"Meet Our Changemakers" - Speakers and Panelists

Keynote Speakers

Dr. Bettina L. Love

Dr. Bettina L. Love is an award-winning author and Associate Professor of Educational Theory & Practice at the University of Georgia. Dr. Love is one of the field’s most esteemed educational researchers in the area of Hip Hop education. Her research focuses on the ways in which urban youth negotiate Hip Hop music and culture to form social, cultural, and political identities to create new and sustaining ways of thinking about urban education and intersectional social justice. Her work is also concerned with how teachers and schools working with parents and communities can build communal, civically engaged schools rooted in intersectional social justice for the goal of equitable classrooms.

For her work in the field, in 2016, Dr. Love was named the Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. She is also the creator of the Hip Hop civics curriculum GET FREE. In April of 2017, Dr. Love participated in a one-on-one public lecture with bell hooks focused on the liberatory education practices of Black and Brown children. In 2018, Georgia’s House of Representatives presented Dr. Love with a resolution for her impact on the field of education.

Dr. Love is a sought-after public speaker on a range of topics, including: antiblackness in schools, Hip Hop education, Black girlhood, queer youth, Hip Hop feminism, art-based education to foster youth civic engagement, and issues of diversity and inclusion. In 2014, she was invited to the White House Research Conference on Girls to discuss her work focused on the lives of Black girls. In addition, she is the inaugural recipient of the Michael F. Adams award (2014) from the University of Georgia. She has also provided commentary for various news outlets including NPR, The Guardian, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

She is the author of We Want To Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom and Hip Hop’s Li’l Sistas Speak: Negotiating Hip Hop Identities and Politics in the New South. Her work has appeared in numerous books and journals, including the English JournalUrban EducationThe Urban Review, andJournal of LGBT Youth. In 2017, Dr. Love edited a special issue of the Journal of Lesbian Studies focused on the identities, gender performances, and pedagogical practices of Black and Brown lesbian educators.

Roland Martin

Over the course of a journalistic career that has seen him interview multiple U.S. presidents to the top athletes and entertainers in Hollywood, Roland S. Martin is a journalist who has always maintained a clear sense of his calling in this world.

Martin is the host and managing editor of #RolandMartinUnfiltered, the first daily online show in history focused on news and analysis of politics, entertainment, sports, and culture from an explicitly African American perspective. Since 2008, Martin has been a senior analyst for the Tom Joyner Morning Show, where his daily segment is heard on more than 100 stations and 8 million people daily.

He is the author of three books: Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith; Speak, Brother! A Black Man’s View of America; and The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House as originally reported by Roland S. Martin.

He has contributed to several others, including Paradox of Loyalty: An African American Response to the War on Terrorism by Julianne Malveaux; Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama by Sophia Nelson; Faivish Pewzner New York and Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Challenge by Etan Thomas and Nick Chiles.

He has been named four times by Ebony Magazine as one of the 150 Most Influential African Americans in the United States.

When Jet Magazine readers voted in 2012 for who is “King of the Hill” in terms of who they turn to on issues of concern to African Americans, Martin came on top, ahead of the likes of the Rev. Al Sharpton and Donna Brazile. NewsOne.com named as the number one Black pundit in the country; and he has been named several times to The Root 100, their annual list of influential African Americans.

In his career, Martin has been showered with more than 30 awards for journalistic excellence, including being named the Journalist of the Year in 2013 by the National Association of Black Journalists for his extensive focus on voter suppression and other issues of concern to African Americans during the 2012 election.

Martin was also awarded the 2008 President’s Award by the National Association of Black Journalists for his work in multiple media platforms. In 2008, he was also inducted into the Texas A&M University Journalism Hall of Honor.

He is a four-time NAACP Image Award winner, including named Best Host for the last two years.

Martin spent six years as a contributor for CNN, appearing on numerous shows and earning accolades near and far for his no-holds honesty, conviction and perspective on various issues. In 2009, CNN was awarded the Peabody Award for its outstanding 2008 election coverage, of which Martin was a member of the Best Political Team on Television.

Martin has been named one of the top 50 political pundits by the Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom, and has appeared numerous times on a variety of American networks, as well as media outlets in Canada, Columbia, Italy, Australia and South Africa.

From October 2005 to October 2008, he served as a radio talk show for WVON-AM in Chicago, first as mid-day host and later as morning drive host.

He is the former executive editor/general manager of the Chicago Defender, the nation’s most historic Black newspaper. A digital media pioneer, Martin launched the first Black news source audio and video podcast in 2005 and 2006 at the Defender.

He is the former founding news editor for Savoy Magazine under the team of New York-based Vanguarde Media, and the former founding editor of BlackAmericaWeb.com.

He previously served as owner/publisher of Dallas-Fort Worth Heritage, a Christian monthly newspaper. He also has worked as managing editor of the Houston Defender and the Dallas Weekly, which he led to a number of local, state and national journalism awards. Mr. Martin has worked as morning drive reporter for KRLD/1080 AM; news director and morning anchor at KKDA-AM in Dallas; city hall reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram; and county government and neighbors reporter for the Austin American-Statesman. He has also written pieces for Ebony and Essence magazines.

