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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- 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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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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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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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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Dr. Neila A. Connors is presently the founder and president of N.A.C. (Networking And Client), CONNECTIONS INC., a corporation dedicated to the implementation of positive attitudes and actions in people. Her primary focus is to coach people on how to "build their own bridge for a successful life." Her philosophy is based on Napoleon Hill's quote: "if you can conceive it and believe it—YOU can ACHIEVE IT." Throughout her career, Neila has had the privilege of working with students in grades K–12. She has been an elementary teacher, a middle school teacher, and an administrator. She currently is an adjunct professor at Florida State University teaching a doctoral course on Leadership and Technology.
Previously, Neila worked at the Florida Department of Education, responsible for coordinating the development of the middle and high school state curriculum frameworks, working with middle and high school teachers and administrators throughout the state. She also was the Director of Middle Grades and later was responsible for the state International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement programs. She also served as a tenured professor in the Department of Middle Grades Education at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia and helped begin the first "unique" Department of Middle Grades in the country.
Neila has presented to public and private school educators, school boards, superintendents, state and national organizations, parents, counselors, international school educators, and corporations in the 50 states, Canada, and Europe. For more than 20 years she has also worked with business partnerships. Her first was with Champion Paper Company assisting more than 50 junior high schools in their transition to effective performance-based middle schools. For the last 10 years Neila has worked with Educational Partnership Incorporated (EPI) and Union Pacific Railroad as a personal consultant to more than 350 high school principals in 21 states. She has worked with fortune 500 companies (Champion Paper, International Paper, Kellogg’s, Union Pacific Railroad).
Neila has helped middle schools become greater!
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Kim Campbell has been a proud middle level geography teacher for the past 19 years and loves it!! She is very involved in her school and has a variety of roles. Currently, she is a part-time 7th grade geography teacher as well as the PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention Specialist) coordinator for her school. She has also been a team leader and a member of her school's Equity Team and Literacy Team. She is also the founder and coordinator of an after school program called Students on Academic Rise (SOAR), a program created to address the achievement gap. In 2004, she was a semi-finalist for Minnesota Teacher of the Year, and in 2007, she was chosen by Fox 9 News as one of their nine "Top Teachers" of the year, and recently she was named Minnesota Middle School Teacher of the Year. Kim is a consultant who has facilitated workshops around the country and world.
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Nancy Doda is an internationally renowned speaker, workshop leader, and author. Regarded as one of the world's foremost experts on middle grades education, she has devoted much of her career to improving middle grades education. Recipient of AMLE's most prestigious award, the John H. Lounsbury award, Nancy has supported thousands of middle grades educators in their efforts to improve learning for young adolescents. She has a broad range of expertise from school organization and climate, to curriculum and instruction. She is best known for customizing professional development.
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