About Us

“Learnabi” [lurn-a-bee]: noun

A personalized learning approach that enhances your innate abilities to help you achieve your full potential.

Learnabi, formerly known as Purpose Tutors, was founded by two graduate students in June, 2017 who believed that education should not be a “one size fits all” approach. Today, Learnabi works with partner schools across New York City.


Our Team

We are a dedicated team of learning specialists, psychologists, statisticians, and teachers who are committed to developing and utilizing personalized learning strategies to bridge the learning gap for students.

Rahel Tekola, Co-founder   Rahel co-founded Learnabi, an ed tech venture in June, 2017 when she saw a resource and study skills gap while teaching standardized testing classes in the Bronx. Rahel is no stranger to education methods that fail to meet students’ needs as she understands this from her own academic experience, which inevitably led her to develop personalized approaches to learning.  Prior to Learnabi, Rahel has worked as a consultant. In this role, she advised organizations, endowments, foundations and philanthropies all over the world on high-level organizational strategy, community economic development, on-the-ground special projects to racial and equity-based grantmaking and investments. Rahel has worked across many industries and sectors including local and federal government, non-profit, consultancy and philanthropy. Rahel’s most recent philanthropic work was with the John A. Reisenbach Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation where she focused on community economic development at the intersection of intentional philanthropy. At The Rockefeller Foundation, Rahel’s work focused on strategy and planning on how to unlock private capital gains in low-income area investments, known as the national Opportunity Zones project. During her time at The John A. Reisenbach Foundation, as a Program Officer, Rahel created the foundation’s first impact investing Accelerator project. She also managed the foundations’ grants and programs portfolio. Before moving to New York City, Rahel worked for The Family Place, the largest service providing domestic violence agency in Texas. In this role, she helped lead a $20M capital campaign, worked with the CEO to open the first men’s domestic violence shelter in Texas and worked on a $7M community reinvestment act project with JPMorgan Chase. In addition to her role at The Family Place, Rahel served on the Mayor’s Domestic Task Force, leading a city-wide lethality assessment program for family safety.  Rahel dedicated her early career to serving victims in gender-based violence and worked in pushing the Violence Against Women’s Act legislation during her time at the White House under President Obama’s Administration and during her time in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Rahel is an avid Texas fan and a native of the great state. She holds a Master’s in Public Administration with a concentration in Urban and Social Policy from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and a Bachelor’s in Political Science from Texas Tech University.

Rahel Tekola, Co-founder

Rahel co-founded Learnabi, an ed tech venture in June, 2017 when she saw a resource and study skills gap while teaching standardized testing classes in the Bronx. Rahel is no stranger to education methods that fail to meet students’ needs as she understands this from her own academic experience, which inevitably led her to develop personalized approaches to learning.

Prior to Learnabi, Rahel has worked as a consultant. In this role, she advised organizations, endowments, foundations and philanthropies all over the world on high-level organizational strategy, community economic development, on-the-ground special projects to racial and equity-based grantmaking and investments. Rahel has worked across many industries and sectors including local and federal government, non-profit, consultancy and philanthropy. Rahel’s most recent philanthropic work was with the John A. Reisenbach Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation where she focused on community economic development at the intersection of intentional philanthropy. At The Rockefeller Foundation, Rahel’s work focused on strategy and planning on how to unlock private capital gains in low-income area investments, known as the national Opportunity Zones project. During her time at The John A. Reisenbach Foundation, as a Program Officer, Rahel created the foundation’s first impact investing Accelerator project. She also managed the foundations’ grants and programs portfolio. Before moving to New York City, Rahel worked for The Family Place, the largest service providing domestic violence agency in Texas. In this role, she helped lead a $20M capital campaign, worked with the CEO to open the first men’s domestic violence shelter in Texas and worked on a $7M community reinvestment act project with JPMorgan Chase. In addition to her role at The Family Place, Rahel served on the Mayor’s Domestic Task Force, leading a city-wide lethality assessment program for family safety.

Rahel dedicated her early career to serving victims in gender-based violence and worked in pushing the Violence Against Women’s Act legislation during her time at the White House under President Obama’s Administration and during her time in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Rahel is an avid Texas fan and a native of the great state. She holds a Master’s in Public Administration with a concentration in Urban and Social Policy from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and a Bachelor’s in Political Science from Texas Tech University.

