Making Schools Work Conference Keynote and Featured Speakers


Ron Ritchhart, Former Senior Research Associate and Principal Investigator, Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Keynote Speaker - Opening General Session

2:30 p.m. Central, Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Keynote Address: “Creating a Culture of Thinking Right From the Start: 10 Things to Say Every Day to Your Students … and Why They Matter”

Ron Ritchhart

Ron Ritchhart is a world-renowned educator, researcher and author. For over 25 years, Ritchhart served as a Senior Research Associate and Principal Investigator at Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education where his research focused on understanding how to develop, nurture and sustain thoughtful learning environments for both students and teachers. Ritchhart’s interest in creating cultures of thinking has led him to conduct research in such areas as intellectual character, mindfulness, thinking dispositions, teaching for understanding, creativity in teaching, how teachers’ beliefs and values shape their practice, and the development of communities of practice. He believes that teaching is a complex art and science that must be understood in context.  Consequently, a strong theme of learning from best practice runs throughout all of Ritchhart’s research and writing.


Baruti Kafele, School Leadership Expert
Keynote Speaker, Closing General Session

4 p.m. Central, Thursday, July 21, 2022

Keynote Address: “Just One Educator Can Completely Alter the Trajectory of a Child”

Baruti Kafele,  School Leadership Expert & Education Speaker

A highly-regarded urban educator in New Jersey for more than 20 years, Principal Baruti Kafele distinguished himself as a master teacher and a transformational school leader. As an elementary school teacher in East Orange, New Jersey, he was selected as the East Orange School District and Essex County Public Schools Teacher of the Year and was a finalist for New Jersey State Teacher of the Year and recipient of the New Jersey Education Association Award of Excellence.


Marck Abraham

Marck AbrahamMarck Abraham is the founder and CEO of MEA Consultants, LLC, a fast-growing consultancy he designed to help poorly performing schools and organizations increase achievement for all students, especially young men of color.

As a thought leader for men of color, author and motivational speaker, Abraham has presented to various education audiences and school districts in New York and across the country. His most recent book, What Success Looks Like: Increasing High School Graduation Rates Among Males of Color, provides school leaders with practical steps to increase student performance for one of the country’s most marginalized student groups. Abraham has also published several articles in the National Association of Secondary School Principals magazine.


Craig J. Boykin

Craig Boykin

Educational consultant and author Craig Boykin is known as one of the top minds on systemic poverty and trauma in America. A seven-time author and former decorated Army veteran, Boykin’s self-made success comes from his hustle, his grit and his relentless desire to never give up.


Leslie Hazle Bussey

Leslie Hazle Bussey, GLISI

Leslie Hazle Bussey is CEO and Executive Director of GLISI (the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement), a nonprofit serving and growing over 1,500 school leaders annually in 50+ districts across Georgia.

Now in her 10th year at GLISI, Bussey leads a team of skilled facilitators, designers, and researchers of adult development experiences to bring to life GLISI’s mission, which is also their theory of action: Uplift school leaders,  transform mindsets and action, create vibrant cultures of innovation and build excellent and equitable schools.


Pam Daly

Pam Daly, "Brand Sherpa" and leader of DK Brand Strategy

Self-described “Brand Sherpa” and leader of DK Brand Strategy, Pam Daly was instrumental to the success of the Academies of Nashville initiative, which now enjoys world-wide recognition. Based on Daly’s work, Nashville was designated a “Best in Practice” example of urban school reform branding and marketing by the U.S. Department of Education.


Phyllis Donatto

Phyllis Donatto, FTH Dimension SolutionsPhyllis Donatto is the founder and CEO of FTH Dimension Solutions, LLC, an executive leadership coaching and consulting firm specializing in empowerment solutions for team and personal growth. Her life’s work is to equip and empower leaders to lead by building cohesive teams while cultivating a thriving culture that impacts and inspires others to be their best selves. 


Mona Elleithee

Mona Elleithee, Renewed Harmony

Mona Elleithee, an award-winning National Board Certified Teacher leader and diversity trainer, is the founder and school equity strategist for Renewed Harmony, an organization committed to helping school leaders concerned with student disparities, school climate and teacher attrition learn how to retain, empower and revitalize their teachers by confidently facilitating the teacher-led implementation of equitable strategies.


Allison Krache Giddens

Allison Krache Giddens, President, Business Operations, Win-TechAllison Krache Giddens worked for small business manufacturer Win-Tech, an aerospace precision machine shop, for 14 years before buying the company with her business partner, John Hudson, in 2020. She now leads as President for business operations.

In April 2020, Giddens founded and hosted the first Advanced Manufacturing Virtual Internship, created as a response to the pandemic and the inability to bring students on-site. In January 2021, she partnered with Parallel, Inc., and industry colleagues to bring AMVI to the neurodiverse community. 


Thomas Glanton

Thomas Glanton, The Education Company Thomas Glanton, Jr., is president and lead consultant for The Education Company, a national educational consulting company specializing in school improvement and the art of school leadership. Under his leadership, the company has served over 200,000 teachers and administrators in public, private, and charter schools across the U.S.

Glanton works directly with school and district leaders to develop their capacity to create school climates that are conducive to student success by focusing on operations, instructional leadership, data analysis and school performance.


