Our Team

Elena Aguilar

Founder & CEO

Elena Aguilar is a writer, leader, teacher, coach and podcaster. She is the author of seven highly acclaimed books: The Art of Coaching, (2013) The Art of Coaching Teams (2016), Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators (2018), The Onward Workbook (2018), Coaching for Equity (2020), The Art of Coaching Workbook (2020) and The PD Book: 7 Habits that Transform Professional Development (2022). She has also been a frequent contributor to Edutopia, ASCD’s Educational Leadership, and EdWeek Teacher.

Elena is the founder and president of Bright Morning Consulting, an organization committed to helping individuals and organizations create the conditions for transformation. She has taught tens of thousands of folks how to have conversations that build a more just and equitable world. Elena can be heard demonstrating these conversations on the Bright Morning Podcast.

Elena is also the co-founder of Kenya Big Picture Learning, she’s on the advisory board of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, and she is a certified mindfulness meditation teacher. She lives in Oakland, CA, with her husband, son, and two cats. When she’s not coaching or writing she enjoys traveling abroad, photographing birds, hiking, drinking coffee and reading fiction.

Stacey Goodman


Stacey brings an invaluable blend of years of working in schools and in the private sector to our team. Having worked in internet companies in Silicon Valley in the mid-1990s, he has a keen understanding of how small businesses thrive. Following his adventures with start ups, Stacey taught in independent schools in the San Francisco Bay Area for 18 years which gave him a deep appreciation for the learning needs of educators in private schools.

Stacey is also a professional artist and brings an eye for aesthetics and design to Bright Morning. Stacey has a BA in Architecture from Princeton and an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. He and Elena are happily married.

LesLee Bickford

Chief Operating Officer

LesLee honed her design, strategy and consulting skills working in education and nonprofits. She began her career teaching and coaching in Philadelphia public schools before relocating to the Midwest and moving from working within the public school system to partnering with educators and the staff members who support them. Since 2003 she has led teams and imagined, designed and executed learning experiences for individuals and groups in both school and non-profit settings.

LesLee holds a BA in Political Science from Western Washington University and an MS in Elementary Education from Saint Joseph’s University. She was trained by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey as a facilitator of the Immunity to Change coaching method, has completed Cognitive Coaching training, is an ICF certified professional coach, and was trained and certified in the Art of Coaching. LesLee’s home base is Minneapolis where you’ll find her constantly on the move with her husband and two sons.

Lori Cohen

Developer of people and programs

Lori Cohen has worked in both public and independent schools since 1999, serving as classroom teacher, instructional coach, administrator and workshop facilitator. She holds a BA in English, a California Teaching Credential in English, and an MA in Education—all from the University of California at Davis.

Lori actively works towards equity and social justice in education, aspiring to offer access and pathways for all school stakeholders to thrive. She loves designing practical and portable learning experiences, and she facilitates her sessions with a healthy infusion of humor and heart. A Bay Area native, Lori spends her time enjoying the Pacific Ocean or amidst the mighty redwood trees, ideally with a warm cup of coffee in hand. Lori currently lives in Portland, OR.

Carol Owala

Senior Associate, based in Nairobi, Kenya

Carol has been a teacher, school leader, instructional and leadership coach, a manager of coaches, and she now leads Kenya Big Picture Learning, a Big Picture Learning project.

Carol has extensive experience working with students, teachers and school leaders in marginalized communities. She has presented at our Art of Coaching Conferences and with Elena, she co-directs our immersive learning exchange, Ustahimilivu Dadas. Carol is available to present our workshops anywhere in Africa as well as to consult with schools and organizational leaders about building a coaching program. Carol lives in Nairobi with her husband and three sons. She is a voracious reader and believes in the potential of every child. 

Becky Barstein

Presenter and Community Engagement Specialist

Becky has worked at the intersection of education, technology, and equity for over 10 years. She designs and facilitates professional learning experiences that seek to deepen educators’ understanding of racial equity and stakeholder voice for schools, districts, and departments of education across the country.

Becky taught grades K-4 in Houston, TX, while also leading and coaching teams of new and veteran teachers. During this time, she also developed and facilitated school-, district-, and network-wide professional development focused on elementary literacy, dismantling white supremacy culture, and social-emotional learning for both students and adults. In her spare time, you can find Becky exploring the greater NYC area or hanging out with her two cats, (Thomas) Hobbes and (Professor) Lupin.

Rebecca Blackmer

Director of experiences and impact

Rebecca has worked in education since 2013, most recently overseeing daily operations of the academic program of a progressive independent high school. She holds a BA in Art History and Italian Studies from Wheaton College (Massachusetts) and an MA in Italian Literature from Middlebury College. She is passionate about work that allows her to blend her love of systems-thinking with human-centered endeavors and solutions.

Rebecca lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and when she’s not working, you’ll find her frequenting favorite independent bookstores, exploring both neighborhood hiking trails and restaurants, or escaping from city life to spend time on her family’s fifth-generation farm.

