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.

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.

Judy Elliott

Judy Elliott

Judy Elliott is the former Chief Academic Officer of the Los Angeles Unified School District where she was responsible for curriculum and instruction from early childhood through adult, professional development, innovation, accountability, assessment, afterschool programs, state and federal programs, health and human services, magnet programs language acquisition for both English and Standard English learners, parent outreach, and intervention programs for all students. Before that she was the Chief of Teaching and Learning in the Portland Oregon Public Schools and prior to that an Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Services in the Long Beach Unified School District in CA. Judy also worked as a Senior Researcher at the National Center on Educational Outcomes at the University of Minnesota.

She started her career as a special education classroom teacher and then school psychologist. During this time she was an adjunct Professor at the State University College at Buffalo New York where she taught graduate courses in curriculum and instruction and applied behavior analysis in the Department of Exceptional Education. In 2012, she was appointed by NYS Commissioner John King as “Distinguished Educator” to help support and oversee the Buffalo City School District Priority Schools. Judy continues to assist districts, cooperatives, schools, national organizations, state and federal departments of education in their efforts to update and realign systems and infrastructure around curriculum, instruction, assessment, data use, leadership and accountability that includes all students and renders a return on investment.

Her research interests focus on systems change and leadership, effective instruction for all students, data based decision making, and accelerated student achievement.

She has trained thousands of staff, teachers, and administrators in the U.S. and abroad in areas of integrated service delivery systems, multi-tiered system of supports, effective use of data, linking assessment to District and classroom instruction, intervention, strategies and tactics for effective instruction, curriculum adaptation, collaborative teaching and behavior management. She has published over 51 articles, book chapters, technical/research reports and books. She sits on editorial boards for professional journals and is active in many professional organizations.

Judy is nationally known for her work in Multi-Tiered System of Supports/Response to Instruction and Intervention. She has led many successful initiatives and projects in this area and actively continues to support school districts and national organizations in this work.

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.

Ami Chen

Ami Chen Mills-Naim

Ami Chen Mills-Naim is a global speaker, and author of The Spark Inside (in use globally by schools and parents) and State of Mind in the Classroom: Thought, Consciousness and the Essential Curriculum for Healthy Learning.

As a trainer and consultant, she has worked in schools and schools districts, with students, parents, families and communities—in the U.S. and internationally—for more than 25 years. She also taught in juvenile corrections and court schools. Ami has worked in youth suicide epidemic sites in both high and low-income areas, and at the site of a mass school shooting. For four years, she directed the National Community Resiliency Project, in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation—with project sites in Des Moines, Iowa, Charlotte, NC, San Francisco, CA and the Mississippi Delta with documented positive outcomes in all regions. She is a mother of two. 

 Ami’s expertise is addressing school climate by addressing the “mental climates,” or states of mind, of those working within a school. Through understanding simple, foundational principles, educators can access their own resiliency, core peace, creativity and healthy learning capacities–in order to bring all of these out in kids.

Daniel Spikes

Daniel Spikes

Daniel Spikes is an Assistant Professor of Educational Administration at Iowa State University. His research interests focus on racial disparities in education and the practices of school districts, schools, and school leaders that serve to perpetuate and/or ameliorate these disparities. Specifically, his research focuses on the following:

  • school leadership, in general, with a specific focus on social justice and anti-racist leadership
  • pre-service and in-service training of educators on cultural proficiency and/or anti-racism
  • urban education
  • social justice
  • school tracking policies

Prior to working at ISU, he served as a middle school English/Language Arts teacher and high school administrator. As a doctoral student, he worked as a Graduate Research Assistant and Assistant Director for Pre-College Academic Readiness Programs and as the District Site Coordinator for the federally funded Principalship Program at UT-Austin. He is the proud husband of Garisa Spikes and the proud father of three beautiful daughters: Madeline, Hannah, and Gabriella.

