Institute for Middle Level Leadership

San Diego, CA • June 19-22, 2016
Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa
Hilton Head, SC • June 26-29, 2016
Hilton Head Marriott Resort and Spa

A one-of-a-kind, collaborative learning event designed to meet the unique needs of middle grades leaders.

Principals • Teacher Leaders • Curriculum Directors
Team Leaders • Superintendents • Assistant Principals
Department Chairs • School Improvement Facilitators
School Counselors • Aspiring Leaders

Save a Seat!
Include the AMLE Institute for Middle Level Leadership in your 2016 professional learning plan now! Space is limited to the first 200 registrants for each location.

Funding your leadership institute experience

Event Schedule

Sunday: June 19, San Diego, CA / June 26, Hilton Head, SC
4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Technology Sandbox Pre-Conference session
5:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Meet & Greet – Icebreaker/Link-up Activity
5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. Welcome and Dinner (included)
6:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Large Group Activity
7:10 p.m. – 7:40 p.m.
Home Base Meeting #1
Monday: June 20, San Diego, CA / June 27, Hilton Head, SC
7:00 a.m. – 7:50 a.m. Breakfast (included)
8:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. Content Breakout Session #1
9:25 a.m. – 10:05 a.m. General Session
10:15 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Home Base Meeting #2
11:25 a.m. – 12:25 p.m. Lunch (included)
12:35 p.m. – 1:50 p.m. Content Breakout Session #2
2:00 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. Job Alike Session
2:55 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Team-Building Special Mission
4:10 p.m. – Individual or School Planning Time/
Faculty Open Office Hours
Tuesday: June 21, San Diego, CA / June 28, Hilton Head, SC
7:00 a.m. – 7:50 a.m. Breakfast (included)
8:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. Content Breakout Session #3
9:20 a.m. – 9:50 a.m. Home Base Meeting #3
10:00 a.m. – 10:20 a.m. Open Space Activity
10:30 a.m. – 11:10a.m. Open Space Session #1
11:15 a.m. – 11:55 a.m. Open Space Session #2
12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. Lunch (included)
1:10 p.m. – 2:25 p.m. Content Breakout Session #4
2:35 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Show & Spark Speed Learning Session
4:10 p.m. – Individual or School Planning Time/
Faculty Open Office Hours
Wednesday: June 22, San Diego, CA / June 29, Hilton Head, SC
7:00 a.m. – 7:50 a.m. Breakfast (included)
8:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. Content Breakout Session #5
9:25 a.m. – 10:40 a.m. Content Breakout Session #6
10:45 a.m. – 11:10 a.m. General Session
11:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Home Base Meeting #4

Session Formats

Learning your way! Participate in a variety of presentation formats including:

Technology Sandbox Pre-Conference: If you are a middle level leader looking for guidance about how to connect with technology, you’ll want to attend this pre-conference session. Bring your own device and get hands-on help with apps that will support your leadership growth.

General Session: During these engaging, whole-group sessions, we’ll examine the essential 16 Characteristics of an Effective Middle Grades program, discuss leadership actions that make those characteristics work, and explore This We Believe: Keys to Educating Young Adolescents.

Home Base Meetings: Similar to Homeroom or Advisory/Advisement at school, these small-group meetings will give you the chance to more deeply discuss and examine key middle grades concepts and data that impact your school and leadership.

Content Breakout Sessions: You’ll get a variety of content from AMLE middle level experts in these interactive, solution-rich sessions.

Show & Spark Speed Learning Session: During this session, you’ll have the chance to shine a spotlight on the great ideas, programs, and initiatives at your school and learn from other attendees in a quick, personal setting!

Job-Alike Session: You’ll meet and collaborate with attendees that share your job/role to share similar triumphs, challenges, and solutions.

Individual or School Planning Time/Faculty Open Office Hours: Use this time to reflect on the learning from the day - individually, with a colleague, or with your team - and/or schedule a "shoulder-to-shoulder" work session with any of the Leadership Institute faculty members.

Open Space Sessions: Bring your critical issues and concerns, and then create the sessions that you need! Build the conference you want within the Institute, and get the answers you need to improve your school!

Team-Building Special Mission: Get energized and motivated during this special activity-filled session, in which you’ll join other Institute attendees in games that create great teams, great laughs, and great comradery!

