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Making a Difference

RISE-DC operates from a pedagogical foundation that asserts the greater a student’s academic need, the more important the experience of the teacher. This simple belief in the importance of talented, seasoned instructors distinguishes RISE-DC from other supplemental educational service providers.

Thus, RISE-DC’s instructors are professional tutors who work at a reduced rate to educate some of Washington’s most struggling students. With an average experience level of twenty years, RISE-DC’s tutors are experts in their fields. Whether it is breaking down the syllables of a word, the parts to a math problem or just finding what makes our unique scholars tick, RISE-DC’s professionals get to the core of their students’ needs.

Staff in our partner schools could not be happier with RISE-DC’s work, and they like to draw the distinction between the quality of service that RISE-DC provides with that of other organizations that only enlist inexperienced volunteer tutors. Most of the students are suffering from major deficits in conceptual understanding and a lack of success. Because of this, for instance, they require a tutor who:

  • understands the academic terrain from many angles

  • can present ideas in multiple ways that have been tested through practice and refinement

  • can quickly and flexibly assess their understanding on a concept and can ensure that the appropriate level of rigor is being met

  • can build a rapport with students by displaying confidence and skill with the material, gauge their emotional state and respond accordingly


Paul Penniman

Founder, Executive Director, and Instructor in Math and Science

B.A., mathematical sciences and psychology, Johns Hopkins University

Paul taught mathematics for nine years at the Edmund Burke School before starting a tutoring practice in 1990. Paul has given talks at National Council of Teachers of Mathematics meetings regarding the remediation of undiagnosed learning-disabled students. In the summer of 2007, Paul led a team of RISE-DC professionals that designed the math curriculum at the new Academy at the Oak Hill Detention Facility.

Barbara Taylor

English and History Instructor

Ph.D, English literature and teacher training, University of Illinois

Barbara has taught for over 40 years in both public and private schools. She has also directed out of school time supplemental educational programs.

Frank Rettenberg

Mathematics Instructor

B.A., mathematics, St. John’s College of Annapolis

Frank has taught mathematics in the Washington, D.C., area since 1993. He has been a tutor with Penniman and O’Brien since 2001.

Ahmad Harvey

Mathematics Instructor

MAT, secondary mathematics, University of the District of Columbia

Ahmad Harvey has taught mathematics on the middle school, high school, and college levels. He is an Army veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In addition to his Master of Arts in Teaching, he has a BS in Mathematics from North Carolina State University and is currently working on his Ph.D. in Mathematics at Howard University.

Christopher Reid

Mathematics Instructor

BSc, special mathematics, Hull University (UK)

Christopher taught for over 35 in the United Kingdom before moving to Washington and joining RISE-DC.

Paul Steinberg


M.D., SUNY-Downstate

Paul has practiced psychiatry for over 30 years in the Washington, D.C., area, and was head of the Counseling and Psychiatric Service for students at Georgetown University.

Kabila Williams

Mathematics Instructor

Ed.M, University of Illinois

Kabila taught math at the Lab School of Washington before joining the American Institute of Research.

Linda duBuclet

Reading Instructor

Linda has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a law degree from DePaul University. She earned her master’s degree in education and human development from The George Washington University’s Literacy Cooperative program. She began remediating the language-based learning disabilities of children, teens, and adults nearly 20 years ago.

Negasti McCurdie

Reading Specialist

B.A., English, Lincoln University; M.A., special education, The George Washington University

Currently, Negasti is working as a special educator in Prince George’s County Public Schools while pursuing a doctorate in leadership in reading and literacy from Concordia University.

Barbara Michelato

Instructor in Mathematics

M.A., mathematics, University of Trieste

In Italy, Barbara taught Calculus, Math Analysis, Geometry and Algebra at various high schools. In addition she has tutored privately for almost 15 years. Once in USA she got the US Secondary Education Licensure at George Washington University. She has tutored for RISE for five years.

Inez Ford

SAT and ACT Test Prep Instructor

M.Ed., Bowie State University

A full-time high school guidance counselor in Anne Arundel County. She has also worked in several college readiness programs and taught high school English. Inez has worked in education for close to 10 years and thoroughly enjoys helping high school students successfully transition into post-secondary education.

Susan Gushue

Instructor in Mathematics

B.A., mathematics, St. John's College of Annapolis

Susan has been tutoring and teaching math since coming to the DC in 1982 to study philosophy at Catholic University. She loves children, thinks math is fun and beautiful, and has graced RISE’s staff since early 2015.

Mary Lincer


BA, The George Washington University, in English and Dramatic Arts; MA, Pennsylvania State University in Dramatic Arts

Mary has taught or tutored English in the D.C. area for over twenty years, including sixteen years at the St. Anselm Abbey School. She has been tutoring with RISE since 2013.