When we gather together great things happen
MEET OUR TEAM
Ilana Nankin Ph.D.
Founder & CEO, Lead Trainer | Leader of Love
Breathe For Change is my vision manifested into a global movement transforming lives through humanizing education.
Five words that describe me are loving, inspiring, unstoppable, leader, and teacher.
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, Lead Trainer | King of Creation
Breathe For Change is creating an education system designed to unleash humanity's true potential.
Five words that describe me are authentic, purposeful, present, inspired, and grateful.
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.
Executive Director of Partnerships
Breathe For Change is the navigation system for your soul’s journey.
Five words that describe me are Innovative, Inspired, Illustrious, Fearless, Flintstone
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.
COO | Queen of Quality
Breathe For Change is an organization that I am proud to share my talents, passions, and time with.
Five words that describe me are passionate, loving, dedicated, ambitious, and mother.
As a leader, what brings you the most joy? Joy as a leader comes when collaboration, communication, hard work, and trust contribute to all team members achieving personal and professional success.
How did you end up on this team? After 10 and a half years working for an electronic medical record company, personal and family life called me to do something that fit into our current lifestyle and aligned with my passions.
As an elementary education and Spanish graduate, I’ve always had a heartfelt connection to young people, school communities, and education, so when I received a call introducing me to Breathe For Change (after a brief chat with a recruiter in Madison), it felt like a dream come true! I met with the recruiter around 9 a.m., and by 8 that evening Michael and I were chatting in the exact same coffee shop I'd been in that morning.
Leaving our meeting, I had butterflies in my stomach and knew I wanted to join the team. Over the next couple months, I continued to cultivate a relationship with Michael and Ilana and joined the team shortly after that! It's been an incredible journey thus far, and I am so excited for what's ahead
What is your wellness and professional background? I have a degrees in education (grades 1-8) and Spanish.
After college, I landed in an atypical teaching position as a corporate trainer at an electronic medical record company in Verona, WI. There I taught physicians and nurses how to do their medical charting in an electronic medical record, while managing teams, completing a variety of project management/ process improvement projects, and assisting the sales team and HR teams. After joining Breathe For Change I received my 200-RYT certification through B4C's training.
What is your favorite wellness activity? I love road biking! It is an incredibly peaceful yet vigorous way to explore nature while getting great exercise. I also love taking early morning walks as I watch the sun rise. The sounds of nature help me reflect and collect my thoughts for the upcoming day.
In your free time, what are a few of your favorite things to do? Free time!? As a working mother of three young children, I don't have much free time in my life right now! With that said, I absolutely love camping and traveling with my family, cooking and baking, listening to music, biking, hiking, and practicing yoga, photography, date nights with my husband, and spending time with family and friends.
CFO and Director of Technology | Prince of Process
Breathe For Change is a movement to transform education by improving the health and well-being of teachers and school communities.
Five words that describe me are curious, optimistic, happy, enthusiastic, and dedicated.
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, Lead Trainer | Empress of Execution
Breathe For Change is my dharma and life's work!
Five words that describe me are tall, powerful, lifelong educator, earthling, your advocate and friend.
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. ;)
Laurie Sleep, Ph.D.
Director of Admissions | Khaleesi of Kindness
Breathe For Change is making the world better.
Five words that describe me are positive, kind, supportive, analytic, and fun-loving.
As a leader, what brings you the most joy? Supporting, encouraging, and empowering others.
How did you end up on this team? I was looking for a way to connect my two passions—education and yoga—and found B4C!
What is your wellness and professional background? I am a life-long teacher (and student). I taught elementary school for seven years before going back to grad school to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics education and an MS in mathematics. For 10 years, I taught math content and methods courses for preservice teachers, led professional development for practicing teachers, and conducted research on teaching and learning. During that time, I began regularly practicing yoga, first to manage chronic pain, but then got hooked on both the physical and mental benefits. I wanted to share this amazing practice with others, so I earned my initial 500-hour certification through YogaWorks and started teaching yoga. I currently study with Annie Carpenter and am an Advanced SmartFLOW Graduate with over 500 hours of SmartFLOW training. In addition to teaching yoga classes and trainings, I teach Hiking Yoga and lead retreats and workshops that integrate yoga, hiking, and nature as a way to facilitate connection and groundedness.
What is your favorite wellness activity? Hiking and yoga (separately or together)! I love being outside in beautiful places. I love to work hard and to let go. I love to focus on the journey, not the destination. I love the peace and groundedness created by both.
