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Clifton Taulbert, Keynote

Clifton Taulbert attributes his success to his embrace of the 1st Grade and his 1st Grade teacher who, decades ago, wisely called him “Little Professor.” Taulbert grew up on the Mississippi Delta where his world was defined by the cotton fields and Jim Crow Laws. Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored, Clifton’s first book and story of his childhood community, was made into an award-winning major motion picture of the same title. His story caught the attention of international educators in Germany which started him on an international lecture journey that continues today. According to Taulbert, he “could have easily failed had it not been for the community of caring people and entrepreneurial practitioners who surrounded [his] life.” The book that took him over twenty years to get published later became a requested gift for Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison.

Taulbert, now a noted entrepreneur and the author of 14 books, defines himself as a product of community. From his perspective, community is foundational for sustained success in any field or endeavor and his message on the “Power of Community” has led to partnerships with community colleges and K-12 educators from around the world. He understands the critical importance of laying a solid foundation in order for educators to not only effectively face issues of equity, discipline, literacy, assessment, college and career readiness, and remedial challenges, but to embrace the opportunities presented in each for long-term success.

**Noteworthy moments from Taulbert’s career include lectures for: The Library of Congress and Members of the United States Supreme Court as a guest of former Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, Bank of America, Notre Dame University, the United States Air Force Academy, Yale University, “Ole Miss,” and most recently the Assembly Hall of the United Nations where Taulbert delivered a speech: Global Innovations: Starting at Home. Taulbert is also the President and CEO of two companies [The Freemount Corporation-a human capital development company and African Bean Company LLC—the home of Roots Java Coffee]; Guest Lecturer for DODEA (Department of Defense Schools), international schools throughout Europe and Central America, and Harvard University’s Principals Center; Pulitzer nominated author; National Bestselling Author of Eight Habits of the Heart for Educators; and Time Magazine recognized entrepreneur and international lecturer.


On February 10, 2017, Washington, DC-based Global Ties U.S., a nonprofit partner of the U.S. Department of State, presented its highest honor, the Citizen Diplomat Award, to Taulbert. It was presented to Taulbert by Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, PH.D., President of the American Foreign Service Association.


Rachel Yanof, Achieve 60

Rachel has been involved in education since being an undergraduate at Georgetown University.  From Alaska, she was surprised at the economic and educational disparity in the Washington DC area. Teach For America brought her to Phoenix to teach eighth grade at C.O. Greenfield.  After four years, she wanted to make a more systemic impact, and joined Building Excellent Schools.  This led to founding Phoenix Collegiate Academy Charter School.  Her first group of graduating students all pursued post-secondary education, so she graduated too and went to work with an education foundation briefly. In January, Rachel was selected as the first Executive Director of Achieve60AZ, the statewide attainment goal.  Rachel received the Young Professional Athena Award, 40 under 40 award, and was in Valley Leadership and currently a Flinn-Brown scholar.  She is the Vice-President of the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, and on the Phoenix South First Things First Regional board.   Rachel and Joe have three young children and live in Tempe

Donna Davis, Expect More Arizona

Donna Davis is the Senior Community Engagement Manager for Expect More Arizona, a statewide nonpartisan organization dedicated to ensuring every Arizona child has access to an excellent education from the early years through college and career. With a Bachelor’s degree in Health Education from the State University of New York, College at Brockport, Donna traveled the world as a military spouse for 23 years.  Donna has over 20 years of experience in the non-profit sector, devoting most of her time to organizations that focus on youth, education and workforce development.

Andrew Collins, New Learning Ventures

New Learning Ventures is an organization that supports visionary educators who are rethinking learning and fostering innovation. Prior to this role, Andrew spent over a decade as a classroom teacher and director of school development where he supported the launch of over 30 schools and numerous school improvement efforts focused on intentional school design and visionary leadership.  Andrew also serves as a strategic consultant and has been featured as a speaker at TEDx Grand Canyon University.  He lives in Phoenix with his wife, Alicia, and one-year-old daughter, Alina Rose.

Sean Leahy,Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University

Dr. Sean M. Leahy is the director of technology initiatives for the Office of Scholarship and Innovation in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. In this role, he supports the exploration and integration of educational and emerging technologies (through internal programs and partnerships with external companies and organizations) to prepare the next generation of teachers and teacher educators to become creative designer of transformative learning experiences. His research is focused on the use of technology in online learning, emerging technologies, design, and media production.

Paul Perrault, Helios Foundation

Dr. Paul G. Perrault is the Vice President of Research & Evaluation for Helios Education Foundation.  Dr. Perrault is charged with the development of a coordinated research and evaluation agenda around Helios’s three impact areas of Early Grade Success, College and Career Readiness, and Postsecondary Completion.  Prior to joining Helios, he was a researcher at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan where he served as a lead investigator on Arizona’s Move On When Ready evaluation and as principal investigator on Yuma’s Ready Now Yuma evaluation.   Dr. Perrault received his Ph.D. in Educational Foundations and Policy with a specialization in research methodology at the University of Michigan.

