Meet Thomas Rachele: “Partner for Justice” & Tireless Student Advocate

Meet Thomas Rachele: “Partner for Justice" & Tireless Student Advocate

“Thomas Rachele is the embodiment of an exceptional educator, district leader, and partner of Discovering Justice. He is a hands-on leader who knows what students deserve and believes in what they can achieve. His genuine care and respect for each student in Springfield drives every piece of his work.”
Laura Brenner
Discovering Justice Education Director

As Director of Humanities for Springfield Public Schools, Thomas has been an ardent champion of Discovering Justice programs in Springfield since 2021. 

In Tom, we have an invaluable collaborator and ambassador for our programs. He has played vital roles both in conceptualizing our K-3 Children Discovering Justice (CDJ) curriculum and helping Discovering Justice expand our programs to students across Springfield in grades K-8.

Tom’s dedication to his students drives his ongoing partnership with Discovering Justice. Teaching students how to advocate for themselves and others, Tom believes, is vitally important – and it starts with our youngest learners in CDJ.

“All students need to be able to recognize what justice is,” he explains, “so they can recognize when it’s not present.”

“Thomas Rachele has been a pivotal figure in our district. His advocacy for innovative educational practices underscores his commitment to ensuring that every child has the opportunity to succeed. He is a visionary leader who is shaping the future of education in our community, and I have no doubt that his continued efforts will inspire generations to come."
Daniel Warwick
Springfield Superintendent of Schools

Tom’s dedication to his students drives his ongoing partnership with Discovering Justice. Teaching students how to advocate for themselves and others, Tom believes, is vitally important – and it starts with our youngest learners in CDJ.

“All students need to be able to recognize what justice is,” he explains, “so they can recognize when it’s not present.”

You can meet Tom and all of our 2024 Partners for Justice Awardees at our Annual Gala on June 26th.

Through Tom’s hard work and persistence, Discovering Justice has expanded our reach through Springfield and beyond. After just three years, we’re proud to report that every elementary student in Springfield Public Schools has access to four years of our CDJ civics curriculum, and five Springfield middle schools host teams of ‘student attorneys’ in our Mock Trial & Mock Appeal Program. That means we impact thousands of students in Springfield every year!

Tom has also been instrumental in introducing our programs into West Springfield and Worcester Public Schools. Says Stefania Raschilla, Superintendent of West Springfield Public Schools:

“Tom is tireless in his efforts in ensuring that all students have access to lasting and meaningful student learning experiences. He always has students at the forefront of his decision making and uses student learning outcomes as the compass for his work.”
Stefania Raschilla
Superintendent of West Springfield Public Schools

Tom’s work with students and the community began long before his current role as SPS Director of Humanities. In his two decades working with students in Springfield, he began as a classroom teacher, then broadened his reach as an academic coach with SPS, before transitioning to the Supervisor of Secondary ELA and Libraries, allowing him to have an impact on students across the district. He is passionately committed to promoting equity through literacy, English language arts, history, and social science by providing all students with impactful teaching and learning experiences.

“Discovering Justice teaches students not only that they have a voice and how to use it,” he says, “but also that using their voice means something.”

Discovering Justice is grateful for Tom’s incredible partnership over the years. We’re looking forward to presenting Tom’s award, as well as hearing from all our Awardees on the importance of doing work they believe in, at our Annual Gala on June 26th.

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Meet Hannah Esquenazi: A “Partner for Justice” Who Goes Above and Beyond

Meet Hannah Esquenazi: A “Partner for Justice” Who Goes Above And Beyond

Discovering Justice has been honored to partner with Hannah as volunteer Legal Mentor in our Mock Trial & Mock Appeal Program since 2019.

From mentoring middle school ‘student attorneys’ in Boston, to leading the mentoring team at Jones Day, to helping recruit and train new volunteers, Hannah has been an instrumental partner in Discovering Justice’s work to double the size of the program in the last four years.

Teaching Massachusetts students about the law and their rights has been particularly rewarding for Hannah. “It is a gift each semester to watch the ‘student attorneys’ gain confidence, face their fears, stand in front of a judge, and successfully grapple with complicated legal questions,” Hannah says.

Hannah and a middle school ‘student attorney’ hard at work in 2021.

Derek Doherty, teacher at Boston’s Mildred Ave K-8 School, reports that Hannah’s passion for this work inspires her students:

“Hannah is an amazing educator. She knows the law on a deep level - but she also knows how to scaffold that knowledge in ways that make it accessible to middle school students. And Hannah makes learning fun and engaging – students sense her passion and interest, which leads to our students being more engaged and interested in their work.”
Derek Doherty
Teacher, Mildred Ave K-8 School

You can meet Hannah and all of our 2024 Partners for Justice Awardees at our Annual Gala on June 26th.

Hannah says that “witnessing that tangible moment when the students gain confidence, latch onto their arguments, and are able to advocate successfully” is one of her favorite aspects of volunteering with the program.

“In the end,” she reflects, it is often hard to get them to sit back down, because they become so passionate and confident about the issues!”

Hannah looks on as a ‘student attorney’ presents his work during a spring 2023 Mock Appeal Final Event.

Discovering Justice staff Malia Brooks describes Hannah going above and beyond in her work in support of both our Mock Trial & Mock Appeal Program and its participants:

“Hannah cares so much about the students she volunteers with, and it shows in the extra effort she puts in to support the program. As the point person for her team, she recruits and trains new volunteers and is eager to share her expertise and experience. When school’s out for the summer, she has even served as an extra set of eyes on our curriculum and helped us coordinate an in-person orientation event. When I think of Hannah, I hear her saying, “Let me know how I can help!”
Malia Brooks
Discovering Justice staff

As an attorney, Hannah works as an Associate at Jones Day in their Financial Markets practice group. There, she advises and represents financial institutions in litigation matters, with a particular focus on evolving legal and regulatory risks and disputes related to complex commercial transactions and consumer products. She also maintains an active pro bono practice, representing women and minors seeking asylum, and proudly serves as chair of the Hispanic National Bar Association’s (HNBA) Special Committee for Community Outreach and Pro Bono Services. In January, Hannah was named one of the HNBA’s “Top Lawyers Under 40.”

Discovering Justice is enormously grateful for Hannah’s hard work and support over the last five years. We’re looking forward to presenting Hannah’s award, as well as hearing from all our Awardees on the importance of doing work they believe in, at our Annual Gala on June 26th.

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Kayla Nordman

Kayla Nordman believes strongly in expanding access to comprehensive civic education to provide the next generation with the resources they need to uphold and expand upon the values of American democracy and create a more equitable future. Before joining Discovering Justice, she worked as a Legislative Intern at the Massachusetts State House and as a Program Manager for the Massachusetts Center for Civic Education. Kayla graduated from Suffolk University with a BA in International Relations.