In your free time, what are a few of your favorite things to do? Hiking and backpacking, yoga, being in nature, and spending time with family and friends.
Director of Operations
Breathe For Change is a life-changing dream that’s coming true.
Five words that describe me are genuine, goofy, pragmatic, enthusiastic, adventurous.
As as leader, what brings you the most joy? Seeing those I work with come into their own and achieve their version of success.
How did you end up on this team? After 8 years traveling as a project manager for a large healthcare IT company, I took some time off to stay home with my new kiddo and reassess what I wanted to do. Breathe for Change popped up, and I immediately knew I wanted to be the super practical person behind the scenes, enabling these amazing, creative dreamers to spread their vision.
What is your wellness and professional background?
I graduated from the University of Michigan where I focused my studies on sociological and political systems, the pedagogy of intercultural learning, and the major forces of global change. After graduating I moved to Madison, WI to work and travel as a project manager and division leader at a large healthcare IT company. During that time, I learned that I love to work with team members to define success and creating tangible plans to achieve their goals, as well as geeking out over building easy-to-use technology.
What is your favorite wellness activity? Any activity that my body calls for that day! Whether that’s rolling out my mat for restorative yoga, going for a long run outside, or powering through burpees and weights. Sometimes, it's just booking a pedicure and reading a novel. Each day is different which keeps me energized and challenged.
In your free time, what are a few of your favorite things to do? Lately, I’ve been tackling DIY projects with my family for our new home, nerding it up at game night with friends, and pretending I’m on the Great British Bake-Off. But to break me out of that routine, I love to leave the US and immerse myself in a completely new country.
Admissions Lead | Goddess of Gratitude
Breathe For Change is often overwhelming to sum up. Basically, it is necessary for all humans to experience.
Five words that describe me are curious, determined, compassionate, positive, and demanding.
As a leader, what brings you the most joy? I love mentoring people. Anything I can do to deepen someone's life experience professionally and personally brings me joy.
How did you end up on this team? After teaching yoga to adults and two- to eight-year-olds, I saw Ilana posting about Breathe For Change on Facebook. While I love children and have a passion for teaching elementary school, I am drawn to supporting the most important people on this planet (educators) with their own well-being and self care so they can avoid stress and burn-out. I reached out to Ilana to see how I could get involved, and the rest is history! I have had the privilege of being on the training team in New York City and Los Angeles, and it has been an incredible journey. I hope everyone in the world gets to experience a training at some point in their life!
What is your wellness and professional background? I am a Reiki Master, 500-hour certified yoga instructor, and IIN health coach. I have also trained in MBSR and MovNat. I believe we have to look at each human being as a whole and that integrating health and wellness practices into all aspects of life—spirituality, career, social life, relationships, home environment, home cooking, finances, and education—is key to leading a healthy and happy lifestyle. After earning my master's degree in childhood education and special education at Hunter College, I taught in both public and private schools in New York City as well as worked for the New York City Department of Education in the Office of School Wellness Programs, where I trained teachers how to do more physical activity with students in their classrooms by blending movement with academics. I also spent time working in advertising sales at A+E Networks.
What is your favorite wellness activity? Yoga and MovNat. People can become so disconnected from their bodies! These practices keep me grounded and help me connect my mind, body, and breath.
In your free time, what are a few of your favorite things to do? In my free time, you can find me deepening my wealth of knowledge of holistic wellness, cooking delicious meals in my kitchen, and escaping the city for hikes and nature.
Meditation Content Lead | Ether of Embodiment
Breathe For Change is love in action.
Five words that describe me are love, passion, adventure, wacky, and wise.
As a leader, what brings you the most joy? The joy in leading comes from supporting others in knowing, loving, and embodying their most whole, brilliant, and powerful selves. I find joy in practicing leadership that empowers others to be leaders.
How did you end up on this team? I first crossed paths with B4C while living an extreme version of my yang entrepreneurial self, working on a software startup with Michael Fenchel. I thankfully followed a voice inside my heart that spoke of deeper fulfillment, leaving my job and beginning a journey of meditation, yoga, and art. I came to know the other extreme version of my yin self while working as a meditation trainer for B4C and studying visual arts. Since then, I have been dancing on a more Middle Path, leading a spiritual and entrepreneurial lifestyle as both National Meditation Lead and ChangeMaker Product Lead for B4C.