Niara Valério, Co-founder   Niara is originally from Queens, New York and is passionate about increasing the number of girls studying STEM at the college level. She co-founded Learnabi when she saw a study skills gap while teaching SAT classes in the South Bronx and she draws from her own academic experience to develop personalized approaches to learning.  Niara comes from a finance, economics and gender background. She worked as an Economic Affairs Advisor at the Permanent Observer Mission of the African Union to the United Nations. While there, she served as a Second Committee liaison and attended high – level meetings and panel discussions on behalf of the Senior Economist of the African Union. Niara transitioned to a finance role at Women’s World Banking Capital Partners, where she assisted the Chief Investment Officer in managing a 50MM gender lens investment fund. Her work on empowering women through finance also extended to her work at ACCION East, where she worked with the Director of SBA Lending to provide loan opportunities to women and minority owned business.  During undergrad at Harvard University, she founded an enterprise that introduced a methodology for sustainable growth and revenue for smallholder cotton farmers in Mozambique and participated in Harvard University’s President’s Challenge. Niara also served as the youngest elected Fundraising Committee Chair to the oldest women’s center in the nation, The Cambridge Women’s Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. While there, she developed an organizational wide initiative to transition donor records to a centralized database to facilitate fundraising strategies.  Niara holds a Masters in International Finance and Economic Policy with a Specialization in Gender and Public Policy from Columbia University and a Bachelors in Economics from Harvard University.

Niara Valério, Co-founder

Niara is originally from Queens, New York and is passionate about increasing the number of girls studying STEM at the college level. She co-founded Learnabi when she saw a study skills gap while teaching SAT classes in the South Bronx and she draws from her own academic experience to develop personalized approaches to learning.

Niara comes from a finance, economics and gender background. She worked as an Economic Affairs Advisor at the Permanent Observer Mission of the African Union to the United Nations. While there, she served as a Second Committee liaison and attended high – level meetings and panel discussions on behalf of the Senior Economist of the African Union. Niara transitioned to a finance role at Women’s World Banking Capital Partners, where she assisted the Chief Investment Officer in managing a 50MM gender lens investment fund. Her work on empowering women through finance also extended to her work at ACCION East, where she worked with the Director of SBA Lending to provide loan opportunities to women and minority owned business.

During undergrad at Harvard University, she founded an enterprise that introduced a methodology for sustainable growth and revenue for smallholder cotton farmers in Mozambique and participated in Harvard University’s President’s Challenge. Niara also served as the youngest elected Fundraising Committee Chair to the oldest women’s center in the nation, The Cambridge Women’s Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. While there, she developed an organizational wide initiative to transition donor records to a centralized database to facilitate fundraising strategies.

Niara holds a Masters in International Finance and Economic Policy with a Specialization in Gender and Public Policy from Columbia University and a Bachelors in Economics from Harvard University.

Christina M. Amendola, Personalized Learning Instructor - ELA   Christina is a certified English teacher in Connecticut and New York. She has been in the classroom for over ten years, five of which were as a full time English teacher for students in grades 6-12. Christina has taught in both charter and public schools. Christina has a B.A in Education from University of Hartford and an M.A. in Teaching of English from Columbia Teachers College. During her time at Columbia, Christina was awarded the prestigious Zankel fellowship which allowed her to support schools and departments through Columbia’s Center of Professional Education of Teachers (CPET). Christina worked with teachers as an instructional coach in schools, generating performance and publication projects in classrooms with the most troubling test scores in New York City. She enjoys partnering with teachers and mentoring them to ensure rigorous and creative work is at the center of their teaching

Christina M. Amendola, Personalized Learning Instructor - ELA

Christina is a certified English teacher in Connecticut and New York. She has been in the classroom for over ten years, five of which were as a full time English teacher for students in grades 6-12. Christina has taught in both charter and public schools. Christina has a B.A in Education from University of Hartford and an M.A. in Teaching of English from Columbia Teachers College. During her time at Columbia, Christina was awarded the prestigious Zankel fellowship which allowed her to support schools and departments through Columbia’s Center of Professional Education of Teachers (CPET). Christina worked with teachers as an instructional coach in schools, generating performance and publication projects in classrooms with the most troubling test scores in New York City. She enjoys partnering with teachers and mentoring them to ensure rigorous and creative work is at the center of their teaching

Nick Anderson, Mathematics Content Developer   Nick is working on his Ph.D. in Measurement and Evaluation at Teachers College (TC). At TC, his coursework has focused on statistics, research design, and measurement theory. Nick also works in the office of institutional studies at TC, where he has helped document the psychometric properties of the various survey instruments used by TC. His research interests include evaluation design, psychometrics, and multilevel modeling. He originally comes from a policy background, having worked for both the US State Department and the United Nations and received a MA in Political Science from NYU and BA degrees in economics, political science, international relations and Spanish from Boston University.