Mr. Martin is a life member of the National Association of Black Journalists, and a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

He is a 1987 graduate of Jack Yates High School-Magnet School of Communications, and a 1991 graduate of Texas A&M University, where he earned a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism.

He has been awarded honorary degrees from Florida Memorial University; University of Maryland-University College; Lemoyne-Owen College; Lane College; and South Carolina State University.

He is married to the Rev. Jacquie Hood Martin, author of “Fulfilled! The Art and Joy of Balanced Living,” and “Wedded Bliss: A 52-Week Devotional to Balanced Living” and the children’s book series, “Hannah’s Heart.”

They reside in Washington, D.C. area.


Damon Young

Damon Young is writer, critic, humorist, satirist, and professional Black person. He’s a co-founder and editor in chief of VerySmartBrothas — coined “the blackest thing that ever happened to the internet” by The Washington Post and recently acquired by Univision and Gizmodo Media Group to be a vertical of The Root — and a columnist for GQ. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, LitHub, Time Magazine, Slate, LongReads, Salon, The Guardian, New York Magazine, EBONY, Jezebel, and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 

Damon’s writing — which vacillates from anthropological satire and absurdist racial insights to razor sharp cultural critique and unflinching indictments of privilege and bias — has often generated praise from from his peers. Ava DuVernay called his voice “clear and critical.” Micheal Eric Dyson said he’s “one of the most important young voices in humor writing today.” And Kiese Laymon called his work “the best of American twenty-first century writing.” 

Damon’s debut memoir — What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir In Essays (Ecco/HarperCollins) —  is a 2019 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, and is a tragicomic exploration of the angsts, anxieties, and absurdities of existing while black in America. NPR called it an “outstanding collection of nonfiction” and The Washington Post “hilarious” and “unflinching.” 

A native Pittsburgher who attended Canisius College on a basketball scholarship, Damon is also a member of ACLU Pennsylvania’s State Board. He currently resides in Pittsburgh’s Northside, with his wife, two children, and his faithful bottles of Nexium and Lisinopril.

Dr. Howard Fuller

Dr. Howard Fuller’s career includes many years in both public service positions and the field of education. Dr. Fuller is a Distinguished Professor of Education, and Founder/Director of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The mission of the Institute is to support exemplary education options that transform learning for children, while empowering families, particularly low-income families, to choose the best options for their children.

Immediately before his appointment at Marquette University, Dr. Fuller served as the Superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools June 1991 – June 1995. Dr. Fuller became nationally known for his unending support for fundamental educational reform.

His prior positions included: Director of the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services 1988 -1991; Dean of General Education at the Milwaukee Area Technical College 1986 – 1988; Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Employment Relations 1983 – 1986; and Associate Director of the Educational Opportunity Program at Marquette University 1979 – 1983. He was also A Senior Fellow with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University 1995 – 1997.

Dr. Fuller received his B.S. degree in Sociology from Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin, in 1962; M.S.A. degree in Social Administration from Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1964, and his Ph.D. in Sociological Foundations of Education from Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1986.

He has received numerous awards and recognition over the years, including four Honorary Doctorate Degrees: Doctorate of Humane Letters from Carroll College in 1987; Doctorate of Laws from Marian College, Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin in 1992; Doctorate of Business and Economics from Milwaukee School of Engineering in 1995. Doctorate of Humane Letters from Edgewood College, Edgewood College, Madison WI.

He is the Chair of the Board of: The Black Alliance for Educational Options and Milwaukee Collegiate Academy. He also serves on the Board of Milwaukee Region Board of Teach for America, Milwaukee Charter School Advocates. He also is a member of the Board of Trustees of his Alma Mater, Carroll University. He is an Advisory Board member of the Big Picture Company and the National Association for Charter School Authorizers.

The 8 Black Hands Podcast

Deep in the heart of public school education wars rage on, and few warriors come to fight for the people. Yet, there is one small band of freedom fighters bringing sanity to the village. Anyone who threatens the education of our 8 million black children is likely to catch these eight black hands. 8 Black Hands is comprised of members Ray Ankrum, Dr. Charles Cole,III, Sharif El-Mekki & Chris Stewart.

Ray Ankrum

Ray Ankrum is a firm believer that education can be the catalyst to eradicate generational poverty. Since working in the Baltimore City Public School system and transitioning into the charter school world, he has served students in the position of Dean of Students at Democracy Prep Public Charter School, Principal at Harlem Village Academies, & now superintendent of Riverhead Charter School located on Long Island, NY. Mr. Ankrum is currently in advanced candidacy at Manhattanville College, where he is set to defend his doctoral dissertation in August of 2020. The title of Ankrum’s doctoral proposal is “The Successes and Challenges of Parent Engagement in Urban Charter Schools.

Dr. Charles Cole, III

Dr. Charles Cole, III is an educator focused on the advancement of youth of color, but more specifically Black males. This passion comes from his experiences growing up without proper support, including being homeless and attending more than ten elementary schools across the country while his parents battled addiction and incarceration. Throughout that experience, no adult, no group, no organization ever asked him how he was achieving success nor how he was surviving. Schools were not a place where students in similar predicaments were learning.

