Speak Agent Team Photo

Our Story

We are a diverse team of educators who believe that the language of content — the specialized language used in math, science and in STEM careers — is the key to unlocking opportunities for historically marginalized learners. Language either keeps people marginalized — or lifts them up. It impacts academics. It affects careers. By learning the language of content your students can unlock their full potential!

We don't just believe this. We have evidence of the link between language and academic success in large-scale research. Historically marginalized learners using our language program not only improved their English language proficiency, but those same students increased their mathematics scores by twice as much. Yes, you read that right: Our language program had double the impact on math outcomes as compared to language outcomes.

How is that possible? It's possible because there's a learning gap. Many math and science teachers feel that they lack the tools, expertise, and/or the time to teach a language component — even though they intuitively know that language is embedded everywhere in STEM. Our team mission is to bridge that gap by providing our uniquely effective, award-winning Content+Language℠ programs to K-12 public schools across the U.S.A.

An Independent Company

Speak Agent, Inc. is owned and operated by its founders and employees.  This has three important implications for our district partners:

  1. There is no parent company, no hedge fund, and no venture capitalists demanding a return on investment. This frees us to focus on our educational mission and to reinvest every dollar to improve the quality of our services.
  2. Without the financial pressure from short-term investors, we are more fiscally conservative than many startups. We hire when we can afford to hire. We invest in products and platform features that our partners need, rather than in speculative technologies. And we keep all of our operations, data, and staff 100% based in the U.S.A.
  3. Most importantly, since the company is solely funded by school district partners who purchase our products and services, our team is not beholden to anyone but you. We are accountable only to your school board, staff, teachers, learners, and families.

 Speak Agents 

Katie Cunningham

Katie Cunningham, Chief Technology Officer & Co-founder

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.


Ben Grimley, CEO & Co-founder

Ben is CEO and Co-Founder of Speak Agent, Inc. An ESL teacher who became a leading educational app creator, Ben led the launch of PBS KIDS Mobile, where his apps resulted in significant gains in language acquisition for millions of young learners. He co-created Speak Agent to address the achievement gap for marginalized learners, pioneering a unique Content+Language integration approach based on current Learning Sciences research. Ben has served as Principal Investigator for impact studies sponsored by IES, NSF, and NIH.


Charles Askew, Vice President of Sales

Charles brings 30 years of experience in education and sales leadership. As a lifelong educator—from teacher to Principal to District Administrator—Charles committed his career to teaching students of all abilities and to championing the needs of diverse and underserved learners. After service as a public educator, he entered the private sector as a Special Education Advocate and helped families and students navigate the special education process in MD, VA, DC and NY. Before joining the Speak Agent, Charles managed K-12 sales at Gale in Maryland and Delaware. At Gale, Charles led a successful effort to develop and disseminate diversity & equity content. Prior to Gale, he was Director of Inside Sales and Account Management for Kajeet, where he directed account growth and retention. Charles holds a BS from the University of Maryland.


Divya Shannon, MEd, Director, partner success

Divya is a dedicated STEM educator with 11 years of experience teaching all levels of high school math, biology, physics and chemistry. She has extensive experience building curriculum based on CCSS and the TEKS, promoting equity and differentiation in secondary math and science classes, and facilitating professional development for other educators to do the same. Divya holds a BS in Biology from the University of Texas at Austin, an MEd from Texas State, and an MA in Organizational Management from Endicott College. 


Brian Camus, MEd, STEM content developer

Brian is a secondary STEM educator with over 11 years experience teaching biology and chemistry. He has both written and implemented inquiry-based curriculum that aligns with NGSS and AP standards. Outside the world of education, Brian enjoys spending time with his kids, playing board games, and has recently taken up curling. Brian holds a BS in Biochemistry from the University of Notre Dame and an MS in Secondary Education from Indiana University.

Dan LaFountain

Dan LaFountain, MEd, Chief LEARNING officer & CO-FOUNDER

Dan is a 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, MEd, educational consultant

Michael is an English as a Second Language teacher with 15 years delivering and supporting ELL products at Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin, and Cambridge. He has served as Adjunct Language Studies Professor at Prince George's Community College's ESL Program since 2012. Michael holds an MEd from George Washington University as an ESL Language Instructor and a BA in Business Management from Tennessee State.

Jorge Perez

Jorge Perez, Frontend 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, Backend 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.

Leah Claflin Headshot

Leah Claflin, Marketing Manager

Leah Claflin is an experienced EdTech marketing and communications professional with a passion for accelerating learning and serving K-12 educator communities. She has worked as a marketing consultant in her home state of Minnesota, where she lives with her husband Charlie and Cat, Lucy. Leah loves spending time outdoors, reading, writing, and landscape photography. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Massachusetts, and was a finalist for the 2020 "Boston in 100 words" competition.

Julie Grimley

Julie Grimley, Content Editor

Julie curates Speak Agent's linguistic content and media resources. She previously served as an English and GED teacher at Des Moines Area Community College, PreK teacher at the JCCGW, writer for the Des Moines Register and the New York Times Education section. She also wrote for clients such as 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.

Lora Lee

Lora Lee, Multimedia Artist & 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.