The Mindfulness Director Initiative (MDI) was founded in 2019 by Doug Worthen and Marc Waxman to realize their shared vision of positively impacting a generation of children through the integration of mindfulness into school communities.
Adam Ortman (he/him) is the Mindfulness Director at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Austin, Texas.
He has been practicing mindfulness meditation since 2007, including over a year of intensive retreat practice. He received a Masters of Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School, for which he focused on secular applications of meditative traditions. In addition to teaching and practicing meditation, Adam writes fiction, dances with his young daughter, and rides his bike through the streets of Austin.
Andra Brill (she/her) is a Mindfulness Director with MDI. She has worked in education for over 25 years as a teacher, leader, school and district coach, professor and consultant for several organizational change projects. Before joining the Mindfulness Director Initiative, Andra served as a biliteracy coach in the public schools and as a facilitator for SMART in Education, an 8 week mindfulness course based on MBSR. In addition to her work helping teachers and students bring mindfulness to their classrooms, Andra now coaches parents and teachers to manage stress and cultivate emotional intelligence.
Andra is a passionate advocate for cultural responsiveness and equity in the communities she supports. Andra holds a B.A. in Politics from Brandeis University, and earned a M.A. in Language, Literacy and Culture and Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Innovation from the University of Colorado, Denver.
Ashley Williams (she/her) is a Mindfulness Director at the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Richmond, Virginia.
She is a MS, C-IAYT certified Yoga Therapist and Mindfulness Educator with 12 years of experience in the fields of education, behavioral and mental health and community programming in Richmond, VA.
As a builder and weaver, Ashley bridges mindfulness, diversity, wellness and inclusion on micro and macro-levels to achieve equitable, socially stable and conscious spaces for individual and collective care. She is the Founder of BareSOUL Yoga & Wellness, a community-based organization created to offer accessible yoga offerings. Ashley is also the founder of Mindful on Life and Mindfulness and Movement, two curriculum-based programs dedicated to transforming community through the practice of mindfulness education.
She is full of inspiration, light and experience to guide efforts in creating spaces for people of all ages and backgrounds to be educated and empowered through the practice of awareness. Ashley is a dog mom, an outdoor explorer and loves all things food-related.
Becky Acabchuk has a PhD in Physiology and Neurobiology and is consulting with MDI in conducting research on its mindfulness programs across five school sites. Becky is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the University of Connecticut, where she holds a joint appointment in the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy and the Department of Psychological Sciences. Her research focuses on evaluating the mental and physical health benefits of yoga and mindfulness meditation, with a special interest in promoting scalability and acceptability of evidence-based mindfulness programs across diverse populations. Becky specializes in conducting systematic reviews and meta-analyses, and recently completed a randomized controlled trial comparing mindfulness tools to assist students in developing a meditation practice to self-manage stress.
Becky leads mindfulness workshops locally and internationally, tailored for a wide variety of audiences (e.g., schools, addiction groups, sport teams, workplace settings and more), she has been teaching meditation, yoga and o
ther wellness classes in the private sector for 15 years. Becky is also an Editorial Associate for two scientific journals, Social Science & Medicine, and Psychological Bulletin. Previously, she worked as an adjunct Professor at Connecticut College and UConn, where she taught the Neuroscience of Meditation and Health Psychology.
Ben Painter (he/him) is the Associate Executive Director at MDI. Ben works with MDI’s supporters, Mindfulness Directors, staff, and Board to support the movement to integrate full-time mindfulness directors into school communities. In high school, Ben had the opportunity to take mindfulness classes with Mindfulness Director Doug Worthen. Since then, Ben has used his meditation practice to become a healthier, happier person and a more compassionate community member. Prior to serving in his current position at MDI, Ben worked at New Profit, a venture philanthropy organization that partners with social entrepreneurs to break down barriers to opportunity in America, where he supported the Investor Relations team and held mindfulness classes for the New Profit team. Ben studied at Bowdoin College, where he served as the Vice President of the Student Body and co-founder of the mindfulness club. Ben has attended numerous meditation retreats, including two retreats at the Drupa Drong monastery in Northern Nepal. With MDI, Ben enjoys continuing the work of making high-quality mindfulness teachings accessible to communities and fostering relationships with those interested in supporting this movement.