Breakout Session Topics

San Diego Session Descriptions
Hilton Head Session Descriptions

Sessions Offered in Both Locations
Facilitated by Nikki Woodson:

  • Positive Behavior Management for Culturally Responsive Middle Level Schools and Classrooms
  • Developing Teacher Leaders in Middle Schools
  • A Comprehensive Glance at the School Improvement Process for the Middle Level
  • Hands-on Leadership Strategies for Middle Level Leaders

Facilitated by Juan Rodriguez:

  • Engaging in Difficult Conversations
  • All About Me! Personalized Leadership Growth
  • School Safety: How to Ensure Everyone Feels Safe
  • Leading and Supporting the Mental Health and Wellness of Young Adolescents
  • Meeting the Needs of English Language Learners

Facilitated by Paul Dunford:

  • Special Education Services and Middle Level Structures
  • Engaging Students with Universal Design for Learning
  • Tools for Principals: Building Stronger Teams
  • Strategies to Make This We Believe Work
  • Co-Teaching: Models and Strategies that Foster Inclusive Classrooms

Facilitated by Dru Tomlin:

  • Act Like a Middle Level Leader
  • Strengthening Relationships through Advisory
  • Engaging, Motivating, and Leading Young Adolescents
  • Fostering a Culture of Literacy

Facilitated by David Hayward:

  • Enhancing Your Digital Presence
  • Using Blended Learning to Flip Your Classroom
  • Redefining Student Consumers as Student Creators
  • Moving to Personalized Learning (1:1): Building the Why and How
  • Project-Based Learning: Instruction and Technology Meet to Engage Students

Exclusive Sessions for San Diego Participants
Facilitated by Gail Heinemeyer:

  • Coming and Going: Transitioning to and from Middle Level
  • Laying the Foundation for Effective Teaching Teams
  • Making Every Day Count: Early Warning Indicators – Attendance, Chronic Absenteeism, and Truancy
  • The Care and Feeding of the Beginning Teacher: Designing Effective Induction and Mentoring Programs
  • Beginning the Journey Towards Interdisciplinary Instruction

Facilitated by Ann McCarty:

  • RTI and MTSS: Systems and Structures for Middle Level Schools and Teams
  • Moving to Personalized Learning (1:1): Building the Why and How
  • Project-Based Learning: Instruction and Technology Meet to Engage Students
  • Co-Teaching: Models and Strategies that Foster Inclusive Classrooms
  • Data Protocols: Powerful Data Protocols to Increase Academic Achievement

Exclusive Sessions for Hilton Head Participants
Facilitated by Cedrick Gray:

  • Middle School Improvement that Really Works
  • What Every Superintendent Wants Middle Level School Leaders to Know (And, Be Able to Do)
  • The Road Less Traveled: Behavior Management that Engages Middle Level Learners
  • May I Have Another, Please? Response to Instruction and Intervention
  • Raise Student Academic Performance by Having a Fit

Facilitated by Linda Hopping:

  • Student-led Conferencing: An Idea Whose Time Has Come
  • Taking Teaming to the Next Level
  • Transforming School Culture
  • Early Warning Indicators: What They Are, What They Mean, and How to Work With Them
  • This We Believe: Grounding Your School Around Best Practice

Meet the Facilitators

Our team of middle grades experts facilitates learning at the Institute for Middle Level Leadership guided by the following principles:

  • Develop courageous, collaborative, compassionate, and reflective leaders.
  • Provide a safe space for taking the risks to implement the actions necessary to improve schools.
  • Create a personalized experience that is responsive to the needs of participants, school teams, districts, and state teams.
  • Foster an environment based on energy, humor, and humanity.

Paul Dunford

Cedrick Gray
*SC only

David Hayward

Gail Heinemeyer
*CA only

Dru Tomlin

Ann McCarty
*CA only

Juan Rodriguez

Linda Hopping
*SC only

Nikki Woodson

Paul Dunford currently serves as chief of the Programmatic Support and Technical Assistance Branch of the Division of Special Education and Early Intervention at the Maryland State Department of Education. Dunford has been a middle level teacher, principal, curriculum supervisor, county and state director of Middle School Initiatives and director for leadership development. He proudly serves on the AMLE Leadership Institute faculty.

Currently the superintendent of Jackson Public Schools in Jackson, Mississippi and a valuable faculty member of AMLE’s Institute for Middle Level Leadership, Dr. Cedrick Gray has served as a teacher, assistant principal, middle school principal, director of leadership development, and superintendent of school improvement. As a middle school principal, Cedrick has been credited with his schools’ successful turnaround in culture and academic achievement, and as a result, he was nominated Principal of the Year and worked as a mentor principal for New Leaders for New Schools. He also led the professional development efforts for his school district’s 400 principals and assistant principals in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development. Under his leadership as a superintendent, his previous school district in southwest Tennessee achieved “Exemplary School District” status from the Tennessee Department of Education. As superintendent of Jackson Public Schools, he has been recognized for the district’s consistent improvement in student performance and operational efficiency. Under his leadership, one of the district's middle schools was recognized as the top-ranked in the state along with three of its elementary schools ranking in the top ten. He also led efforts to restore the district's national and state accreditation, raise the district's graduation rate, and institute the district's first ever 1:1 initiative for the high school Freshman Academies. Cedrick is known for his practical solutions, compelling insights, and inspiring wisdom about what works in middle level education–for teachers, leaders, students, and families.

