Panel Discussion


Have you ever wondered how multiple national experts would answer the same question? During this unique event, Summit attendees will have the opportunity to submit questions for discussion and hear from multiple experts at the same time. Throughout the two day Summit, attendees are asked to use the hashtag #ClimateCulture to submit questions for the panel. Des Moines Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tom Ahart will be moderating the panel.

Erin Gruwell

Erin Gruwell

Erin Gruwell is a teacher, an education activist, and the founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation. She created the Freedom Writer Methods, a progressive teaching philosophy and curricula designed to achieve excellence from all students. By fostering an educational philosophy that values and promotes diversity, Gruwell transformed her students’ lives. She encouraged them to re-think rigid beliefs about themselves and others, reconsider daily decisions, and ultimately re-chart their futures. With Gruwell’s support, they chose to forego teenage pregnancy, drugs, and violence to become aspiring college students, published writers, and catalysts for change. They dubbed themselves the “Freedom Writers” –in homage to civil rights activists The Freedom Riders—and published a book.

Inspired by Anne Frank, Erin and her students captured their collective journey in The Freedom Writers Diary. Through poignant student entries and Erin’s narrative text, the book records their “eye-opening, spirit-raising odyssey against intolerance and misunderstanding.” In early 2007, Teach With Your Heart, Erin’s powerful memoir and call to arms was published.

While Erin has been credited with giving her students a “second chance,” it was perhaps she who changed the most during her tenure at Wilson High School. She decided to channel her classroom experiences toward a broader cause, and today her impact as a teacher extends well beyond Room 203. Erin founded the Freedom Writers Foundation where she currently teaches teachers around the country how to implement her innovative lesson plans into their own classrooms. Recently, Erin’s teaching methods from her time in Room 203 have been published in the Freedom Writers Diary Teacher’s Guide. Proceeds from the sale of all books directly fund the Freedom Writers Foundation.

Erin and her students have appeared on numerous television shows, including Oprah, Prime Time Live with Connie Chung, Barbara Walters’ The View, and Good Morning America, to name a few. Erin and the Freedom Writers have earned them dozens of awards including the prestigious Spirit of Anne Frank Award.

Erin is a graduate of the University of California Irvine, where she received the Lauds and Laurels Distinguished Alumni Award. She earned her Master’s Degree and teaching credentials from California State University Long Beach, where the School of Education honored her as Distinguished Alumna.

Tim Lewis

Tim Lewis

Tim Lewis, Ph.D., has been involved in special education for 25 years. He has taught students with emotional and behavioral disorders in high school, elementary, and self-contained psychiatric settings. His specialty areas include social skill instruction, functional assessment, and proactive school-wide discipline systems.

Dr. Lewis has been involved with developing school-wide systems of behavioral support for over 15 years. He has worked directly with school teams around the world, secured several federal grants to support his research and demonstration efforts, and is a frequent contributor to the professional literature examining various aspects of Positive Behavior Support. Specifically, he is the Co-Editor of the journal Behavioral Disorders, Associate Editor of the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions and is a member of nine other editorial boards.

At present, Dr. Lewis is Professor of Special Education at the University of Missouri.

Dr Lewis directs the University of Missouri Center for School-wide Positive Behavior Support, is Co-Director of the national OSEP Center for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports and the IES Center for Adolescent Research in Schools. Dr. Lewis has directed research, model/demonstration, and personnel preparation grants and currently oversees all grant activity in the College of Education at the University of Missouri.

Brian Mendler

Brian Mendler

Brian Mendler is a certified K-12 and special education teacher with extensive experience working with challenging students in general ed, self-contained, and inclusion settings.

He trains tens of thousands of educators a year and is a highly regarded dynamic speaker. He provides staff development training for K-12 educators and youth service workers throughout the world with the focus on how to be successful with even the most difficult students.

Mr. Mendler has recently authored a book titled, That One Kid. The book provides educators with easy to use strategies for preventing and responding to difficult, disruptive, defiant and unmotivated behavior.

He has also authored The Taming of the Crew and co-authored books, Strategies for Successful Classroom Management, Power Struggles 2nd Edition, and the best seller Discipline With Dignity 3rd Edition: New Challenges, New Solutions.

Randall Lindsey

Randall Lindsey

Randall B. Lindsey is emeritus professor at California State University, Los Angeles and has a practice centered on educational consulting and issues related to equity and access.

Prior to higher education faculty roles, he served as a junior and senior high school history teacher, a district office administrator for school desegregation, and executive director of a non-profit corporation. All of his experiences have been in working with diverse populations and his area of study is the behavior of white people in multicultural settings.

It is his belief and experience that too often white people are observers of multicultural issues rather than personally involved with them. He works with colleagues to design and implement programs for and with schools, law enforcement agencies, and community-based organizations to provide access and achievement.

He and his wife and frequent co-author, Delores, are enjoying this phase of life as grandparents, as educators, and in support of just causes that extend the promises of democracy throughout society in authentic ways.

Reuben Jacobson

Reuben Jacobson

Reuben Jacobson serves as the Deputy Director for the Coalition for Community Schools. In that capacity he develops and implements the Coalition’s research agenda, conducts and analyzes research on community schools, communicates research findings to the field, and works with the Coalition staff on overall strategy including policy and building local capacity.

Prior to joining IEL Reuben worked at the American Institutes for Research (AIR) in Washington, D.C. as a research analyst in education. In addition, he spent two challenging and wonderful years teaching fifth and sixth grade students in D.C. Public Schools as a D.C. Teaching Fellow. Reuben is author of many publications about school-community partnerships. He is an alumnus of IEL’s Education Policy Fellowship Program and the Education Pioneers Fellowship.

Reuben has a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin, a Master’s degree in Education Policy from the George Washington University, a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from American University, and a PhD in Education Policy from the University of Maryland – College Park.

Joelle Hood

As Senior Consultant with CLS, Joelle brings over 20 years of experience to our clients. She has served as a Principal for Riverside County Office of Education’s Alternative Education programs, and was an Assistant Principal and a teacher for districts in San Bernardino County. She is also a Certified Life Coach, a graduate of the UC Berkeley Greater Good Summer Institute for Educators (an SEL program), and a doctoral student at USC studying Organizational Change and Leadership. She provides coaching, mindfulness instruction, professional development, and positive youth development activities to educational, human services, and juvenile justice agencies throughout the nation. Her areas of expertise include Social Emotional Learning and School Climate transformation, including Neuroscience, Mindfulness in Education, Growth Mindset, PBIS and Restorative Practices. She is also a certified trainer for 40 Developmental Assets, Olweus Bullying Prevention, Restorative Practices, and 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.