Charisse Minerva is a Coach and Consultant for MDI. She brings to the Mindfulness arena a background in Arts, Science, Youth, and Community Development. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Technology from Medical College of VA/ VCU, and a Masters in Performance Studies with a concentration in Dance Anthropology from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. For 16 Years Charisse served as Director of a multiple award-winning Performing Arts Academy which was an integral component of a Community Development Organization. She then spent 7 years designing and implementing a K-12 Mindfulness curriculum at Friends School and another 7 years designing a community-based Dance, Drum & Mediation program to introduce Mindfulness tools to communities not versed in Mindfulness pedagogy. Charisse has been in schools, corporate offices, detention centers, elite academies, counseling programs, health care facilities, and college programs. Presently she is a core faculty of the Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme) Teacher Training program, works with the Dalai Lama Project of University of VA Contemplative Science Center and does workshops, and conferences throughout the United States and abroad.
“I believe Contemplative Practices are a human capacity that we have begun to reawaken. It’s such a priceless gift to realize at these challenging and fruitful times.”
Doug Worthen (he/him) is a Co-Founder of MDI and is the Founder and Director of Mindfulness Programs at the Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts. Since 2010 he has been supporting and educating the Middlesex School community (students, staff, parents, and alumni) in mindfulness. Doug began practicing mindfulness meditation in 1999 as a member of the University of Virginia national championship lacrosse team and has been a dedicated practitioner ever since. Living through two bouts of lymphoma, including a bone marrow transplant in 2007, Doug has also experienced how supportive mindfulness can be when living with illness. Doug has attended many week- and month-long mindfulness retreats, led and attended a variety of teacher trainings, and is dedicated to supporting other schools in creating full-time staff positions in mindfulness.
Enrique Collazo (he/they) is a the Mindfulness director at the Met West Highschool in Oakland California.
Enrique Is a new generation Mindfulness meditation teacher. Born and raised in Los Angeles and has been teaching and living in the Bay Area for the last 8 years. His passion is teaching the practice of mindfulness to teens and young adults.
He is well-loved and respected for the inspirational work he did with Challenge Day during the school year where he facilitated social and emotional learning workshops for thousands of young people all over the country. Enrique’s skill with teens has led to teaching internationally for Inward Bound Mindfulness Education. He is on the Guiding Teacher Counsel and Equity and Interdependence Committee for iBme.
Erica Marcus (she/her) is a Mindfulness Director at the Cape Elizabeth Middleschool in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
Erica has lived her calling to work with youth as a wilderness youth therapy field guide in Utah, and outdoor educator in Maine, a middle school English teacher in DC, and a mindfulness educator based out of Portland, Maine. I am currently serving as a Guiding Teacher for Mindful Schools.
As a lover of adventures, from hiking the John Muir Trail to more currently raising a toddler and newborn. Erica is drawn to contemplative practices— mindfulness, silent retreat, yoga, journaling, reading, music, and art— in which we create space to closely and unguardedly behold our experience of the world.
Erica believes mindfulness is important to the world because it allows us to live with more authenticity, honesty, and compassion. As a mother Erica sees mindfulness as the tool that allows her to stay with it all the parts of herself (the good, the bad, and the ugly). Mindfulness practice gives us tools to more bravely look at, and stay with, reality as it is, both internal and external. Today, the world is demanding attention, and we need the bravery to not look away so we can make wise choices moving forward.
Erika Mills (she/her) serves as a Board Member of MDI. Additionally, she is the Director of Financial Aid and Associate Director of Admissions at Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts, where she also serves as an English teacher, head of house, and varsity rowing coach. She co-teaches a class on Mindfulness in Literature with Doug Worthen, with whom Erika has been practicing mindfulness since 2010. Erika has been coaching, teaching, and working with teenagers since she graduated from Connecticut College in 2003. Prior to Middlesex, Erika worked at Choate Rosemary Hall and Harvard Business School, where she co-authored a number of business cases and later earned her M.B.A. She serves on the board of Cirtronics Corporation in New Hampshire, volunteers with Concord Prison Outreach, and lives in Concord with her family.
Jennifer Maddox (she/her) is the Mindfulness Director at the Shrewsbury High School in Shrewsbury, MA.
