Speak Agent, Inc. was born out of our frustration as educators, English Language Learners (ELLs), and children’s technology creators with the lack of customizable tools and classroom supports for teaching academic language.

Our mission is to bridge the achievement gap for underserved students, especially ELLs and students with low socioeconomic status, by promoting equity in education and expectations from a young age. Consider these facts:

  • A lack of academic language is the leading cause of the 4th grade reading slump.
  • “Book words” known at kindergarten are the #1 predictor of academic success.
  • By age 3, IQ is related more to the number of words heard than to any other factor.

Our technology and services empower educators to accelerate growth of academic language, assess students in realtime, and to deliver targeted intervention in any content area. Now meet the people who make this happen each and every day...

Speak Agents

Ben Grimley

Ben Grimley, CEO

Ben is a former ESL teacher with a long track record of building effective language learning apps. He founded PBS KIDS' gaming/mobile unit and led it for over 6 years. In 2008, he launched PBS KIDS PLAY, a cross-curricular, game-based program that showed statistically significant gains in literacy and language development. In 2009, he launched PBS KIDS Mobile and published the #1 app on iPad, #1 on Amazon Appstore, and #1 Educational Game on iOS. His apps produced strong vocabulary gains, improving by up to 31% within a two-week period. Grimley also directed development of the interactive component of the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment used state-wide in Maryland and Ohio. He has served as Principal Investigator for US Dept. of ED, DARPA and NSF R/R&D. Grimley holds a BA in Chinese/Intl Studies from Grinnell College and a MBA, Johns Hopkins University.
Katie Cunningham

Katie Cunningham, CTO

Katie is a leading expert in the Python programming language. She has written three books and a video series for learning Python, published by Pearson and O’Reilly, has presented at key software development conferences, including PyCon, DjangoCon, jQuery and Plone, and is a leader of the Washington DC chapter of PyLadies, an organization dedicated to training women in Python. She has also led linguistic R&D for National Science Foundation and US Department of Education projects. Prior to joining Speak Agent, Katie spent nine years at Cox Media Group and NASA, where she served as technical lead.

Dan LaFountain

Dan LaFountain, MEd, Chief Education officer

Dan is a former STEM and ELL teacher with 22 years in education technology, curriculum development, and partnership building at LEGO Education, Teaching Strategies, Children's Creative Learning CentersKaplan, and Blackboard. He was integral to the launch of LEGO Mindstorms and the LEGO Education brand. Dan holds an MEd in Elementary Education from Boston University and an MA in Education Technology from Pepperdine University.

Michael Huckaby

Michael Huckaby, MEd, VP, Education Partnerships

Michael has made a 20-year career in ESL. He taught ESL for 5 years at Fairfax County Public Schools, one of the largest ELL districts in the country. He then spent 15 years working with ESL products at Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Cambridge University Press, Houghton Mifflin, and National Geographic. Unable to stay wholly out of the classroom, in 2012 Michael joined Prince George’s Community College as Adjunct Professor for Academic ESL. He holds a MEd from George Washington University.

Cate Watson

Cate Watson, Production Manager

Cate oversees game and software production at Speak Agent, Inc. She has spent the past 15 years managing game development and deployments. These include online game services for Yahoo!, Comcast, Verizon, and other clients; the Johns Hopkins University Virtual Performance Assessment, and PBS KIDS PLAY. Previously, she was Product Manager at AT&T and PSINet. Cate holds a BS in Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering from Penn State.

Chris Raymond

Chris Raymond, PhD, Senior UX Designer

Chris has 20 years of experience in web and print visual design and information architecture, including 8 years at George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media, where she led design of websites targeted to classroom teachers. Her design work has won multiple awards, from the DC Art Directors’ Club, Creative Network, the Society for Technical Communications, and others. As a journalist, Chris wrote about science and technology for both professional audiences and the general public, and she brings a storyteller’s sensibility to content strategy and development for the web.

Julie Grimley

Julie Grimley, Editor

Julie curates Speak Agent's linguistic content and media resources. She previously served as English and GED teacher at Des Moines Community College, PreK art teacher at JCC-GW, writer for the Des Moines Register and the New York Times (Education section), and as copy editor for China Daily. She also wrote for clients such as Blue Cross Blue Shield and the National Institutes of Health Office of Education. Julie holds a BA in Global Studies and an MA in Journalism & Mass Communication from the University of Iowa.

Fernando Delgado

Fernando Delgado, Web Application Developer

Fernando is a bilingual, full-stack developer who loves to share his skills: He taught Python, Java, PHP, and MySQL for three years at Colegio San José and is also a Professor of Web Development at Seattle University. Fernando develops Speak Agent’s learning games in AngularJS. He also likes to wear cool shades.

Jorge Perez

Jorge Perez, Web Application Developer

Jorge is an award-winning, bilingual front-end web app developer with 6 years of experience, including work for the US Census Bureau. Jorge holds a BS in Computer Science from the University of Puerto Rico.

Luis Perez

Luis Perez, Web Application Developer

Luis is an award-winning Python developer who has a keen rivalry with his brother Jorge for writing the best software code at Speak Agent. Like his brother, Luis also holds a BS in Computer Science from the University of Puerto Rico.

Lora Lee

Lora Lee, Multimedia Artist and Illustrator

Lora is an accomplished artist who illustrates and animates everything from the Speak Agent word symbols to game elements and characters. In her spare time, she serves as Assistant Professor of Digital Illustration at Eastern Connecticut State University. Lora holds an MFA in Illustration from the University of Hartford and a BA in Animation from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts.

Advisors

Mike Fulkerson, PhD

Mike is CTO of Capital One Labs. Previously, he served as Senior Vice President (SVP) and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Rosetta Stone, which he helped grow from $20 million in revenue to over $250 million and a successful IPO in 2009. He led a team of 180 people with a $25 million a year budget. Mike has multiple degrees in computer science; he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Villanova University and his doctorate from Duke University.

Jo Anne Kleifgen, PhD

Jo Anne is Professor Emerita of Linguistics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, where she co-directed the Center for Multiple Languages and Literacies. She has 28 years of university teaching experience in linguistics, bilingualism, ESL, discourse analysis, and new media for language and literacy. Jo Anne has authored or co-authored three books on language and literacy in education and is also widely published in linguistic and educational journals as well as book chapters. She has served as president of the International Linguistic Association, serves on a number of editorial boards, and has been a visiting scholar at universities in China and the US. Jo Anne holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Illinois.

Paul Levine, JD

Paul is President of PlayScience, a global strategy, research and interactive media product group. He served five years as Executive Vice President of the Interactive Platforms Group at National Geographic, where he launched its mobile business, developed and launched over 100 award-winning interactive products, and generated a 2,000 percent growth in new revenue and strategic growth opportunities. A seasoned executive, Levine has also served as SVP for Corporate Development and General Counsel for Ruckus Network, and Executive Director for AOL’s Mobile and Web Properties group. Paul holds a JD in Intellectual Property from George Washington University Law School and a BS in Electrical Engineering from Union College.

Rob Lippincott, MEd

Rob has a 30-year track record leading learning innovation. As SVP of PBS Education, he launched PBS Learning Media. As SVP, Discovery Education, he expanded its digital video products for both home and school markets, reaching two-thirds of US classrooms. As CEO of Children’s Progress, he closed a fully-subscribed capital round. As VP of Family Education Network, he closed on several acquisitions facilitating its sale to Pearson where he then served as SVP and General Manager. Rob also served as Chairman of the Interactive Multimedia Association and as faculty at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. He holds a BA in English and French from Swarthmore College and an MEd in Educational Technology from Harvard University.