Who are the Presenters?
Ernesto Ortiz, Jr. is in his 4th year as the principal of McDonald Elementary School in the Centennial School District (Warminster, PA). In his time at McDonald, Ernesto has led a literacy shift within his school and district towards relying on evidence-based practices when teaching students how to read. By using the Simple of View of Reading as a road map, Ernesto believes every child can be taught how to read proficiently.
Chelonnda Seroyer, M.ED., began her educational career as a high school English teacher from Madison, Alabama, where she used Dr. Harry Wong’s book, The First Days of School, as an “instruction manual” to set up her highly effective classroom. She has presented with Dr. Wong for organizations such as, the New Jersey Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), the Texas Teachers Alternative Certification Program, the North Carolina Model Teacher Education Consortium, Louisiana State University, and has done keynote presentations for the International Center for Leadership in Education’s Model Schools Conferences. She is featured in Dr. Wong’s online classroom management course; on the DVD in the 4th edition of The First Days of School; she is a contributing author of the Wong’s brand new book, THE Classroom Management Book, and she is the only teacher that shares the stage with Dr. Wong. In 2007, she received the Toyota International Teacher Award, and she is also an Education News 2016 Upton-Sinclair Award recipient. Other 2016 recipients include Stephen Colbert, and (posthumously) Elie Wiesel. This award is “given each year to pay homage and respect to individuals who have contributed much to education and society.”
Dr. Carolyn Strom is a classroom researcher, clinical professor, and reading specialist whose work focuses on improving early literacy and language outcomes for young children. Specifically, her work centers on bridging the divides between classroom practice, neuroscientific research, instructional media, and caregivers. She collaborates widely with teachers, school districts, and instructional designers. Currently, she is leading an initiative for New York City preschool teachers in Head Start called ‘Cortex in the Classroom,’ which centers on the practical application of reading science and learning technologies. Dr. Strom teaches and leads the literacy program at NYU Steinhardt, where her courses focus on how to implement scientific knowledge into everyday classroom practice and how to analyze classroom-level data. She spent the first decade of her career as a first grade teacher and reading specialist in public schools.
Natalie Wexler is an education writer and the author of The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America’s Broken Education System—and How to Fix It (Avery 2019). She is also the co-author, with Judith C. Hochman, of The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in All Subjects and Grades (Jossey-Bass, 2017), and a senior contributor to the education channel on Forbes.com. Her articles and essays on education and other topics have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and other publications. She has spoken on education before a wide variety of groups and appeared on a number of TV and radio shows, including Morning Joe and NPR’s On Point and 1A. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and has two adult children.
“Plain Talk sets the benchmark each year as the premier meeting about reading and related educational issues. If you can only attend one meeting each year this must be the one.”– SAM GOLDSTEIN, PH.D.
“Plain Talk About Literacy and Learning is my favorite conference, both to present at and to attend. The expertise and passion of attendees and presenters alike always give me a high. I leave the conference with my brain full, revitalized in purpose and confidence that we can teach all children to read.”– Michael Hunter
Kristin Anderson is a consultant dedicated to unleashing the expertise and capabilities that lie within every educator. She is a longtime student of the field, a passionate educator, and an inspirational leader. Kristin began her career as a high school English teacher for students who left Denver Public Schools. Since then, she has worked in multiple K–12 settings in multiple instructional and administrative roles, and has obtained advanced degrees from Sterling College, the University of Denver, and the University of Colorado. Kristin is currently earning her doctoral degree from Vanderbilt University in Leadership and Organizational Change. She has developed professional learning programs for Edison Schools, The Leadership and Learning Center, and Corwin, and is known as the person who brought Visible Learning to North America. She has delivered keynotes, workshops and extensive professional learning on various topics in teaching, learning, and leadership in schools and districts across the United States, and in Canada, Argentina, London, Australia, Japan, and Zambia. Kristin is the author of Data Teams Success Stories Volume 1, Real Time Decisions, and Getting Started with Rigorous Curriculum Design. She currently resides in Thousand Oaks, California, and is the Founder and CEO of The Brilliance Project.
