We believe in the power of conversation to change a life and change the world.

Our mission & values

Our mission is to teach and celebrate the deeply human skills that go into great conversation.

We are a purpose-driven, sustainability-focused business built on five core values – integrity, diversity, generosity, ingenuity and reflection – which we strive to embody in all that we do. Learn more about our why here.

Our Team

R.E.A.L.® is a team of passionate professionals (and unabashed nerds), most of whom are former teachers and “school people” with a personal stake in our mission.

Cotter Donnell

Partnerships Director

Cotter helps to spread the word about R.E.A.L. by forming partnerships with schools, school leaders, and teachers. He loves designing mission-aligned strategies for making the classroom experience more vibrant, engaging, and equitable.

Cotter has worked in independent day and boarding schools across the country and overseas for over twenty years. He has served as a teacher, department chair, academic dean, and associate head of school.

Cotter holds degrees from Boston College, the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College, and the Klingenstein Center at Teachers College, Columbia University. He lives with his family in Jackson Hole.

Image of Molly Donovan

Communications, Press, Social Media, Blog

Molly Donovan

Communications Director

Molly tells the story of R.E.A.L.® Discussion to the world, weaving together student, teacher, and researcher voices with sound strategy to engage and delight our audiences. 

Molly joined the R.E.A.L.® team after leading Communications at Carney Sandoe, the independent school teacher placement agency. As the founder of Molly Donovan Content & Communications, she has worked to develop messaging strategies for companies across industries, and she is always fueled by the creative challenge of bringing a brand’s story to life.

Molly holds a B.A. from Harvard in English. She lives in Boston with her husband and young daughter.

School Partnerships, Media + Speaking Inquiries

Liza Garonzik

Founder + CEO

Liza leads the team at R.E.A.L.® to serve school partners across the US and around the world. She’s been on this mission to teach and celebrate “human  skills” in a tech-centric world for over a decade – since she first built R.E.A.L.® to solve for challenges she faced as a teacher and administrator.

Liza is an award-winning speaker and widely-published writer who brings equal parts research, reflection, and laughter to every audience.

Liza holds a B.A. from Harvard College and M.S. from Penn GSE, with further graduate work at Harvard GSE and Klingenstein Center. Liza serves on the Boards of Nashoba Brooks School and Shady Hill Teacher Training Center. She is based in Atlanta, where she lives with her husband, dog, bees, and chickens. 

Contact Liza here: liza@realdiscussion.org

Teacher Coaching, Product Support, All Things Data

Emily Gromoll

Director of Program

Emily oversees the R.E.A.L.® Discussion Program, directing Faculty PD including the certification experience, impact reporting, coaching, and community events. Her favorite part? Discussing discussion with educators! 

Emily joined R.E.A.L.® from Eskolta School Research and Design, where developed expertise in adult learning. She coached teachers throughout NYC to design student engagement strategies and partnered with districts to create professional learning networks. Prior to Eskolta, she served as a History Department Chair and Teacher at an independent school. 

Emily holds a BA from Columbia University in History and Masters in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership from Stanford University. She lives in Hopewell, New Jersey with her family – and thirty chickens!

Intern Program Inquiries

Rose Kiefer

Intern Program Director

Rose directs the Intern Program at R.E.A.L.® Discussion, a competitive program offering ambitious undergraduate girls year-round opportunities to develop versatile professional skills and connect with a community beyond their campus. 

Rose joined R.E.A.L.® because she believes in the mission, and as a full-time student and Gen-Zer, she understands the value – and challenge! – of good discussion. Before directing the Intern Program, Rose served in operations and partner success roles. 

Rose is a senior at Boston College, where she studies English and Accounting for Consulting.

Intern Program Inquiries

Katie Trethewy

UK + International Partnerships Lead

Katie works with UK and International Schools to design and implement custom programs to train and support educators in R.E.A.L.®: a research-backed method for explicitly teaching and equitably assessing oracy and discussion skills. 

Katie comes to R.E.A.L.® with a  wealth of experience in education in both the UK and Asia. She has served as a classroom teacher, subject leader, year group leader, and senior leadership team member, as well as an independent consultant. Her very first project with R.E.A.L.® was its alignment to the IB and GCSE, so she quite literally knows the curriculum and its integration paths inside-out!

Katie has a PGCE from the University of Wales as well as a BA (Hons) degree from Cardiff University. She currently lives in the UK having relocated back from Hong Kong last year.

Contracts, Payments, Tech Issues

Oohaa Vennapusa

Operations Lead

Oohaa is the systems brain at R.E.A.L.®, facilitating technological gymnastics to ensure i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed for every partner.

Oohaa joined R.E.A.L.® from Deloitte, where she served as a strategy and analytics business analyst. Her motivation to join R.E.A.L.® was crystal clear: “I just wish my teachers had had this tool when I was in school!” 

Oohaa holds a BA from University of Georgia in Biochemistry and a M.S. in Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University. She lives in Atlanta, where she enjoys serving as a youth mentor and playing racquetball.

2022 Annual Report

Check out our 2022 Annual report to learn more about our trajectory and how R.E.A.L.® has helped visionary schools across the country ensure that all students feel heard and challenged in class discussion. The punchline? We are grateful for our partners’ pioneering spirit – and excited for what’s ahead.