David Hayward has spent more than 20 years sharing his passion for education and technology, inspiring educators to integrate educational pedagogy with 21st century technology tools. He began his career as a classroom teacher in Toledo City Schools and within a few years accepted the position of educational technology trainer (ETT). As an ETT, his love for teaching and technology grew as he helped develop, teach, and facilitate the integration of technology in the classroom, providing individualized instruction to teachers and students as well as conducting district level technology workshops. In 2002, he moved to Columbus, Ohio, where he completed his M.A. in Technologies of Instruction and Media from The Ohio State University. That same year he accepted a position with Instructional Technology Services of Central Ohio (ITSCO), a non-profit education technology agency in Ohio. He spent 12 years with ITSCO working in and out of schools continuing to share with and build the education technology community in central Ohio. Currently, David spends his days working as an Education Technology Coach while working with additional educators through social media and as an Ashland University Adjunct Professor.

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.

As the Director of Middle Level Services for the Association of Middle Level Education, Dr. Dru Tomlin has 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 and a B.A. in English/Secondary Education from James Madison University.

Dr. McCarty began her teaching career in 1997 as an instrumental music teacher at Rosemont Middle School in Norfolk, Virginia. In 1999, she became the vocal and general music teacher and fine arts team leader at Ridgeview Middle School in Columbus, Ohio. She began her administrative career at Crestview Middle School in 2002 as an assistant principal, where she oversaw the school’s daily operations, developed and implemented student behavior modification plans and coordinated a project to reduce truancy. Dr. McCarty also served as assistant principal and acting principal of Monroe Traditional Middle School in Columbus, Ohio. In 2005, Dr. McCarty returned to Virginia to become assistant principal at George Mason High School and then the Principal at Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School in Falls Church City Public Schools and then Willamsburg Middle School in Arlington, Virginia; at both schools, she increased student achievement, provided services for at risk students, and collaborated with parents to create school community. Dr. McCarty was responsible for instructional leadership, budget development, staff supervision and professional development. She served as a member and writer of the Teacher Evaluation System and the Lead for the Visual and Performing Arts Curriculum Audit, and she also serves on the APS Digital Learning Steering Committee, Superintendent’s Advisory Committee for Assessment and Evaluation, Superintendent’s Work Group for Capacity and Virtual Learning, and the Special Education Workgroup, all which work to influence policy and practices that improve the educational experience of the students it serves. In October of 2014, Dr. McCarty was an APS representative to AASA, The School Superintendents Association, where she traveled to China and attended the Jiangsu International Forum for School Principals. In addition to her work with AMLE, she serves as an adjunct professor at George Washington University where she works with aspiring school leaders on supervision of instruction. In December of 2014, Dr. McCarty received Leadership Arlington’s Inaugural 40 under 40 award recognizing young “trailblazers” in the county.

Juan Rodriguez from Framingham, Massachusetts, had been a principal in urban and suburban schools for 27 years. Juan was the Massachusetts Middle School Principal of the Year in 2005. Fuller Middle School had been designated a Spotlight School, a Compass School, and the top performing middle school for ELL learners in 2007. He has been a mentor of principals and part of AMLE’s Leadership Institute Faculty. Juan completed the National Institute of School Leadership program (NISL). He presented at the International Reading Association Conference on secondary reading and was a co-presenter in the State of Maryland Leadership Series.

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.

Appointed May 2011, Nikki C. Woodson is the superintendent of schools for the Metropolitan School District of Washington Township. Washington Township is a K-12 public school district with over 12,000 students (67% students of color & 57% qualify for free/reduced lunch) and nearly 1,600 employees. Dr. Woodson has lead the district to be one of few nationwide to offer International Baccalaureate to all students in all schools within her urban school district. The long legacy of high achievement for students in Washington Township is a mark of a supportive community to achieve superior schools.

Dr. Woodson’s appointment as superintendent made her the first African-American female superintendent in Marion County and one of the youngest in the state of Indiana. Prior to this appointment, Dr. Woodson served in several areas in education including teacher, special education program manager, assistant principal, principal, director of communications, director of staff development, director of continuous improvement, and assistant superintendent. All of her positions have been held in large urban public school districts in the Indianapolis area within Indiana.