As founder of Energy Convertors, Charles comes from the community and has shared many of the students’ experiences. Previously Charles served as a social worker, a Director for Teach for America, the Vice Chair of the California Young Democrats, Black Caucus and at a director’s level with various youth-focused nonprofits.

Sharif El-Mekki

As the son of two Black Panther Party activists, El-Mekki desired to address social justice issues and student outcomes. This sense of urgency led El-Mekki to become a teacher in Philadelphia.

After twenty-six years working in Philadelphia’s public schools, and sixteen as a principal, El-Mekki left to launch the Center for Black Educator Development (CBED), dedicated to increasing the numbers of highly effective Black teachers in public schools through policy, preparation, recruitment, and retention.

El-Mekki previously founded The Fellowship – Black Male Educators for Social Justice, is a featured voice on Education Post, and blogs on Phillys7thWard.org

Chris Stewart

Chris Stewart is the Chief Executive Officer of Education Post, a media project of the Results in Education Foundation. He was named CEO of Education Post in April 2019, after formerly serving as chief executive of Wayfinder Foundation. He is a lifelong activist and 20-year supporter of nonprofit and education-related causes. In the past, Stewart has served as the director of outreach and external affairs for Education Post, the executive director of the African American Leadership Forum (AALF), and an elected member of the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education where he was radicalized by witnessing the many systemic inequities that hold our children back. Chris blogs and tweets under the name Citizen Stewart. He is based in the Minneapolis area.

Muffy Mendoza

Muffy Mendoza is a speaker, author, tribe builder and overall awesome communicator. Most notably, Muffy is known for having cultivated a community of nearly 4,000 African-American moms hungry for social change when she noticed a lack of community among Black mothers in the Pittsburgh region. She created Brown Mamas, a sisterhood that connects moms with resources, advice and, best of all, each other. To further fill the void Muffy has created a line of educational products focused on helping Black moms be the best moms, too. Her first book,The Brown Mama Mindset: A Blueprint for Black Moms on Life, Love & Home, was featured at the 2018 Essence Festival and is currently sold in various cities across the U.S. Muffy champions the beauty of Black motherhood everywhere she goes, even on the TEDx stage. She received a standing ovation at the inaugural TEDx Strip District after giving a compelling depiction of modern day Black motherhood. From the TEDx stage she went on to create a stage for other Black moms. That same year she debuted the first annual Brown Mama Monologues showcase to an audience of over 200 moms. When she’s low-key, Muffy loves reading African history books, forcing her kids to watch the most boring documentaries and snuggling with her best friend and husband Mr. Mack Mendoza. You can learn more about Muffy at brownmamas.com or muffymendoza.com.

Medina Jackson

Medina Jackson, MSW, is the Director of Engagement for The P.R.I.D.E. Program (Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education), an initiative out of the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Child Development within the School of Education who’s mission is to help young Black children ages 3-8 understand race and embrace their heritage.  With P.R.I.D.E., Medina oversees community and arts engagement strategies including the popular PRIDE Pop Up Mini Art Festivals and facilitates parent workshops through their P.R.I.D.E Parent Village. She is an advocate of culturally relevant and socially practical educational models and approaches that effectively engage youth, families, and communities and has worked on a variety of projects in that vein. Medina (artistically known as “I Medina”) is also a spoken word and Hip Hop artist, blogger, mama, community educator, creative space maker, yogi and 2017 Pittsburgh 40 Under 40 honoree. She is a proud advisory board member of the Heinz Endowments Transformative Arts Process and The Pittsburgh Foundation’s Social Justice Fund.  Originally from South Berkeley, CA, Medina moved to Pittsburgh in 2001 to obtain her Master’s Degree in Social Work (Community Organization and Social Administration concentration) from the University of Pittsburgh and has been committed to this city ever since.

William Osborne Generett, III

William is a senior at Fox Chapel Area High School (FCHS) where he prides himself on being a conscientious, civically engaged student. His educational narrative centers the lived experiences of a member of Generation Z whose suburban schooling experiences are defined by the first African American president, the Black Lives Matters movement, and the rise of Trumpism.

William is the founder and first president of the FCHS Black Student Union. For his leadership and work to improve race relations at FCHS, he received the Princeton Prize in Race Relations Certificate of Accomplishment.  He is also a high school student ambassador, an appointed member of FCHS site base board, and an editor of the Carnegie Library’s Large Print Teen Literary Journal where he is a published author of an essay entitled, “American Arrogance.”  William’s stellar academic record includes the successful completion of several college level courses.  He was recently recognized by the College Board as an AP Scholar because of his scores on multiple advanced placement exams.  

While William’s recent community service includes volunteer work with the UPMC Mercy Hospital Physical Therapy and  Pharmacy Departments, the Homewood Children’s Village, and the Family Resources Pre-School, his most impactful work was done in Nicaragua during the summer of 2017. William volunteered with Bridges to Community, a non-profit organization dedicated to service learning and community development in developing countries. His group effort built a new home in the town of Niadiri for a Nicaraguan family. Very hard work, long hours, hot weather, and a different diet made for an unforgettable life time experience about the importance of being in service to others. Specifically, it allowed him to put his life in perspective and recognize his many blessings. 

