2020 Speakers

Hamish Brewer, the relentless, tattooed, skateboarding principal in Northern Virginia isn't your typical principal. Hamish is high octane, constantly calling on his students to "Be Relentless.” Mr. Brewer has become known as an educational disrupter who transcends the status quo and typical educational norms. Mr. Brewer was recognized in 2017 as the NAESP Nationally Distinguished Principal and Virginia Principal of the year. He has also been recognized as the 2016 VAESP School Bell Award and ASCD Virginia Impact Award. In 2018 Hamish was named a Northern Virginian of the year by Northern Virginia Magazine and the 2018 Principal of the Year for the national publication - Education Dive and Prince William County Public Schools 2019 Principal of the Year. Under his leadership - his elementary school was recognized as a Nationally Distinguished Title 1 School, and Hamish has since gone on to turn around one of the toughest middle schools in the state of Virginia. Originally from New Zealand where he earned his first degree from the University of Auckland. Mr. Brewer is currently a doctoral student at Virginia. Mr. Brewer serves at the state level as the Federal Relations Coordinator on the Board of Directors with the Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals. He is a school turnaround and school improvement specialist, working some of the most at-risk students in the United States.
Jeannine H. Brinkley has more than three decades of expertise in inclusive practices, special education, and supporting school teams to transform service delivery, as well as personal experience supporting family members with disabilities. She is the Executive Director of the PEAL Center, a statewide organization which provides resources, training, leadership development and individual assistance to families, teens/young adults and professionals. For most of her career, Jeannine served in state level technical assistance roles focused on inclusive education, systems change, positive behavior support, and interagency coordination. In this role, she helped to implement the GATEWAYS System Change Program — PA’s first statewide effort to move towards inclusive schools. When the Gaskin Settlement Agreement happened in 2014, the Bureau of Special Education asked her to take on the coordination of the implementation of the settlement activities. Prior to her retirement from the PA Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN), Jeannine had the privilege to collaborate in conceptualizing and implementing Project MAX, PA’s State Professional Development Grant, focused on building capacity in schools to maximize access to grade level general education curriculum for learners with complex instructional needs. Jeannine joined the PEAL Center in early 2017 and leads the organization with a vision and passion for social justice — the belief that all people with disabilities are valued members of our schools and communities.
Steven Dykstra is a psychologist, advocate, and troublemaker in the reading world.  While he may be best known for his comments on SpellTalk and in other forums, he has worked with the most severely traumatized and mentally ill children for more than 25 years. His passion for reading comes from the recognition that the thousands of children he has served often pay the highest price for our failures and mistakes.
Batya Elbaum is a Professor in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Miami. As a researcher, she has published numerous studies related to parent engagement in special education, social and learning challenges of students with disabilities, and services and outcomes for infants, toddlers, and young children with developmental delays. She serves as a consultant to multiple states on the collection, analysis, and use of data within the special education accountability system.  For more than a decade, Dr. Elbaum has worked closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and PaTTAN to analyze, interpret, and disseminate results of the PA statewide survey of parents of students receiving special education services.
Tracy Ficca has worked as an educational consultant with the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network for 20 years and is currently working in the PaTTAN East  office. She has provided technical assistance across many initiatives set forth by the Bureau of Special Education. She is currently co-statewide lead for the special education leadership initiative and  co-state lead for the current state personnel development grant from OSEP titled Middle School Success: Path to Graduation. Tracy holds a Master of Education degree in Curriculum Developmental Strategies and Instructional Design from Wilkes University, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary and Special Education from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. She also holds a certification as a Reading Specialist and a Principal’s Certification earned through Cabrini College. She has completed LETRS Training modules 1-6 as well as coursework for Penn State University’s  BCBA certification.  Prior to working as an educational consultant, Tracy‘s professional experience was in both regular and special education  where she also functioned as assistant principal.
Graham Fletcher has served in education as a classroom teacher, math instructional lead, and currently as a math specialist.  Graham's work with the math progressions and problem-based lessons has led him to present throughout North America and beyond.  He is continually advocating for best practice in elementary mathematics by seeking new and innovative ways to support students and teachers in their development of conceptual understanding.