Saida Abdi

Saida Abdi

Saida Abdi, LICSW, MSW., M.A., is the Director of Community Relations at Boston Children’s Hospital Center for Refugee Trauma and Resilience, a clinical social worker, and expert in refugee trauma and resilience. She holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from Boston University and another Master’s degree in Communications from Carleton University and is currently pursuing her PhD at Boston University. She is a native of Somalia and a former refugee herself.

Ms. Abdi has worked for more than 20 years in the area of refugee youth and families, developing school-based programs to support adjustment of refugee youth in resettlement and community-based research and intervention. For the past 8 years, she has worked at the Boston Children’s Hospital Refugee Trauma and Resilience Center as a part of SAMHSA funded project to develop and implement refugee mental health interventions.

She has organized trainings on the issue of promoting resilience and reducing risk behaviors among refugee youth for educators, policy-makers, clinicians and community leaders. She is trained in Trauma System’s Therapy and is an expert in building culturally responsive interventions.

Jason Salisbury

Jason Salisbury

Jason Salisbury is an Assistant Professor of Educational Administration at Iowa State University. His research interests focus on leadership activities within large comprehensive and urban high schools that promote equitable learning opportunities and social justice for students of color and other traditionally marginalized populations. Specifically he focuses on leadership activities in the following areas:

  • Positioning students of color as leaders within their schools
  • Understanding how individuals engage in anti-racist instructional leadership activities
  • Creating spaces for teachers and other staff members to collaboratively meet the needs of traditionally under-served students
  • Increasing opportunities for community members and agencies to engage in leadership within schools

He believes that research should be used as a lever for change in society and as such, a main goal of his research is to partner with local schools to facilitate their ability to meet the needs of their students and community. His work has been published or are under review in journals such as Journal of School Leadership, Journal of Educational Administration, and Teacher’s College Record. In addition to his research, Dr. Salisbury teaches graduate-level courses in the Educational Administration, the Education for Social Justice Certificate and in qualitative research methodology across the School of Education. Prior to entering graduate school and his position at Iowa State University, he was a high school special education teacher in Chicago Public Schools, Madison Metropolitan School District, and rural Wisconsin.

Barbara Mitchell

Barbara Mitchell

Barbara Mitchell, Ph.D. has been involved with special education for the past 18 years. She began her career as a classroom teacher for students with disabilities teaching in elementary and middle school special education settings.

Currently Barbara is an Assistant Research Professor for the University of Missouri. Her work focuses on Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (E/BD), classroom management, and School-wide Positive Behavior Support (SW-PBS).

Barbara is affiliated with the Office of Special Education Programs National Technical Assistance Center for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, and teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in the Department of Special Education at the University of Missouri.


Gilmara Vila Nova-Mitchell

Gilmara Vila Nova-Mitchell has been a Professional Learning Consultant at Heartland Area Education Agency since 2006. Gilmara serves school districts in Central Iowa providing professional development to educators with a focus on cultural proficiency. She is currently assigned to the Heartland AEA team that serves the Des Moines Public Schools.

Born in Brazil, Gilmara moved to the United States in 2001. She holds a Bachelor of Multicultural Education from FUMEC University (Brazil) and a MSE in School Counseling from Drake University. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior with a focus on Trust in the Workplace. Prior to becoming a consultant, Gilmara led a successful teaching career for 11 years, as an elementary teacher in Brazil as well as in the United States, working in private, public, and international schools.

Gilmara lives in Iowa with her husband, Martin and two daughters, Isabella and Julia.

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.

Christian Moore, LCSW

Christian Moore is an internationally renowned author, speaker, licensed clinical social worker, advocate for at-risk youth, and founder of the WhyTry Program. As a child, Christian struggled with ADHD and severe learning disabilities. He was told by high school counselors that college was not a viable option, but fought his way to a Master’s degree in social work. His unique experiences and expertise have led to the development of the WhyTry Program and the Resilience Breakthrough for Youth, and to the writing of the highly-acclaimed book, The Resilience Breakthrough: 27 Tools for Turning Adversity into Action.