Kymyona Burk, Ed.D., is the Policy Director for Early Literacy at the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd). In this role, she supports states pursuing a comprehensive approach to K-3 reading policy by assisting state leaders in building new or improving existing K-3 reading policies, with a heavy focus on supporting successful policy implementation. Kymyona received a Doctorate in Early Childhood Education, Specialist in Secondary Education/English, Master of Science in Educational Leadership, Master of Arts in Teaching English, and Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Jackson State University. She most recently served as the Executive Director for the Office of Teaching and Learning in the Jackson Public School District (JPSD) where she provided the leadership and vision for all aspects of the JPSD’s instructional programs including curriculum, instruction, and professional learning. She is also the former K-12 State Literacy Director for the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE), leading the state-level implementation of the Literacy-Based Promotion Act (2013), which aims to ensure that all students are proficient readers by third grade. Kymyona’s experience includes serving as a reading and English teacher, school-based literacy coach, district literacy trainer, and University-based Literacy Coordinator. She currently serves as a Board Member of The Reading League.
Amy Elleman, Ph.D., is currently an assistant professor in the Ph.D. Literacy Studies Program at Middle Tennessee State University. She earned her doctoral degree from Vanderbilt University where she became interested in designing interventions to improve comprehension, especially for children at risk of developing late emerging reading difficulties. Amy has expertise in meta-analyses, assessment development, and designing innovative comprehension interventions. As a researcher with extensive practical experience as a teacher and administrator, she is often invited to speak for audiences of educators interested in bridging the research to practice gap. Her current research focuses on understanding the most effective methods for improving engagement and increasing comprehension through knowledge building, vocabulary acquisition, and inference generation.
Nadine Gaab, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston/Harvard Medical School and a member of the faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research within the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience focuses on the development of typical and atypical language and literacy skills in the pediatric brain as well as on pre-markers of learning disabilities. The Gaab Lab employs cross-sectional and longitudinal designs and works closely with numerous private and public schools within the US. She is the 2019 recipient of the LDA Award (Learning Disabilities Association of America) for her work on learning disabilities. In 2018, Nadine was presented with the Allan C. Crocker Award for her advocacy on behalf of children with dyslexia and reading disabilities and efforts around the recent passage of the Massachusetts screening legislation. She has also been recognized by the International Dyslexia Association in her receipt of the Alice H. Garside Award for outstanding leadership in advancing the science and advocacy of dyslexia. She is a scientific advisory board member of The Dyslexia Foundation and Landmark School and a founder of the New England Research on Dyslexia Society (NERDY).
Jan Hasbrouck, Ph.D., is an educational consultant, author, and researcher. She served as Executive Consultant to the Washington State Reading Initiative and as an advisor to the Texas Reading Initiative. Jan worked as a reading specialist and literacy coach for 15 years before teaching at the University of Oregon and later became a professor at Texas A&M University. She has provided educational consulting to individual schools across the United States as well as in Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, and Germany, helping teachers, specialists, and administrators design and implement effective assessment and instructional programs targeted to help low-performing readers. Jan’s research in areas of reading fluency, reading assessment, coaching, and second language learners has been published in numerous professional books and journals. She is the author and coauthor of several books including Conquering Dyslexia, Reading Fluency, The Reading Coach: A How-to Manual for Success, and Educators as Physicians, along with several assessment tools. Jan works with the McGraw Hill publishers as an author of their Wonders and Wonder Works reading and intervention programs. She also enjoys her volunteer work at her grandson’s K-8 school in Seattle.
David A. Kilpatrick, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology for the State University of New York College at Cortland. He is a New York State certified school psychologist with 28 years experience in schools. He has been teaching courses in learning disabilities and educational psychology since 1994. David is a reading researcher and the author of two books on reading, Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties, and Equipped for Reading Success, and is a co-editor of a third, Reading Development and Difficulties: Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice.
