Institute for Middle Level Leadership

Orlando, FL • June 25-28, 2017
Renaissance Orlando at Sea World
San Diego, CA • July 9-12, 2017
Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa

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

Whether you are a tenured principal or a new teacher, attending for your first time or your fourth time, developing your skills or developing your team, this unique event flows to fit your needs and challenges.

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


Q:    Who should attend?


If you improve the educational lives of students ages 10-15, this event is specifically designed for YOU!

Q:    Why should I attend?


The AMLE Leadership Institute will help you and other school leaders create the most effective educational experience for every young adolescent you serve.

Q:    What will I learn at the AMLE Leadership Institute?
A:    One of the many things that makes the Institute so unique and powerful is content that is driven by YOU!

Save a Seat!
Include the AMLE Institute for Middle Level Leadership in your 2017 professional learning plan now! Space is limited to the first 200 registrants for each location.

Event Schedule

Sunday: June 25, Orlando, FL / July 9, San Diego, CA
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 26, Orlando, FL / July 10, San Diego, CA
7:00 a.m. – 7:50 a.m. Breakfast (included)
8:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. Content Breakout Session #1
Orlando    San Diego
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
Orlando    San Diego
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 27, Orlando, FL / July 11, San Diego, CA
7:00 a.m. – 7:50 a.m. Breakfast (included)
8:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. Content Breakout Session #3
Orlando    San Diego
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
Orlando    San Diego
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 28, Orlando, FL / July 12, San Diego, CA
7:00 a.m. – 7:50 a.m. Breakfast (included)
8:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. Content Breakout Session #5
Orlando    San Diego
9:25 a.m. – 10:40 a.m. Content Breakout Session #6
Orlando    San Diego
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 looking for guidance about how to connect with technology as a middle level leader, you'll want to attend this session. Bring your own device and get hands-on guidance on 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.

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 or role to discuss 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 sessions 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 camaraderie!

Breakout Session Topics

Session Topics for Orlando, FL: View session details

  • 21st Century Teaching and Learning
  • Active Engagement Strategies for All Classrooms
  • Behavior Management that Engages
  • Blended Learning
  • Brain Compatible Teaching
  • Creating and Maintaining School Safety
  • Creating College and Career Ready Culture
  • Dealing with Dysfunctional Teams
  • Difficult Conversations
  • Enhancing Digital Presence
  • Increasing Student Attendance
  • Increasing Student Performance by Having a FIT
  • Induction Programs for New Teachers
  • Is it Working? Project Management for Schools
  • Leveraging Your Influence as a Middle Level Leader
  • Making Advisory Work
  • Middle School Improvement
  • Out of Box Leadership
  • PBS for Culturally Relevant Classrooms and Schools
  • Personalized Leadership Growth
  • Personalized Learning
  • Promoting Growth Mindset in Teachers and Staff
  • Promoting Mental Health and Wellness for All Students
  • RTI and Intervention
  • Smart, Positive Assessment Practice
  • Students as Creators
  • Supporting ELL Students in the Middle Grades
  • Teaching through the Digital Life of a Middle School Student
  • Transitioning to and from Middle School
  • Universal Design for Learning
  • What Superintendents Want Middle School Leaders to Know

Session Topics for San Diego, CA: View session details

  • Being a Connected Educator and Leader
  • Co-Teaching and Inclusion Teaching
  • Creating Effective Master Schedules
  • Cyber Wellness in the Middle Grades
  • Early Warning Indicators in the Middle Grades
  • Engaging Learning and Leading Strategies with Young Adolescents
  • How to Create 2-Way Home-School Communication
  • Integrated Approach to Organizational Instruction
  • Is it Working? Project Management for Schools
  • Leveraging Your Influence as a Middle Level Leader
  • Making Advisory Work
  • Making PLCs Work in the Middle Grades
  • Making RTI/MTSS Work for All Students and Teachers
  • Making Student Led Conferences Effective for All
  • Middle School Improvement
  • Out of Box Leadership
  • Parent Engagement that Works
  • PBS for Culturally Relevant Classrooms and Schools
  • Project-Based Learning 101 and 102
  • Promoting Growth Mindset in Teachers and Staff
  • Promoting Teacher Leadership
  • Special Education Services and Middle Level Structures
  • This We Believe: Strategies that Work
  • Tools for Principals: Building Stronger Teams
  • Transforming School Culture
  • Transitioning to and from Middle School
  • Universal Design for Learning
  • Using Data for School-Wide Improvement 

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.

Orlando, FL

Cedrick Gray

David Hayward

Gail Heinemeyer

Cheryl Mizerny

Juan Rodriguez

Nikki Woodson

Dru Tomlin

San Diego, CA

Paul Dunford

Linda Hopping

Ann McCarty

Dennis Schug

Nikki Woodson

Dru Tomlin

Cheryl Mizerny is a veteran educator with 20+ years' experience—most at the middle school level. She began her career in special education, became a teacher consultant and adjunct professor of Educational Psychology, and currently teaches 6th grade English in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Guided by a passion for doing what's best for kids, Cheryl began writing about student motivation and engagement at The Accidental English Teacher. Currently, she writes a blog for Middleweb called "It's Not Easy Being Tween" and has published numerous articles for SmartBrief.