Terri Clark, Read On Arizona

Terri Clark was appointed the Arizona Literacy Director for the State of Arizona in June 2012. As Arizona’s Literacy Director, Ms. Clark is responsible for working in partnership with the Arizona Department of Education, Arizona Head Start Collaboration Office, First Things First, the Governor’s Office of Education, the State Board of Education and other local philanthropic partners to advance statewide efforts in early literacy. She was formerly Executive Director of the Television Academy Foundation and was responsible for managing and administering all daily operations of the Foundation as well as strategic and fiscal planning. Prior to joining the Foundation, Clark was executive director for the Literacy Network of Greater Los Angeles where she oversaw day-to-day operations of a coalition of more than 250 adult, family workplace and children’s literacy programs. Clark graduated with honors from Brown University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Literature & Society.

Stephen Sestina, Shmoop

For the past 12 years, Stephen has embarked on a personal and professional mission to elevate the performance of K-12 students, focusing on at-risk and under-performing learners.  Early in his career, Stephen recognized the need for student engagement as a precursor to learning, and that component has continually lived at the core of Stephen’s programs. Stephen’s mantra remains that any successful educational program or content set must employ the three-legged stool of Conceptual Understanding, Skill Building, and Problem Solving.

Lisa Hullinger, Campus Advisers

Managing Partner, Campus Advisers since 2012.  CA hosts workshops for parents of college bound students.  All parents leave the workshop with helpful information to do things on their own to save time & money.  CA helps families navigate the college maze determined by their unique family circumstances. Lisa also has 2 college-aged students, and for several other reasons, she knows the importance of understanding the “Rules of the Game” so that a family takes advantage of every strategy to get your student(s) through college in a comfortable manner. Recently launched a non-profit, Campus, to build awareness and solutions regarding the increasing Student Debt Crisis.

Julia Garcia, Rewrite Project

Nationally renowned speaker, author and spoken word poet, JULIA GARCIA, has worked with over a quarter million people across 100 cities nationwide. She is the founder of The Rewrite Project and the mobile app for teen girls, KYA. As a doctoral student JULIA GARCIA specializes in social psychology and social media, and is using her experiences and education to help connect people through stories, technology, and empowerment.

Jeff Golner, STEM Sports

Jeff Golner is the President/CEO of STEM Sports and Principle Principal of Agency G. STEM Sports© creates and provides turnkey K-8 educational curriculum that combines STEM disciplines with a variety of sports. Agency G is a full-service creative marketing and event production firm. Golner is the current Fiesta Bowl Committee Chairman, TEDxGCU 2018 speaker and an Arizona native.

Stephanie Lund, Ed.D., PBL Instructional Coach

Stephanie is a PBL Instructional Coach on an 11.5 million dollar grant aimed at improving teacher effectiveness in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. She supports the new learning of teacher candidates, mentor teachers, and faculty through professional development and coaching. She spent the first nine years of her educational career teaching in a third-grade classroom and supporting teachers at the school level.  She completed her doctorate in 2016 researching the impact Project-Based Learning has on student engagement and motivation.

Cynthia Diehl, RISE Strength

Using her experience as a trained facilitator and Gallup Certified Consultant, Cynthia built the curriculum for RISE Strengths to give her students a better understanding of who they are and how they can capitalize on their strengths instead of focusing on their weaknesses.   Cynthia’s zone of excellence is bringing out the best in her students. She finds great satisfaction in helping them better understand themselves in order to achieve their goals and amplify their success. She helps them identify and more effectively execute by using their talents and strengths allowing them to take their personal and professional life to a whole new level.

Mario Marquez

Mario is focused on success and wants to make positive impact in communities across Arizona. He is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in public service and public policy while also pursuing his master’s in public administration at Arizona State University. He currently works as an ASU Transfer Ambassador, helping students transfer from Maricopa Community Colleges and is interning for Helios Education Foundation. As an alumnus, he continues to serve as a volunteer and speaker at Jobs for Arizona’s Graduates (JAG), Maricopa Community Colleges, and ASU.

Kate Hoffman, Earn to Learn
Kate Hoffman is the Founder and CEO of Earn to Learn, a nationally recognized social impact organization that empowers low-to-moderate income students to successfully complete college by providing matched-savings scholarships, personal finance training, and success coaching.  After spending many years in the financial services sector, Kate has become a spokeswoman and champion for ensuring low- to moderate-income students in Arizona have every opportunity to get a college education, and that Earn to Learn is focused on developing the financially savvy, skilled, and diversified workforce needed to make Arizona strong.

Sylvia Symonds, Access ASU

Sylvia Symonds is the Assistant Vice President for Educational Outreach and Student Services (EOSS) for Arizona State University. In this role, she oversees outreach efforts for Access ASU, whose mission is to increase the number of Arizona students prepared to enroll and succeed in higher education. In 2017-2018, Access ASU will help over 100,000 students and families prepare for college through various initiatives including summer programs, parent engagement, academic conferences, campus visits and other college readiness efforts.