Timothy Odegard, Ph.D., CALP, is a professor of psychology and holds the Katherine Davis Murfree Chair of Excellence in Dyslexic Studies at Middle Tennessee State University, leading the efforts of the Tennessee Center for the Study and Treatment of Dyslexia. His research in the area of reading strives to identify factors that predict the response of individuals with dyslexia and related specific reading disabilities to intensive interventions and leverage this information to improve intervention efforts. He serves as the Associate Editor of Annals of Dyslexia and on the editorial board of Perspectives on Language and Literacy. He has worked with students with reading disabilities, having completed a two-year dyslexia specialist training program at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas during his postdoctoral fellowship.
Hilderbrand Pelzer, III
Hilderbrand Pelzer, III is an award-winning educator with three decades of wide-ranging experience. Having served as an assistant regional superintendent, a principal, an assistant principal, and a teacher, Pelzer is highly familiar with the interconnected pathway of educational problems and solutions from the classroom to the district level. As the author of Unlocking Potential: Organizing a School Inside a Prison, Pelzer has earned a national reputation for his achievements in expanding opportunities in highly challenging schools and educational environments. Among his many notable accomplishments is the creation of an evidence-based school model for incarcerated youth in Philadelphia’s correctional facilities. His passion for education and disadvantaged youth has equipped him to meet the needs of the most underserved students, demonstrated in his achievement of numerous national and local awards. Hilderbrand is also a speaker. His presentations highlight the intersection of education and incarceration. His TEDx talk “What Incarcerated Youth Can Teach Teachers” illuminates issues related to inadequate reading instruction, educational inequities, and illiteracy in the juvenile justice system. Pelzer’s education perspective is defined by incarcerated youths’ experience with school failure and the belief that their insights can strengthen educators understanding of when and how to raise the academic bar while teaching.
Carey M. Wright, Ed. D., became the State Superintendent of Education for Mississippi in 2013. Under her leadership, Mississippi has initiated education reforms that have increased literacy skills in pre-K through grade 3, pushed student achievement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress to improve at a faster rate than most other states, and increased the graduation rate to an all-time high of 85 percent. Carey spearheaded initiatives that nearly doubled the Advancement Placement participation and success rate, resulted in significant annual gains in English Language Arts and Mathematics proficiency, and earned Mississippi recognition from the National Institute for Early Education Research as one of only five states that meet all 10 quality standards for early childhood education. She was appointed in 2019 by the U.S. Secretary of Education to the National Assessment Governing Board. Carey is a board member and is past president of the Board of Directors of the Council of Chief State School Officers, a Chiefs for Change board member and an alumnus of the Broad Academy. She also serves on the Reagan Institute Summit on Education steering committee and Stanford University’s Hoover Educational Success Initiative Practitioners Council.
Nancy Young is an experienced educator with extensive knowledge of evidence-based approaches to teaching reading, spelling and writing for both general classroom instruction and remediation. She currently consults for schools and supports individual teachers and families across Canada and globally. Her speaking engagements cover a wide range of audiences and are delivered in-person and online. Nancy’s areas of specialty include dyslexia, giftedness, ADHD, and 2e (twice exceptional). A certified classroom teacher and certified Structured Literacy Teacher, her educational background includes a Bachelor of Education Degree in Elementary Education (giftedness focus) and a Master of Education Degree in Special Education (dyslexia focus). Nancy is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree, studying the needs of students who are 2e (gifted and dyslexic). Nancy is the author of Secret Code Actions™, a unique resource she created to help teachers enhance any reading and spelling program by weaving in movement. Her fun code-based actions are accompanied by Clues and Alerts to increase knowledge of the English code. Nancy is also the creator of the Ladder of Reading, an infographic she designed to help educators and parents better understand the wide range of needs as children learn to read and the instructional implications.
