Founder / Executive Director
Dena Simmons, Ed.D., is a lifelong activist, educator, and student of life. A native of the Bronx, New York, Dena grew up in a one-bedroom apartment with her two sisters and immigrant mother. There, Dena learned and lived the violence of injustice and inequity and decided to dedicate her life to educating and empowering others.
Before founding LiberatED, which centers radical love, healing, and racial justice in social & emotional learning and education, Dena was the assistant director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, where she worked with schools to use the power of emotions to create a more just and compassionate society. Along with leading LiberatED, Dena is an inaugural scholar-in-residence at the Institute for Racial Justice at Loyola University of Chicago.
Prior to her work at the Center, Dena served as an educator, teacher educator, diversity facilitator, and curriculum developer. She has been a leading voice on teacher education and has written and spoken across the country about social justice pedagogy, diversity, education reform, and bullying in K-12 school settings, including two TEDx talks and a TED talk on Broadway. Dena has been profiled in the AOL/PBS project, MAKERS: Women Who Make America, and a Beacon Press Book, Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists.
Dena is a recipient of a Harry S. Truman Scholarship, a J. William Fulbright Fellowship, an Education Pioneers Fellowship, a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship, a Phillips Exeter Academy Dissertation Fellowship, a Pahara NextGen Fellowship, and an Arthur Vining Davis Aspen Fellowship among others. She has her doctorate degree from Teachers College, Columbia University. Dena’s research interests include teacher preparedness to address bullying in the K-12 school setting and social and emotional learning (SEL) interventions—all in an effort to ensure and foster justice and safe spaces for all. She is the author of the forthcoming book, White Rules for Black People.