Heidi Doxey, AzCAN

Heidi Doxey is passionate about college access for first generation, low-income, and otherwise under-served students, she is dedicated to systemic change and removing barriers to higher education. She works for the Arizona College Access Network on the College Knowing & Going Initiative, and has previously worked for the state of Arizona and the Utah System of Higher Education. Heidi graduated from the University of Utah where she studied Economics.

Tirupalavanam Ganesh, Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU

Tirupalavanam G. Ganesh is Assistant Dean of Engineering Education and Tooker Professor in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Ganesh’s research is in designing, implementing, and studying engineering education curricula, fostering classroom goal structures that promote mastery learning, and engaging in system-wide change to develop students’ engineering identity. His research has attracted support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Science Foundation Arizona, and other prominent foundations.

Katey McPherson

Katey McPherson first and foremost is an educator and mother of 4 exhausting yet beautiful daughters. Katey currently serves as a Gurian Institute certified master trainer, ECRA educational consultant, as well as adjunct faculty at Arizona State University in the Educational Administration and Leadership program. Katey is the co-author of a book for parents that has received local and national attention, titled “WTF: Why Teens Fail-What To Fix”.  The book was inspired in part by Katey’s 21 years of interacting with middle and high school children in crisis. Katey regularly partners with local and national experts and school personnel in the areas of prevention. Her expertise focuses on internet safety, social media responsibility, brain based teaching and parenting strategies, and she is often seen lending a practitioner’s view to school police officers and law

Joshua Roth, PCA Alumni Support

Joshua Roth has spent 5 years as a classroom teacher and 4 years in school leadership.  After completing a double major in economics and geography from the University of Arizona, he joined Teach for America, where he taught 8th grade math in the Mississippi Delta. After returning to Phoenix and completing his Master’s Degree in Education Administration, Joshua served as the founding assistant principal at Phoenix Collegiate Academy High School. During the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, Josh supported the start-up and design of the school’s alumni support program, where he currently serves as the Director of Alumni Support, engaging with PCA graduates to successfully complete their degrees.

Brian Stinson, PEAK Fleet

Brian is a father, engineer and athlete with more than 20 years building high performing teams and driving culture change.  Raised by an entrepreneur, Brian assumed he was heading to business school until he became enamored with the ability to solve real world problems using math. At the University of Washington, he discovered Industrial Engineering and realized that “People Engineering” was in his DNA.  During his 21 years at Intel Corporation, he learned to combine the science of data and analytics with the power of empathy and authentic relationships to actually solve real world business problems. At the end of his tenure, Brian was responsible for the Workforce Strategy for Intel’s 6000 person worldwide IT organization.  While in this role, he decided that the balance of his career would be dedicated to Organizational Development. For Brian, launching The PEAK Fleet, represented an opportunity to help the greatest number of organizations unlock their full potential.

Carol Farabee – Farabee Publishing

Carol has worked in Corporate America and as a University Professor teaching technology, management, leadership and entrepreneurship.  She has taught technical writing, thesis, and research methods and is currently a writing coach for several authors. She has multiple business and is founder and co-founder of several nonprofits. Her Generation Us project is working with 10 – 19-year-old students in Podcast, Documentaries/Film, Magazine and Website design. She has a passion for early literacy and how it can shape a child’s life.

Shawn Hardina – STAX

26-years in education involving curriculum design, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Pathway creation, co-operative learning, high school and college science and robotics, and instructional coaching.  His current purpose is to create new coalitions of organization dedicated to transforming STEM education and workforce development everywhere by empowering others to develop customized and sustainable pre k – business partnerships and pathways.

John Bevell-Gigapult

John is an expert in organizational behavior, staffing, recruiting, higher education, and workplace learning. His startup,, is redefining the ‘first job’ for teens to make meaningful work more accessible through gigs – virtual units of work that are greater than a task but smaller than a project. John is dedicated to Arizona youth and volunteers as a career mentor at Phoenix Metro Tech high school.

Tristan Gandolfi- SEED SPOT NEXT

Tristan Gandolfi is the founder of Humor Writes, a creative writing program that blends laughter and learning. She is also the Manager of Schools Partnerships for SEED SPOT Schools, working to provide all students with innovative learning opportunities.

Niranjan Vasireddy – Kidihou

Dad, entrepreneur and solution provider, committed to empowering “Ksharp” parents around the world. His relentless pursuit led him to quit his well-paid job and create a children’s museum in India impacting 400,000 plus kids in 5 years. To find the solution for a parents dream to future-proof their kids has led Niranjan, back to the US and discover the gaps in the education system here.  Realizing that parents/caretakers are the only long-term constant in a child’s life, as a first step, he is building Kidihow, a transformational platform for intelligent modern parenting. A strong proponent of experience-based education, he is also working on the adoption and recognition of a universal standard for experiences.

Other speakers:

Peter Boyle, Western School of Science and Technology

Roman Carrillo