She works joyfully to support communities in weaving a culture of mindfulness into the fabric of public education and youth wellbeing. She discovered the transformative power of mindfulness nearly 20 years ago while using it as a tool to support mental health and trauma recovery. She is also a Retreat Mentor for Inward Bound Mindfulness Education, a non-profit offering unique retreats and creative programming for teens, young adults, and caregivers. Jennifer holds degrees from Howard University and the University of Michigan; and brings her knowledge of family-based positive psychology and holistic health to her work with students of all ages. She studied in the Raja Yoga tradition at Frog Pond Yoga Center and has completed training to become a certified Children’s Yoga teacher and Level 2 Reiki practitioner. She is also trained to deliver evidence-based practices taught by Mindful Schools and the Center for Trauma and Embodiment at the Justice Resource Institute.
Josh Kehler MSW (he/they) is a Mindfulness Director with MDI. He is an artist, activist, teacher, and therapist who is excited about sharing Mindfulness with traditionally underserved communities in the US and abroad.
Josh has worked with trafficked youth in West Bengal, India, and Pokhara, Nepal. He has worked with young addicts in the juvenile justice system in Pennsylvania. He has also worked with youth in the residential treatment milieu. He has worked extensively with Inward Bound Mindfulness Education for the past five years. Having completed iBme’s teacher training in 2018.
Josh has pursued his own Mindfulness practice with the same vigor he has pursued equity and justice in the world, having practiced extensively in the US and abroad, with many beloved teachers. Josh is currently working as a Child and Family Therapist in a community mental health clinic in southwest Philadelphia.
Kaira Lingo is a Mindfulness Director in MDI’s inaugural cohort. Kaira was born and raised between Chicago, Illinois and Nairobi, Kenya, in a multi-racial family within a residential spiritual community. From a young age Kaira felt her life’s purpose was to be of service, to relieve suffering and bring joy to others.
Kaira teaches meditation, mindfulness, and compassion internationally, with a focus on activists, people of color, artists, educators, families, and youth. She was an ordained nun of 15 years in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing. As well as individual offerings, Kaira has led retreats worldwide and offers mindfulness programs for educators and youth in schools.
Graduating from Stanford University with a B.A. and M.A. in Anthropology and Social Sciences, Kaira speaks fluent Portuguese, French, German and Italian, and rudimentary Spanish. Kaira often explores the interweaving of art, play, ecology and spiritual practice as a certified yoga teacher and InterPlay leader.
After editing Thich Nhat Hanh’s, Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children Kaira helped to start and develop Wake Up Schools, bringing mindfulness to education. Kaira currently teaches educators in the Mindful Schools year-long certification program, sharing mindfulness with parents, educators and students in DC public schools through Minds, Inc, and teach teen and young adults’ mindfulness retreats with Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme).
Marc Waxman (he/him) is the Executive Director of MDI – meaning, he has the pleasure to work with and support an amazing group of Mindfulness Directors, board members, MDI staff, and staff of MDI’s Partner Schools to transform school communities through the power of mindfulness. Marc has 25 years of professional experience in education, including becoming a National Board-Certified Teacher, and over 20 years of experience in non-profit development and management. He has been practicing mindfulness for many years and recently completed a year-long mindfulness teacher training program with iBme. Marc co-founded and co-led several progressive urban charter schools in New York City and Denver, where, in addition to his teaching and administrative responsibilities, Marc was accountable for board development, fundraising, business plan development, fiscal oversight, program design, and project management. As a school leader, Marc promoted opportunities for teachers to explore the power of mindfulness for themselves and their students. Additionally, Marc is a Certifed ChiRunning Instructor and regularly supports runners in enhancing their running experience through mindfulness.
Nina Bryce (she/her) is the Mindfulness Director at Mather House, a residential community within Harvard University. Nina seeks to support people in cultivating embodied presence, including both stillness and movement, as a way of coming home to themselves.
She is a mindfulness facilitator rooted in multiple lineages of meditative practice. Starting with her spiritual roots in her Jewish-Buddhist upbringing in a family of meditators, through her teen years as a student and eventually teacher of yoga, and into her training in secular mindfulness education through iBme, Nina is grateful for a life path that has allowed her to explore the human mind’s capacity for meditation in many forms.
