Meet our K-5 ELA Gurus

EL Education Gurus

Change is hard, but what is even more difficult is sustaining that change. Curriculum adoption and implementation are often considered a multi-faceted change initiative. When tackling professional learning, new materials, and hours of prep-work, educators turn to Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) to support their multiple needs.

This is why at Open Up Resources,  we place social learning through online communities as a priority in all that we offer for educators.

While supporting implementing teachers in our Open Up Resources ELA Facebook Groups (EL Education K–5 Language Arts and Bookworms K–5 Reading and Writing), I have come to realize online PLCs share common truths. They foster a supportive environment in which educators can share successes, offer examples from their own classrooms and expose frustrations, vulnerabilities, and questions, all while sharing common goals.

Online PLCs also provide educators with flexibility and empowerment in their professional learning with communities unconstrained by time, space, and money. At times, educators may be actively engaging in the conversation or merely observing the posts, interactions, and community events. No matter the level of engagement, educators across the country find benefits while collaborating with other like-minded teachers online.

Over the past few months, there has been tremendous membership growth in the Open Up Resources EL Education K–5 Language Arts Facebook Community. We are excited to announce the addition of three “gurus” to act as additional support to the online PLCs. They represent diverse voices, grade-bands, experiences, and educational roles.


Grades K–2 – Erika Lofton

M.R. Hollis Innovation Academy/Atlanta Public Schools, Atlanta, GA

Ms. Erika Lofton, a San Franciscan native, is a proud Spelman alumna. She began her teaching career by completing Chicago’s Academy For Urban School Leadership residency program in 2011 where she received the first-hand experience at a turn-around school. That experience led her to assist in turning around Marquette School Of Excellence where she taught for five years. Returning back to Atlanta she continued her work in the turn-around model and began teaching at M.R. Hollis Innovation Academy since its opening in 2016. She currently is part of a dynamic duo teaching kindergarten with Ms. K. Williams and is a model teacher for the EL Education Curriculum with her school.




Grades 3–5 – Justin Endicott  

Gilbert PK-8  Mingo County, Gilbert, WV

Justin Endicott is from the foothills of Appalachia in southern WV where he teaches 4th grade at Gilbert PreK - 8. Justin works to ensure that his students have access to high-quality curriculum and has seen tremendous growth in his students by advocating for content area literacy. Justin holds a masters degree in elementary education along with certifications in leadership studies and literacy education. Justin has experience as an instructional coach and currently works as a contracted facilitator for Teaching Lab.  Recently Justin signed on to work to facilitate PD with Expeditionary Learning. Justin and his wife, Katie, have two kids: Emma and Noah. Together they co-pastor the Gilbert Church.


Equity and Leadership – Sarah Said  

Founding Director of Language and Equity Programs, Elgin Math and Science Academy Charter School, Elgin, IL

Sarah Said is the Director of Language and Equity Programs at an EL Education School in the Chicago Suburbs. In her role, she oversees support programs for Multilingual Learners, works with others to create a community that fosters success for students from the diverse communities her school serves, helps strengthen school to community outreach, and coordinates Title grants. In the past, she has been a Director of ELL, Dean and Curriculum Coordinator. In addition to her role in her building, she is a contributor for ELL Confianza and has written a variety of blog posts online. She is a member of the #ELLChat and #ELLchat_bkClub where she helps advocate for Multilingual Learners.

Together, we hope to support the implementing teachers in the community, provide additional learning opportunities highlighting the strengths each guru brings to the group, and we even have some exciting new plans in the works to help bridge the gap between theory and practice. PLCs are powerful, providing time and space for educators to think critically and discuss deliberately. They help to reduce isolation and offer multiple perspectives around topics. Open Up Resources online communities are thriving, and now with the addition of 3 new gurus, the door to social learning is wide open.

Want to learn more? Contact Shaelynn Farnsworth, ELA Community Manager and Professional Learning Associate at and follow the conversation on Twitter at #OpenUpELA.