Anita Archer, Ph.D., serves as an educational consultant to state departments, county agencies, and school districts on explicit instruction and literacy instruction. She has taught elementary and middle school students and is the recipient of ten Outstanding Educator awards. She has served on the faculties of San Diego State University, the University of Washington, and the University of Oregon. Anita is internationally known for her presentations and publications on instructional procedures and literacy instruction and has co-authored numerous curriculum materials with Mary Gleason including the REWARDS reading and writing intervention programs (Voyager/Sopris). Anita wrote a textbook on explicit instruction with Charles Hughes entitled Explicit Instruction: Effective and Efficient Teaching (Guilford, 2011). She is providing training on explicit instruction in the United States, Canada, and Australia.
Pam Austin is an implementation coordinator for Cambium Learning, Voyager Sopris. She has over 10 years of experience in training and supporting districts in various literacy and numeracy interventions in addition to delivering LETRS professional development sessions. Her goal is to aid teachers in changing the lives of students so that they not only become proficient and successful in literacy, but also as life-long readers. Pam has over 28 years of experience as an educator, previously working as a literacy specialist at the Center for Development and Learning (CDL) by supporting SRCL school districts with diagnostic evaluations, observations, and targeted support based on school-specific literacy needs. Previously, she was an educator in the New Orleans Public Schools, where she served as an elementary teacher, a reading interventionist for at-risk students, a school-based reading coach; and a central office field literacy facilitator. As a field literacy facilitator, Pam provided literacy support to principals, school-site facilitators, and teachers for 10 to 12 schools in the district. In collaboration, she developed, planned, presented, and facilitated a variety of literacy-related professional development sessions for elementary and middle school school-site facilitators and teachers. In her spare time, Pam is also a published writer of fiction.
Elsa Cárdenas-Hagan, Ph.D., is a bilingual speech language pathologist and a certified academic language therapist. She holds a doctorate degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She is the President of Valley Speech Language and Learning Center in Brownsville, Texas and is an Associate Research Professor for the Texas Institute for Measurement Evaluation and Statistics at the University of Houston. Elsa’s research interests include the development of early reading assessments for Spanish-speaking students in addition to the development of reading interventions for bilingual students. She was the co-principal investigator of a longitudinal study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Institute for Education Science, examining the oracy and literacy development in English and Spanish of Spanish-speaking children. Elsa currently serves as the Vice Chairperson of the International Dyslexia Association, Chairperson of the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities and was a past board member of the National Academic Language Therapy Association. She has authored curricular programs, book chapters, and journal articles related to oracy and literacy development for English language learners.
Suzanne Carreker, Ph.D., CALT.QI, joined Lexia Learning in 2015 as Principal Educational Content Lead, where she spearheaded the curriculum design of a ground-breaking reading program for struggling adolescent readers now known as Lexia PowerUp Literacy. Her career includes 28 years at Neuhaus Education Center, a nonprofit organization in Houston, Texas, that has offered professional development in evidence-based reading methods to more than 60,000 teachers. Suzanne served as Senior Vice President of Innovative Solutions at Neuhaus. During her 10 years of service on the board of The International Dyslexia Association (IDA), she led the development of IDA’s teacher certification exam. Suzanne co-edited the fourth edition of Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills with Judith Birsh and, in addition, contributed two chapters. She has authored several peer-reviewed journal articles, has written numerous literacy-related curricula, and is currently contributing a chapter in Fundamentals of Literacy Instruction and Assessment. In 2009, Suzanne was the recipient of the HBIDA Nancy LaFevers Community Service Award for her contributions to students with dyslexia and other related learning differences in the Houston community, and in 2018, was the recipient of the Margaret Byrd Rawson Lifetime Achievement Award from The International Dyslexia Association for her commitment to excellence and advocacy for people with dyslexia. She is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences.