Abby Butler

Client support specialist

Abby has worked in education since 2009. She holds a B.S. in Elementary Education and Child Studies and a M.Ed in Multilingual Learners, both from Vanderbilt University. Before joining the Bright Morning Team, she taught and coached in schools in Tennessee and North Carolina. She is passionate about building capacity within teachers and students, personalizing learning through innovative practices, and fostering independent learners through culturally responsive pedagogy.

Abby enjoys being in nature, listening to podcasts, reading, playing games, and watching/attending sporting events. She lives in Durham, North Carolina, and her favorite spot to relax is the beach. Most recently for fun, she and her husband, Jens, have been exploring local sweet shops on their self-made “NC Triangle Ice Cream Tour.”

Debbie Daly

Client Support Specialist

Debbie developed her business management expertise as an executive at her local YMCA, supporting a manufacturing company, and running her own small business. She has also put her dance skills and love of people to work teaching adult fitness classes and aquatic programs for youth and adults. The skills she developed over the years have given her the ability to organize, implement programs and have fun with those around her while doing so!

Debbie and her faithful Shi Tzu, Jack Bauer, live in Walla Walla, Washington. She is the proud mother of two strong women, and spends as much time as she can with her 4 grandchildren.

Jennifer Liu

Client SUpport Specialist

Jennifer has developed expertise in customer experience and creative operations in organizations and education since 2008. She holds a B.A. in Art from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and M.A. in Arts Administration from the Savannah College of Art and Design. She discovered her love for program development while managing and developing volunteers in the museum industry and later furthered this passion when designing continuing education courses and student leadership programs in higher education. Most recently, she managed strategic communications and team development for a K-12 independent school in Georgia. 

She is dedicated to the learning and growth of others, as part of her deep quest to contribute to a more compassionate and just society for all. Outside of work, she enjoys visiting Atlanta-area coffee shops and farmers’ markets and loves exploring new recipes and design projects, like floral arranging. Nothing lights her up more than watching her kids laugh and play and sharing new food experiences with family and friends.

Antoinette Strain

Project and Operations Specialist

Antoinette has worked in education for over a decade. She holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of New Mexico and a M.A. in Educational Leadership from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. Over her career she has worked as a middle school math and science teacher, school operations manager, instructional and culture coach, and dean of students. She enjoys imagining and cultivating environments which honor community values and embrace restorative and anti-racist practices.

Antoinette lives in Minneapolis and outside of work, she can be found chasing her two sets of twins around nature centers and neighborhood parks with her partner, Paul. She enjoys gardening, cooking spicy recipes, and dancing Zumba.

Jocelyn Fabello

Office Manager

Jocelyn has worked with independent filmmakers, small business owners and educational consultants for 20 years. Her work with artists and educators informs her current work as financial and human resources manager to small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, and deepens her dedication to storytelling and conversation as pathways to awareness, community, equity and social justice.

Jocelyn brings a creative and thoughtful approach to supporting creative people and thoughtful businesses, and loves being immersed in the details that make the big picture possible.

In Residence

In addition to lending us their talents, our “in residence” team members also have professional lives outside of Bright Morning.

Nick Cains

Nick is a human catalyst who is passionate about empowering teachers and supporting them to lead the charge for educational equity. A former 2nd grade teacher, he now coaches teacher leaders and supports Tulsa Public Schools as an Instructional Leadership Coach.

He earned a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Theater and a minor in Broadcast Journalism from Southern Methodist University. Nick lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with the fluffiest cat named Harvey. He is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Education Administration: Curriculum & Supervision from the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa. 

Nita Creekmore

Nita Creekmore is an Instructional Coach who has been in education for 17 years. She taught in grades 1, 2 and 5 for 13 years before becoming an Elementary School Instructional Coach. Nita obtained her Master’s Degree in Elementary Education in 2002 from the University of South Carolina and her Educational Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership in 2013 from the University of Virginia.

Nita began Love. Teach. Bless. on Instagram in 2015 as a fun hobby highlighting the fun things that she did with her first grade class. From there, Love. Teach. Bless. has grown to be a thriving, collaborative space for educators. Nita believes in holding inclusive spaces that are on the journey of equity for all—especially for folx from marginalized and oppressed groups. In her free time, she loves practicing yoga, spending time with her family and friends,  attending her kids’ extracurricular activities, and relaxing with a good book. Nita is originally from Woodbridge, Virginia, and currently lives just outside Atlanta, GA with her husband and four children. 

Maria Dyslin

Maria has been in education since 1997. She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science, and her teaching license and Master’s degree in curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in the Teach for Diversity program. She taught for 13 years in grades 2-4 and then served as an instructional coach for 11 years—coaching teachers and teams around instructional practices and effective collaboration.

Maria is currently an elementary principal committed to creating a collaborative environment where staff can reflect, inspect, and adjust instruction and environments that meet the needs of all students. Maria also serves as an adjunct literacy instructor at Concordia University. In all her roles, Maria has planned and facilitated professional development that is intentional, interactive, and collaborative. Maria lives in Wisconsin just outside of Madison with her husband and three children. When the weather permits, she enjoys being outdoors walking, biking, playing tennis, swimming, and connecting with friends and family.