The four of us came to be friends and colleagues while working at West Philadelphia High School. The idea of the Workshop was hatched over dinner nearly ten years ago. Since then, we have continued to develop and refine our vision while pursuing different opportunities and career paths. In addition to our professional interests, we share a commitment to prioritizing family life.
Michael is a Spencer/National Academy of Education post-doctoral fellow and an Assistant Professor of Education at St. Joseph’s University, where he works with pre-service teachers at the undergraduate and graduate level. Prior to joining the faculty at SJU, Michael served as Chair of the social studies department at West Philadelphia High School, where he taught from 1997-2002.
A former school counselor, park ranger, and bike courier, Michael holds a BA in Psychology and Philosophy from Macalester College, an MA in history from Temple University, and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania. He is certified as a Secondary Social Studies teacher.
Michael lives in West Philadelphia with his wife and two children. His whole family has taken on the quest to see just how many books and model trains a one-hundred year old Victorian can hold.
C. Aiden Downey
Aiden is the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Division of Educational Studies at Emory University. A former Marine who served in Operation Desert Storm, Aiden left a career in pharmacy to teach science, first at Montclair Kimberly Academy and then at YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School. These experiences piqued his interest in teaching and teachers, and in particular how to create a school that sustained and stimulated teachers and students. He returned to pursue his doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania in Education, Culture and Society, graduating in 2007.
After this he two postdoctoral fellowships, the Myer Horowitz Research Fellowship at the Center for Teacher Research and Development at the University of Alberta and the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship for Early-Career Scholars. He is currently working a book titled “The Shadow School,” an ethnography of teachers’ work and lives in a struggling inner-city high school. Dr. Downey holds a BS in Biology and Pharmacy from Philadelphia University of the Sciences and an MS and PhD in Education from the University of Pennsylvania. He is also certified in Pennsylvania to teach Physical Science, Chemistry, Biology and Physics.
Aiden lives in Decatur, Georgia with his spouse, two children and junkyard dog. He enjoys kettlebells, gonzo gardening and clearance racks.
Simon is an engineer turned math and science teacher, and founder and director of the West Philly Hybrid X Team. He began the Team at West Philadelphia High School 13 years ago to engage his students in math, science and engineering. Through this after school program, his students have won multiple national competitions with the hybrid vehicles they designed and built. The team and the vehicles continue to attract national attention. Recently, the Automotive X Prize competition allowed Simon to take his students onto an international stage where they had a real voice in some of the most important discussions of our times.
Simon holds a BS in Engineering and an MS in Instruction from Drexel University, where he also earned principal certification. He also holds PA teaching certification in secondary mathematics and science.
Simon and his wife have three wonderful children. He drives a super fast biodiesel Jetta that was built by the team. He loves his family and his car.
Matthew is a Senior Researcher at the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) at the University of Pennsylvania, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Penn Graduate School of Education. His work focuses on distributed leadership, organizational learning, formative assessment practice, mathematics education, and school to career transitions. He also teaches foundations and research methods courses at Penn’s Graduate School of Education and Wharton School of Business.
Matt currently serves on the Board of Directors of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, Pennsylvania’s largest child advocacy organization; and YESPhilly, an agency serving out of school youth in Philadelphia. Prior to joining CPRE, Matt worked for the West Philadelphia Partnership, where he directed community school programs in six sites providing after school, weekend and summer programs for children, youth and adults in the community. He holds a BA in African American Studies from Wesleyan University, and an MS and Ph.D. in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.
A Philadelphia native, Matt still lives in the city with his wife and two sons. When weather and time allow, he runs barefoot and skis.