When we gather together great things happen
MEET OUR TEAM
Ilana Nankin Ph.D.
Founder & CEO | Leader of Love
As a leader, what brings you the most joy? Facilitating life-changing learning experiences that create space for people to fully step into their whole and brilliant Selves, and through the process, individually and collectively transform themselves, their relationships, and their communities.
How did you end up on this team? I started this team! As a former pre-kindergarten teacher in San Francisco, I was—like millions of teachers—stressed, overwhelmed, and overworked, which brought me to my first yoga class. Yoga transformed my well-being, and I started integrating some of the practices into my classroom with my pre-K superstars, and saw unbelievable benefits in them both social-emotionally and academically. In 2012, I moved to Wisconsin to become a teacher of educators and pursue my Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction at UW-Madison's School of Education. For my dissertation research, I created a social-justice oriented community of practice to support some of the pre-service teachers I had taught in translating their social justice ideals into action in diverse classrooms around the world during their first year as teachers. Through my research, I found that these teachers were stressed and overwhelmed, just as I had been, but had few to no tools to take care of themselves. This diminishing cycle of well-being revealed the critical connection between teacher well-being and effective teaching, and inspired us to implement wellness practices into our lives and teaching.
At the same time that the issue of teacher stress and burnout was surfacing through my studies, my current students—pre-service teachers who were doing their practicum teaching in schools in Madison—found out I was a yoga teacher and asked if they could rent out space for me to teach them yoga once a week in the student union. Of course, I loved this and said, "Yes!" After we started practicing together, students would constantly approach me and share the ripple effect: "The kids who typically have anxiety attacks before tests are now utilizing breathing techniques to calm themselves down and their test scores are increasing!" Or, "My students who often fight with each other or have tantrums, are now doing mindful movement to make better decisions." Seeing the power of these practices unfolding before my eyes, and knowing how under-prioritized teacher self-care is, inspired me in January 2015 to start the world's only 200-hour wellness and yoga teacher training specifically for educators. The moment I created this vision, I started telling everyone I interacted with, and within months it transformed into a movement—Breathe For Change.
What is your wellness and professional background? I am a former pre-K teacher, teacher educator, entrepreneur, transformational facilitator, and E-RYT-200 yoga trainer. I graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Psychology and Education, was a 2009 Teach For America corps member in San Francisco, and received my Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction at UW-Wisconsin in 2016. I integrate my wellness experience with my pedagogical expertise to develop the curriculum and vision for Breathe For Change.
What is your favorite wellness activity? Yoga for sure! Coming to my mat every day brings me home. I truly believe that as educators, we must embody the practices we teach.
In your free time, what are a few of your favorite things to do? To be honest, I spend most of my "free time" living and breathing Breathe For Change. Breathe For Change has become my family, my community, and my passion, and it continues to expand to include so many of my loved ones. I feel so blessed that work feels like play, and that thousands of people I love are on this path alongside me every day!
Co-Founder & President
As a leader, what brings you the most joy? I love witnessing people create harmony between their minds, bodies, spirit, and world.
How did you end up on this team? I have known Ilana since 2013. At first, when she was just starting B4C, I'd advise her on how to make it "a real business." Then I stopped by training one day and was immediately inspired to write a poem. She had me share the poem on the spot with the group, and it was one of those magical moments where time stops and everything just fits. I told her: "Give me a two-month trial period as your partner and we'll make this the real deal." She did... and the rest is history :)
What is your wellness and professional background? I have always lived my life as an active exploration of being human. I have sustained a devoted spiritual practice including meditation, yoga, and shamanic practices for 9 years. Professionally, I studied physics and math at University of Michigan, and then started a few tech startups that are still thriving today.
What is your favorite wellness activity? Since I was young, I have always connected deeply with native wisdom and healing traditions. My favorite wellness activity is connecting with nature through meditation, music, and dance. It cultivates unity between my humanity and divinity; between my individual self and the universe at large.
In your free time, what are a few of your favorite things to do? I love to be present to all of life's mystery through freestyle rap, writing, reading, and hosting creative events.
Chief Business Officer
Executive Director of Partnerships
Tui Roper, is an inspirational activist, executive leadership/empowerment coach, passionate teacher educator, innovative and award-winning former public school principal committed to serving as a catalyst for social change.
Tui is a native of Flint, Michigan and has committed her career to serve communities similar to the ones in which she was raised. After receiving her Bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of Michigan, she began her professional career in higher education at Kettering University, in her hometown, where she created programs to increase the opportunities for students of color to matriculate and graduate from engineering and management programs. Tui continued to work towards her calling of becoming a K-12 educator, and later earned a Masters of Education degree in Cross Categorical Special Education and received dual certification. She began her teaching career in the Flint Community School System, as a Special Education elementary teacher, and then quickly transitioned into a teaching position at the high school level. Tui moved to Washington DC to become part of the education reform movement under Chancellor Michelle Rhee. While serving as an Instructional Coach at Cardozo High School, she was selected for the 2010 cohort of New Leaders for New Schools. Tui also received an Executive Master’s in Leadership from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.
In 2011, under the leadership of Chancellor Kaya Henderson, Ms. Roper was selected as the principal of a Title I elementary school in Ward 7. As a principal, Tui led her school with the conviction that equity in education is the civil rights movement of the 21st century. Under her leadership, her school has received several grants and established strategic partnerships to impact student achievement and improve staff performance. Tui utilized her visionary style of leadership to implement several innovative practices and programs such as: the Self-Efficacy Movement; the Data Driven Model of Success; ECE Plan to Prevent the Achievement Gap; The House Culture System; Personalized Learning, a School Wide Enrichment Model (SEM), the Mindfulness SEL Movement and more.
