Meet Our Team

Project leaders

Ellen Bartling, Ph.D., managing director

Ellen served in the public schools of Wisconsin for 32 years before joining the Character Formation Project in 2013. Her experience as a classroom teacher, district level director of curriculum, assessment, instruction and staff development, elementary principal, high school principal, and district superintendent brings to the project a depth of practical knowledge about the way students learn and school climate and culture are created.

Throughout her career, Ellen collaborated with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the University of Wisconsin System, the Wisconsin Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and the Wisconsin Council for the Social Studies to increase educational experiences for students in global education, world languages, STEM, college and career preparation and character education.

Ellen earned her bachelor’s from UW-Platteville, her master’s from Marian University and her doctorate in urban education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

John Crabtree, Ph.D., national director of training and implementation

John facilitates the growth of the Character Formation Project by leading the training process for the schools and organizations participating in the Project.

John most recently served as the Executive Vice President for Crossroads Bible College in Indiana. He has also served as a professor at Bethel University in Minnesota and the Dean of Global Initiatives for California Baptist University.

John holds a bachelor of science in chemical engineering from the University of Louisville and a Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Rev. Matthew Hoehner, D.Min., project leader and co-founder

For the last five years, Matt has served as executive director of Open Sky Education’s St. Louis region. In this role, Matt is leading the development of a region of high performing EAGLE public charter schools and Compass Educational Programs in St. Louis.  Since 2013, four EAGLE schools have been established. Matt also advances the work of the Character Formation Project.

Matt has served in church leadership as a pastor for fourteen years. He graduated from Concordia University, River Forest in 1998.  He then went on to Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, where he received a Master of Divinity, a Master of Sacred Theology, and a Doctor of Ministry in Cross-Cultural Leadership. There he served as an adjunct instructor for nine years. He also served as an adjunct instructor with Concordia University Wisconsin in St. Louis.  In addition, Matt has served on national youth boards and urban leadership teams.

Andrew Neumann, Ph.D., project leader and co-founder

Andrew is an educational entrepreneur driven to ensure all children in America have access to excellent learning opportunities that maximize their potential to fulfill Greater Purpose and live flourishing lives. His passion is to contribute to building an educational ecosystem in America which will close global and national achievement gaps, build deeply held, internally driven character, and provide the option for faith formation to be an integral part of education for all who desire it regardless of a family’s income or zip code.

Andrew began his career as a teacher serving students at the high school and college levels while finishing his Ph.D. in educational mathematics. In 2006, he joined Open Sky Education (formerly Educational Enterprises) and serves as its Executive Chair/CEO. In this role, he supports the team to advance its mission, which includes the growth of its school networks (HOPE Christian Schools and EAGLE public charter schools), Christian wraparound programs (Compass Educational Programs), and the Character Formation Project.

In addition to his work at Open Sky Education, Andrew works to advance this mission for children by participating in a variety of speaking engagements as well as serving on the boards of mission-aligned organizations including School Choice Wisconsin, the Alliance for Choices in Education and the Institute for Missional Visioning.


Duncan McCrann, former advisor and co-founder

After years of business experience in private industry, Duncan developed a passion for urban education, character growth, and faith building. He has served as President and COO of KIPP Houston, Chief Administration Officer of Open Sky Education, and Principal of the Hyde Woodstock School. He was part of the founding team of the Character Formation Project and also is a founder of the Catholic School Renaissance Institute where he serves as CEO today.

Carlee Neumann, advisor

Dee Dee Emmer, advisor

Dee Dee currently serves as a homeschool parent advisor for the Christian Character Formation Project. She previously taught at Eagle Valley Elementary, a public school in Eagle, Colorado, and was a homeschool teacher, teaching grades K-12. At present, she is teaching second grade at Vail Christian Academy, a private school in Edwards, Colorado. Dee Dee has been a homeschool advisor for a mission organization and various missionaries, and she continues to educate and encourage families in homeschool procedures and curriculum. Dee Dee believes that teaching Christian character from an early age is of great value, and that it is the most important area of education because it impacts all areas of learning. Dee Dee earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Western State College, in Gunnison, Colorado.

Contributing Writers

The Character Formation Project’s robust content — including its appealing narratives and thoughtful lesson plans — are the result of hundreds of writers who have been trained to apply the unique character formation process to the vivid stories we’ve collected. Our writers group includes educators, parents and historians with diverse backgrounds and a firm grasp on the importance of character formation for individual lives and for society.