Nina holds a Master of Divinity, focused in the Buddhist Ministry Initiative, from Harvard Divinity School. Through her graduate studies as an M. Div, she is trained in facilitation of multifaith contemplative practice, interfaith chaplaincy, and leading mindfulness programs in both religious and secular settings, ranging from teen camp at a monastery to the PACU of a hospital. Her formal meditation practice and teaching has been shaped most by the Insight Meditation tradition, in which she was raised and continues to practice, and by the Plum Village tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh.
Nina is trained as an RYT-200 yoga teacher in Vinyasa and Kundalini yoga, and her approach to leading mindful movement is informed by both yoga and dance. She completed the iBme Mindfulness Teacher Training in 2018, and has been involved with iBme teen and college mindfulness retreats since 2014.
Nina is nourished and energized by working with young adults, because she believes that these years are ripe with potential for inquiry into core questions of who we are and how we relate to ourselves, one another, and the world. She is inspired by the way that youth long for, and create, spaces where they can reflect deeply on their experiences, learn to take care of themselves and others, and build authentic, liberatory communities. As a Mindfulness Director, she seeks to provide an accessible, welcoming mindfulness education for all students, with the aspiration to meet each person where they are and help to create the conditions for them to experience the benefit of meditation practice and to define, seek, and manifest their own expression of deep well-being and freedom.
Sara Shapouri (she/her) serves as a Board Member for MDI. Sara is an Iranian-American meditation and mindfulness instructor, artist, musician and lawyer. Sara’s experience with sharing mindfulness and meditation include curriculum development and instruction at Awake Youth Project, a program offering meditation and mentoring to teenagers in Brooklyn, and teaching meditation retreats with Inward Bound Mindfulness Education. She has completed teacher training programs with the Interdependence Project in 2016 and with Inward Bound in 2018. She has also trained in conflict mediation with the New York Center for Interpersonal Development, completed the year-long caregiver training program at the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care in 2015, and in 2019 finished the Indigenous Focusing Oriented Therapy in Complex Trauma training. Sara is currently participating in the Dharmapala Training through Sacred Mountain Sangha. While she is retired from the practice of law, Sara remains committed to social justice, particularly issues related to human rights and children’s rights.
Shea Riester (he/him) is a Mindfulness Director in MDI’s inaugural cohort. For over ten years mindfulness meditation has been an embodied, nourishing part of his life.
Shea studied at UMass Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness to become a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher. He has been teaching mindfulness since 2015, and has guided meditations in diverse communities of schools, businesses, non-profit organizations and in the middle of protests.
Shea has taught with Lineage Project, Inward Bound Mindfulness Education, and Access Mindfulness and brings a trauma-informed lens to mindfulness teaching as a Somatic Experiencing (SE) practitioner-in-training.Shea is also a practitioner and teacher of Nonviolent Communication and longtime peace and justice activist. Shea tries to live by Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams words: “Without inner change, there can be no outer change. Without collective change, no change matters.”
Stephen Riley (he/him) is a Mindfulness Director in MDI’s inaugural cohort. He brings over a decade of mindfulness practice and classroom teaching to his students. He began practicing mindfulness in Thailand, where he was working as an international school teacher.
In the states Stephen graduated from the iBme teacher training program, having been mentored by Jessica Morey. Stephen began attending yearly retreats when he returned to the states, culminating in a three-month retreat under the guidance of Joseph Goldstein and Shaila Catherine.
Before teaching mindfulness, Stephen was a high school social studies teacher, holding positions in Thailand, Alaska and Kuwait. Stephen loves helping teens explore the potential of their minds and hearts. He brings calm encouragement to his classroom, leads with compassion, and encourages playfulness, curiosity and self-kindness in his students.
Taeya Boi-Doku (she/her) is a communications and development intern with MDI supporting fundraising and branding efforts. Taeya is currently studying Human Rights and Justice at Drexel University, and is a Thrive Global Campus Editor-at-Large.
She has been an insightful mindfulness practitioner since high school. She has attended multiple week-long retreats, and has been a teen ambassador for Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme).
She brings her passion for social advocacy into all her work especially as a photographer, meditator and yoga enthusiast. She sees mindfulness as the pivotal foundation on which strength, resiliency, and joy are built upon.