Larry Thompson, M.Ed.

Larry is often called upon to deliver keynote presentation for state and national education conferences because of his knowledge, humor and passion for assisting today’s students. He has helped thousands of educators and schools throughout North America break away from their traditional discipline models to a model that creates a responsible climate and responsible students. Larry has served in a wide variety of roles in education- from special education teacher to alternative and traditional high school principal. As creator of Responsibility-Centered Discipline program, Larry understands that systems must be created that can be realistically implemented and sustained.

Mike Paget, M.Ed.

Mike currently works as a consultant to schools throughout North America to help them better teach challenging students. As a state consultant for students with severe emotional and behavioral problems, he worked with ODD, CD and other special needs students for more than 25 years. Mike is an innovator of effective approaches for working with extremely challenging students and has conducted seminars across the U.S. and Canada on creative techniques for managing classroom behavior, student aggression and crisis intervention. He is co-author of Aggressive and Violent Students and Defying the Defiance. His newest book is High on the Spectrum: Asperger’s, High-Functioning Autism & Related Personalities.

Wes Hall

Wes Hall is an Author, Educational Consultant, Radio Talk Show Host, Television Host, and National Keynote Speaker. Wes heads the “Village Movement Mentoring Program,” for the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is comprised of 260 young men, representing 20 high schools. Wes developed the specialized curriculum, that is currently being used by the Village.

Wes assisted in establishing a precedent in LAUSD, by co-creating, “The Gathering of Minds,” initiative, which brought together adult men of color to help troubleshoot, brainstorm, mentor, and create ways to positively impact the achievement gap, currently being experienced among young men of color. To date, he has organized two conferences for the district and the third is slated for April 30th, 2016, at East Los Angeles College.

As a district-contracted Educational Consultant, he provides professional development training to principals and teachers, throughout Los Angeles Unified School District. Wes also conducts professional development workshops for teachers, through the University of San Diego, as part of their Continuing Education Units program. He facilitates gender specific workshops (specific to young men of color) for the Talent Search and Upward Bound programs at various schools, throughout Los Angeles.

He is the host of the television show “Inside LAUSD’S Student Voices,” the District’s only television show developed solely for the purpose of highlighting, “The Student Voice.” The show features students from schools throughout the district and provides them an opportunity to share their ideas, and concerns. His weekly radio talk show entitled, “The You Are the Money” radio show, airs live every Thursday, at 11am in Los Angeles, and streams live via the internet at www.latalkradio.com.

Wes currently resides in Los Angeles, California where he enjoys playing golf, writing books, helping others achieve their dreams, and having a good walk along the Oceanside. His new children’s book, “I Raise My Hand,” will be available in June.

Kim Davis

Dr. Kim Davis has a passion for restorative justice and those practices are embedded in the school culture where she has served as principal  for the past 11 years, Walnut Creek Campus, the alternative high school in West Des Moines. Walnut Creek Campus is a place where the academic and social emotional needs of the students are both taken into account, valued and developed. Dr. Davis believes firmly that individuals who have had adverse childhood experiences need a different type of learning environment and that is what she and her staff strive to do. Dr. Davis has been an educator for 22 years and completed her doctoral dissertation that focused on restorative practices in the school setting.  She is currently not only the principal of Walnut Creek Campus, but she also holds two district level positions:  homeless liaison and district at-risk coordinator. Additionally, Dr. Davis has been a Love and Logic class facilitator for the past 11 years and has taught hundreds of educators and community members those strategies and skills. She has also presented about restorative justice practices in the school setting at many local conferences, to juvenile court officers and to restorative justice classes at Drake University.  During this session, participants will learn more about what restorative practices are, how they can be implemented into the school setting, what is important to know about creating a trauma sensitive school and if the size of the session allows, session attenders will be able to practice some of the skills that they could utilize back in their own buildings.