Michelle King

Learning Instigator. Love Activist. Transformer.

Michelle King is a learner first and foremost and as well as an instigator of learning. Professionally, she is a middle school teacher and has taught over 22 years in public schools in Southwestern Pennsylvania. She learned and honed her craft in Mt. Lebanon with a fantastic crew of educators and students for over 16+ years. In her quest to instigate courageous conversations about learning and children, she ventured to The Environmental Charter School and their principles (Catalyst. Character. Collaboration. Commitment.)  She co-taught Cultural Literacy, an integrated social sciences and English/Language Arts course. She is constantly seeking to create dynamic learning experiences and opportunities that inspire wonder, discovery, contradictions, frustrations, and joy. In making connections locally and globally, Michelle pushes the envelope and boundaries of where learning should occur for all students. Her current interests are in game based learning, design, restorative justice, equity, social justice, the environment and teacher empowerment.  Through her partnerships with the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project, Center for Urban Education, UrbanKind Institute, Green Building Alliance, SocialVR, Carnegie Science Center FAB Lab, Girl Up, CREATE Lab, Carnegie Museum of Art, the Remake Learning ecosystem, ThinkZone Games and other provocateurs; Michelle is helping to create equitable, empathetic, learning experiences for all Pittburghers.  

Care Based Leadership Collaborative (CBLC)

Speakers: Dr. Spradley, Jessica Spradley, Dr. Allen, Eric Allen

Title: Imagining Educational Spaces the Care For Black Students

Type: Consult Session: (90 min) Indepth, instructional program with hands-on learning activities and specific takeaways.

Description: While most educators will claim they care about their Black students, research suggests that Black students are all too often emotionally and psychologically assaulted in the school context from lack of care from educators. Leaning on the work of Geneva Gay, Richard Milner, Yolonda Sealy Ruiz and others as theoretical framing, participants will (1)explore where schools have failed in caring for Black students,(2) examine cases of individual and systematic examples of successfully “caring for” rather than merely “caring about” Black students, and (3) identify ways to incorporate care-based practices into your schools.

Target Audience: Intermediate

Dr. Spradley

Dr. Spradley is the CEO of the Care Based Leadership Collaborative and has over 14 years of routinely advancing the retention of students and staff in Higher Education and K-12 environments through the use of cutting-edge technology and a deep commitment to diversity, equity and inclusive practices to deliver incredible results. Obtaining his Bachelors and Masters from Robert Morris University and his Doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh, Spradley’s research focused on care-based practices of mentors serving Black adolescent male mentees

Jessica Spradley

Jessica Spradley,M.A has 15 years of experience in the field of education. Mrs. Spradley’s educational experience includes a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a minor in Cultural Anthropology and a Master’s degree in Sociology with a minor in Black Studies. She is currently working on her Ph.D. in Social Foundations of Education with a minor in Research and Measurement and anticipating the finish in the fall of 2019. Mrs. Spradley has a strong commitment to issues of diversity and their incorporation into the curriculum.

Title: Architecture Demystified

Type: Show & Share: (60 min) An activity-based session that facilitates interactive and creative learning techniques.

Description: Architecture Demystified will allow for participants to engage in the activities that the company Drafting Dreams offers in K-12 schools focused around teaching architecture. Participants will spend 45 minutes designing the exterior of a one-bedroom house using architectural software, Google SketchUp. We will debrief in the last 15 minutes about how teaching architecture equips students to become change-agents in their communities and about the architectural skills that are transferable to students' academic success.

Target Audience: Advance

Christian Hughes

Christian J. Hughes is a native of Detroit, Michigan and a 2014 graduate of Hampton University in Hampton, VA, where he received the Master of Architecture (M.Arch) Degree. Christian is a Graduate Architect, in pursuit of his professional license as an architect. He serves Drafting Dreams as the Sole Proprietor and Education Director. Additionally, he is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Container of Nside Out Spaces, a design-build company that re-purposes shipping containers into habitable living and working spaces with a focus on environmental stewardship and affordable and equitable housing.

Title: Navigating Race Talk and Racial Identity

Type: Case Study: (60 min) A focused presentation highlighting research findings from relevant initiatives and projects.

Description: We will present our findings from the 2016 Teachers and Race Talk Survey, focusing specifically on how teachers articulate their beliefs and perceptions about the importance of engaging in conversations of race with their students. Pedagogical frames include critical teacher education, the racial identity of teachers and students, and race talk.

Target Audience: Intermediate

Derric Heck

Derric Heck is a K. Leroy Irvis Fellow and second-year doctoral student at CUE. He is a native of Brunswick, Ga., and a graduate of the Florida A&M University School of Architecture. His introduction to Pittsburgh came via an Urban Design Fellowship (UDREAM) within the Remaking Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

Prior to his current doctoral studies, Heck was the director of an educational consulting firm focusing on organizational development and expansion. He is a member of the 100 Black Men of Western Pennsylvania and the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, and continues to volunteer with several community organizations.

