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General Sessions Speakers | Invited Sessions Speakers
Jahana Hayes is the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, and her teaching path began as a student. The first college graduate in her family, she was inspired by her teachers who urged her to dream bigger and who believed that she was college material, despite a challenging upbringing.
A veteran history teacher at John F. Kennedy High School in Waterbury, Connecticut, Hayes also sees herself as an advisor, counselor, confidant, and protector.
She earned an associate’s degree from Naugatuck Valley Community College, a Bachelor of Science from Southern Connecticut State University, a Master of Arts from Saint Joseph University, and a certification from the University of Bridgeport.
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A highly regarded urban public school educator in New Jersey for nearly 30 years, Baruti K. Kafele has distinguished himself both as a classroom teacher and as a school principal.
As an elementary school teacher in East Orange, New Jersey, Principal Kafele was selected as the East Orange School District and Essex County Public Schools Teacher of the Year. As a middle and high school principal in East Orange, Plainfield and Newark, New Jersey, he led the transformation of four different schools, including Newark Tech High School, which went from a low-performing school in need of improvement to recognition by U.S.News and World Report as one of America's best high schools.
He is the recipient of more than 100 educational, professional and community awards, which include the prestigious Milken National Educator Award in 2009 and the City of Dickinson, Texas, proclaiming February 8, 1998, as Baruti Kafele Day.
Baruti Kafele is the standby General Session speaker for Empower17.
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Garrett Reisman was selected by NASA as a mission specialist astronaut in 1998. His first mission was aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour, which brought him to International Space Station for a 95-day mission. He returned to Earth aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. He returned to the ISS on the Space Shuttle Atlantis for his second mission.
During these missions, Reisman performed three spacewalks, operated the Space Station Robot Arm, and was a flight engineer aboard the Space Shuttle. But more importantly, he was featured on multiple episodes of the Colbert Report!
Reisman is a former director of crew operations at SpaceX and is currently director of crew operations for Space Exploration Technologies. He received his masters and doctorate degrees in mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology.
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Jim Winter founded Wavelength in 1980 after attending workshops at the Players Workshop of Second City. As a former high school English teacher, he saw the connection between the art of improvisation and effective and engaging teaching, and thus created Wavelength to deliver professional staff development training. Jim has performed and presented across North America and around the world.
The company of 24 actors has presented to more than 1.8 million educators in more than 2,000 school systems. They have given keynote presentations at conferences for NSBA, AASA, NASSP, NAESP, AFT, NEA, ASBO, and Learning Forward and internationally in the Netherlands, France, the Czech Republic, Vietnam, and Singapore for the European Council of International Schools (ECIS), East Asia Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS), and the Association for the Advancement of International Education (AAIE).
Susan M. Brookhart is an independent educational consultant based in Helena, Montana. She is an ASCD Faculty member and a senior research associate in the School of Education at Duquesne University.
Before becoming a consultant, she was professor and chair of the Department of Educational Foundations and Leadership at Duquesne University and was an elementary and middle school classroom teacher.
Brookhart has spent the last 20 years studying and writing about classroom assessment practices and is internationally known as a scholar in this field. She specializes in combining research-based strategies and practical applications, working with classroom teachers and school administrators to customize strategies for their locations.
Brookhart received her bachelor’s degree from Arcadia University and her doctorate in educational research and evaluation from Ohio State University.
Kathleen Budge is the coordinator of the Leadership Development Program at Boise State University. She has led the development of this innovative, nontraditional preparation program, the purpose of which is to develop leaders who have the commitment and capabilities to lead schools where all students succeed.
Joe Fatheree is an award-winning author, educator, and filmmaker. He has earned awards in both education and media; he has won three Mid-America Emmy awards and was named a Varkey Foundation Top 10 Teacher in the World in 2016. A leader in technology integration, teacher leadership, innovation, global education, and curriculum design, he has served on several education boards and committees. He is the former president and chief education officer of Mutasia Entertainment, an educational entertainment trans-media experience for children ages 6 and up. His television work has aired on multiple national networks, and he has written numerous articles. Fatheree is the director of strategic projects for the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, and he teaches full-time at Effingham High School in Effingham, Illinois.
David Faulkner is the CEO and co-founder of Education Changemakers, and as one of Australia’s most awarded educators has vast experience leading change at the school, regional and national level. He is an expert in the development of education leaders, with a proven track record at the highest levels. Faulkner's education leadership journey began as a principal of an Australian school when he was only 24, and throughout his twenties he built a powerful reputation as a leader who could achieve strong outcomes across a range of education contexts.