Nick Anderson, Mathematics Content Developer

Nick is working on his Ph.D. in Measurement and Evaluation at Teachers College (TC). At TC, his coursework has focused on statistics, research design, and measurement theory. Nick also works in the office of institutional studies at TC, where he has helped document the psychometric properties of the various survey instruments used by TC. His research interests include evaluation design, psychometrics, and multilevel modeling. He originally comes from a policy background, having worked for both the US State Department and the United Nations and received a MA in Political Science from NYU and BA degrees in economics, political science, international relations and Spanish from Boston University.

Emmanuel Blankson, Personalized Learning Instructor - Mathematics   Emmanuel was born in Obuasi, Ghana and raised in the Bronx, NY. He holds a B.A in Sociology and Mathematics from Dartmouth College and is currently getting his M.A in Math Education from Teacher's College at Columbia University. Emmanuel is interested in the educational outcomes of students of color (especially Black and Latinx students) and their math achievement. He hopes to cultivate an environment that encourage students to see how interesting and creative math learning can be in their lives

Emmanuel Blankson, Personalized Learning Instructor - Mathematics

Emmanuel was born in Obuasi, Ghana and raised in the Bronx, NY. He holds a B.A in Sociology and Mathematics from Dartmouth College and is currently getting his M.A in Math Education from Teacher's College at Columbia University. Emmanuel is interested in the educational outcomes of students of color (especially Black and Latinx students) and their math achievement. He hopes to cultivate an environment that encourage students to see how interesting and creative math learning can be in their lives

Chun-Fai “Colin” Chan, Personalized Learning Instructor - Science   Colin has over 10 years of professional experience as an educator, mentor, and advisor specializing in curriculum design, community organizing, and political advocacy. He has recently consulted on projects for the New York State Education Department and the New York City Department of Education for a educational management consultant firm in New York City as well as for a project with the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Colin graduated in 2017 from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) with a MPA in Urban/Social Policy. Prior to attending Columbia, he taught middle school and in adult education as well as serving as a board member and consultant to three nonprofit organizations to provide strategic planning, document editing services, and board development.

Chun-Fai “Colin” Chan, Personalized Learning Instructor - Science

Colin has over 10 years of professional experience as an educator, mentor, and advisor specializing in curriculum design, community organizing, and political advocacy. He has recently consulted on projects for the New York State Education Department and the New York City Department of Education for a educational management consultant firm in New York City as well as for a project with the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Colin graduated in 2017 from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) with a MPA in Urban/Social Policy. Prior to attending Columbia, he taught middle school and in adult education as well as serving as a board member and consultant to three nonprofit organizations to provide strategic planning, document editing services, and board development.

Melissa Mitchem, Social Studies Content Developer   Melissa Mitchem is a PhD student in Social Studies Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Before beginning her doctoral studies, Melissa taught middle school English/language arts and social studies at an international school in Morocco for several years and several humanities courses at a summer program in Virginia for gifted and talented middle school students. Melissa has a Bachelor of Arts in History and African Studies and Master of Teaching in Social Studies Education from the University of Virginia.

Melissa Mitchem, Social Studies Content Developer

Melissa Mitchem is a PhD student in Social Studies Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Before beginning her doctoral studies, Melissa taught middle school English/language arts and social studies at an international school in Morocco for several years and several humanities courses at a summer program in Virginia for gifted and talented middle school students. Melissa has a Bachelor of Arts in History and African Studies and Master of Teaching in Social Studies Education from the University of Virginia.

Taury Phelps, Spring 2019 Marketing Intern   Taury is a current sophomore at Ithaca College pursuing a Bachelor's in Cultural and Communications Studies with an Education Minor. Taury is originally from Mount Vernon, New York and participated in numerous mentoring programs as a high school student. The most impactful of those being the Her Honor Mentoring Program, through which she connected with remarkable mentors and developed her passions for public voice and higher education. Taury applies her communication and writing skills to publicize our purposeful initiatives and foster meaningful relationships.

Taury Phelps, Spring 2019 Marketing Intern

Taury is a current sophomore at Ithaca College pursuing a Bachelor's in Cultural and Communications Studies with an Education Minor. Taury is originally from Mount Vernon, New York and participated in numerous mentoring programs as a high school student. The most impactful of those being the Her Honor Mentoring Program, through which she connected with remarkable mentors and developed her passions for public voice and higher education. Taury applies her communication and writing skills to publicize our purposeful initiatives and foster meaningful relationships.