Mary Hemphill-Joseph

Mary Hemphill, state director of K-12 Computer Science and Technology Education, North Carolina

Mary Hemphill is North Carolina’s first state director of K-12 Computer Science and Technology Education. With over 15 years of professional experience as a teacher, administrator, state director and university professor, Hemphill understands the importance of fusing education, empowerment and leadership as she works with communities as a leadership expert and coach and inspirational speaker. She has reached over 25,000 individuals with a message of transformation and innovation, self-empowerment and leadership.


Joe and Dardi Hendershott

Dardi and Joe Hendershott, Hope 4 The Wounded LLC

Joe Hendershott, co-founder of Hope 4 The Wounded, LLC, has an extensive background working with at-risk and wounded youth as a teacher, coach and administrator in traditional, alternative and correctional education settings.

Along with her administrative role as co-founder of Hope 4 The Wounded, LLC, Dardi Hendershott is a certified health and wellness coach, a trained and formerly licensed therapeutic foster/adoptive parent, and an advocate for professionals working with children of trauma.


Robert Jackson

Robert Jackson, Robert Jackson Motivates

Robert Jackson began his teaching career almost 25 years ago in Indianapolis Public Schools after being cut from the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings with a “no more excuses” teaching approach that set high expectations for his students and challenged them to not let their personal circumstances define their futures.

Jackson’s goal is to teach educators and administrators how to use their power more effectively to educate, activate and motivate all students to be successful. His own students have gone on to become successful pastors, lawyers, school administrators, teachers, sales reps, business owners, pro athletes, entertainers and more.

Steph Jensen, Boys Town

Steph Jensen

Steph Jensen is the director of community contracts for Boys Town National Community Support Services.

Jensen joined Boys Town in 2003. She has been in the educational field since 1995, holding positions from middle school teacher, district reading specialist and school consultant, speaker and author.


Chris Madrid

Chris Madrid, Program Manager, TIFPIChris Madrid, lead program manager at The Institute for Performance Improvement, manages pilots of TIFPI’s innovative programs, supports agile product, program and partnership development, and scales up programs by leveraging partnerships and collaborations.

Madrid’s professional experiences include go-to-market strategy development and execution, agile marketing, sales channel activation, product realization, project and program management, and cross-functional leadership in both the telecommunications/wireless and nonprofit sectors.


Doug Major

Douglas MajorDouglas Major began his career as an agriculture education student in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. Through his membership in FFA, Major had the opportunity to serve both as a local and state officer, which helped shape his decision to enter the teaching profession.

After earning his bachelor’s in agriculture education at Oklahoma State University, Major taught for two years at Anadarko High School. In 1987, Major had the opportunity to join the CareerTech system as an administrative intern at Meridian Technology Center and worked there 13 years in various administrative capacities. During his tenure at Meridian, he also completed both his master’s and doctoral degrees from OSU. In 2000, Major was selected as the Superintendent/CEO of Pioneer Technology Center. He held this position before returning to Meridian Technology Center in November 2008 as Superintendent/CEO.


Christian Moore

Christian Moore, LCSW and founder, WhyTry Program

Christian Moore is an internationally-renowned speaker, licensed clinical social worker and advocate for youth. He is also the author of The Resilience Breakthrough: 27 Tools for Turning Adversity into Action.

Moore found his passion in social work and created the WhyTry Program, a social-emotional learning program that delivers tools and training to help educators change students from unmotivated to engaged, from failing to graduates, and from hopeless to resilient. WhyTry has been implemented in over 25,000 organizations.


LaQuanta Nelson

Dr. LaQuanta Nelson, Principal, Magnolia Middle SchoolLaQuanta M. Nelson has served in education as a mentor, motivational speaker, teacher, assistant principal and principal over the last 17 years. She currently serves as Principal of Magnolia Middle School in Moss Point, Mississippi. Nelson believes in empowering scholars and all educators on their journey to greatness.


Deb Page

Deb Page, TIFPI

Deb Page is president of the International Society for Performance Improvement and founder of The Institute for Performance Improvement, which trains and certifies school improvement facilitators, including school and district leaders, academic coaches and state and regional education agency staff.

Founded in 2012, The Institute for Performance Improvement works in  collaboration with the International Society for Performance Improvement to train and certify performance improvement facilitators from across all sectors to neutrally guide collaborative coalitions for performance improvement and innovation.


Dave Shepard

Dave Shepard, The Middle Matters and More

Dave Shepard manages his own educational consulting firm, The Middle Matters and More, in Lexington, Kentucky. As a former teacher, coach, curriculum and program designer, and administrator, Shepard has worked with middle grades and high school students for more than 40 years.


Meaghan Timko

Meaghan Timko, founder of ParallelMeaghan Timko is the founder of Parallel, an international consulting agency that focuses on strategic transition planning and neurodiverse workforce development. Timko is an innovator who works directly with families, schools, communities and businesses to build sustainable solutions that address the complex societal problem of neurodiverse unemployment.


Nai Wang

Nai Wang, KP Education Systems

Nai Wang is founder and president of KP Education Systems.

As a child, Nai struggled in public education, even failing a math class.  Growing up in an immigrant family that ran a restaurant, Nai and his family couldn’t afford medical treatment for his ADHD. That’s when he fell in love with video games, a medium that stimulated his mind at the pace he needed.