Dedicated professionals creating a new way for teens to live and learn

The Learning Cooperatives has a staff of dedicated professionals who run each center.

Together, with a large group of volunteers and college students, we are a diverse group of caring individuals with a wide variety of skills and interests to share.

Our board of directors and advisers come from a variety of backgrounds and share our deep interest in helping teens realize their goals through self-directed education.

The Staff at our Centers

Joel Hammon


One of the founding members of Princeton Learning Cooperative, Joel has over 11 years of teaching experience in both public and private schools. Joel holds a degree in secondary education from Miami University in Oxford, OH, with minors in history and political science. He is also a founding member of Liberated Learners, an international organization that supports people around the world to create self-directed learning programs like The Learning Cooperatives.

You can find out more about Joel’s work for the larger movement by watching his TEDx talk or getting a copy of his book The Teacher Liberation Handbook at his website, JoelHammon.com

Alison Snieckus


Alison has been working with homeschoolers in New Jersey since 2000 when she started her homeschooling journey with her two sons. She was on staff at PLC for 10 years before joining RLC. Alison is active with various international organizations supporting self-directed education, including Liberated Learners and The Alliance for Self-Directed Education. She previously worked for ETS and has taught graduate level statistics for Rutgers University. Alison holds an M.Ed. in Learning and Cognition and an Ed.D. in Educational Measurement and Statistics from Rutgers University.

Katy Burke


Katy has thirteen years of teaching experience in public high school and holds a degree in English and secondary education from The College of New Jersey. During her summers, she taught essay writing at the Peddie School in Hightstown, NJ. Throughout her career, Katy has written and delivered original honors curricula designed to foster divergent thinking. She loves symbology, storytelling and essay writing. Fueled by her conviction that education is a personal journey that cannot be standardized, Katy left traditional schooling behind. Despite the professional risks, she refused to proctor the PARCC assessment, which she felt was harmful to students. At PLC, Katy has found an approach that honors the student and learning itself.

Scott Gallagher


Scott has been teaching reading and writing for over 20 year, as a middle school and high school English teacher before moving to The Learning Cooperatives. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Montclair State University and a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College. He enjoys surfing, documentary film, and free-form radio.

Eileen Smyth


Eileen has been teaching for over twenty-five years, beginning her education career in East Asia and continuing in the US. She is dual-certified in New Jersey to teach both Visual Arts and Social Studies. She was a painting major at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and studied social sciences at the State University of New York. She has taught a range of specialized subjects including college-level photography, color theory and anatomy for artists, as well as high-school level psychology and African-American studies.

MaryBeth Healy


MaryBeth has worked in teacher and mentor roles supporting youth for over 20 years. Her educational background includes a BS in Engineering from Rutgers and an MBA from The University of North Carolina. For years MaryBeth volunteered and mentored teens on the side while pursuing a marketing career in the microelectronics industry. In 2001 she chose to leave her corporate career and since then has taught high school science and piano.

Alexis Sellers


Alexis has been working with children and teens for over 15 years in various roles including Teen Camp Director and Nature Navigator. She is passionate about the importance of play and incorporates that value in her work. Alexis holds a Masters in Social Work from Temple University with a Concentration in Community and Policy and Specialization in Children and Families. She is a lover of the outdoors and enjoys camping, kayaking, nature craft projects and exploring. Some of her other interests include making music and swing dancing.

Yi Pan


Yi Pan has over fifteen years of experience conducting biomedical research in academia and the pharmaceutical industry. During her research career, Pan trained and mentored many young scientists, ranging from high school interns to young professionals. She found it tremendously rewarding to help people develop their professional skills and advance their careers. After leaving the corporate world, Pan ran a STEM enrichment program for children ages 4-14. The program reached thousands of kids via fun and engaging after-school classes and summer camps. Pan also volunteers in her community for parenting and education-related activities. Pan has a B.S. in Chemistry and a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology.

Heather Sia


Heather is a long-time homeschooling parent and deeply involved with the homeschooling community. She is a co-founder of a popular homeschooling co-op, helps run a homeschool archery league, tutors high school writing, and mentors adults with autism. She has also served on the board of two other co-ops and has acted as an advisor for other homeschoolers wishing to start their own co-op. Heather studied English Literature at Rutgers University and believes that education is an individual journey with no timeline.

Heather loves reading, writing, true crime podcasts, and spending time with her family.

Sandy Lee


Sandy has been teaching in public and private schools since 2007. As a certified teacher in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, she has taught a variety of subjects including math, history, English, and ESL. Her educational background includes a Masters in Secondary Education and Bachelor degrees in Business and Italian Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. Aside from teaching, Sandy enjoys reading, martial arts, piano, and spending time outdoors.

Karly Somers

Apprentice, Raritan

Karly Somers has been working with kids for 2 years in unconventional settings. She is new to working in a homeschooling setting but has adjusted effortlessly and finds great meaning and value in this current line of work. Though Karly is still new to teaching teens she takes pride in being a positive role model to lead teens in meaningful education. With a world full of possibilities for careers Karly feels it is important to explore all options so teens can find themselves sooner than later. Working with special needs children and young adults is a skill she has acquired through her work at Hope for All Learners that she hopes to continue throughout her life. She hopes to expand her knowledge to better assist the communities she is involved in to aid in the best outcomes young people can get.

In Karly’s spare time she reads, writes, spends time with family, and dabbles in various hobbies.

Love Ventrello

Apprentice, Bucks

Love has a passion for education and has been tutoring others regularly since 2017. Love received her associate of science from Bucks Community College. She has a GHS Hazard Communications/Chemical Handling Certification from Penn Valley and a certification in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Love is currently studying energy and sustainability policy at Penn State University where she specializes in Bioorthogonal or ‘click’ chemistry. Love is very familiar with volunteer work. She has done water quality testing for the Pennsylvania
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). She has also volunteered with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) since 2021. Love is currently a member of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, which is a nonprofit organization. She feels it is important to make STEM education accessible to all. In her free time, she likes to read, garden, or exercise.

Board of Trustees

Advisory Board