Founders & Staff


Denise Pope, Ph.D., is a Senior Lecturer at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, where she specializes in student engagement, curriculum studies, qualitative research methods, and service learning. Challenge Success is an expanded version of the SOS: Stressed-Out Students project that Dr. Pope founded and directed from 2003-2008. She is the author of, “Doing School”: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students (Yale University Press, 2001), which was awarded Notable Book in Education by the American School Board Journal, 2001, and co-author of Overloaded and Underprepared: Strategies for Stronger Schools and Healthy, Successful Kids (Jossey-Bass, 2015). Dr. Pope lectures nationally on parenting techniques and pedagogical strategies to increase student health, engagement with learning, and integrity. She is a 3-time recipient of the Stanford University School of Education Outstanding Teacher and Mentor Award and was honored with the 2012 Education Professor of the Year “Educators’ Voice Award” from the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences. Prior to teaching at Stanford, Dr. Pope taught high school English in Fremont, CA and college composition and rhetoric courses at Santa Clara University. She lives in Los Altos, CA with her husband and three children.

Madeline Levine, PhD is a nationally known psychologist with over 25 years of experience as a clinician, consultant, and educator. Her New York Times best-selling book, The Price of Privilege, explores the reasons why teenagers from affluent families are experiencing epidemic rates of emotional problems. Her follow-up book, Teach Your Children Well, focuses on expanding our current narrow and shortsighted view of success and providing concrete strategies for parents who hope to see their children grow up to be both successful and healthy. Her two previous books, Viewing Violence and See No Evil both received critical acclaim. Madeline began her career as an elementary and junior high school teacher in the South Bronx of New York before moving to California and earning her degrees in psychology. She has taught child development classes to graduate students at the University of California Medical Center / San Francisco. Madeline lectures extensively to parent, school, and business audiences both nationally and internationally.

Jim Lobdell is an educational consultant and publisher with expertise in curriculum design, school reform, parent education, and youth sports. Jim is a Venture Partner at Reach Capital, an edtech social impact venture fund, and co-founded Teachers’ Curriculum Institute, widely regarded as the nation’s most innovative publisher of K-12 social studies curriculum. He has authored several teaching methodology books, including Bring Learning Alive! Engaging All Learners in the Diverse Classroom and advised school districts nationwide on teacher-training and site-based reform. A former NCAA athlete and high school social studies teacher, Jim currently advises the Positive Coaching Alliance, working to transform youth sports by helping to create a more positive and character-building experience for young athletes.


Kathy Koo, MBA, CPA is the Executive Director for Challenge Success, where she oversees the organization’s non-profit operations as well as its financial, development and strategic planning initiatives. She comes to Challenge Success with over 20 years combined experience in strategic and operational consulting, accounting and finance, and independent school management. Prior to joining Challenge Success, Kathy served as the Business Officer and then Interim Head of School for Peninsula School, a progressive pre-8th grade school in Menlo Park founded on principles of intellectual curiosity, freedom and choice, and play. She has served in several board leadership positions, and through navigating the private, independent, and charter school experiences of her own five children, has gained valuable insights into the diversity of school policy and practice.

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Jennifer Coté, M.A. is a School Program Director.  She facilitates professional development and parent education workshops and supports Challenge Success schools across the country.  Jen is a passionate educator with over 25 years of experience in schools – teaching, coaching, developing curriculum, and empowering both students and teachers alike. Most recently, she worked as a classroom teacher inspiring young minds with her love of mathematics at Marin Academy. Her graduate work in Curriculum Studies and Teacher Education fueled her desire to help teachers and schools look at ways they can marry curriculum and pedagogy to create more equitable, engaging and effective classrooms.

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Margaret Dunlap, M.A. is a School Program Director. She oversees the operation of the school program, providing coordination, resources, and management to Challenge Success schools on the West Coast. Additionally, she plans the bi-annual Challenge Success school conferences and supports coaches and school site teams to promote best practices and policy reform. She has extensive experience in professional development, supervision, evaluation, and intensive coaching for teacher leaders, coaches, and novice teachers. Margaret has held various roles in education leadership and program management within public and private education for over 20 years.

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Sunny Evans is the Office Manager for Challenge Success. She ensures that office operations run smoothly, and provides various aspects of administrative support for the organization in project management, communications and correspondence, and event coordination. She has experience working in the technology field as a major customer support representative for Fortune 100 customers. Sunny is an avid volunteer, world traveler, and a highly competent journalist and writer.


Jon Kleiman, M.A. is a School Program Director. He oversees the operation of the school program, providing coordination, resources, and management to Challenge Success schools on the East Coast. Jon has worked in the education space in several capacities, from creating curriculum for the opening of a school for Rwandan women to developing and teaching design thinking courses to undergraduates. Jon lives in Portland, Maine.

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Sarah Beckett Miles, M.S.W., Ph.D. is a Researcher with Challenge Success. She researches how schools and classrooms can best support student learning and engagement. She works with Challenge Success member schools to translate research into practice as well as presents at conferences and writes articles for education-related journals. She has also been a coach with two Challenge Success member schools and worked as a teaching and research assistant at Stanford. Prior to receiving her doctoral degree, Sarah taught fifth grade in Oakland, California and worked as a clinical social worker in the Boston area.

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Kari Ness Riedel, MBA is the Marketing and Communications Director at Challenge Success. She oversees the organization’s brand and marketing strategy and leads initiatives to grow the Challenge Success model and mission. Kari is an experienced edtech entrepreneur and marketing strategist dedicated to promoting education innovation and reform designed to educate the whole child and raise happy and productive adults. Prior to joining Challenge Success, Kari founded Bookopolis, an award-winning K-12 education startup, led a nonprofit social enterprise bakery, and worked for Fortune 500 companies as a strategy consultant and brand manager. She is an active volunteer serving in a variety of leadership roles in her own children’s schools and in under-resourced communities.

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Samantha Selby, M.A., is a Research Associate with Challenge Success. She manages and supports the quantitative and qualitative data analysis of Challenge Success student surveys and supports the organization’s overall research efforts. Samantha has experience as an environmental education research associate and a social science researcher, during which she was the project co-coordinator and co-teacher of an environmental leadership program in rural Costa Rica. Prior to working as a researcher, Samantha taught at a non-profit, tuition-free middle school in Arizona and taught English in Spain. 

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Samantha Spielman is the Development and Data Systems Manager at Challenge Success. She implements the organization’s multi-functional development program and oversees its data management system. Samantha previously served as the Marketing Manager for the organization. Prior to joining Challenge Success, Samantha served as the Director of Project Management at and began her career in the political arena, working for elected officials throughout the state of California focused on education policy.

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Jennifer Curry Villeneuve, Ph.D. is a Senior Research and Evaluation Associate with Challenge Success. She leads the organization in designing and implementing evaluation activities for continuous improvement and to measure program impact. Jennifer is an experienced evaluation specialist, researcher, and thought partner who has worked for over two decades with non-profit and philanthropic leaders to identify, measure and align strategy to achieve greater impact and social change. Prior to joining the Challenge Success team, she worked with a range of non-profit clients in the Bay Area and nationally in the fields of education reform, performance-based assessment, youth development, global health, and organizational change.

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