Tui believes in sharing her lessons in leadership and has presented to a variety of audiences on topics such as Leading Data Driven Instruction, Developing the Leader Within, 21 Laws of Leadership, Transforming School Culture, and Leading Cultural Competence. She has served as a leadership coach and mentor for first year principals, served on several innovation committees for the White House and Department of Education under the administration of former President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Tui was also nominated for the Life Changer of the Year Award, received the Inaugural DC Ed Fund’s Excellence in School Innovation Award, Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Healthiest School Award and led her school to an “institutionalizing plus” family engagement status within three years of partnering with Flamboyan Foundation.
Tui now brings this expertise and passion for social change to the Breathe For Change Movement, serving as the Executive Director of Partnerships.
As a leader, what brings you the most joy? A well-designed process running at scale! I enjoy thoughtfully developing systems and processes to support our incredible team members in producing world-class educational experiences.
How did you end up on this team? A very fortunate string of events! A number of years ago I met Michael, our President, when I was starting college at the University of Wisconsin around the same time he was starting a co-working space near campus called 100State. 100State was a really unique place populated with startups, freelancers and creative-types which opened my eyes to a world of opportunity outside the standard career path idea with which I had grown up.
Fast-forward to my senior year, as a finance student I suddenly caught the programming bug and desperately wanted to become a software developer. I graduated from business school and with no software experience, took a cashier job at a deli which allowed me to study when nobody was in the store. I figured I could teach myself the basics and look for internships in the meantime...
Lo and behold, in walked customer Michael, and after not seeing each other for over a year we made sure to grab coffee and catch up. Michael introduced me to the young startup he was now apart of called Breathe For Change. "We're looking for a developer", he said, "but we don't have any money to pay you. So if you want to figure it out as you go and work for free that is okay with us!" My first software gig! One thing led to the next — I set up our financial systems, built a Salesforce knock-off to manage our customers, pitched in wherever needed and have been at it ever since! I've been with Breathe For Change since late 2015 and still pinch myself that we get to do this every day.
What is your wellness and professional background? My background is in finance and software development. Yet while I may hail from the business development world, with Breathe For Change I have been pleasantly surprised how a few simple techniques (like non-violent communication) can have a profound impact on my relationships and happiness.
What is your favorite wellness activity? Socializing with friends! After college as friends began to disburse across the country it became clear that maintaining friendships would take my active participation and it has been a source of joy to stay in touch with old friends.
In your free time, what are a few of your favorite things to do? I will get intensely consumed by a hobby before moving on with abandon. It's currently soldering and browsing travel sites but stay tuned for next month's activity :)
Director of Trainings
As a leader, what brings me the most joy? Seeing the teachings of yoga and self-care take root in our trainees and begin to do their magic. This work has been around for thousands of years for a reason, and watching our trainees develop a personal connection to these practices and bring them to life in their own lives and in their classrooms is my deepest joy and greatest purpose.
How did I end up on this team? My journey to B4C began in the classroom—I was a stressed-out teacher in desperate need of healing and a space for self-care. Through yoga I found what I was looking for and learned the true meaning of social-emotional learning. I became passionate about incorporating these teachings into my classroom and building educator skill and capacity in these areas.
As I began to grow in my own training and leadership in these areas, my path began to overlap with our founder, Ilana. She was looking for a Bay Area teammate and my name was brought up through a mutual acquaintance (who was actually one of our first B4C trainees)!
We eventually ended up bumping into each other at a yoga class and grabbing a cup of tea afterwards. Once I learned about the mission of the organization and its focus on educator well-being I knew this was a movement I wanted to be a part of! I jumped on board as our first full-time employee and have been rocking ever since.
What is my wellness and professional background? I was a classroom teacher for five years and hold credentials both as an education specialist and in the teaching of multiple subjects. I taught elementary special education for two years, fourth-grade general education for two years, and spent a year as a wellness program coordinator teaching yoga and wellness to middle schoolers in grades 5-8. I am also certified in the RULER approach, a social and emotional learning program from the Yale Cognitive Laboratory.
I completed my own 200-hour yoga certification at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center, San Francisco, in 2014 and am currently completing my 500-hour certification in their advanced program. Between teaching at Laughing Lotus and at Breathe For Change I have well over 1000 teaching hours and am an E-RYT 200 through Yoga Alliance. My areas of speciality include yoga philosophy, anatomy, yin, asana, hands-on healing, and SEL*F.
My favorite wellness activity is... I love my early-morning yoga and meditation routine! On my mat I feel more like myself—expansive, abundant, and connected to everything around me. My daily practice teaches me how to cultivate and grow my own joy and more skillfully navigate all that the rest of my day has to bring.
In my free time, what are a few of my favorite things to do? Beach walks with my partner and dog; taking uncomfortably close photos of my loved ones on my new camera; pretending I'm Georgia O'Keeffe and painting watercolors of the southwest; tapping into my midwestern upbringing and baking pies; digging for a good find in my local thrift stores; making playlists and then playing them loud enough to get in trouble with my upstairs neighbors. ;)
My background is in education, as a classroom teacher and yoga/mindfulness instructor for youth. In 2017 I took the B4C training, which helped me uncover and overcome roadblocks to my personal and professional growth. After graduation, I joined the team to serve our community of educators as the Community Support Lead.
We are grateful for all our partners including