A native of rural North Carolina and a product of public education in four states, Dave Shepard brings experience, common sense, and practicality to any educational gathering. He has dealt with middle and high school students for all of his 40 years in education. His experience includes teaching, coaching, curriculum and program design, and administration. Since his retirement in 1999, he has devoted his time and energy to helping schools become more efficient and effective for all teachers and students.
Dave currently manages his own educational consulting firm, "The Middle Matters and More," in Lexington, Kentucky. He works actively with SREB, AMLE, KMSA, and many state departments of education.
Known primarily as a practitioner, he has presented at more than 40 state and national conferences. He has assisted school districts in 47 states and two foreign countries in developing and refining their educational programs by providing quality professional development and teacher in-services.
Dave has been recognized as Coach of The Year, Principal of The Year and most recently received his highest honor, The President's Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Kentucky Middle School Association.
He has authored or co-authored articles for the NAESP web page, NASSP's Principal Leadership publication, The Committee for Children, and the Virginia Journal of Education. He most recently co-authored a book with Sherrel Bergmann and Judy Brough for Eye on Education publishers about improving parental support in schools.
The programs Dave delivers are characterized by a high-energy format, a simple yet practical style, a down to earth sense of humor, and an easy-going manner. These elements make the programs both informative and digestible.
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David Sanders is a passionate educator known for his wit and engaging strategies. Teachers love his ability to connect and provide great ideas that are motivational. David has presented internationally and nationally for schools, school systems, and universities, and at numerous conferences as a keynote speaker, presenter, and consultant.
His works have been published by AMLE/NMSA, Middle Matters, Education Digest, and Incentive Publications. He has been a social studies, reading, language arts, and gifted and talented teacher in 6th through 12th grade, as well as a coach. In addition, he has served as a director of professional development, chief academic officer, and an educational consultant. For the State Department of Education, David has also been a leadership facilitator and a director with Needs Improvement Schools.
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Juan Rodriguez from Framingham, Massachusetts had been a Principal of elementary and Middle schools in urban and suburban schools for 27 years. He has served as a member of AMLE's Leadership Institute Faculty since 2006. Juan was the Massachusetts Middle School Principal of the Year in 2005. His middle school had been designated a Spotlight School, a Compass School and the top performing middle school for ELL learners. Juan completed the National Institute of School Leadership program (NISL) and has been a mentor of principals. He has presented at national and state conferences on ELLs, Leadership, School Safety and middle level organization.
Juan was the Coordinator of the Post Baccalaureate Teacher Licensure program at Framingham State University. He has been a member of the Massachusetts Secondary Schools Administrators Association Middle Level Committee and the Education Professional Standards Committee at FSU. Juan was recognized as a distinguished alumni and is currently serving as the Vice President of Framingham State's Alumni Board of Directors.
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Santo Pino has spent a major part of his career working with schools and districts concerning how they implement the middle school model. His work as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, principal, director of middle and high school programs, district trainer for principals, and various executive roles with AMLE makes Santo adept at helping with middle level school improvement. He has done tremendous work with AMLE's School Improvement Assessment and staff development focused on the results of the assessment. He has worked with district and building level administrators around the nation to improve their middle school models from the ground up. He has presented on middle level topics at state, national, and international conferences, including workshops for the Department of Defense Middle Schools in Italy, Germany, and Turkey. He was one of the original faculty members for the AMLE Leadership Institute from 2001 to 2011.
Listen to a podcast interview of Santo Pino:
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Dr. Howard Ormond provides outstanding services to schools, school divisions, administrators, students, and parents about the effect of a positive learning environment and the role they play in making school a success for all students. He provides motivational insight about the importance of positive attitudes, behaviors, and communication with each other to help middle level teachers and staff grow so they can help students.
He is currently involved with the Effective School-wide Discipline Program in the state of Virginia and serves as a coach to administrators in the state. He has been a keynote and featured speaker at many conferences.
Listen to a podcast interview of Howard Ormond:
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Linda Hopping is the state director of the Georgia Schools to Watch Program, the chair of the National Forum's Schools to Watch program, lead trainer for the National Forum Early Warning Indicator project, and a school coach in California. She is a former middle grades teacher, assistant principal, principal, and middle grades staff development coordinator in Georgia. While principal at Crabapple Middle School, she established two multiage teams that were highly successful. Ms. Hopping has served on the board of trustees of AMLE as well as on the AMLE Foundation Board. She also has served as president and executive director of the Georgia Middle School Association. She is one of two authors and a lead consultant for the AMLE School Improvement Assessment. She has presented at state and national conferences and has worked as an educational trainer, lecturer, and consultant.
