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Our Team

Julie Jackson

Managing Director

Julie Jackson, former high school Principal and founding elementary school Principal, has taught mathematics to urban NJ students for over 10 years. Jackson moved quickly from full-time teacher to a leadership role at North Star Academy, serving for two years as Dean of Students and then leading the development of the high school program as its Principal. In 2002, she was the recipient of a Dodge Leadership Award for principals who have shown strong leadership and initiative. Julie was named 2012 Administrator of the Year by the New Jersey Charter Schools Association and won Teach For America’s prestigious Peter Jennings Award for Civic Leadership in 2013. Through workshops and speaking engagements, Julie has trained thousands of teachers and school leaders across the country.As Managing Director she oversees instruction at all Camden, Newark and Brooklyn Uncommon elementary schools.


Before coming to North Star, Julie taught Language Arts and Math at Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School in Paterson for four years, where she co-chaired the school improvement team, coached a competitive girls basketball team, and was honored in 1998 as Teacher of the Year. She earned a B.A. in Communications from Shippensburg University (1992), an M.Ed. in Educational Administration from William Paterson University (2002), and did graduate work in African-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin. She began her career as a Teach For America corps member, where she also served as a professional development advisor.

Michael Ambriz

Chief Operating Officer

Michael Ambriz joined the North Star family in May 2008 and serves as its Chief Operating Officer. In this role he is charged with all non-instructional aspects of North Star’s work and supporting its growth to serve as many Newark students as possible. Immediately prior to joining our staff, he served as the Managing Director, National Institute Operations for Teach For America, where he was responsible for overseeing all marketing, admissions, technology, human resources, and finance projects related to corps member training. While at Teach For America, he helped to launch two inaugural training sites before then driving operations for the then six summer institutes. Ambriz holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles, and originally hails from California. He hopes to someday invent a machine that will transport LA weather to the East Coast.

Cynthia Leger

Associate Chief Operating Officer, Uncommon Camden/Newark Elementary Schools

Cynthia Leger joined Uncommon Schools in August 2010 as an Operational Fellow at North Star Academy. She went on to serve as the founding Director of Operations of North Star Academy Fairmount Elementary, leading the operational aspects of the school until June 2014. Ms. Leger is currently the Associate Chief Operating Officer, working with Uncommon elementary schools in Newark and Camden. Prior to Uncommon Schools, Ms. Leger worked as a Research Associate for the organization ReLearning Curve, where she designed and managed studies related to the integration of technology into instruction. Ms. Leger’s previous work experience also includes researching education programs for Scholastic Inc. and UNICEF-India. Additionally, Ms. Leger worked for five years writing and editing educational materials in Philadelphia, PA and Hong Kong, China. She received her B.A. from Swarthmore College in 2003 and her M.P.A from NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service in 2010.

Natalie Cooper

Principal, Camden Prep Elementary School

A former Teach for America Corps member, Ms. Cooper began her career in Harlem, NY where she led students of the Harlem Day Charter School to achieve 1.8 years of reading growth in one school year. Her ability to create strong relationships with parents, analyze student data, and create plans for success led her to become the 1st grade lead teacher, then the 4th grade lead teacher of the Harlem school. Ms. Cooper joined Democracy Prep in Harlem, where her ability to lead teachers, while continuing to show strong results in the classroom led her to become the Lower Academy Specialist. Most recently, Ms. Cooper was the founding Instructional Leader of Democracy Prep's Harlem Elementary Charter School. In this role, she led 15 staff members toward trimester and annual goals in academics and culture. Ms. Cooper received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania, and her Master of Education from TeacherU, the RELAY Graduate School of Education in New York, NY.

Laura Boyce

Principal, Camden Prep Middle School

Ms. Boyce is the founding principal of Camden Prep Middle School, and joined Uncommon Schools in 2015 as an Instructional Fellow at Camden Prep. Prior to joining Uncommon, she was a turnaround principal for Camden City Public Schools for two years. She began her career as an educator in 2007, teaching English and History in the School District of Philadelphia. She became her school’s 9th Grade Academy Coordinator and Team Leader, was a member of the school leadership team, and chaired the school’s Teaching & Learning Committee. Ms. Boyce also spent the summer of 2011 as an Institute Learning Leader at Teach for America’s Summer Institute, leading social studies professional development workshops for 50 Teach for America Corps Members. Ms. Boyce received her B.A. from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, a Master of Science in Education Policy from the University of Pennsylvania, and her Principal Certification from Temple University. She also participated in the Relay Graduate School of Education’s National Principals Academy Fellowship.