DaVonna Graham

DaVonna Graham is a second-year doctoral student in Language, Literacy and Culture, a K. Leroy Irvis Fellow, and Graduate Research and teaching associate at CUE. DaVonna earned a B.A. in Psychology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and a Master’s of Business Administration from Point Park University.

DaVonna is an experienced youth advocate and scholar activist. Prior to attending Pitt, she held dual leadership positions as the executive director of the Hill District Education Council, as well as director of programming for the Schenley Heights Community Development Program. She has also served as a facilitator/trainer of NEXT Neighborhood Leaders program with the Coro Center for Civic Leadership.

Title: Three Trains Running: The Intersectionality of Race-Based Trauma, African American Youth, & Race-Based Interventions

Type: Case Study: (60 min) A focused presentation highlighting research findings from relevant initiatives and projects.

Description: The session will detail the findings (via presentation and whole group discussion) from a phenomenological study that examined the lived experiences of 10 African-American emerging adults (18-25) who participated in race-based interventions during their secondary education and successfully integrated the interventions to mitigate race-based trauma academically, socially, and emotionally. During the session, the following key qualitative data findings the respondents valued will be revealed: 1) acute awareness of the needs of African-American youth 2) access to tools to address the needs of African American youth 3) exposure to various platforms that allow African American youth to witness, develop, practice, and activate the tools.

Target Audience: Beginning

Dr. Lisa Pickett

Dr. Pickett is a life-long learner. She embraces all aspects of her career as an educator by honoring what she knows, as well as what she is open to learning to better the environment and experiences of her students. By embarking on this journey to earning her education doctorate degree, Mrs. Pickett has made the commitment to grow her knowledge base by embracing current educational research, engaging in rich philosophical discussions and presenting new ideas to those around her. Her specialties include secondary education, communications, writing, creative project management, African American Literature, African American History, African American cultural awareness, race-based trauma, mediation, self-expression apparel and print product development. She currently serves as the English Department Director at the Pittsburgh School for the Creative and Performing Arts and has appeared in the movie, Fences.

Title: Diversifying Drone Technology: Using Drone Technology to Engage African American Youth in Computer Coding

Type: Show & Share: (60 min)An activity-based session that facilitates interactive and creative learning techniques.

Description: This session will provide an overview of the racial disparities in computer science and how we can use drone technology to attract African American youth to computer coding. Discussion will focus around the positive impacts a local, Pittsburgh based drone technology program had on African American youth and how this type of program can remove the racial differences in computer coding and prepare African American youth for the workforce.

Target Audience: Beginning

Dr. Lori Paluti

Dr. Lori Paluti is the CEO of Pittsburgh Drone Services, a  Pittsburgh based company focused on providing unmanned aviation education and services to youth and adults. Dr. Paluti holds a Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction and Doctorate of Business Administration degree and is a FAA Certified Commercial Remote Pilot.  She has been involved in education for over 27 years and  has focused on improving technology education within disadvantaged communities.

Title: Helping school districts and families combat truancy: A collaboration of stakeholders

Type: Talk Backs: (60 min) A speaker-lead open conversation with attendees around a particular topic.

Description: We will review my dissertation manuscript Student perceptions of influences on truant behavior in a western Pennsylvania school: A Qualitative case study. We shall review and discuss the research findings and true best practices to address the epidemic of truancy. To truly address attendance barriers we should hear and speak with the students regarding why they chronically miss school.

Target Audience: Intermediate

Dr. Montaire Taylor, Ed.D

I have had the privilege of working with the Gateway school district for the last 17 years. The first 9 as the district social worker / home & school visitor. The last 8 as a school counselor at the high school and elementary level. During the years as the social worker one of my primary responsibilities was addressing truancy. This is where my passion for the issue was originated and inspired my work for my dissertation. I recognized there were many barriers to a student’s attendance. Very often the circumstances were not due to indifference to education. In speaking with students and working with families I recognized that school districts were taking punitive measures to address the epidemic. My passion in recent years has been advocating for students identified as truant and working with to address their identified barriers to school attendance. In order for districts to truly address we must look at each case of truancy independently.

Title: Improving Behaviors through Time & Space

Type: Show & Share: (60 min) An activity-based session that facilitates interactive and creative learning techniques.

Description: This presentation provides a real-time, interactive opportunity to see the impact of consistent and meaningful feedback. Participants will take an active role in experiencing the freedom in having time to solve difficult problems, the serenity of having a place to go when they need to focus, and the sense of accomplishment when they receive specific encouragement.

Target Audience: Intermediate

Timothy Amos

For the past sixteen years Tim Amos has been working with children in schools, homes, hospitals, and the community, serving as a childcare associate, TSS, and paraeducator.  Currently, Tim is the Special Education teacher at Manchester Academic Charter School where he specializes in emotional/behavioral support. 

Title: Teach 2 Liberate! (Developing Culturally Responsive Tasks for All Content Areas)

Type: Show & Share: (60 min)An activity-based session that facilitates interactive and creative learning techniques.

