he established a nationally recognized K-12 service-learning program that included a unique student run community newspaper that thrived for twenty years. In 1995 he established CWI's Summer EAST Institute in Vermont, and later Summer WEST in Los Angeles. These week long intensive Institutes function as a collaborative learning and design laboratory and have been attended by educators from nearly every U.S. state and many countries around the world. Participant demographics include K-16 and community educators from an incredibly diverse set of contexts and job descriptions. Joe's message to Institute participants is to always seek to develop learning experiences that possess a compelling sense of purpose and reciprocity.

service learning

Joe is an internationally recognized expert on place based service-learning and a veteran workshop leader, facilitator, and keynote speaker who believes that the path to a meaningful life and education lies in deep community engagement and self efficacy. He advocates that education must focus on a creating a developed sense of place, informed by the goal of sustainable communities, using principles of democratic teaching and social justice—with the regular opportunity to apply content and skills in meaningful service to the community. His work with students and educators emphasizes support of designed learning environments where students reap the academic and social benefits of an experiential curriculum connected to people, nature and place. Joe is also the publisher of Community Works Journal, a digital magazine for educators.  email Joe l arrange a PD event at your school

ligitaLIGITA STAWARZ—is the Service-Learning and CAS Director at the American School of Warsaw (ASW). She holds a M.A. in Clinical and Personality Psychology, is a Certified Teacher, and a Public Relations Specialist. Ligita has worked at American School of Warsaw since 2004. She has significant experience in planning, creating, and managing a wide variety of K-12 service-learning projects and programs. Ligita coordinates ASW's service-learning program for grades Pre-K to 8th. Additionally, she is the director of Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS) at the American School of Warsaw, promoting and implementing the transformation of CAS as a deeper and culminating experience in service-learning. Ligita is a current CWI faculty member, and alumnus of CWI's Institute on Service-Learning.
alexandra gonzalesALEXANDRA GONZALES—feels called to serve as an educator in communities with high needs. As a middle school Math and Science teacher, Alex envisions a school community with a common, shared vision that values a culture of collaboration, social justice, service and sustainability. She teaches at St. Athanasius School, an urban Catholic elementary K-8 school in a high needs area of Long Beach, California. The school has a reputation for supporting underserved students, including children of low wage workers and undocumented immigrants. Alex is an alumna of CWI’s Summer WEST Institute, and is inspired by Freire’s theory of Critical Consciousness and John Dewey’s ideas of connection between democracy and education. She shares that her experience at CWI’s Institute gave her the “opportunity to bridge theory into practice through the use of Service-Learning and Collaborative Ethnography—as a way to have school and community stakeholders engaged in understanding their own local communities, by beginning the dialogue and becoming aware of the needs of their own communities in order to become more action-oriented.” Alex also has international experience teaching English as a Second Language for the Faculty of International Studies at the Prince of Songkla University in Thailand. read Alex's full bio
Paula CohenPAULA COHEN—has been a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District for the last eleven years, mostly at the middle school level. She uses a strong projects based approach that allows for student voice, academic choice and active engagement in learning. Breaking down the four walls of the classroom, thinking about how to use educational spaces more creatively, connecting students to their community and greater world in authentic learning experiences, are what drives her practice. Paula believes in networking to connect schools to local organizations and communities. At Orville Wright Middle School where she previously taught, she organized to builda student and community garden on a derelict acre of land on the school’s property that still thrives to this day. She now is a board member on the all-volunteer nonprofit that oversees the garden. Paula is an alumnus of Community Works Institute’s (CWI) Summer WEST Institute.
MARTA VERNET—has more than twenty years of experience working in the education field at The American School of Barcelona. She has developed educational programs and partnerships throughout the Barcelona community. She serves as ASB’s Service-Learning, CAS, and Alumni Coordinator, specializing in creating programs through collaborations and partnerships with different stakeholders of the local community. Her passion and focus is the power Service-Learning brings to learning experiences. Marta’s vision is to develop future leaders with a strategic vision which will allow them to create Shared Value in the communities where they are functioning. She sees these leaders working, in International Corporations, Public Institutions, small business, Hospitals, Schools or Universities. To fulfill her vision, she is creating Service Learning programs that are experienced by students throughout their years of schooling (from Kindergarden students up to 12th graders ). These programs have certain characteristics, they are experiential, they solve a problem in the community, they are sustainable and they are win win partnerships for all parties involved.
seanSEAN LLOYD—is the Chief Family & Community Engagement Officer at Paulo Freire Charter School in Newark New Jersey. He developed and directs a systemic outreach strategy for engagement with traditionally underrepresented and emergent communities. His work also includes developing strategies to support and enable parent leadership and empowerment, as well as bringing vital expertise and experience to community engagement and volunteer mobilization efforts—helping to maximize impact on the community at large. Working with the school leadership team, Sean has established a comprehensive vision for family, community, and business engagement with Paulo Freire Charter School. While serving as the chief family engagement leader for the school, he has created strong academic support systems and school-family-community partnerships that foster success for all students by building relationships based on mutual trust and two-way communication. Sean also plans and manages strategic partnerships between the Paulo Freire Charter School and businesses, government agencies, higher education institutions, and community organizations to provide families and students with the supports needed to be college and career ready. Sean is a former high school mathematics teacher and has a great passion and belief in service-learning as a strategy and means to improve society.

