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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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. Crystal LaVoulle believes that learning is a lifelong endeavor and educators must continuously strive to increase their knowledge and understanding along with the students they teach. As the Executive Director of the LaVoulle Group, an international educational consulting, Dr. LaVoulle is an international consultant, committed to educating the world's children through Intelligent Leadership. Leading educators in critical examination of quantitative and qualitative data, Dr. LaVoulle addresses school climate and teacher retention issues through Collaborative Conversations©, a support program for school leaders. Her professional workshop series, Chronicles of Teacher Effectiveness©, offers classroom teachers needed support with instructional strategies and assessment. Innovative projects like Read, Write, Rhyme Institute©, bring educators and entertainers together to engage in intellectual discourse about art and education.
Dr. LaVoulle is an active member of the educational community, contributing to K-12 and post-secondary research and presenting at the AMLE Annual Conference, National Title I; National Youth At-Risk; Georgia Read, Write, Now; and the Georgia Council of Teachers of English conferences. Earning a doctorate in reading, language and literacy from Georgia State University, a Master of Public Administration in Policy and Education from the University of West Georgia and received her bachelor's degree in sociology from the University at Stony Brook. Dr. LaVoulle has 20 years of educational experience working with a diverse range of middle, high school, and post-secondary teachers and students.
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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.
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Ed Vittardi is a principal at Saint Albert the Great School. He is also works with Finding Leaders a group that finds and supports school leaders. Prior to retiring as superintendent of the North Royalton City Schools, he was principal of North Royalton Middle School. Ed made significant strides in his time as superintendent. One of his greatest accomplishments was leading the district in the development of the five-year strategic plan. More than 800 people came together to develop this strategic plan, which outlines the beliefs, vision, and mission of the North Royalton City Schools. Ed has served on numerous educational committees and boards at the local, state, and national levels, and he has given hundreds of presentations on a wide array of educational topics for teachers, administrators and school system personnel.
Ed has been recognized as the Ohio Middle School Association Educator of the Year, AMLE Distinguished Educator, and the Ohio State Principal of the Year, along with being a finalist for National Principal of the Year.
In addition to his passion for education, his greatest pride lies in his marriage of over 30 years to Jacqueline and his children, Holly and Eric.
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Ruthie Smith Stevenson, Ph.D., is a professor and coordinator of the doctoral program in educational leadership K–12, at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi. She is a member of the Mississippi Board of Examiners (NCATE), an AMLE Institutes for Middle Level Leadership faculty member, and president of the Beta Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma. She has been a junior high school teacher, assistant principal, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, executive director of middle school programs, and director of school improvement services for Mid South Middle Start. She has presented at AMLE, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas middle level conferences, and Fordham Principals' Institute. She was nominated in 2010 and 2011 by the School of Education as Distinguished Professor at Mississippi College.
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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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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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