Dr. Woodson has earned three post-secondary degrees from three universities: a Bachelor of Science (B.S. in Elementary & Special Education) from Ball State University; a Master of Arts (M.A. in Educational Administration) from Butler University; and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D. in Educational Administration & Curriculum/Instruction) from Purdue University.

Among her numerous honors, Woodson was named The Graduate of the Last Decade (G.O.L.D.) from Ball State University as well as a distinguished Purdue University Fellow. She has been recognized by UNCF for her commitment to children and was named Indy’s Best & Brightest for recognition in the field of education. In 2012 she was recognized as the “Breakthrough Woman of the Year” for breaking barriers in her field. Most recently, Dr. Woodson was given the state honor of International Educator of the Year by Global Indiana and recognized for her Achievement in Education by the Center for Leadership Development. Additionally, the American Association of School Administrators awarded her the 2013 Women in School Leadership Award as well as an honor from Ball State in 2013 for Outstanding Alumni Achievement.

Active in the community, Woodson has served as a board member of the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Home, Young Audiences of Indiana, and a national board member of Challenge Day. She has served on both the regional and head council for International Baccalaureate (IB) and is now serving a 3-year term on the IB Board of Governors. President Obama invited her to a day at the White House in 2014 as one of 100 superintendents chosen nationwide to attend the first-ever Future Ready White House Summit. Lastly, she serves on the IUPUI Collegiate Board of Advisors.

Professional Learning Contact Hours

Contact hours are offered with your attendance at the Institute for Middle Level Leadership! A certificate for 19 contact hours will be emailed to you a few weeks after the event.

Graduate Credit

You may register to earn 1 Graduate Credit through Ashland University for your attendance, participation, and completion of the MID LEVEL LEADERSHIP course.

Details for each event location:

San Diego Hotel/Travel

Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa
June 19–22, 2016

1775 East Mission Bay Drive
San Diego, CA 92109
Online Reservations

Hotel Rate: $205–$225
Rate varies based on room type selected
(includes resort fees and in-room Wi-Fi)
Housing Deadline: May 27, 2016

The institute is a perfect opportunity to bring the entire family!

Set on the beautiful sands of Mission Bay, the Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa offers a variety of options for the entire family to enjoy—from spa and pool activities to tennis and sailing, we have it all! Located just six miles from the San Diego International Airport, this San Diego hotel has 357 stylish guest rooms including eight spacious suites with private balconies. Enjoy waterfront dining at Acqua California Bistro, or sit by outdoor fire pits and sip cocktails during Happy Hour (4pm – 6pm) at The Olive Lounge. In the morning, stop by A'roma Cafe where freshly brewed coffee and snacks are available daily

AMLE and the Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa will provide a complimentary shuttle service to Old Towne San Diego on Tuesday night!


Late afternoons and evenings are yours to enjoy!
Plan how you’ll explore San Diego:

Hilton Head Hotel/Travel

Hilton Head Marriott Resort and Spa
June 26–29, 2016

One Hotel Circle
Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Online Reservations

Hotel Rate: $199–$299
Rate varies based on room type selected
(includes resort fee and in-room Wi-Fi)
Housing Deadline: June 6, 2016

The institute is a perfect opportunity to bring the entire family!

Marriott’s world-class resort in Hilton Head, South Carolina offers you an island escape in utter paradise. Enjoy newly renovated guestrooms, award-winning dining, three championship golf courses and spa. In addition, the distinctive Hilton Head oceanfront hotel's staff always delivers superior service to make your stay even more special. This outstanding family-friendly retreat also offers a wide array of impressive amenities, including golf, tennis, biking, parasailing and so much more. Take advantage of this unbeatable location and enjoy easy access to a variety of nearby destinations, including local airports, shopping and popular tourist attractions.


Late afternoons and evenings are yours to enjoy!
Plan how you’ll explore Hilton Head:


Included in registration

Registration Rates
AMLE Professional Member
Non-Member & Associate Member
All non-members receive a one-year Complimentary Individual Professional Membership.

Space is limited and is not guaranteed, so register early.

Register Online

Download Registration Form

Funding your leadership institute experience

-cancellation policy-


  • Cancellations must be made in writing via mail, fax, or e-mail by the registration deadline.
  • Substitutions are encouraged.
  • Cancellations received by the registration deadline will be refunded in full, less a $200 non-refundable processing fee. After the registration deadline, no refunds will be granted.
  • Memberships purchased at the time of registration will be cancelled only if specifically requested. Refunds may be pro-rated based on the portion of member benefits you have received.
  • Refunds will be issued in the same form as the payment that was received.
  • Refunds will be processed no later than eight weeks after the conference.