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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Erik M. Francis, M.Ed., M.S. is an author, educator, and speaker who specializes in teaching and learning that promotes cognitive rigor and postsecondary (college and career) readiness. He is the author of Now THAT'S a Good Question! How to Promote Cognitive Rigor Through Classroom Questioning (ASCD). He is also the owner of Maverik Education LLC, providing academic professional development and consultation to K-12 schools, colleges, and universities on how to develop rigorous teaching learning environments and deliver inquiry-driven educational experiences that engage and encourage students to demonstrate higher order thinking and communicate depth of knowledge.
Erik has been an educator for more than 20 years, working as a middle and high school teacher, a site administrator, and an education program specialist in the Title I Unit and Office of English Language Acquisition Service in the Arizona Department of Education. He received his Master in Education Leadership degree from Northern Arizona University and his Master of Science degree in Film and Television Production and Management from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Rhetoric and Communication and English from the University at Albany. Erik lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with his wife and two daughters.
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Dru Tomlin is the principal of Heritage Middle School in Westerville, Ohio and is proud and passionate to serve his students, staff, and families every day. Dru was formerly the director of middle level services for the Association for Middle Level Education, and in that role, demonstrated a commitment to educational improvement and a passion for teaching, learning, and middle school. He began his work in the middle grades as a young adolescent at Lynnhaven Junior High School in Virginia Beach, trying to fit in with other kids while also playing tuba in the marching and concert bands. In 1994, Dru began his formal career in education as an English teacher at Harrisonburg High School in Virginia and then, in 1998, he discovered the joys of middle school in Georgia as a language arts, reading, and social studies teacher and then as a school administrator. He has also been a school system staff development trainer and a faculty member for AMLE's Leadership Institute, believing firmly in the power of professional learning. For his work, Dru has been recognized as a school system Teacher of the Year and as Georgia's Middle School Assistant Principal of the Year. He holds a Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning and a M.S. in Educational Leadership from Georgia State University, a B.A. in English/Secondary Education from James Madison University, and a Certificate of Perfect Attendance from Lynnhaven Junior High School.
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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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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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Tara Brown is an award-winning educator, coach, author, and international speaker. She holds a Masters degree in Administration and Supervision and is a nationally certified personal trainer. Her professional journey has taken her from rural Florida to gang territory in California and to one of the largest high schools in Tennessee with over 40 countries represented. She worked extensively with under-resourced students from hard core gang members to hard core rednecks. Her international engagements have included Dubai and Beirut, training both educators and students. Tara received the Pioneer Award and ‘Teacher of the Year’ Award in 2006 for her work in developing a groundbreaking leadership development program in Nashville, TN. Known as the ‘Connection Coach’, Tara strongly believes that forming powerful connections between students and staff is a major key to academic success. She also is known for her ability to connect with educators on all levels with her humor, passion, and ability to ‘keep it real’ in trainings and keynotes. Tara is committed to providing cutting edge research-based presentations in a way that will inspire, engage, and educate. Whether your organization needs a long arm around their shoulder or a swift kick with her size 11s, she’ll make sure they enjoy the process, get the most out of it and leave ‘em wanting more.
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Mr. Tom Burton is currently the Associate Superintendent of Princeton City Schools located just North of Cincinnati. Tom has been in administration since 1995 with more than 12 years of service as a building principal. He is past-president of the Ohio Middle Level Association (formerly OMSA), and served on the Affiliate Task Force and as a School Improvement Assessment consultant for the Association for Middle Level Education. Since 2001, Tom has spoken to numerous audiences throughout the United States with passion and purpose on a multitude of topics. Additionally, Tom has written articles for publications both in Ohio and nationally. He is the winner of the NASSP/MetLife Ohio Middle School Principal of the Year, the Distinguished Young Alumni Award from Slippery Rock University, and many other awards. Most recently he was selected as Ohio Educator of the Year by the Ohio Middle Level Association and was inducted in both the Cleveland Heights High School Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame and John Carroll University Athletic Hall of Fame. Tom is married to wife Franca, and they share the joy of raising three children, Cailey, Bryce, and Tommy.
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Patti Kinney began her career as an elementary music specialist and then taught 5th and 6th grade in an elementary school. She later taught 6th and 7th grade at the middle level when her district made the transition to middle school in the mid-80s. During this time she was also involved in staff development work for the district, taught a variety of instructional and management skills classes, and took a one-year sabbatical leave to teach in the education department of Southern Oregon University. As an assistant principal and later principal of Talent Middle School, she was highly involved in the process to transform this former 7-8 junior high school into a 6-8 middle school and in 2000, the school was recognized as one of “100 highly successful middle schools” in a national research study sponsored by NASSP.
Mrs. Kinney is a past president of the Association for Middle Level Education and of the Oregon Middle Level Association. In 2007, she was awarded the Oregon Middle Level Association’s first Distinguished Service Award that was also named in her honor. From 2007-2014, she served as Associate Director, Middle Level Services for the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) located in Virginia. In 1996, she was named the Oregon Assistant Principal of the Year and in 2003, she was selected as the Met-Life/NASSP National Middle Level Principal of the Year.
Patti has spoken, presented, and consulted on middle level issues at national and international level. She also has authored Voices of Experience: Perspectives from Middle Level Leaders (AMLE/NASSP); Fostering Student Accountability through Student-led Conferences (AMLE/NASSP); The What, Why, and How of Student-Led Conferences (AMLE); and regularly wrote for NASSP’s Principal Leadership magazine. She earned her B.A. in elementary education and M.A. in outdoor education from Southern Oregon University and her administrative license from the University of Oregon.
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