Description: The purpose of this workshop is to provide Math teachers with instructional strategies that they can use to create lessons or tasks that are culturally responsive to the specific student populations they service in the classroom. As an example, I will be presenting the project I completed with my 7th grade class. In May 2018, the 7th grade students at Joseph Lee School engaged in a unit project focused on the intersection of racial profiling and law enforcement. The goal of the project was for students to use qualitative and quantitative data to construct arguments about the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color. These arguments will guide students in brainstorming solutions that will help to improve the effectiveness of America’s law enforcement agencies and, consequently, remedy the issue of racial profiling against communities of color.

Target Audience: Intermediate

Title: The Rise of Black Edupreneurship

Type: Power Talks: (15 min talk/15 min Q&A) A short solo presentation highlighting new and emerging ideas followed by

Description: For this presentation, I will share with participants the journey I have taken to build my educational consulting business (Identity Talk 4 Educators) and the valuable lessons I have learned (and continue to learn) about edupreneurship. I will also highlight some of the leading figures of the "Black Edupreneurship" movement. The main objective of this presentation is to highlight how edupreneurship brings out the activist spirit of Black educators and can be the key to creating a cycle of generational wealth, as well as combatting such as issues as gentrification and income inequality within our most vulnerable and marginalized communities. A short solo presentation highlighting new and emerging ideas followed by questions and answers.

Target Audience: Intermediate

Kwame Sarfo-Mensah

Kwame Sarfo-Mensah works as a 7th & 8th Grade Math Teacher at the Joseph Lee School in Boston Public Schools. He is also the founder of Identity Talk Consulting, an independent educational consulting firm that provides professional development and consulting services to educators all over the country who desire to enhance their instructional practices and reach their utmost potential in the classroom. A proud graduate of Temple University, Mr. Sarfo-Mensah holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and a Master’s Degree in Education.
On December 2018, Mr. Sarfo-Mensah published his first book, Shaping the Teacher Identity: 8 Lessons That Will Help Define the Teacher in You, which was his response to the many challenges and frustrations that come with being an educator within the public school system. The 173 pages in this book are meant to guide the reader through a self-exploration of their life and help them extract the inherent qualities that uniquely define who they are (or will be) as change agents within the classroom. The book centers around such issues as culturally responsive teaching, self-advocacy, professional development, and building a network of mentors. The content within the book represents a collection of the lessons, experiences, opinions, thoughts, and perspectives Mr. Sarfo-Mensah has acquired throughout his 13-year career in the education field. It also features interviews from educators with 110+ years of combined classroom experience.
Throughout his 13-year career in education, Mr. Sarfo-Mensah has dedicated his life to positively impacting and enriching the lives of young children who reside in the roughest neighborhoods in Philadelphia and Boston. Now, he is on a personal mission to uplift and empower educators who are committed to reversing the ills of the public education system in America and globally.

Title: The Return of The Authentic Educator: The Vital Role of Internal Energy Cultivation to Optimize Teacher Effectiveness and Student Learning

Type: Consult Session: (90 min) In-depth, instructional program with hands-on learning activities and specific takeaways.

Description: This session will examine many of the common errors in education, particularly within an urban setting. We will also look at how a retrieval of 'Old School" educational approaches and the concept of the Teacher-Initiate must make their way back into teaching spaces and teacher training. This consists of highly specialized training, character cultivation and energy enhancement for what is arguably the most formative profession in the world.

Target Audience: Intermediate

Malcolm Thomas

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Title: WITH not for: Using user centered design to improve student learning

Type: Consult Session: (90 min) Indepth, instructional program with hands-on learning activities and specific takeaways.

Description: This workshop will give participants an overview of the design thinking process and how it might used to reimagine how we engage our community. As a leader one must be ever evolving and improving on what you are doing/creating/imagining to serve your users. Building new ideas in education requires you to do two things: putting students and families at the center and a dedication to work that encompasses empathy.

Target Audience: Beginning

Malliron Hodge

Malliron has experience in higher ed, community engagement, nonprofit management, job placement, and user centered design, with Tulane University, Cafe Reconcile, ARISE Academy, 4.0 Schools, Digital Promise, and Malliron L Hodge Education Innovation Consulting LLC. She has a BS in Business Management from Winston-Salem State University an MPA from Indiana University with a concentration in Nonprofit Management.

Title: Culture Killing: The Death of Marginalized Cultures in Educational Curriculum

Type: Consults-90 Minutes: In-depth, instructional program with hands-on learning activities and specific takeaways.

Description: Molefe Kete Asante laments the fact that “an African-American in order to master the white cultural information-has had to experience the death of his or her own culture”. And on our best day, we as educators are yet unknowing participants in that cultural death as we stand in front of students to teach what we ourselves were once taught…but no more. Through partner activities, independent reflection, and critical group discussion spanning all core subjects, teachers in this session will learn to highlight student culture in daily lessons and create culturally empowering moments that students will never forget.