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Gail Heinemeyer has worked for the Ridley School District in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania since 1972. She has been a classroom teacher, team leader, coach, assistant principal and principal of Ridley Middle School for 17 years. Currently she serves as Director of Support Services, with a variety of responsibilities including overseeing new teacher induction, gifted education, ESL services, counselors, nurses, and the student assistance program. Gail is also responsible for state reporting, child accounting, residency and enrollment. She also maintains the district website and cable TV system. Gail was a long time member of the Pennsylvania Middle Level Association State Board, serving two terms as president. Gail has presented at the state and national level and has been on the AMLE Institutes for Middle Level Leadership Faculty since 2004.
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Dr. Cedrick Gray is formerly the proud lead teacher of the Jackson Public School District. He was appointed superintendent by the Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees in 2012. He is widely praised for leadership and guidance that have revived the District and given it a new focus. He’s known for an innovative and effective strategic direction process: "Wearing WIGs (Wildly Important Goals), having FITs (Focused Instructional Teams), and saying ABCs (Attendance, Behavior, Coursework)," which applies a research-based focus to school improvement and student achievement. Since being appointed superintendent by the Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees in 2012, Dr. Gray has been acclaimed as an innovator, motivator, risk taker, outside-of-the-box thinker, and true educational visionary. His recent achievements include the following:
- Superintendent of the Year, National Association of School Superintendents, 2016
- Superintendent of the Year, National Alliance of Black School Educators, 2015
- Educator of the Year, Young Gifted and Empowered Awards, Savvy Life Magazine, 2016
- Outstanding Administrator Advocate, Mississippi Association of Gifted Children, 2015
Dr. Gray's career has been guided by his vision to embody breakthrough leadership by inspiring others to see the leader in themselves. He previously served as the superintendent of Fayette County Public Schools in Fayette County, Tennessee. Prior to becoming a superintendent, Dr. Gray was principal of Craigmont Middle School and Lester Pre-K-8 School, both in Memphis, Tennessee. Currently, he is the Director of Aspiring Principals for New Leaders – Southeast Region. Dr. Gray and his wife, Karen, are the proud parents of their daughter, Peyton.
Listen to a podcast interview of Cedrick Gray:
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Dr. Bobb Darnell is president of Achievement Strategies, Inc. and an advocate for high student achievement and daily professional growth. He served as director of staff support for more than 1,700 staff members in a northwest Illinois school district and taught for more than 25 years. Bobb has served on the board of trustees for the National and Illinois Staff Development Councils, Illinois International Branch of the Dyslexia Association, and has been a member of numerous national and state task forces and committees. He is the author of ASCD's 2002 action tool kit—A Guide for Instructional Leaders, and has written four staff development guides for Wavelength's award winning educational comedy videos. Bobb's work on the 21st Century Instructional Leader is featured in ASCD's 2010 PD Quick Kits.
Dr. Darnell is an internationally known speaker who has delivered keynote presentations and conducted workshops for educators at all grade levels. Bobb's high-energy workshops are filled with "edutainment" and practical ideas about Common Core State Standards, formative assessment, data-driven instruction, literacy improvement, and intervention strategies. He helps administrators and teacher leaders fine-tune their knowledge and skills for leading school improvement initiatives. Teachers and administrators can easily sense his enthusiasm for continuous improvement, job satisfaction, and lifelong learning. He is truly committed to helping teachers build high performance classrooms and develop responsible and self-directed students.
Listen to a podcast interview of Bobb Darnell:
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Dr. Neila A. Connors is presently the founder and president of N.A.C. (Networking And Client), CONNECTIONS INC., a corporation dedicated to the implementation of positive attitudes and actions in people. Her primary focus is to coach people on how to "build their own bridge for a successful life." Her philosophy is based on Napoleon Hill's quote: "if you can conceive it and believe it—YOU can ACHIEVE IT." Throughout her career, Neila has had the privilege of working with students in grades K–12. She has been an elementary teacher, a middle school teacher, and an administrator. She currently is an adjunct professor at Florida State University teaching a doctoral course on Leadership and Technology.
Previously, Neila worked at the Florida Department of Education, responsible for coordinating the development of the middle and high school state curriculum frameworks, working with middle and high school teachers and administrators throughout the state. She also was the Director of Middle Grades and later was responsible for the state International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement programs. She also served as a tenured professor in the Department of Middle Grades Education at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia and helped begin the first "unique" Department of Middle Grades in the country.
Neila has presented to public and private school educators, school boards, superintendents, state and national organizations, parents, counselors, international school educators, and corporations in the 50 states, Canada, and Europe. For more than 20 years she has also worked with business partnerships. Her first was with Champion Paper Company assisting more than 50 junior high schools in their transition to effective performance-based middle schools. For the last 10 years Neila has worked with Educational Partnership Incorporated (EPI) and Union Pacific Railroad as a personal consultant to more than 350 high school principals in 21 states. She has worked with fortune 500 companies (Champion Paper, International Paper, Kellogg’s, Union Pacific Railroad).
Neila has helped middle schools become greater!
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