One of the first Nationally Board Certified teachers in America, Rick brings innovation, energy, validity, and high standards to his presentations and his instructional practice, which includes 30 years teaching math, science, English, physical education, health, and history, and coaching teachers. Rick's work has been reported in numerous media, including ABC's Good Morning America, Hardball with Chris Matthews, National Geographic, and Good Housekeeping magazines, What Matters Most: Teaching for the 21st Century, and The Washington Post.
With his substantive presentations, sense of humor, and unconventional approaches, he's been asked to present to teachers and administrators in all 50 states, Canada, China, Europe, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Australia, the Middle East, and at the White House. He is a seasoned veteran of many webcasts, and he is Disney's American Teacher Awards 1996 Outstanding English Teacher of the Nation. He won the 2008 James P. Garvin award from the New England League of Middle Schools for Teaching Excellence, Service, and Leadership, and he has been a consultant for National Public Radio, USA Today, Court TV, and the Smithsonian Institution's Natural Partners Program and their search for the Giant Squid.
He lives in Herndon, Virginia with his wife and two children, one in high school, one in college, where he is currently working on his first young adult fiction novel.
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Christine H. Toth joined the Academy of the Sacred Heart as the Middle School Dean of Students in August 2015. The Academy of the Sacred Heart is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for girls offering education and instructional services from pre-k through grade 12. Little Hearts, the Early Learning Program for ages 1 through 3 year-old girls, is also a division of the school.
Christine holds a master’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi in Education and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, with a Public Relations emphasis, from Loyola University New Orleans. Prior to joining Sacred Heart, Christine served as the Director of Student Programs at Tulane University where she had oversight and accountability for over 200 student organizations, student government, leadership programs, student media, and major campus programming. Prior to that, she was at the University of West Florida for eight years. Having worked in Student Affairs for over 11 years, she learned the importance of working with others, relationship building, and defining her leadership style. She believes that one of the most important functions of a Dean of Students is to build and maintain relationships with your constituents: students, administration, faculty, parents, and the community. She strives to inspire colleagues, peers, and the students she serves to realize their full potential.
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Dr. Denver J. Fowler is currently the chair of the EdD program and professor of PK-12 Educational Leadership at Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio. Prior to his appointment at Franklin University, he served as a program coordinator and assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS). In addition to this role, Dr. Fowler served as an elected senator on the faculty senate at CSUS. Dr. Fowler is starting his eleventh year in higher education (six years part-time and four years full-time). Prior to his appointment at CSUS, Dr. Fowler served as an assistant professor of educational leadership at The University of Mississippi (UM) where he taught within the PhD, EdD, EdS, Master of Education, and Principal Corps programs as well as served on several dissertation committees. In addition, he served as the elected president of the Mississippi Association of Professors of Educational Leadership (2015-2017), a state affiliate of the International Council of Professors of Educational Leadership. Prior to his appointment at UM, Dr. Fowler served as an adjunct faculty member for more than six years at The Ohio State University, Bowling Green State University, and University of West Florida, where he was responsible for teaching courses (online, hybrid, and face-to-face) in educational leadership, educational technology, and teacher education, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. In addition to his experience in the higher education setting, Dr. Fowler served as a coach, teacher, athletic director, technology coordinator, and school administrator for more than a decade in the PreK-12 educational setting in both the private and public school sectors in the state of Ohio. During this tenure, he was named the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators (OASSA) and National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) State Assistant Principal of the Year in the State of Ohio and was nominated for the NASSP National Assistant Principal of the Year in the United States. A strong supporter of education and policy reform, Dr. Fowler has spoken on Capitol Hill to advocate for educators and school leaders nationwide. He is the author of numerous books and other publications on educational leadership. His research interests include ethics, leadership, educational leadership, and research on the superintendency and principalship. Dr. Fowler has presented his research and served as a keynote speaker both nationally and internationally, including presentations in China, Italy, Greece, Cuba, Africa, Turkey, England, Japan, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Dr. Fowler received his Doctor of Education in Educational Administration from Ohio University, Master of Arts in Education from Mount Vernon Nazarene University, and Bachelor of Science in Education from The Ohio State University. In addition to his degrees, Dr. Fowler completed a School Leadership Institute at Harvard University. Dr. Fowler is a licensed superintendent, principal, teacher, and holds a private school administrative and teaching license.