Sean shares his passion for education by coordinating service-learning projects for scholars, which have sent student scholars to places as far as Ghana, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic to do service. He states that, “I am blessed with the opportunity to supplement our scholars' classroom experience with experiential learning.  My role allows me to learn more about our scholars, myself, and build an awesome network to facilitate a myriad of educational opportunities.”  “I love working at The Paulo Freire School because I love being in a position to mentor, teach, and inspire young people whenever possible.  Learning is a life-long proposition.  As I evolve, I am compelled to try and assist the next generation as well.  One of my primary motives is to share information and insight that was denied to me as a child.” 
MaryMARY WHALEN—is a veteran high school history teacher who has worked extensively with student voice and participation as democratizing principles in her classroom. She and her students have compiled a diverse array of experiences as participants in service-learning projects both locally and nationally. Mary brings first hand experience and professional passion to the question of how we create and nurture meaningful student voice within the constraints of a typical classroom and school. She is also a recent recipient of a Rowland Fellowship for Declaring Ourselves!  an action research project concerning civic engagement in the 21st Century.  Service-Learning, Participatory Action Research and Live Video Collaboration is her current focus. She currently teaches at Twinfield Union School in Plainfield, Vermont.
stuartSTUART GRAUER—is a teacher, the founding Head of School at The Grauer School, and Founder of the Small Schools Coalition. He consults with schools worldwide and been awarded the University of San Diego Career Achievement Award, plus various international educational exchange fellowships including a Fulbright. Stuart is one of the nation's top authorities on small schools education. His work has been covered in The New York Times, Discovery Channel, and frequently in the local press in his home town of Encinitas, California, where he has been named “Peacemaker of the Year.” A regular essayist for Community Works Journal, Stuart's new book, Real Teachers, is available from CWI's Bookstore.
billy o'steenBILLY O'STEEN—is Associate Professor and Director of the University of Canterbury's Community Engagement Hub in New Zealand. With over 25 years of public service in education, government, and non-profits, Billy brings a belief in the transformative power of reflecting on experience to all contexts he works within, particularly with service-learning in post-disaster and developing country contexts. He has applied the lessons learned from attending CWI's Summer Institute on Place, Service, and Sustainability, as well as from working for the Peace Corps, UNESCO, Outward Bound, Children's International Summer Village in Brazil, Nature's Way Middle School, and North Carolina State University to create an educational response model of community engagement and voluntourism to address the natural disasters of the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011, Hurricane Irene in 2011, and Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu in 2015. This model has been shared in numerous international publications and presentations and was recently used to affect institutional change with the University of Canterbury's adoption of community engagement as one of four attributes in the new UC Graduate Profile.
karyKARY SCHUMPERT—is an environmental educator, writer, and student living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is a contributing editor for Community Works Journal, writing the monthly column "Notes from New Mexico." She loves teaching, running, writing, hiking, camping, biking, reading, cooking, singing in the shower, making up puns, composting, star gazing, and many other things. She finds her greatest sense of place, home, inspiration, and duty in New Mexico. Her writing has been published in Green Teacher, Elephant Journal, New Leaf Meditation, The Upper Room, along with several local anthologies. She keeps a blog at
STEVE COLANGELI—is a veteran science and agriculture teacher in the Alternative Education Program at Middlebury Union High School in Vermont. Steve has a strong passion for sustainable agriculture and environmental science and has pioneered an award winning approach to alternative and mainstream education through entrepenuerial hands on learning. He teaches a course called the Science of Sustainability where his students run and manage a commercial greenhouse on site, growing hardy winter-greens through the school year for the cafeteria. Steve has a B.S. Degree in Horticulture and Agronomy. He has always had a passion for working with the land and has dreamed about owning a small organic, community based farm for as long as he can remember. For the past eight years he has been involved in building school based greenhouses and gardens as outdoor classrooms. Steve, his students, and colleagues use the gardens and greenhouse as a base for a variety of service-learning projects that connect the curriculum to the community. Over the years Steve has been involved in a multitude of service-learning projects and is always inspired by the learning that students gain through this type of education. Steve lives in Charlotte with his son Aiden where they are working to create renewable energy sources within their home. He is also the owner/operator of Paradiso Farm.