Erin D. Gilsbach, Esq., is a nationally-recognized speaker on school law issues and the founder and Executive Director of EdLaw Interactive, a professional development entity that specializes in legal training for educators and school administrators. She is also a practicing school law attorney with the Pennsylvania law firm of Steckel & Stopp, a member of the Board of Directors of NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys (COSA) and Past President of the PSBA Solicitors Association. She provides legal consulting and training services to schools, education-related organizations in the areas of special education; development of legally-defensible policies and procedures; trending legal issues regarding technology and education; nursing and school health services; truancy prevention; child abuse prevention and mandated reporting; educator evaluation and discipline; and many other school law topics. Erin is a frequent presenter and author for the NSBA, COSA, the LRP Institute, the National Business Institute (NBI), the Pennsylvania Bar Institute (PBI), and many other state and national organizations. Erin began her career as a public high school English teacher, and she served for several years at the PA Department of Education’s Office of Chief Counsel. She recently published "Student Health Services under the IDEA and Section 504" through LRP Publications. The book is a practical and comprehensive guide to legal compliance when educating students with health-related needs and is a great reference for school administrators, school nurses, special education administrators, guidance counselors, special and regular educators, and anyone who works with students with health-related needs.
Tyrone C. Howard is a professor in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he also serves as Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. His research examines culture, race, teaching, and learning, and he has published several bestselling books exploring these topics, including Expanding College Access for Urban Youth. As the director and founder of the Black Male Institute at UCLA, Tyrone leads an interdisciplinary group of scholars, practitioners, community members, and policymakers dedicated to improving the educational experiences and life chances of males of color. He was the recipient of the 2015 UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award, and in 2016 and 2017, Dr. Howard was listed by Education Week as one of the 60 most influential scholars in the nation informing educational policy, practice, and reform.
Ali Hrasok graduated from Widener University with her Masters in Psychology and is currently working as the Education Outreach Specialist for Disability Equality in Education.  While her degrees are in Neuroscience and Psychology, she has spent her post-graduate career in the education field.  Ali is most passionate about creating environments for students with meaningful inclusion and high expectations.  Aside from her work, she continues to support the growth of a statewide network of youth-led, youth-driven groups within the Pennsylvania Youth Leadership Network (PYLN).For over a decade, the Pennsylvania Youth Leadership Network has promoted youth leadership across the Commonwealth.  Currently, PYLN is a network that consists of a Governing Board that supports Affiliate groups across Pennsylvania.  The Network is led and driven by inclusive organizations of youth and young adults with and without disabilities in schools, community agencies, and institutions of higher education.
Devin Kearns, Ph.D. is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at UConn. He researches reading disability—including dyslexia—in school-age children.  His research focuses on linking educational practice to cognitive science and neuroscience in collaboration with colleagues at Haskins Laboratories and the Brain Imaging Research Center at UConn. They examine how the brain changes across many reading lessons underlying reading improvement, and they test the effects of novel ways of teaching reading on students’ neurological processing while reading. He and his collaborators are also developing and validating a game-based dyslexia screening app with the APPRISE Project. Devin has seven years of classroom experience as a teacher, literacy coach, and reading specialist and still regularly provides professional development for schools and districts and models reading lessons to help teachers use evidence-based reading instruction.
Joan Kester is an Assistant Professor of Special Education & Disability Studies at the George Washington University, Graduate School of Education and Human Development.  She is the Program Director of the Interdisciplinary Secondary Transition Program, where scholars from across the country learn evidence-based secondary transition practices and become leaders in the field. Her primary research has been through action research, where youth, families, and stakeholders are engaged in action planning to improve transition practices.  As a result of this research, her team is now implementing the Transition Discoveries framework and action planning process across Pennsylvania. Dr. Kester is the Principal Investigator of an OSEP personnel preparation grant to support scholars to address personnel shortages in working with students with autism or brain injury in secondary transition.  She is the PI of the Transition Quality Empowerment Project, funded by the PA Development Disabilities Council.  The purpose of this project is to collaborate with schools and communities in a rural, urban, and suburban area to evaluate and improve transition practices.  Through this work, innovative practices to provide the tools and resources youth, families, and transition stakeholders to engage in communities to identify and expand opportunities for youth and families to learn and grow.  As a result of the project, a searchable database will be publicly available to showcase effective practices and create opportunities for stakeholders to share this information with one another to improve practices.  Joan receives national recognition for her work in the successful transition of youth with disabilities.
Shauna King is a former principal, PBIS coordinator and classroom teacher with over 20 years of experience in public and non-public school settings.  Mrs. King serves as  adjunct faculty for LaSalle University and a school climate coach for the University of Maryland Positive Schools Center.  Her experience and passion have led to invitations to co-present with education expert Eric Jensen (Author of Teaching with Poverty in Mind) and share with national and international audiences. She is the author of School Smart: It’s More Than Just Reading and Writing  and multiple journal articles.   An active member of her church and community, Shauna is also a proud wife and mother of two children, who are the joy of her life.