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Pam Millikan served on the AMLE Board of Trustees and is a past president of the AMLE Board. She is proud to have taught language arts, served as an assistant principal and as principal in the same middle school for more than 25 years. She is a past Indiana Principal of the Year and an AMLE Distinguished Educator. She has worked with affiliates and schools throughout the association, and she is passionate to help educators create middle schools where all students can experience an exciting and meaningful school environment. She believes that the best results are achieved by working together and by willingly learning new strategies to achieve success.
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Mandy Stalets is an author, presenter, and Middle School math teacher at Thomas Metcalf Laboratory School in Normal, IL. In 2010, Mandy helped to introduce standards-based learning and grading to her K–8 school through a one-year trial in her classroom. The success of the trial led to a school wide initiative the following year and the elimination of letter grades three years later. Through her consulting work, Mandy has worked with teachers, undergraduate students, and school districts to improve assessment and grading practices to maximize communication and student success. She is passionate not only about healthy assessment and grading practices, but changing the culture of the classroom from one of compliance to one of rich learning.
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Known for his dynamic and motivating presentations, Mark McLeod is a rare speaker who can speak to the heart of an educator. He knows what it is like to "be in the trenches." Recognized as one of Mississippi's top school administrators, Mark has shared his expertise at state and national conferences and conducted many workshops and keynotes for schools and districts throughout North America.
As a lifelong educator, his educational experience includes teacher, coach, assistant principal, and principal. He was twice selected as Teacher of the Year for Lumberton Public School District. In 2002, he was selected as Covington County School District's Administrator of the Year and Mississippi's Region Four Administrator of the Year. He is currently a full-time motivational speaker, professional development instructor, and educational consultant.
His enthusiastic and encouraging presentations leave participants inspired to plant seeds of success. He currently resides in Purvis, Mississippi with his wife, Kelli, and a daughter, Erin.
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Marlena Gross-Taylor is the founder of #EduGladiators as well as a district EdLeader for Maury County Schools, Tennessee, with a proven track record of improving educational and operational performance through vision, strategic planning, leadership, and team building. A Nashville transplant originally from southern Louisiana, Marlena's educational experience spans several states allowing her to have served K-12 students in both rural and urban districts. She has been recognized as a middle school master teacher and innovative administrator at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Because of her sound knowledge of both elementary and secondary education, Marlena has broad-based experience creating and implementing dynamic interactive programs to attain district goals while leveraging her flexibility, resourcefulness, and organizational and interpersonal skills to foster learning through a positive, encouraging environment.
Marlena's professional development expertise has garnered both state and national attention. She has also leveraged her past experience in corporate management to include corporate training and leadership coaching in her repertoire of consulting services focused on culture, engagement, and increased productivity. Marlena is a seasoned presenter keynoting conferences and delivering dynamic professional development sessions.
As a proud Louisiana State University alumni, she is committed to excellence and believes all students can achieve. Follow Marlena on Twitter @mgrosstaylor or visit her websites marlenagrosstaylor.com & edugladiators.com.
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Making students who move from school to school feel welcome.
A Florida newspaper reporter asked me what life is like for the student who moves three or more times a year. So I gave him this scenario, and the conversation developed from there:
A Typical Scenario
You are a fifth grade student. Your mom wakes you up in the middle of the night and says, "Hurry up. We're going to move. Here's a trash bag. Put in what you want to take with you. My sister is here to get us."
Reporter: Why the middle of the night? Why a trash bag?
Most courts won't evict you until you are 90 days late with a rent payment. So you leave the night before you get evicted. The trash bag? It's you, your mother, three younger siblings, and your aunt—all getting into one car. There isn't much room, and trash bags are "squishable."
Reporter: What will the fifth grade boy take with him?
He will take his shoes or flip-flops, his jacket/hoodie, GameBoy and/or cell phone, the dog (if there is one), and maybe a stuffed animal.
Reporter: What will his mother take with her?
She will take paper records (if she can find them), the children, a few mementos (if there are any), and some clothes.
Reporter: What will be left behind?
Clothes, dishes/pans (if there are any), TV (can't fit it in the car and probably is a rent-to-own), any books or things from school (food is gone and DVDs are often pawned), furniture (often rent-to-own), cats/fish/hamsters/exotic pets (snakes, hedgehogs, lizards).
Reporter: What happens next?
You go to your aunt's house. It's 3 a.m. Your aunt has three children, so now there are nine people in the apartment. You lie down on the floor next to your 5-year-old cousin because there aren't enough mattresses. You cover your head with your hoodie. Your mother wakes you at 7 a.m. and tells you to get ready. You will go to your new school today.