Dennis Schug is proud to serve the students of the Hampton Bays Schools community for the past two decades as a teacher, assistant principal, and middle school principal in Hampton Bays, New York. As a school leader, he believes in the value of using communication, collaboration, and professional learning as a means of building capacity and engaging all members of a learning organization. He is one of the founding team members of EdCamp Long Island and a lead organizer for EdCamp Leadership: New York. He is also one of the moderators of #NYEDchat, a bi-weekly Twitter chat on current topics that influence high-impact teaching and learning. He proudly serves on the AMLE Leadership Institute faculty.

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.

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.

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.

Ann McCarty, Ed.D., is the executive director of teaching and learning for the Bowling Green City Schools in Bowling Green, Ohio. She is responsible for K-12 curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Her duties include overseeing federal programs, the district Ohio Improvement Process, professional development, student teacher placements, and other district programming. Since 1997, Dr. McCarty has been a middle school music teacher, assistant principal, and principal at schools in Virginia and Ohio. In her various roles she has implemented curriculum writing activities, program and process reviews, responsive instruction, student behavior modification plans, coordinated projects to reduce truancy, increased student achievement, provided services for at-risk students, and collaborated with parents to create school community. Her committee work has included teacher evaluation system writing, digital learning, district-wide assessment and evaluation, capacity and facilities, special education advisory, literacy task force, equity, visual and performing arts; all of which have worked to influence policy and practices to improve the educational experiences of students. In 2014, Dr. McCarty was a representative for The School Superintendents Association (AASA) where she traveled to China and attended the Jiangsu International Forum for School Principals. In addition to her work with AMLE, she has been an adjunct professor at George Washington University where she worked with aspiring school leaders on supervision of instruction. She is a passionate educator who believes in the process of continual improvement to provide students with the education they deserve.

Juan Rodriguez from Framingham, Massachusetts, has 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 Professional Standards Committee at Framingham State University. Juan was recognized as a distinguished alumni and is currently serving as the vice president of Framingham State's Alumni Board of Directors.

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.

Video Testimonials

Dru Tomlin talks with Matt Schottel and Jessica Garcia-Dominguez at the AMLE Leadership Institute.

Dru Tomlin talks with Courtney Bailey at the AMLE Leadership Institute.

Dru Tomlin talks with Danny Fracassi at the AMLE Leadership Institute.

Dru Tomlin talks with John Ferraro at the AMLE Leadership Institute.

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.

What is a Professional Learning Contact Hour?
In order to remain a certified middle level educator, it is critical to continue learning and growing through outstanding professional development opportunities—and to receive credit for those learning experiences. By participating in the Institute for Middle Level Education, you can earn Contact Hours to maintain your teaching and administration certification. Please check with your school system and/or state certification agency to make sure they accept contact hours from AMLE.

Graduate Credit

AMLE is proud to partner with Concordia University to offer three graduate education credits for completing the Institutes for Middle Level Leadership. See the information below for the application process and course description for each location.

Orlando Graduate Credit
San Diego Graduate Credit

Orlando Hotel/Travel

Renaissance Orlando at Sea World
June 25–28, 2017

6677 Sea Harbor Drive
Orlando, FL 32821
Reservations: 1-407-351-5555

Hotel Rate: $179
plus applicable taxes
(Room rates includes in room bottled water; wireless in-room internet; Disney World, Universal, and Premium Outlet transportation among many other great amenities.)
Housing Deadline: June 3, 2017

** Rooms are limited and available on a first-come first-serve basis. Rates are available 3 days pre and post event based on hotel availability.

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

Five restaurants, Starbucks, and an ice cream shop will please all palates. Pamper yourself in style at the full-service Neu Lotus Spa and enjoy a massage, facial, or scrub. Looking to explore Orlando like a local? Ask our friendly Navigator for tips about hidden gems and plan your next big adventure at Renaissance now.

Want to experience the Orlando area after sessions?

Airports Nearby:

Orlando International Airport – MCO
Visit MCO airport website
Hotel direction: 13 miles W

This hotel does not provide shuttle service.
Alternate transportation: Mears Shuttle Service; fee: $20 USD (one way); Reservation required Estimated taxi fare: $40 USD (one way)

San Diego Hotel/Travel

Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa
July 9–12, 2017

1775 East Mission Bay Drive
San Diego, CA 92109
Reservations: 1-619-276-4010

Hotel Rate: $215
plus applicable taxes
(Room rate includes in room wireless internet, access to all recreational activities on property, 24 hour fitness center and tennis center)
Housing Deadline: June 15, 2017

Group Name: AMLE 2017 Leadership Institute
Group Code:  AML717
** Rooms are limited and available on a first-come first-serve basis. Rates are available 3 days pre and post event based on hotel availability.

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:


Included in registration

Registration Rates
AMLE Professional Member
$895 $1,095
Non-Member & Associate Member
$1,095 $1,295
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.

Future Institutes

Hilton Head, SC • June 17-20, 2018
Marriott Resort Hilton Head

San Diego, CA • June 24-27, 2018
Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa