The Peace of Mind Team

Peace of Mind is a mission-driven, socially responsible organization (501c3 pending).  We are passionate about bringing mindfulness-based social and emotional learning to elementary school teachers and students, helping schools become more positive and inclusive places in which children thrive.   Peace of Mind is supported by an active, diverse and multi-talented Board of Directors and a dedicated staff.

Peace of Mind arises out of the work of teacher and curriculum author Linda Ryden.  Linda began teaching her “Peace Class” at a public school in Washington DC in 2003, focusing on social and emotional learning and conflict resolution lessons.  Her young students grasped the lessons intellectually; however, when children found themselves in challenging situations on the playground, at recess, or in their classrooms, they were unable to access what they had learned, overtaken by challenging emotions. Linda realized that by adding mindfulness to her curriculum she could offer students simple, powerful tools to manage challenging emotions, empathize with others, and resolve conflicts peacefully.  Since 2003, Linda has invested well over 10,000 hours teaching mindfulness, social and emotional learning, brain science and conflict resolution skills to her elementary school students.

Jillian Diesner adapted the curriculum for early childhood, authored the Core Curriculum for Early Childhood,  and has invested over 6,000 hours developing and teaching Peace of Mind to the youngest students. She continues to teach Peace of Mind to over 250 children every week.

We feel strongly about sharing what has worked for us with integrity. We also honor and welcome the creativity, passion, and experience other educators will bring to this work in order to adapt it to the needs of the children they care about.

The Peace of Mind Team

Staff

Linda Ryden      
Founder, Board Member, Peace Teacher, Curriculum Author, Children’s Book Author, Advocate

Linda-RydenLinda Ryden is the creator of the Peace of Mind Program, a cutting-edge combination of mindfulness, conflict resolution, and social-emotional learning. Linda is the author of the Peace of Mind Curriculum Series and is the full-time Peace Teacher at Lafayette Elementary School, a public school in Washington, DC, where she teaches Peace classes to more than 500 children every week.

Linda’s work on the Peace of Mind program has been recognized in The Washington Post and The Huffington Post, and her program has been featured on local CBS, ABC and Fox5 news stations. Linda was recognized as one of the “Faces of DC” by the George Washington Hatchet.

Linda brings a passion for teaching peace and over 25 years of teaching experience to her work with children and adults.  Linda holds a BA from Wesleyan University. Linda lives in Washington D.C. with her husband Jeremiah Cohen, owner of Bullfrog Bagels, their two children, and their dog Phoebe.

Cheryl Cole Dodwell   
Executive Director

Cheryl oversees strategy, outreach, publishing, operations and fundraising for Peace of Mind and serves as managing editor for the Peace of Mind Curriculum Series and Storybooks.  She works with Linda and Jillian to ensure that Peace of Mind’s strategy, activities and culture remain true to its mission and vision.

Cheryl brings a well-rounded skill set to Peace of Mind, including experience in banking, publishing and managing community organizations. She is also a nationally certified massage therapist and Reiki Master and brings a mindful and peaceful approach to her work in all fields.  Cheryl holds a BA from Princeton University and an MBA from Stanford University, with a focus on public and nonprofit management.

Cheryl enjoys traveling,  hands-on volunteering, yoga, and the continual cultivation of mindfulness and compassion.  Cheryl lives in Maryland with her husband James and her two kind and fun children (when they’re home from college).

Jillian Diesner         
Director of Early Childhood Programs, Peace Teacher,  Counselor, Author, Advocate

Jillian directs the Early Childhood implementation of Peace of Mind and collaborated with Linda to create the Peace of Mind curriculum, Early Childhood edition.

Jillian is a dual-certified School Counselor and Special Education teacher who works with students at Lafayette Elementary School, a public school in Washington, DC. She teaches weekly Peace of Mind classes to all Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten students at Lafayette. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the District of Columbia, holds Masters’ degrees in Early Childhood Special Education from the George Washington University and in Marriage & Family Counseling from the University of Florida.

An avid traveler, Jillian previously lived abroad and speaks Spanish and Italian. She currently lives in Maryland with her husband and two rambunctious boys.

Design Team
Jodi Kolker Schwa Design Group Publication Design
Niki Van VanStudios Website
Pittny Creative www.pittnycreative.com  Logo Design

 

Board of Directors

Janine Rudder
Education Program Specialist, U.S. Department of Education

Janine is an educator who has worked primarily in districts with a concentration of under-resourced schools; a dedicated Pilates instructor consistently seeking opportunities to grow and continuously improve; and a professional who understands the critical importance of incorporating wellness-enhancing practices to build the capacity of students, educators, parents, and the broader community.

