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.


National Geographic Society
Wednesday General Session

1 p.m. Central, Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Keynote Panel: “Cultivating An Explorer’s Mindset Through Storytelling”

Fay Gore, Sr. Director, Strategic Partnerships & Grants, National Geographic SocietyJoin us for a Keynote Panel of National Geographic Explorers! Learn about their experiences working in their respective fields to illuminate and protect the wonders of our world while inspiring the next generation of change-makers.

Moderated by lifelong educator Fay Gore, senior director of Strategic Partnerships and Grants at the National Geographic Society, the panel will include three National Geographic Explorers: Tara Roberts, Ashley Lamb-Sinclair and Sruthi Gurudev.

This lively panel will explore three questions:

  1. What does it mean to have an Explorer’s Mindset?
  2. How can we help students develop the attitudes, skills and knowledge of a National Geographic Explorer?
  3. How can we cultivate this Explorer’s Mindset through the power of storytelling?
Fay Gore

Fay Gore — life-long educator, former classroom teacher and education consultant — currently leads strategic partnerships and grants work for National Geographic Society’s Education Division. In this capacity, she works to transform the teaching and learning experience by introducing educators and learners to free National Geographic resources experiences and Explorers. She also helps lay the foundation for the next generation of National Geographic Explorers.

Tara Roberts

Tara Roberts, National Geographic ExplorerNational Geographic Storytelling Fellow and National Geographic 2022 Explorer of the Year Tara Roberts spent the last few years following, diving with and telling stories about a group of Black scuba divers as they searched for slave shipwrecks around the world. Her journey was turned into a six-part National Geographic–produced narrative podcast called “Into the Depths,” as well as a cover story for the March 2022 issue of National Geographic magazine. Roberts has also worked as an editor for CosmoGirl, Essence, Ebony and Heart & Soul magazines, edited several books for girls, and founded her own magazine for women “too bold for boundaries.”

Ashley Lamb-Sinclair

Ashley Lamb-Sinclair, National Geographic ExplorerAward-winning educator, author and National Geographic Explorer Ashley Lamb-Sinclair oversees the 2892 Miles to Go Geographic Walk for Justice, a geo-inquiry program that amplifies community stories led and told by people most often left out of the narratives of human history and culture. Lamb-Sinclair was the 2016 Kentucky Teacher of the Year and served as the state’s inaugural Educator-in-Residence, where she supported and led efforts to amplify educator voice and agency.

Sruthi Gurudev

Sruthi Gurudev, National Geographic Young ExplorerNational Geographic Young Explorer Sruthi Gurudev’s love for the sea has led her to pursue a career of eco-journalism — storytelling that promotes youth engagement and innovation in ocean conservation. Gurudev’s ocean conservation e-magazine “An Hour in the Deep” is inspiring conservationists of all ages and backgrounds to protect the richness, wonder and biodiversity of our underwater environments and the whole planet.


This session is proudly sponsored by the National Geographic Society, a global nonprofit organization committed to using the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. They invest in a diverse global community of Explorers who investigate, test hypotheses, innovate, stretch their creativity and push the boundaries of traditional thinking in ways that fundamentally change our world. Through the lens of education, they work to inspire educators, youth and future Explorers by providing resources and experiences that enable them to learn about, care for and protect our planet.

Visit the National Geographic Booth

National Geographic is transforming the learning experience for youth and the educators who reach them with resources that help students think and act like Explorers. Visit the National Geographic Society booth (#s 204-210) in Education Marketplace in the Grapevine Ballroom to discover how you can invite National Geographic Explorers into your classroom for a virtual video call, browse our free resources and more! Dive into digital storytelling by enrolling in a Storytelling for Impact course — free online professional development for students and educators! Then journey with us to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean to discover Into the Depths, a new six-part podcast series that explores the complex history of the global slave trade.

National Geographic Society Logo


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.


Tyson Brown

Tyson Brown, National Geographic SocietyTyson Brown leads the development and implementation of high-quality National Geographic NEXT-aligned educational content for distribution through National Geographic’s partners and platforms.

