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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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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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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- 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
- 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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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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Dedra Stafford is a dedicated consultant and a proud member of the Association for Middle Level Education On-Site Professional Development Cadre. She is an educational speaker and has presented at international, national, state, and local conferences across the nation sharing inspirational ideas from technology to school climate. Dedra is passionate about providing quality staff development for educators.
Dedra creates entertaining workshops that get crowds energized, motivated, and inspired to be their best for the students they serve. As a former classroom teacher, she understands the need for professional development where practical ideas can be implemented immediately in the classroom. She creates fun-filled workshops designed to be hands-on and interactive. Dedra has a unique ability to put teachers at ease as she teaches concepts and beliefs and incorporates humor in a user-friendly way.
You will laugh, learn, and have a new enthusiasm about technology, climate, curriculum, and classroom techniques in any of Dedra's sessions.
Listen to a podcast interview of Dedra Stafford:
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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.
Listen to a podcast interview of Ruthie Smith Stevenson:
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