Temple S. Lovelace, Ph.D., BCBA-D is an Associate Professor of Special Education at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. Her research centers on the examination of the intersectionality of disability and race, with particular interest in creating innovative, culturally-sustaining academic and behavioral interventions for students with emotional/behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, and Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Temple is a member of the Remake Learning Council, a commission of distinguished leaders from education, government, business and civic sectors in greater Pittsburgh. During her tenure in Pittsburgh, PA, Temple has focused on creating equitable learning spaces that center the voices of youth, teachers, and families in Allegheny County. Commitment to educational spaces where all students have critical citizenship is a chief concern for Temple. Over the last eleven years, her work in Pittsburgh through community-engaged teaching and research has been chiefly focused on repairing relationships and reducing the trauma that is felt in many educational contexts by culturally and linguistically diverse students with and without disabilities. As a Deeper Learning Equity Fellow, Temple examined the role of innovation as a tool for liberation for middle and high school students across the region. As a graduate of The Ohio State University and a doctoral-level board certified behavior analyst, Temple’s research has been focused on the principles of behavior analysis and education in urban contexts. In addition, she examines systems level issues that impede the progress of CLD/E students to thrive in inclusive environments.
Barry D. Morgenstern has worked with students with autism and other developmental disabilities for over 25 years.  He holds a master's degree in Behavior Analysis and Therapy for Southern Illinois University and a PhD in Special Education and Applied Behavior Analysis from The Ohio State University. Currently he is the CEO of POOGI for ABA.
Kent Pekel is an educational leader who has worked at the school, district, state, federal, and university levels. Throughout his diverse career, he has sought to bridge research, practice, and policy to help young people from marginalized communities learn and thrive.  Kent is currently President and CEO of Search Institute, an internationally recognized not-for-profit organization that conducts applied research and develops practical resources that enhance the capacity of schools, youth programs, and other organizations to help young people be and become their best selves.  Among other recent recognition, in 2018 Search Institute received the Award for Organizational Excellence in Research and Programming for Youth from the Society for Research on Adolescence. Prior to joining Search Institute in 2012, Kent served as the founding Executive Director of the University of Minnesota’s College Readiness Consortium, and as Executive Director of Research and Development in the Saint Paul Public Schools. He served in several senior staff positions during the Clinton Administration, including as a White House Fellow assigned to the Director of the CIA, Special Advisor to the Deputy Secretary of State, and Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Education. Kent began his career as a high school teacher in his home state of Minnesota. He holds a B.A. in East Asian Studies from Yale University, a Master’s in Education from Harvard University, and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Minnesota.
Diane Perry has twenty years of education, advocacy and family leadership under her belt. She is the Eastern Region Parent Advisor for the PEAL Center in Philadelphia. In addition to her work at PEAL, Diane serves as Chair of the State Special Education Advisory Panel. Diane’s son David, 25, received special education services; he is currently attending college, working part time, and being mentored with Self Advocates United as 1 (SAU1).

Magda  Rodriguez moved to the United States after receiving a law degree in Colombia and worked in the immigration field for several years. After establishing her own family and experiencing the process of raising two children, she became passionate about parenting issues and started to work as a family engagement leader for a non-profit organization offering services in the Boston Public Schools. In 2012,  Magda joined the Families First team as a Parenting Educator and facilitated parenting and professional workshops in the Boston area. Currently, she oversees all the different aspects of Families First parenting programs including program quality control, and family engagement strategies.
Adam Saenz, Ph.D., D.MIN., is a licensed psychologist and CEO of the Applied EQ Group.  As a psychologist, author, and emotional intelligence expert, Dr. Saenz has worked in the education and mental health fields for over twenty years. He has worked in collaboration with the College of Education at Texas A&M University, including the Department of Human Resource Development, the Department of School Psychology, and the Department of Research, Measurement, and Statistics. Among Dr. Saenz’s publications are the best-selling The Power of a Teacher, Relationships That Work, and his most recent release, The EQ Intervention: Shaping a Self-Aware Generation Through Social and Emotional Learning.
Cristina Sanchez-Lopez collaborates with educators in the US and Canada on developing culturally and linguistically responsive multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS); mathematics; literacy across the content areas; multilingual education; engaging parents, special education, and supporting Pre-K educators. Cristina has taught at the elementary, middle school and university levels in the US and Mexico and currently teaches graduate courses in the areas of Biliteracy, Assessment, and Foundations of Language Minority Education. Cristina is co-author of Special Education Considerations for English Language Learners: Delivering a Continuum of Services (2013), and a recent publication in the Oxford University Press Focus Series, Focus on Special Educational Needs (2018). Cristina and her husband have raised their daughter bilingually.