Andrés Rodriguez-Aponte, Personalized Learning Instructor - Mathematics   Andrés was born and raised in Puerto Rico. He holds a BSc in Mathematics from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus and is currently completing an MA in Mathematics Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. He is deeply interested in the social aspects of education, particularly in a city as diverse as NYC. As a Hispanic himself, Andrés is interested in working with Hispanic students and help them overcome any linguistic or cultural barriers. He also advocates for prison education programs and currently volunteers with the Petey Greene Program, tutoring incarcerated students at Rikers Island who are working on their high school equivalency exams.

Andrés Rodriguez-Aponte, Personalized Learning Instructor - Mathematics

Andrés was born and raised in Puerto Rico. He holds a BSc in Mathematics from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus and is currently completing an MA in Mathematics Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. He is deeply interested in the social aspects of education, particularly in a city as diverse as NYC. As a Hispanic himself, Andrés is interested in working with Hispanic students and help them overcome any linguistic or cultural barriers. He also advocates for prison education programs and currently volunteers with the Petey Greene Program, tutoring incarcerated students at Rikers Island who are working on their high school equivalency exams.

Lucia Brizio, Summer 2018 Business and Operations Intern   Lucia is pursuing a Master of Public Administration at Columbia University. She is originally from Peru, where she worked at the Strategic Planning and Budgeting Office of the Ministry of Education. There, she led the budget planning, monitoring, and evaluation for the Teacher Development and Educational Resources Departments and assisted the Rural Education Department on the implementation of the strategic lines of action for rural education.

Lucia Brizio, Summer 2018 Business and Operations Intern

Lucia is pursuing a Master of Public Administration at Columbia University. She is originally from Peru, where she worked at the Strategic Planning and Budgeting Office of the Ministry of Education. There, she led the budget planning, monitoring, and evaluation for the Teacher Development and Educational Resources Departments and assisted the Rural Education Department on the implementation of the strategic lines of action for rural education.

Mariama Diallo, Summer 2018 Education Content Intern   Mariama is a rising junior student at Boston University studying business administration and information technology. She’s originally from Guinea, a country in West Africa and moved to New York City when she was eight years old. While in New York, she attended Promise Academy 1 high school located in Harlem where she engaged in test prep classes to earn a higher score on the regent exams and SAT to not only graduate high school but also to get into college. Throughout high school, she tutored her peers in algebra by giving them study tips and helping them solve math problems. As an intern, she plans to create new strategies that will enhance student's score on these exams and their overall tutoring experience.

Mariama Diallo, Summer 2018 Education Content Intern

Mariama is a rising junior student at Boston University studying business administration and information technology. She’s originally from Guinea, a country in West Africa and moved to New York City when she was eight years old. While in New York, she attended Promise Academy 1 high school located in Harlem where she engaged in test prep classes to earn a higher score on the regent exams and SAT to not only graduate high school but also to get into college. Throughout high school, she tutored her peers in algebra by giving them study tips and helping them solve math problems. As an intern, she plans to create new strategies that will enhance student's score on these exams and their overall tutoring experience.

Sri Kozhissery, Spring 2019 Data & Product Support Intern   Sri is an engineer, originally from India, and holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University. With deep interest in working towards an equitable society through access to quality education for all, she transitioned to the education space from Technology Consulting through the Teach for India Fellowship. With previous experience leading STEM education initiatives in Corporate Social Responsibility for Tata Consultancy Services in India, she is an Education Pioneers Fellow and have worked in building an adaptive framework for schools using Personalized Learning for a project at the Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL), a consulting clinic at Columbia Law School. Also, she has worked in international development, previously, through an internship with United Nations Population Fund and by consulting for Peru’s Ministry of Education on a research study for a pilot implementation.

Sri Kozhissery, Spring 2019 Data & Product Support Intern

Sri is an engineer, originally from India, and holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University. With deep interest in working towards an equitable society through access to quality education for all, she transitioned to the education space from Technology Consulting through the Teach for India Fellowship. With previous experience leading STEM education initiatives in Corporate Social Responsibility for Tata Consultancy Services in India, she is an Education Pioneers Fellow and have worked in building an adaptive framework for schools using Personalized Learning for a project at the Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL), a consulting clinic at Columbia Law School. Also, she has worked in international development, previously, through an internship with United Nations Population Fund and by consulting for Peru’s Ministry of Education on a research study for a pilot implementation.