Kay A. Augustine, Ed.D

Kay A. Augustine is the Project Director for the School Climate Transformation Grant at the Iowa Department of Education. In this role she works at the state level and with local school districts to develop a strong foundation for a Multi-tiered System of Learning Supports that includes Social, Emotional, and Behavioral supports to positively impact student achievement.

Kay has a unique experience with the evidence-based student engagement intervention Check & Connect as she is the former National Dissemination and Outreach Project Coordinator for Check & Connect at the Institute on Community Integration’s transition group at the University of Minnesota as well as the former District Coordinator implementing Check & Connect in six secondary schools in Eastern Carver County Schools in Minnesota.

Along with her years of Iowa teaching experience, a highlight of Kay’s past experience includes co-founding and serving as the Associate Director of the Institute for Character Development at Drake University, now the Ray Center. She has a rich background of expertise and experience consulting and training educators and youth to implement comprehensive character development initiatives both inside and outside of the United States. A key focus of Kay’s passion, experience, and strategy is to actively engage youth more fully and successfully in their lives and future.

Kay received her Doctorate in Education Leadership from Drake University from where she also holds a Bachelor of Music Education, a MSE in special education, a Graduate Concentration in Adult Training and Development, and a Specialist in Education Leadership.

Emily Donovan

Emily Donovan, LMSW, BCBA has been a school social worker for Heartland Area Education Agency since 2005 and serves six school districts in central Iowa as a challenging behavior and autism consultant for children birth to 21. Ms. Donovan has previously served as an adjunct professor at the University of Iowa School of Social Work co-instructing Research Methods for the MSW program. She graduated in 2001 with a BSW and minor in Spanish and an MSW in 2005, both from the University of Iowa. She completed graduate coursework in Applied Behavior Analysis through Florida Institute of Technology in 2012 and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

Ms. Donovan has served the NASW Iowa Chapter Board of Directors since 2010 as co-chair of the personnel committee and has Board President of the Iowa Chapter.  She currently sits on the National Board of Directors as a member-at-large.

Jennifer Gilmore

Jennifer Gilmore, LMSW, BCBA has been a school social worker for Heartland Area Education Agency since 2002 and serves ten school districts in central Iowa as a challenging behavior and autism consultant for children birth to 21. She graduated in 1999 from Iowa State University with a major in Journalism and Mass Communications with and a minor in Speech. She graduated from St. Ambrose University in 2002 with a MSW and a concentration in School Social Work. She completed graduate coursework in Applied Behavior Analysis through Florida Institute of Technology in 2011 and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

Ms. Gilmore co-authored Tier 3 Intensive Interventions in Response to Intervention: A Guide for School Social Workers.

Lana R. Herteen, MA, LMHC

Lana Herteen represents Blank Children’s Hospital as the Community Child Advocate.  She has 20 years clinical experience in mental health and works passionately on a variety of multi-agency projects that she not-so-secretly believes will change the world!  While the majority of her 14 years with Blank has been as a Forensic Interviewer at the Regional Child Protection Center, she currently focuses her efforts on social-emotional determinants of health with an emphasis on taking the brain science of human development and applying it in simple terms to create user-friendly application for provider development while spreading it to the general public.  Lana serves on the Trauma Informed Care Stakeholders Public Relations committee as well as the Central Iowa ACEs Steering Committee and was on the planning committee to develop the community messaging of Connections Matter, which she is passionate about spreading across disciplines throughout Iowa.

Nate Monson

Nate Monson leads Iowa Safe Schools where he has been Executive Director since 2007. He is a well known voice in Iowa on issues related to LGBTQ youth and school climate issues. He speaks annually to many colleges/universities, schools, corporations, and community organizations. In his role at Iowa Safe Schools, Nate works to lead the organization’s strategic plan, development efforts, organization of the Annual Iowa Governors Conference on LGBTQ Youth, and creation of programming efforts.

Sheli Blazic


Katy Swalwell


Corey Harris


Emily Lang


Kristopher Rollins