Brown works collaboratively with the EDU Lab to implement, curate and disseminate high-impact content and education tools to help educators and young people develop an explorer mindset. Content and resources include real-time data and build on authentic learning experiences through the work of National Geographic explorers, scientists, storytellers, technologists, educators and partners. 


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.


Irene Hasenberg Butter

Irene Hasenberg ButterIrene Hasenberg Butter is a well-known peace activist, Holocaust survivor and Professor Emerita of Public Health at the University of Michigan. Butter and Anne Frank lived in the same neighborhood in Amsterdam and had an encounter in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp shortly before Anne died.

Butter is a frequent and inspirational speaker about her experience during World War II, stressing the importance of “Never A Bystander” and that “One Person Can Make A Difference.”


Kristy Custer

Kristy Custer, vice president of Educational Innovation at High School Esports LeagueKristy Custer, vice president of Educational Innovation at High School Esports League, writes turn-key esports curricula that schools can use to teach students essential STEM, leadership and college and career readiness skills.

As a public school educator for over 24 years, Custer served for 12 years as an administrator for at-risk students, leading her school to two National School of Character awards as well as the National Dropout Prevention Crystal Star Award.


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.


Andre “Add-2″ Daniels

Andre "Add-2" Daniels, Haven Studio DirectorMusician and emcee Andre “Add-2″ Daniels is the director of the Guitars Over Guns Haven Studio, a community-based recording studio located in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. In partnership with Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church, this unique program gives students access to a fully equipped professional music studio, allowing them to use industry standard technology to develop original music and learn vital, career-track skills in music production and engineering.


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. 


Rachel Hansen

Rachel Hansen, National Geographic ExplorerRachel Hansen is a high school social studies teacher with 11 years of experience in the classroom. She currently teaches AP Human Geography, Latinx Studies and Model United Nations at Muscatine High School in Muscatine, Iowa, where she also serves as the social studies department chair. Hansen is passionate about designing learning experiences that encourage students to engage in meaningful, authentic projects in their communities, where they can build relationships that produce sustainable change.


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

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

Mary Hemphill, director of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Academic Standards Division, was the state’s first 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.


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.


Hans Meeder

Hans Meeder, co-founder and President of the National Center for College and Career TransitionsHans Meeder, co-founder and President of the National Center for College and Career Transitions (NC3T), an organization that provides coaching and technical assistance for schools and communities involved in launching a college and career pathways system. NC3T also shares the urgency and benefit of the career pathways model and develops the capacity of local leaders to take action on a pathways system agenda.


Joe Montes de Oca

Joe Montes de Oca, educator and iNaturalist enthusiastWhen educator Joe Montes de Oca is not teaching Portuguese and Italian in a Miami high school, he spends the majority of his free time exploring Miami-Dade County and documenting the biodiversity he finds and adding identifications on iNaturalist, a social network of naturalists, citizen scientists and biologists built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe.


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.


Andy Rahden

Andy Rahden, CEO, ShmoopAndy Rahden is the CEO of Shmoop, a provider of education technology solutions for the K-12 education space. Shmoop provides solutions for academic progress around mental health and social-emotional learning, course content and video learning, and test preparation technology. Shmoop is focused on closing learning gaps, easing the stress in the learning environment and creating opportunities for progress for all students.


Mike Russell

Michael Russell, vice president of Curriculum & Esports Integration at High School Esports League, created the first for-credit gaming course in the nation. Building on the success of that first course, he and co-author Kristy Custer wrote the Gaming Concepts course that is now being used across the U.S. and in several countries around the world.

Russell and Custer saw Gaming Concepts as a way to take something that students loved and turn it into an educational opportunity that would motivate and engage both high-level achievers and apathetic learners.


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.


Mike Singletary

Mike Singletary, co-founder, Changing Our PerspectiveMike Singletary is a former NFL coach and player. After playing college football for the Baylor Bears, Singletary was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the second round of the 1981 NFL Draft and was known as “The Heart of the Defense” for the Bears. He was part of their Super Bowl XX championship team. Singletary was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 1995 and into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998.


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.