What is your wellness and professional background? I'm a 200-hour RYT, an art and wellness teacher, and a meditation trainer. I have studied and practiced many paths, including Kundalini yoga, Vipassana Meditation, Buddhism, and Christian Mysticism.
What is your favorite wellness activity? My favorite routine is a heavy workout to sharpen and focus the mind, body, and spirit followed by an opening yoga class for alignment and finally a grounding meditation for connection, clarity, and channeling.
In your free time, what are a few of your favorite things to do? I'm an adventure artist who loves photography, ceramics, metalsmithing, slack lining, acro yoga, roller blading, camping, snowboarding, scuba diving, tree and rock climbing, and basking in the sweet sun!
Video Lead | Master of Media
Breathe For Change is an undeniably transformational experience.
Five words that describe me are creative, musical, quick-witted, empathetic, and tech-savvy.
As a leader, what brings you the most joy? Sharing videos with the world that hopefully have a positive impact on others.
How did you end up on this team? I was recommended by the fabulous Robin to shoot freelance interviews and create some social media ads. I then took on the ChangeMaker project and have transitioned into a full- time employee.
What is your wellness and professional background? I graduated with a music degree in percussion, and traveled the world playing drums for various Broadway shows. On the road I fell in love with documenting my travels and taught myself how to shoot and edit video. When I stopped touring extensively, I turned that passion into a business. In the wellness profession, I’ve produced online courses and promos for some of the top Pilates instructors in New York City.
What is your favorite wellness activity? I enjoy meditation and regular massages. It’s important to take time out for yourself to reflect on your successes and how you can get better in the future.
In your free time, what are a few of your favorite things to do? My wife and I love to travel. I’ve seen a baseball game at 22 of the 30 major league baseball stadiums. (Seattle, hopefully coming for you this summer.) I also love flying my drone to get cinematic Instagram videos. :)
Lead Trainer | Hero of the Heart
Breathe For Change is the essence of self care, self love, and being of service.
Five words that describe me are playful, creative, devoted, disciplined, and funny.
As a leader, what brings you the most joy? Seeing my students have break throughs. Creating space so that they facilitate their own awakening.
How did you end up on this team? Sam and Talia began coming to my yoga classes at Laughing Lotus NYC and invited me to come in as a guest teacher to teach a Bhakti workshop in 2016. I came back as a guest teacher in the spring of 2017 where I met Ilana and Michael. We instantly connected and was brought on as the lead asana trainer in Madison, NYC, and D.C. This is my first time stepping the role as lead trainer! I'm also a curriculum expert for the company.
What is your wellness and professional background? I am an ERYT 200 Hour Teacher and a 500 RYT Yoga Teacher. I was certified at Laughing Lotus Yoga center from their 200 Hour and 300 Hour Teacher Training program. I am a full time yoga teacher in NYC teaching at Laughing Lotus, Woom Center, B4C, and Equinox. I lead teacher trainings internationally and want to inspire my students to embark on the holy science of transformation.
What is your favorite wellness activity? Asana, Mantra, and meditation.
In your free time, what are a few of your favorite things to do? I like to eat, have pedicures with Ilana, an arts patron, musician, performer, and lover of life.
Breathe For Change is is an organization that I’m grateful to be a part of in the mission to empower educators.
Five words that describe me are determined, curious, meticulous, reflective, and gracious.
Executive Assistant & Support Lead | Princess of Paperwork
Breathe For Change is changing the world, one teacher at a time!
Five words that describe me are quiet, loving, dedicated, wife, and mother.
As a leader, what brings you the most joy? Making a difference.
How did you end up on this team? A mutual friend sent me a message asking if I would be interested in this position. I replied that I would be interested in learning more. I reconnected with Michael, who introduced me to Ilana. It was love at first sight! So blessed to have found a position that fits me so well.
What is your wellness and professional background? I was introduced to mindfulness a few years ago through UW Health as a way to reduce stress. I had the privilege to take the course with my husband and it was life- changing. My professional background has varied, from daycare provider to sales professional. I'm finally finding my happy place here at B4C!
What is your favorite wellness activity? Mindfulness, because it grounds me and truly makes me the best me I can be.
In your free time, what are a few of your favorite things to do? I love to spend time with my husband, three daughters, and our golden retriever, Yogi! My "free" time typically includes attending soccer games and cross- country meets to cheer on my girls! I read as much as I can!
We are grateful for all our partners including