Douglas Fisher is a professor of educational leadership at San Diego State University and a teacher leader at Health Sciences High & Middle College. He is a member of the California Reading Hall of Fame and was honored as an exemplary leader by the Conference on English Leadership. He is the author of many articles and books on improving student achievement.
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Nancy Frey is a professor of educational leadership at San Diego State University and a teacher leader at Health Sciences High & Middle College. Nancy is a recipient of the Christa McAuliffe Award for Excellence in Teacher Education from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the Early Career Award from the Literacy Research Association. She has published many articles and books on literacy and instruction.
Anthony Jackson oversees the Asia Society Center for Global Education, which strives to enable all students to graduate high school prepared for college, for work in the global economy, and for 21st century global citizenship.
Trained in both developmental psychology and education, Jackson is a leading expert on secondary education reform and adolescent development. He directed the Carnegie Corporation's Task Force on the Education of Young Adolescents, which produced the groundbreaking report Turning Points: Educating Adolescents in the 21st Century, and coauthored its follow-up Turning Points 2000, considered one of the most influential books on middle school reform. His most recent work is Educating for Global Competence: Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World.
Jackson holds a BA from the University of California at Berkeley, and an MA and a PhD in education and psychology from the University of Michigan.
Robyn R. Jackson, PhD, has been an educator for more than a decade. As a National Board-certified English teacher, she increased the enrollment of minority and nontraditional students in her AP Language and Composition classes and tripled her overall course enrollment within one year without a decrease in her students' test scores.
As a middle school administrator in Montgomery County, Maryland, she has worked to revise the district's gifted and talented policy to be more inclusive of all students and helped craft the district's critical Middle School Reform Plan. She also helped lead the largest middle school in the district to state and national Blue Ribbon status.
As an educator, she has served as an adjunct professor and has presented her own research at several national conferences.
Eric Jensen is a former teacher and educational leader who grew up in San Diego, California. For more than two decades, he has synthesized brain research and developed practical applications for educators.
Jensen has authored more than 29 books, including Teaching with Poverty in Mind; Tools for Engagement; Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind; Turnaround Tools for the Teenage Brain; Poor Students, Rich Teaching; and Different Brains, Different Learners.
Jensen is a member of the invitation-only Society for Neuroscience, the President's Club at Salk Institute of Biological Studies, and the New York Academy of Sciences. He received his MA in organizational development and his PhD in human development.
Alex Kajitani is the 2009 California Teacher of the Year and a top-four finalist for National Teacher of the Year. His book, Owning It: Proven Strategies for Success in ALL of Your Roles As a Teacher Today, was named "Recommended Reading" by the U.S. Department of Education. A leading authority on teacher leadership, Kajitani is a highly sought-after keynote speaker who supports and motivates teachers nationwide. He is also known around the world as "The Rappin' Mathematician," and is the creator of Multiplication Nation, an interactive, online program devoted to getting all kids to learn their times tables (without the stress). He has a popular TED Talk; has been honored at the White House; and has been featured in numerous books and media outlets, including The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.
Karen L. Mapp is a senior lecturer on education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and the faculty director of the Education Policy and Management Master's Program. Over the past 20 years, Mapp's focus has been on cultivating partnerships among families, community members, and educators to support student achievement and school improvement. From 2011 to 2013, Mapp served as a consultant on family engagement to the United States Department of Education in the Office of Innovation and Improvement. She is currently a consultant to the Family and Community Engagement (FACE) division of Scholastic, Inc.
Mapp holds a Doctorate and Master's of Education from Harvard University, a Master's in Counselor Education from Southern Connecticut State University, and a bachelor's degree in Psychology from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1997, she won a Spencer Dissertation Fellowship for her research on how and why families are involved in their children's educational development.
John J. Medina is a developmental molecular biologist focused on the genes involved in human brain development and the genetics of psychiatric disorders, and he is a regular speaker on the relationship between neurology and education. He has spent most of his professional life as a private research consultant, working primarily in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries on research related to mental health. Medina holds an affiliate faculty appointment at the University of Washington School of Medicine in its Department of Bioengineering.
