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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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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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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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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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.
Listen to a podcast interview of Ed Vittardi:
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Chris Toy has spent 30+ years serving as a teacher, principal, university instructor, consultant, presenter, cooking instructor, and writer. In addition to being a certified Apple consultant, he has worked internationally with dozens of school districts, hundreds of schools, and thousands of educators providing exceptional workshops on leadership, teaching, and learning, resulting in greater student engagement and academic achievement. His interactive style reflects his belief that teachers and leaders must model what they expect from students, colleagues, and faculties.
Listen to a podcast interview of Chris Toy:
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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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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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