Target Audience: All

Mike Brown

Mike Brown, Chief Schools Officer
Freedom Prep Academy Charter Schools
Mike Brown, a native of New Jersey, studied Psychology at Hampton University and later earned his Master’s in Educational Leadership at Boston College. He has spent the last 18 years fighting for high quality education for racially and economically marginalized students. Brown relocated to Memphis as a turnaround Principal (moving his school from level 1 to level 5 with double digit gains in student achievement).

His continued desire to positively impact the life trajectories of black and brown students brought him to his current role as the Chief Schools Officer at the Freedom Prep Academy Charter School Network where he serves approximately 1,900 in Memphis, TN.

Sundiata Salaam

Sundiata Salaam, Chief People Officer
Freedom Preparatory Academy
Sundiata Salaam was born in Camden, AR to Robert and Linda Webb in 1982. He attended the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to fulfill his bachelor’s degree in English and completed his Master’s Degree in Pan-African Studies at Syracuse University. In the summer of 2007, Sundiata began teaching as a 6th Grade ELA teacher at Walker Mill Middle School in Capitol Heights, Maryland. After two years, Sundiata came to Memphis to serve as Freedom Prep’s founding Dean of Students.

As the Dean of Students, Sundiata helped to create a strong student culture that facilitated a rigorous academic component. Using the elements of a strong student culture, he moved into the role of Head of School in order to sustain student culture, achievement, and a strong adult culture. After two years as the Head of School, Sundiata became the Chief Schools Officer. In this role, he oversaw the culture of each Freedom Prep School and helped develop Heads of School at each location. Currently he serves as the Chief People Officer, where he is working to recruit and retain strong talent.

Title: Creating a Positive Learning Environment in High Needs Schools

Type: Consult Session: (90 min) Indepth, instructional program with hands-on learning activities and specific takeaways.

Description: The Power-Struggle in the classroom is real. When students are angry or upset, that student frequently will demonstrate poor judgement and make impulsive decisions. The person most likely to be targeted will be an adult or person in charge. It’s extremely important that teachers to know strategies to help a confrontational student to reduce their escalation and reestablish behavior that promotes a positive and safe learning environment. In order to fully grasp the magnitude of the current state of urban education while serving students, we must build a foundation of understanding the mindset of the teachers and students we serve. Developing a safe learning environment takes courage and the willingness to learn new ways of thinking and communicating with students and parents. When teachers develop habits that support a safe learning environment administrator will see a reduction in misconduct referrals, out of school suspensions, and loss of instructional time. This comprehensive paradigm shift will be the quintessential element in maintaining long term, healthy classroom systems for school excellence.

Target Audience: Beginning-Expert

Sean McCaskill

Mr. Sean L. McCaskill is one of America’s latest emerging voices in the early years of the 21st century focused on motivating people to believe that dreams come true. He is motivational speaker, educational consultant, leadership coach and entrepreneur. A product of the mean streets of the Pittsburgh Hill District, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he was molded by his experiences and learned that suffering does not destroy an individual. Ironically, his suffering revived him whereas he was able to overcome several obstacles and survive through it. Sean believes that “Everyone is born with greatness however; most people fail to discover it because of FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real).

Title: Capitalizing on Classroom Currency

Type: Talk Backs: (60 min) A speaker-lead open conversation with attendees around a particular topic.

Description: Participants can expect to be challenged to reconsider preconceived notions about power, discipline and what learning looks like. We will leave our comfort zones, because while they are beautiful places not much is growing there! Pedagogical frameworks incorporated included Universal Design Learning (UDL), Co-Teaching/Cosmopolitan/Content (Emdin) and Critical Examination.

Target Audience: Intermediate

Shallegra Moye

Shallegra Moye is an established, passionate educator with twenty years of experience. Her experience includes presenting at educational conferences, is currently a PTO president and is the recipient of the A Plus Schools Ella Baker Leadership award. Shallegra Moye has worked several school districts, including Pittsburgh Public, StoRox and local charter schools.

Title: Black Kids Can Learn! : The Real Way to Teach Black Students

Type: Show & Share: (60 min)An activity-based session that facilitates interactive and creative learning techniques.

Description: It’s imperative that schools begin to understand how to create a culture and a climate conducive to learning for Black children. Students should feel comfortable and safe in their classrooms. Educators have to consider who their students are, where they come, and how they learn to ensure that they are getting the best out of their education. Participants will receive an overview of how Black students learn. The research of Gloria Ladson-Billings is put into practice by having individuals participate in hands on learning activities that educators can use in their classroom. Individuals will leave the session with a better understanding of how Black students learn, and how to infuse student’s culture into daily instruction in all subject areas.

Target Audience: Beginning

Angelique Drakeford

Angelique Drakeford, a Pittsburgh native, holds a Master’s degree in elementary education. In May 2017, Angelique Drakeford was appointed as the third Principal & Chief Academic Officer of the Urban Academy of Greater Pittsburgh. She continues to serve as an active member in closing the educational achievement gap.

Title: Working for Teens: Developing Decision-Making Skills in Adolescence

Type: Consult Session: (90 min) Indepth, instructional program with hands-on learning activities and specific takeaways.