In 2004, Medina was appointed to the rank of affiliate scholar at the National Academy of Engineering. He has been named Outstanding Faculty of the Year at the College of Engineering at the University of Washington; the Merrill Dow/Continuing Medical Education National Teacher of the Year; and, twice, the Bioengineering Student Association Teacher of the Year. He is also the author of several books, including Brain Rules, Brain Rules for Baby, and The Genetic Inferno.
Zuriel E. Oduwole is an education advocate and filmmaker best known for her works on advocacy for the education of girls in Africa. In November 2014, at age 12, she became the world's youngest filmmaker to have a self-produced and self-edited work after her film showed in two movie chains, and then went on to screen in Ghana, England, South Africa, and Japan.
Oduwole has met with 19 presidents and prime ministers about making policies that ensure that all children, especially girls, are included in the education rights movement. These include the leaders of Jamaica, Kenya, Liberia, South Sudan, Cape Verde, St. Vincent & Grenadines, Lesotho, South Sudan, Nigeria, Tanzania, Malawi, St. Kitts & Nevis, and many more.
She has also produced or codirected projects and TV commercials for global retail companies such as GAP and Procter & Gamble in the United States, and she spent the earlier part of 2016 in Namibia and Nigeria teaching youths about filmmaking.
William Parrett is the director of the Center for School Improvement & Policy Studies and professor of education at Boise State University. He has received international recognition for his work in school improvement, small schools, alternative education, and for his efforts to help youth at risk. His professional experiences include public school and university teaching, curriculum design, principalships and college leadership.
Russell Quaglia is a recognized pioneer in the field of education, dedicated to ensuring that ALL voices in the educational community are listened to, learned from, and acted upon. He is best-known for his passionate advocacy for student aspirations and student voice. He is the founder of the Quaglia Institute for School Voice and Aspirations, and a leading researcher and speaker on these topics in the United States and internationally.
During the last 15 years, David Rendall has spoken to audiences on every inhabited continent. His clients include the U.S. Air Force and the Australian government, as well as Fortune 500 companies including AT&T, State Farm Insurance, and Ralph Lauren.
Prior to becoming a speaker, he was a management professor, a stand-up comedian, and an endurance athlete. He also managed nonprofit enterprises that provided employment for people with disabilities. He has more than 20 years of experience leading people and organizations.
Rendall has a doctor of management degree in organizational leadership and a graduate degree in psychology. He is the author of three books: The Four Factors of Effective Leadership, The Freak Factor, and The Freak Factor for Kids.
James H. Stronge is the Heritage Professor in the Educational Policy, Planning, and Leadership area at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. His research interests include policy and practice related to teacher quality and teacher and administrator evaluation. His work on teacher quality focuses on how to identify effective teachers and how to enhance teacher effectiveness.
Additionally, Stronge has worked extensively with local school districts on issues related to teacher quality, teacher selection, and teacher and administrator evaluation. He has authored, coauthored, or edited 22 books and more than 100 articles, chapters, and technical reports.
Stronge has been a teacher, counselor, and district-level administrator. His doctorate in the area of Educational Administration and Planning is from the University of Alabama.
Carol Ann Tomlinson is William Clay Parrish, Jr. Professor and Chair of Educational Leadership, Foundations, and Policy and co-director of the Institutes on Academic Diversity at the Curry School of Education, University of Virginia. She works throughout the United States and internationally with educators who want to create classrooms that are more responsive to a broad range of learners.
Tomlinson's experience as an educator includes 21 years as a public school teacher working with preschoolers, middle school students, and high school students. At the University of Virginia, Tomlinson teaches undergraduates, master's students, and doctoral students, predominantly in the areas of curriculum design and differentiated instruction. She was named Outstanding Professor at Curry School of Education in 2004 and received an All-University Teaching Award in 2008.
Todd Whitaker is a leading presenter in the field of education and a professor of educational leadership at the University of Missouri and professor emeritus at Indiana State University. He has previously served as both a teacher and a principal and is the author of over 40 books focused on instruction, leadership, and school climate and culture.
Yong Zhao is a Foundation Distinguished Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in the School of Education at the University of Kansas.
He was most recently the presidential chair and professor in the Department of Educational Measurement, Policy, and Leadership at the University of Oregon and formerly a University Distinguished Professor in the College of Education at Michigan State University.
Zhao is the founding director of the U.S.–China Center for Research on Educational Excellence and the Center for Teaching and Technology as well as the executive director of the Confucius Institute.
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