 

Board of Directors

Meheret Woldeyoannes, Advisory Board Member   Mimi Woldeyohannes is a Special Projects & Community Manager at The 74, a nonpartisan, nonprofit education media group, where she works on priorities from live events to partnerships to expanding their portfolio of initiatives that connect with different communities across the country. In addition to supporting some existing special projects, she oversees a dynamic partnership between The 74 and award-winning journalist and education advocate Roland Martin and works closely with Roland and his team on event production, coalition building, and audience engagement initiatives connected to his "School Choice is the Black Choice" media tour. Prior to The 74, Mimi served as a Policy & Research Associate at 50CAN, where she worked on strategic evidence-based education policy and advocacy priorities across the nation.  Mimi’s passion for education policy and advocacy emerged when she joined Teach For America as a 2013 corps member teaching fourth and fifth-grade math and science in San Antonio, Texas. After spending two years in the traditional public school system, she moved back to her hometown of Dallas to teach fifth-grade science at KIPP DFW, a college preparatory charter school. Inside the classroom, she quickly learned of the inequities and discrepancies in the education system and has since dedicated her life to ensuring that every child has access to excellent and equitable educational opportunities.  Mimi is a recent graduate of American University where she earned her Master’s degree in Public Administration in May 2018. She also holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Political Science from Texas Christian University. Mimi, a member of Delta Sigma Sorority, Inc., serves on multiple boards including Learnabi and is the co-chair of the TFA DC region alumni organization, The Bridge.

Meheret Woldeyoannes, Advisory Board Member

Mimi Woldeyohannes is a Special Projects & Community Manager at The 74, a nonpartisan, nonprofit education media group, where she works on priorities from live events to partnerships to expanding their portfolio of initiatives that connect with different communities across the country. In addition to supporting some existing special projects, she oversees a dynamic partnership between The 74 and award-winning journalist and education advocate Roland Martin and works closely with Roland and his team on event production, coalition building, and audience engagement initiatives connected to his "School Choice is the Black Choice" media tour. Prior to The 74, Mimi served as a Policy & Research Associate at 50CAN, where she worked on strategic evidence-based education policy and advocacy priorities across the nation.

Mimi’s passion for education policy and advocacy emerged when she joined Teach For America as a 2013 corps member teaching fourth and fifth-grade math and science in San Antonio, Texas. After spending two years in the traditional public school system, she moved back to her hometown of Dallas to teach fifth-grade science at KIPP DFW, a college preparatory charter school. Inside the classroom, she quickly learned of the inequities and discrepancies in the education system and has since dedicated her life to ensuring that every child has access to excellent and equitable educational opportunities.

Mimi is a recent graduate of American University where she earned her Master’s degree in Public Administration in May 2018. She also holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Political Science from Texas Christian University. Mimi, a member of Delta Sigma Sorority, Inc., serves on multiple boards including Learnabi and is the co-chair of the TFA DC region alumni organization, The Bridge.


JC Stiassni, Advisory Board Member   JC is a TFA Alum who taught fourth grade in Cleveland, Ohio. JC completed his commitment with Teach for America in June 2016. Since then, he has transitioned into urban real estate development. Just as education is an equalizer in society, he sees the opportunity to bring value to property as a strong long-term investment, which will enrich individuals, communities and cities.

JC Stiassni, Advisory Board Member

JC is a TFA Alum who taught fourth grade in Cleveland, Ohio. JC completed his commitment with Teach for America in June 2016. Since then, he has transitioned into urban real estate development. Just as education is an equalizer in society, he sees the opportunity to bring value to property as a strong long-term investment, which will enrich individuals, communities and cities.

Celi Khanyile-Lynch, Advisory Board Member   Celi is an MBA candidate at MIT Sloan, an alum of Brown University and worked in the Office of Govenor Devaul L. Patrick. She is now serving the City of New York as Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff & Briefing Director in the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Celi Khanyile-Lynch, Advisory Board Member

Celi is an MBA candidate at MIT Sloan, an alum of Brown University and worked in the Office of Govenor Devaul L. Patrick. She is now serving the City of New York as Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff & Briefing Director in the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Jocelyn Chu, Advisory Board Member   Jocelyn Chu is an economic development professional with nearly 10 years in the complementary fields of women’s economic empowerment (WEE) and private sector strategy. she became passionate about empowerment through education. Jocelyn Chu holds a dual MA in International Affairs from Sciences Po and Columbia University and an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Northwestern University.

Jocelyn Chu, Advisory Board Member

Jocelyn Chu is an economic development professional with nearly 10 years in the complementary fields of women’s economic empowerment (WEE) and private sector strategy. she became passionate about empowerment through education. Jocelyn Chu holds a dual MA in International Affairs from Sciences Po and Columbia University and an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Northwestern University.