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 marketing, 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 the private, public and charter school experiences of her own five children, has gained a broad perspective on the diversity in school strategy and management.

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Margaret Dunlap, M.A. is the School Program Director for Challenge Success. She oversees the operation of the school program, providing coordination, resources, and management to Challenge Success schools. 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.


Emeri S. Handler, M.S. is Parent Education Manager for Challenge Success. She coordinates classes and salons for parents interested in research-based approaches to raising well-balanced children. Additionally, she provides research support to Challenge Success. Emeri has held research and programming positions over the past 20 years in areas of developmental and clinical psychology, as well as diversity education and community engagement. Emeri also serves on the Challenge Success Advisory Board.

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Jon Kleiman, M.A. is the Parent Education Director for Challenge Success. Through interactive presentations and workshops, Jon connects parents with resources and practices to support the well-being of their children. Jon also serves as a coach for Challenge Success schools, helping school teams define a vision and an action plan for change. 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 Mountain View, CA with his wife and two kiddos.

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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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Gail Shen, M.S. Ed, M.A. is a Research Assistant at Challenge Success. She manages the qualitative data analysis of Challenge Success student surveys and supports the organization’s overall research efforts. Gail comes to Challenge Success with over 10 years of experience in elementary classroom teaching, including Chinese-English Dual Language, literacy specialization, and international education development.

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Samantha Spielman is a Marketing Manager for Challenge Success. Samantha implements the organization’s marketing and publicity efforts. Through newsletters, blogs and social media, Challenge Success provides parents and educators with the latest research and information to support the health and happiness of children. Previously, Ms. Spielman served as the Director of Project Management for the Creative Department of where she organized the company’s email marketing campaigns and supervised a team that managed the design production for the organization. Samantha began her career in the political arena, working for elected officials throughout the state of California. 

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Lisa Westrich, LCSW is the Program Development Director at Challenge Success. She manages new program development and supports the organization’s general operations, school program, and research. Lisa has worked with children and families in a variety of education and nonprofit settings for over twenty years. She has also held nonprofit leadership positions and provided clinical consultation to a number of local organizations. Prior to joining Challenge Success, Lisa worked as a qualitative researcher partnering with educational institutions and community based organizations, both in the Bay Area and nationally, to improve positive outcomes for youth.  

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