Mark R. Shinn, Ph.D. is currently Professor and Coordinator of School Psychology at National Louis University (NLU) in Chicago, IL. Prior to joining NLU, he was Professor of School Psychology and Special Education at the University of Oregon (1984-2003).  Dr. Shinn is a nationally recognized consultant to schools and state departments of education across the country concerning implementation of MTSS /RTI. In the past 2 years, he has supported state department MTSS/RTI efforts in Virginia, North Dakota, Iowa, and North Carolina and in 2015 worked with the Tennessee Department of Education to develop and roll out their state’s Secondary RTI2 model.  In 2016, Dr. Shinn was appointed to the Mayor of Chicago’s ADA 25 Task force to Improve Literacy Outcomes for Students with Disabilities.
Dr. Shinn’s areas of specific expertise include work with scientifically based basic skills progress monitoring and screening, particularly when applied to Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS) or Response to Intervention (RtI). He has published more than 100 book chapters and refereed journal articles on progress monitoring and screening and edited 5 books on research-based practices.
Carol Tolman is a national and international presenter who draws on her more than 25 years of experience in the public school system, with 13 of those years spent designing and implementing an innovative reading clinic and academic support collaborative for academically challenged high school students. Awarded a doctorate in educational psychology, Dr. Tolman went on to spearhead many successful, long-term literacy initiatives both nationally and internationally. Within higher education, Dr. Tolman organized and delivered curriculum for the Massachusetts Licensure Program and conducted a four-year project for the Maryland Department of Education supporting literacy knowledge for professors. She is the author of Perspectives articles, “Working smarter, not harder: What teachers of reading need to know and be able to teach,” and “The relationship between teacher knowledge and effective RTI: When we know better, we do better.” As a co-author of LETRS Module 1 (2nd ed.), LETRS Module 10 (2nd ed.), and all LETRS Presenter’s Kits, Dr. Tolman presided over the LETRS Leadership Board, co-authored, with Louisa Moats, the LETRS (3rd ed.) texts and online professional development courses, presents LETRS Training of Trainer (TOT) workshops and Facilitator Trainings, and supports literacy initiatives throughout Australia. Most importantly, Carol enjoys learning first-hand how language develops through the eyes of her granddaughter, Ava!
Nicole Tucker-Smith, founder and CEO of Lessoncast, helps schools implement professional learning initiatives focused on inclusive leadership and teaching and equity best practice. She leads the Jumpstart PD Network, a community of educators who access flexible PD options to engage in high quality professional learning opportunities that fit their need, schedule, and budget. She has served as a teacher, supervisor of parent support services, principal, and systemwide coordinator of professional development and training for Baltimore County Public Schools and as a faculty member for Johns Hopkins University School of Education. Nicole is an international presenter on Universal Design for Learning, a member of the CAST National Faculty, and she provides her professional development expertise to support implementation of UDL in P12 and higher education learning environments.
Marilyn Zecher is a teacher and Nationally Certified Academic Language Therapist specializing in the application of O-G Multisensory Strategies for teaching Math, Study Skills, Reading & Language, Spanish and Content Area Subjects. Ms. Zecher is a former classroom and demonstration teacher in an Orton-Gillingham based public school program. She holds a BA in education and a BA and MA in English. In 2004, Ms. Zecher received her certification as an Academic Therapist specializing in multisensory mathematics and study skills. She helped to develop ASDEC’s Multisensory Mathematics program that apply Orton-Gillingham instructional techniques to the teaching on mathematics. Ms. Zecher is a presenter at IDA and LDA and the National Teachers of Mathematics national and regional conferences. She has trained both public and private school teachers as well as academic therapists in multisensory mathematics instructional techniques, handwriting, multisensory study skills and educational strategies for the gifted and talented dyslexic student.
Perry A. Zirkel is university professor emeritus of education and law at Lehigh University, where he formerly was dean of the College of Education.  He has a Ph.D. in Educational Administration and a J.D. from the University of Connecticut, and a Master of Laws degree from Yale University.  He has done presentations in every state in the U.S.  and has also written more than 1,550 publications on various aspects of school law, with an emphasis on legal issues in special education.   In 2012, he received the Research into Practice Award from the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the Excellence in Research Award from AERA’s Division A (Administration, Organization & Leadership).  In 2013, he received the University Council for Educational Administration’s Edwin Bridges award for significant contributions to the preparation and development of school leaders.  In 2016, he received the Education Law Association’s Steven S. Goldberg Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Education Law, and in 2017 he received the Council for Exceptional Children’s Special Education Research Award.  He continues to direct the one-day Lehigh Special Education Law Conference each May and the one-week Lehigh Special Education Law Symposium each June. His website is perryzirkel.com