Your clothes are damp because your cousin wet himself during the night, and some urine got on you. There isn't time for a shower; you barely get to use the bathroom. You go to your new school in the clothes you have on.
You aren't happy to go to your new school. You know it will take at least one fight to establish that you aren't a wimp. Is your teacher happy to see you? Well, you're the fourth new student she has added this week.
You just want to be left alone. You're tired, hungry, and miserable. You don't know where anything in the school is. And you think you will have to move again pretty soon because it won't be long before your mom and her sister get into a fight.
How Can Educators Help?
Educators can help highly mobile students transition into the school. Here are some ideas:
1. Have your PTO/PTA make "new student" folders that include:
Pad of paper.
Pencil and pen.
Layout of the school.
Coupon for free lunches for a couple of days.
A magnet that has the school name, address, phone number, school hours, principal's name, school webpage address, holidays and vacations, and days report cards come out.
A DVD that shows adults how to get into the building, where to sign in, what each wing of the building looks like, where the cafeteria and gym are, and where to park if they come to visit.
2. Make sure each new student has a student "ambassador" who helps the student find his or her way around the building and eats with that student every day for a week, making sure the newcomer feels included.
3. Assign an adult to talk to the new student for 3–5 minutes every day on a one-to-one basis. Make sure the student has a relationship with at least one adult in the school.
4. Ask the school counselor to call the parent or guardian after the first week (if possible) to talk about the child and discover whether additional support is needed.
Why would you do this if the student will probably move again in three months?
No responsible educator would, in effect, punish students for coming from an unstable, unpredictable environment by ignoring them and seeing them as a burden.
Research indicates that all learning is double-coded—both cognitively and emotionally—so educators should strive to make the school feel safe and welcoming. When students believe there is an adult who cares for them, that they are important enough to be given support, they are less likely to become "social isolates" who cause problems.
A principal of a high-poverty neighborhood school between Dallas and Fort Worth works so hard to create a welcoming, inclusive environment for her students that parents often come to her and say, "We have to move, but we want to stay in your school. How can we do that? My children are so happy here."
Gifts Without Rewards
A fifth grade teacher tells of a boy who came into her class mid-year. He had tattoos, body piercings, and wore multiple chains. The principal had begged her to take the student.
The teacher first built a relationship with him. She put sticky notes in his desk to let him know when he did something right. She helped him learn to read. She explained that he didn't need to be tough every minute he was in her class because he was safe there.
It finally became known that his dad was using him in neighborhood apartment "cock fights" as a human "cock." His dad was taking bets on him.
The boy left abruptly before the year was out, and the teacher ended up cleaning out his locker. She discovered that he had saved every sticky note she had written to him. I am certain this boy will never forget the teacher who cared about him.
Such are the gifts we can give without ever knowing the outcome.
Ruby K. Payne is an educator, author, and founder of aha! Process, Inc. She is the author of Achievement for All: Keys to Educating Middle Grades Students in Poverty
Published in AMLE Magazine
, February 2016.
Rick Herrig is a tireless advocate for quality educational practices. An educator for more than 33 years, Rick has served education as a teacher, principal, college adjunct instructor, and now as an educational consultant. His educational career includes both US and international experience. He has served as the Executive Director for the Iowa Association for Middle Level Education (IAMLE) and as North Region Trustee (2 terms) for the National Middle School Association and has spoken at numerous state, regional, provincial, and national conferences and forums. A certified national trainer with the Center for Teacher Effectiveness, he has led workshops and/or served as a school consultant in 14 US states, Canada, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). His message about the importance of helping each student reach academic success through the development of effective teaching practices has transformed schools.
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Dr. Vernita Mayfield is an internationally recognized speaker and consultant on research proven instructional and leadership practices, culturally responsive practices, and innovative school improvement. Prior to founding her consulting firm, Leadervation Learning, Vernita served as a classroom teacher, middle and high school principal, an executive director of schools and successfully managed school improvement grant programs in two state education agencies. While Vernita’s research and experience is grounded in increasing academic success for culturally and linguistically diverse students, she is equally adept in helping schools design innovative approaches for addressing the diverse needs of all students. As the former host of an internet radio program, Vernita interviewed trailblazing people and organizations on the forefront of innovation. The lessons learned from CEO’s of innovative organizations helped her design a research based framework of innovation for schools. Vernita brings a high level of energy, wit, and active participant engagement to her delivery of research proven strategies and has presented at numerous national and international conferences as a keynote and featured speaker.
Vernita holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, an Ed.S. in Educational Administration, and a MBA in Business Administration.
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