Description: Participants will gain a basic understanding of adolescent brain development with respect to decision-making processes. Following, educators will have an opportunity to examine the curriculum materials and participate in hands-on activities which demonstrate how these resources can either be taught as separate, skill-focused concepts or as integrated content within traditional core coursework. Session leaders will demonstrate and model specific decision-making strategies, offering participants ample time to explore multiple techniques through applied examples. Further, participants will work in small groups to discuss practical ideas for implementation of the curriculum in both middle school and secondary classroom settings.

Target Audience: Beginning

Dr. Tricia Shelton

Dr. Tricia Shelton has a 20-year career in education, first as an early childhood educator, and later as a school administrator. She currently works as an assistant professor in the Professional Studies in Education department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Shelton has research interests centered in culturally inclusive practices for early childhood educators. She has authored several publications on varied strands of this topic, including a recent book with Gryphon House, Practical Strategies for Supporting Young Learners with Autism Spectrum Disorders (2016), which was honored with a 2018 Preschool Teachers’ Choice Award.

Dr. Judy Cameron

Dr. Judy Cameron is a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Cameron directs Working for Kids: Building SkillsTM (www.workingforkids.com), a community-based program that teaches the fundamentals of brain development to those who work with children with education-based games:  The First Pathways Game and Working For Teens.

Title: Responding to Emotions Linked to Challenging Behavior

Type: Show & Share: (60 min)An activity-based session that facilitates interactive and creative learning techniques.

Description: Participants should expect to unpack assumptions adults often make about behavior and children’s reactions to redirection. Additionally, there will be coverage of some cause of adverse behavior and a not so deep dive into the developmental aspects of behavior. Small group sharing and interactive exercises will engage participants in understanding often overlooked causes of adverse behavior.

Target Audience: Beginning

Twila Simmons-Walker

Twila Simmons-Walker is a certified school counselor and seasoned out-of-school learning practitioner with more than 15 years experience working with children and youth of all ages.

Twila is a part-time doctoral student in the University of Pittsburgh’s school of education. She is the founder of Third Child Inc., a local nonprofit partnering with families, educators, and the general public, to understand and diminish the effects of challenging behavior on the lives of those directly impacted.

Twila resides in the Beechview neighborhood of Pittsburgh with her family.

Title: Pixar in a Box - The Art of Storytelling

Type: Consult Session: (90 min) Indepth, instructional program with hands-on learning activities and specific takeaways.

Description: A hands-on workshop in which participants will generate an original story and create a three minute short film reel by utilizing lessons from Pixar in a Box - The Art of Storytelling. Through an exploration of Pixar’s storytelling process learn how "Pixar in a Box" can be used in both classroom and informal educational settings to promote the development of 21st century skills such as creativity, curiosity, effective communication, collaboration, group problem solving, and pitching and feedback.

Target Audience: Beginning

Dennis Henderson, Jr.

Dennis Henderson is a dynamic educator and advocate of social justice through education who has impacted the lives of youth and families for over 20 years. Mr. Henderson is renowned for his grassroots approach to education and designing collaborative learning experiences with a variety of industry leaders to create unique learning opportunities.

Restorative Discipline: Classroom Management Methods for Equity and Justice

Type: Consult Session: (90 min) Indepth, instructional program with hands-on learning activities and specific takeaways.

Description: This presentation will introduce participants to restorative discipline. Restorative discipline is an approach to classroom management that is rooted in the restorative justice philosophy. In this session the audience should expect: • Think-pair-share activities in which audience members will reflect upon the classroom management practices used in their school district and compare them to restorative discipline methods; • A lecture with visuals outlining restorative discipline philosophy and defining three restorative discipline methods; • Small-group analysis of illustrative case studies highlighting the use of restorative discipline strategies; and • A handout summarizing the restorative discipline philosophy and three restorative discipline methods.

Target Audience: Beginning

Presenter: Heather Cunningham

Title: Creating Meaningful Partnerships in the Community to Extend Classroom Learning

Type: Case Study: (60 min) A focused presentation highlighting research findings from relevant initiatives and projects.

Description: Teachers from Manchester Academic Charter School will be sharing about an exciting partnership with RIF Readers that has given our students a positive attitude toward reading and has introduced them to new career opportunities and mentors for life. In addition, teachers will discuss how other organizations such as the Children's Museum in the community can enrich learning.

Target Audience: Intermediate

Presenter: Kristian Paladin

Title: Changing Systems with Student Voice

Type: Show & Share: (60 min) An activity-based session that facilitates interactive and creative learning techniques

Description: As educators, our daily tasks involve making critical decisions on the behalf of our most vulnerable population, children. In a system of continuous improvement, we still find that the data displays an achievement gap or signifies that we have fallen short. Pittsburgh Public Schools has developed and implemented a framework for ensuring that student leaders are developed and can have a seat at the table! Participants will receive information regarding the implementation and work to date of a successful structure of student voice. Educators on all levels will leave with best practices for developing a system of student voice in their organization.

Target Audience: Intermediate

Presenter: Asia Mason