Panels on Gandhian Wisdom and K-12 Education and Schools

The conference, Rediscovering Gandhian Wisdom, will feature the following educator-panelists who have also been Ahimsa Center fellows.


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Susanna Barkataki A 2005 fellow of the Ahimsa Center, Susanna Barkataki continues works in Human Rights and Social Justice education empowering young people in Los Angeles. Currently she is helping start Learning Works! Charter School in Pasadena.  She is a member of Tribe of the Diasporas, a multi-racial think and action tank in Los Angeles area.  She is currently finishing her Masters in Humane Education while studying Ayurveda. She is passionate about melding this ancient Indian science of life with our modern educational practices. Ms. Barkataki has recently been volunteering in small village schools in India where she brings her passion for meditation, yoga, compassion and practical Gandhian models of education together while learning from and training teachers and students.  Her lifes mission is to bring healing to herself and every person, animal and ecosystem she encounters.


Christian Bracho was English department chair and new teacher mentor for eight years in the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District. He received Ahimsa Center fellowship in 2005. Following his participation in the Ahimsa Center’s K-12 Teacher Institute on Nonviolence and Social Change that year, Bracho continued working with the Center as a volunteer and teacher mentor at the 2007 Institute on Gandhi and the 21 st century curriculum.

Bracho received a fellowship for a doctoral program in International Education at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University. As a doctoral student Bracho will be researching teachers in relation to the nation-state, with a regional focus on Latin America.


Margaret Dong Hesselgrave, a native of China, has served over 18 years in the K-12 public school system in Southern California.

Currently she is the principal of Los Altos Elementary school in Hacienda-La Puente School District. She is also an adjunct professor for National University. She received her B.A. from the University of La Verne, M. Ed. from the Claremont Graduate University, and Ed.D. from Argosy University. 

She has presented educational lectures and demonstrations throughout Southern California and to the Department of Education in Washington, D.C. Her key interest is in promoting peace and the development of emotional intelligence.

Leila Joseffer is the Language Arts Specialist for grades K-2 at the Winn Brook School in Belmont, MA. She teaches children who are experiencing mild to severe difficulty learning to read. Leila is also involved as a mentor to students and as the leader of the school’s community committee. Additionally, she is an adjunct instructor at Wheelock College in Boston, MA. Leila earned a B.A. from Skidmore College and two Ed.M degrees from Harvard University. In 2005, Leila was selected to participate in the Fulbright-Hays Seminar Abroad to South Africa and Botswana. While on the trip, she visited one of Gandhi’s ashrams and became interested in learning more about his life and message. In 2007, Leila was selected to attend the Ahimsa Center’s Institute on Gandhi, Non-Violence and the 21st Century Curriculum. She recently traveled to Belfast, Northern Ireland to learn about the role of non-violence during The Troubles, to witness the rebuilding of the communities impacted by the violence, and to meet with teachers involved with implementing an anti-bias curriculum.


Michele Milner is a K-8 Spanish teacher at Sequoyah, school in Pasadena. She began her career dedicated to social justice and peace movements in the human and immigrants' rights arenas, teaching hundreds of immigrants about their legal rights. She views teaching children as an extension of her social justice work, striving to open students’ minds to the world around them and empowering students to live in harmony with their conscience. She is a recipient of 2007 Ahimsa Center Fellowship and the Shattuck Award for dedication to public interest law.


Vikas Srivastava holds a MA in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a BA in Sociology from UC San Diego. He has taught pre-school, middle school, special education, high school and college throughout the last 10 years. Currently, he develops curriculum and teaches Audio Technology, as well as, Entreprenuership at Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego. Srivastava is a recipient of Ahimsa Fellowship in 2007 for participating in a national teacher-institute on Gandhi, Nonviolence and the Twentieth Century Curriculum.

Richard Updegrove is a high school social studies teacher at Community of Peace Academy a public charter school with St. Paul Public Schools in St. Paul, Minnesota. His course offerings at the school include World Peacemakers, Civics, Modern American History, Philosophy of Nonviolence, and Social Justice Through Documentary Films.  He holds a Master's of History from the University of Maine, is a James Madison Foundation Fellow, and was selected to attend the United States Institute of Peace Summer Seminar in Washington, D.C. in 2005 and a recipient of Ahimsa Center Fellowship in 2007 to participate in the teacher-institute on Gandhi, Nonviolence and the Twentifirst Century Curriculum.