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Who We Are

We founded The SIFE Equity Project (TSEP) to join forces with the growing community of SIFE researchers and educators around the country. We are interested in building collective knowledge in order to impact the quality of education for SIFE across the United States.


Twenty years ago we met at a high school for newcomer immigrants in the Bronx. We were part of a team of well-trained and passionate educators. Despite our knowledge, training, and commitment we were not equipped with the tools to understand and meet the academic and socio-emotional needs of SIFE. The students we met in those classrooms planted a seed that has become our life-long work.


We learned that most secondary classrooms are not designed to address the needs of SIFE. As we worked side by side with students, we gained a deeper understanding of the rich resources they bring and their complex needs in schools. Over our 11 years in the classroom, we reimagined programmatic approaches, partnered with content and literacy specialists and designed instructional approaches to target their needs.


Almost 8 years ago we brought that experience to the design of a specialized curriculum for SIFE in middle and high schools with home language literacy at or below grade 3. We had the opportunity to partner with teachers and pilot the curriculum and instructional approaches in classrooms throughout NY State. With explicit attention to the right supports and scaffolds SIFE thrive and build the academic skills and identities to participate meaningfully and to graduate from high school. 


Suzanna McNamara

For more than 20 years, Suzanna has been working with older emergent bilinguals. She began in adult education then transitioned to working with teens at Bronx International High School, focusing on SIFE.


Despite her ESL training, Suzanna did not have the knowledge or skills to teach students how to read for the first time. Over 11 years at BxIHS, she developed expertise in combining content, oral language, and foundational literacy for SIFE with little to no literacy in the home language. She partnered with teachers to scaffold content area tasks and took on a leadership role by facilitating professional development and co-developing a school-wide differentiated language and literacy program.


In 2012, Suzanna co-founded Bridges to Academic Success, a CUNY-based organization designed to target the most at-risk adolescent SIFE. As Curriculum Director and Senior Instructional Coach, she led the development of units for a sheltered SIFE program, designed and facilitated large group professional development sessions, and coached teachers in classrooms. 

Suzanna has  a BA in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, an MS Ed in Linguistics & TESOL from CUNY Queens College, as well as a permanent K-12 TESOL certification in New York State. 


Annie Smith

Annie has spent the last 25 years working with recent immigrants and refugees in both New York City schools and through the International Rescue Committee. Over 6 years, she was part of a small team that developed a specialized curriculum and teacher training for SIFE with Developing Literacy under the auspices of the NY State Education Department. She contributed to the thinking that honed an understanding of SIFE with Developing literacy and to the theoretical framework that undergirds the Bridges curriculum. As PD Director she designed and led teacher training and provided technical support to schools around programming, intake, and instruction for SIFE.


Annie has a BA in  College of Letters from Wesleyan University and an MA in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College. As an adjunct professor for the Bard Master of Arts in Teaching program she has supervised students in the field and taught courses including Methods and Literacy and the Adolescent Learner. She is director of Bright Minds Educational Consulting, which she founded in 2008.


She is interested in conversations and collaboration with others working to advance access for ELs and SIFE.

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