Janine started her career in education as a middle school special education teacher in Oakland, CA. She also trained primary school teachers and started several initiatives aimed at supporting and providing resources for teachers in Belize, Central America. After returning to the United States, Janine worked as a Master Educator, evaluating teachers’ instructional practice and conducting targeted professional development.

Through her work at the U.S. Department of Education, Janine currently supports State Education Agencies in building the capacity of school districts in order to support teachers and school leaders in their efforts to provide an excellent education for all students.  

Janine received a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from Northeastern University and a Master of Arts from Teachers College at Columbia University.

 

Linda Ryden      (see above)
Founder, Board Member, Peace Teacher, Curriculum Author, Children’s Book Author, Advocate

 

Jackie Snowden
Assistant Principal (retired), Lafayette Elementary School

 Jackie Snowden recently retired as Assistant Principal from Lafayette Elementary School, the largest elementary school in the District of Columbia Public School (DCPS) system with almost  800 students. Lafayette is a highly sought after elementary school which provides a special learning environment with talented, dedicated teachers and other staff members supported by a very active community body. Lafayette’s mission is to help students reach their full potential through creative, challenging, and fun learning experiences in a supportive, nurturing environment. 

During Jackie’s tenure, Lafayette initiated and supported the first DCPS school-wide Peace and Mindfulness program to support a positive school culture. Jackie’s 30-year career at Lafayette also included teaching grades 2, 3, 5, and 6, as well as serving as the Arts Integration Coordinator when Lafayette was the only DCPS school to be designated as a Changing Education Through the Arts (CETA) school.  In this capacity, she also helped to train teachers and administrators in other DCPS designated Arts Integration schools.  To this day, an emphasis on integrating the arts into all subject areas enriches every student’s learning experience at Lafayette and beyond.

As a teacher, Jackie was nominated for the Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award. She holds degrees from American University and Cambridge College. She is a very proud native Washingtonian, and the even more proud mother of three adult children, all of whom are Lafayette graduates and owners of successful businesses. She has been blissfully married to her husband, Rene, for 40 years.

 

Chapin Springer
Senior Communications Officer, U.S. Policy, Advocacy, and Communications
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Chapin is a communications professional with more than a decade of experience leading strategic communications efforts, planning, and integrated campaigns for foundations, associations, Fortune 50 companies, and non-profits.

At the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Chapin drives communications strategies across the foundation’s early learning, K-12, and postsecondary strategies on the U.S. Policy, Advocacy, and Communications team. His specialties include editorial and strategic planning, integrated communications campaigns, leadership voice/speechwriting, and video production. He also manages a portfolio of media grantees and provides counsel and support to foundation partners.

Prior to joining the foundation, Chapin served as vice president at the communications firm GMMB, where he led client accounts across a range of sectors, including education, healthcare, and wireless technology. Before starting his career in communications, he was a soap opera and stage actor in New York City.

Chapin is a graduate of Syracuse University, a daily meditator, a grateful husband, and the proud father of two daughters currently benefiting from the Peace of Mind program at Lafayette Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

 

Liz Whisnant
Principal, Horace Mann Elementary School
Advisory Board Member, Principals’ Center at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and National Network of Schools Partnership

 Liz Whisnant has served as principal of the District of Columbia Public Schools’ Horace Mann ES since 2005.  Horace Mann is only one of four schools in the nation to receive the US Department of Education Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award five times, most recently in 2017. She currently serves on the Advisory Boards of the Principals’ Center at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and the National Network of Schools in Partnership. In 2008, Liz co-founded with several principal colleagues the District of Columbia Collaborative for Change (DC3), a reform structure for school improvement in DCPS whose mission is to craft schools that are inspiring places to teach and learn.  

Prior to Mann, Liz served as the founding academic principal of Trinity Episcopal School, a K-8 school, and Hidden Valley Elementary School, a PreK-6 school, both in Charlotte NC.  She also worked in Seattle as a principal coach for the University of Washington’s Center for Educational Leadership. She launched her education career as a classroom teacher in Boston, MA.

She holds degrees from Harvard University, Lesley University, the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, and recently completed an Executive Masters in Leadership at Georgetown University. She is the proud mother of Max, a Mann graduate and a college freshman, and the lucky spouse of Steve Whisnant to whom she is perpetually indebted for his extraordinary example of what it means to lead a purposeful life.