Tara Brown

Tara Brown

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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Ruby Payne

Ruby Payne


  • Professional educator since 1972—from high school teacher, principal, and central office administrator to educational consultant
  • Provides training in how to work effectively with individuals from all economic classes
  • Has trained hundreds of thousands of professionals since 1996
  • Has certified more than 7,000 trainers in A Framework for Understanding Poverty (see book of same name below)
  • Mission: to positively impact the education and lives of individuals in poverty throughout the world
  • Ph.D., educational leadership and policy studies, Loyola University, IL; M.A., English literature, Western Michigan University; B.A., Goshen College, IN


  • Expert on poverty and mindsets of economic classes
  • Accessible, engaging style using humor, stories, and mental models
  • Message relevant to business leaders, educators, and community and social service workers
  • Helps find creative and practical solutions to challenges of working across socioeconomic lines and building sustainable communities
  • Speaks extensively, with engagements including Australia Conference on Thinking and Learning; European League for Middle School Education; United Kingdom Department for Children, Families, and Schools; China and U.S. Conference on Educational Leadership; PBS; Harvard's Summer Institute for Principals; SCERT (Delhi, India); Tasmania Teacher Training; New Zealand; Slovakia; School Leadership Center of Trinidad and Tobago; National Conference of State Legislatures (U.S.); Annual Conference of Southwest Foundations; New York Superintendents Association; and Chief Officers of State School Departments (U.S.)


  • A Framework for Understanding Poverty, foundational work, 1996; 5th revised edition, 2013
    • Has sold more than 1.5 million copies
    • Teaches the hidden rules and mindsets of economic class
    • Teaches specific, resource-based strategies for overcoming poverty's obstacles
  • From Understanding Poverty to Developing Human Capacity, 2012
  • School Improvement: 9 Systemic Processes to Raise Achievement (co-author), 2010
  • Research-Based Strategies: Narrowing the Achievement Gap for Under-Resourced Students, 2009
    • Two handy charts provide easy access to more than 50 research-based strategies
  • Under-Resourced Learners: 8 Strategies to Boost Student Achievement, 2008
    • Assesses student resources to determine best strategies and interventions
    • More proven, practical strategies that can be used immediately
  • Bridges Out of Poverty: Strategies for Professionals and Communities (co-author), 2001, 2006
    • Has led to a model for building sustainable communities
  • Has writtten or co-authored more than a dozen books surrounding issues of poverty in areas of education, social services, business, communities, churches, relationships, and leadership

Business Owner

  • Founded aha! Process, Inc. (formerly RFT Publishing) in 1995; current CEO
  • Employs 25 full- or part-time staff; has a team of 50 consultant presenters
  • Has published more than 125 books and video/DVD products; offers 45 workshops

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Janet Vernon

Janet Vernon

Janet Vernon has served middle schools, teachers and students in many ways. In her various roles, including as an school principal, Janet has mentored other school leaders, supervised and supported faculty and staff, provided a climate and culture for school improvement, developed rigorous performance goals, and trained staff to use student achievement data to increase student success and create standards-based classrooms. She has also been an Executive Director of Secondary Schools, an Executive Director of Teaching and Learning, and has served AMLE as a board member as well as the board president.

Listen to a podcast interview of Janet Vernon:

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Gail Heinemeyer

Gail Heinemeyer

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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Cedrick Gray

Cedrick Gray

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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