david sDAVID SOBEL—is a preeminent voice and writer for integrating place-based education in American schools. He is a core faculty member and director of Teacher Certification programs at Antioch University New England and he was identified as one of the Daring Dozen educators in the United States by Edutopia Magazine. He has served as a staff development and curriculum consultant for public and independent schools and has been a keynote speaker for many colleges, national conferences, state agencies and environmental organizations. He serves on the editorial board of the journal, Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice and is the author of Children's Special Places, Beyond Ecophobia, and other books. He has written many articles on children and nature including regular essays in Community Works Journal on Place and Education.
luciLUCI FERNANDES—is a cultural anthropologist whose research focus is on documenting daily life through audio/visual mediums. She documents life ways in both contemporary Cuban and in Eastern North Carolina, where she lives and teaches anthropology courses for East Carolina University. Her aim in to highlight everyday people, their joys and struggles to connect people in their human experience. Luci is a regular contributor to Community Works Journal around her K-16 applicable work and ideas related to using anthropology as a pathway into deeper understanding of communities.
instituteMARC CHABOT—is the science teacher at Thetford Academy in Vermont and has taught high school chemistry and/or physics for more than twenty years. His curriculum includes several excellent examples of service-learning, among them the Physics Problem-Solving Unit. He was a Christa McAuliffe fellow based on his project “Reaching Mainstreamed Students in Chemistry using Computers.” Marc has been awarded the Radioshack National Teacher Award and was a state finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. He has trained as a National Facilitator for the National School Reform Faculty.
CYNTHIA HUGHES—is a veteran educator with more than thirty years in the field. Her experience includes serving as a public school classroom teacher and reading specialist in Vermont, where she is currently a Library Media Specialist for the Springfield School District. Cynthia has also worked extensively over the years as an environmental educator, and music teacher. Her work with children has always hadat its heart a hands-on approach to fostering a sense of place and connection to the natural world. She has designed both classroom and library curricula that integrates service-learning and nature studies with literacy standards. As a faculty member with the educational nonprofit Community Works Institute (CWI), Cynthia has facilitated numerous professional development events and led a series of weeklong service-learning institutes for elementary students. Cynthia was a member of the original team of educators who developed CWI's Connecting Service-Learning to the Curriculum. She also enjoys composing and performing music.

brad houkBRAD HOUK—is a veteran educator, counter-cartographer, and activist. He spent many years teaching at-risk students in Vermont, Native students in the Navajo Nation, Quaker students in Pennsylvania, and advanced-degree People’s Liberation Army officers in China. Brad now teaches geography, art, and education at the Community College of Vermont and social studies at Green Mountain Union High School. Pulling from his academic background at Penn State's College of Arts & Architecture, North Carolina State's Graduate College of Design, and Western New Mexico University's Graduate School of Education, Brad has been integrating counter-mapping with service-learning to invigorate his classrooms and increase retention. Most recently, Brad has been counter-mapping his local community with service-learning projects in an effort to not only understand a community more deeply (and the many ways it can be experienced) but to explore how this process and such projects can be used as a method in civic and community-engagement.

subscribe© copyright 1995-2018
Community Works Institute (CWI)
All rights reserved. CWI a non-profit educational organization

CONTENT USE POLICY No material contained within this web site may be reproduced in print, by electronic or other means, without permission. All materials contained in this web site remain the sole and exclusive property of CWI, or the author if designated by arrangement.


donate now