Mary Ellis Dahlgren, Ed.D., is president of Tools 4 Reading. She is an experienced educator with over 25 years in the field of education having served as a dyslexia therapist, elementary classroom teacher, international literacy consultant and author. She is the author of a highly successful phonics tool kit which includes Kid Lips and Phoneme-Grapheme Instructional Cards for elementary, special education, and English language learner teachers. She is also a national trainer for the distinguished teacher curriculum Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS). She is the former executive director of Payne Education Center, a nonprofit teacher training center in Oklahoma. The Center was established to provide teacher training for teachers of dyslexic students and to support parents of dyslexic children. Mary is also a founding board member of a school for adjudicated youth, SeeWorth Academy, organized by the late Chief Justice Alma Wilson.
Linda Farrell, MBA, M.Ed., is a founding partner at Readsters, where she is immersed in the world of beginning and struggling readers. Linda designs and presents workshops, writes books and develops instructional materials for effective reading instruction. She has coauthored several publications with her business partner, Michael Hunter, including Phonics Plug-In, Phonics Blitz, Phonics Boost, and the Diagnostic Decoding Surveys. She is also a coauthor of the Teaching Reading Essentials Program Guide and Coach’s Guide (coauthored with Louisa Moats), and DIBELS: The Practical Manual. Linda was a National LETRS Trainer for seven years. Linda has been presenting workshops and giving speeches on reading instruction throughout the country since 2000. She taught junior high English and was a high school and elementary school counselor. However, it was only when Linda volunteered to teach adults to read that she understood older struggling readers’ needs for explicit phonics and phonemic awareness instruction at the most basic levels. Linda keeps her skills fresh and innovative by working with struggling readers of all ages whenever she has time.
Jennifer Hasser, M.Ed. is a nationally recognized speaker and trainer in the field of reading and dyslexia. She is the founder and Executive Director of Kendore Learning, which provides training, curriculum, and materials to educators across the nation. Jennifer’s passion for education began in the high school behavior disorder classroom, where she was awarded Special Education Teacher of the Year. Her ongoing interest in the literacy challenges facing schools and has led to the design, development and implementation of comprehensive programs for public schools. She is a regular presenter at literacy and dyslexia conferences and serves as an educational consultant to schools across the nation. Her training and curricula are accredited by IMSLEC and IDA. Jennifer is also the founder of Atlanta-based Syllables Learning Centers, where she has helped thousands of struggling readers across the globe. While serving as President of the International Dyslexia Association’s Georgia Branch, she founded the now nationally-recognized Dyslexia Dash 5K and twice received the Outstanding Service Award for her contributions to dyslexia awareness. Most recently, she launched Kendore Cares, a nonprofit organization devoted to providing literacy services to under-served students and communities.
Pam Kastner, Ed.D., is an educational consultant at the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN) Harrisburg, where she serves as the State Lead Consultant for Literacy. Pam currently co-leads Pennsylvania’s Dyslexia Screening and Early Literacy Intervention Pilot Program extension and expansion for PaTTAN. In addition, she is part of a research team investigating the impact of explicit instruction in advanced phonemic awareness on student literacy outcomes. She serves on the statewide Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS) team working extensively in the area of literacy, effective instruction, formative assessment, and professional learning communities. She has served in a number of leadership capacities at the district level and served as a Pennsylvania Distinguished Educator for the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Pam is a certified Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) trainer and a certified reading specialist. Pam also has the honor of serving as the President of The Reading League Pennsylvania.
William Van Cleave
William Van Cleave, MA, is an educational consultant whose specialties include morphology and written expression. An internationally recognized speaker with an interactive, hands-on presentation style, William has presented on effective teaching practices at conferences and schools both in the United States and abroad since 1995. Recent projects include consulting with three schools as part of a literacy grant in Montana; participating on the MTSS Writing Standards Committee for the State of Pennsylvania; implementing several Trainer of Trainers projects using his sentence structure approach; and writing a series of workbooks and a companion book on developing composition skills to complement his sentence approach. He is the author of three books, including Writing Matters and Everything You Want to Know & Exactly Where to Find It, as well as a number of educational tools and activities. Previously, William served as a classroom teacher, tutor, and administrator in the private school arena at various points in his career.
Alisa VanHekken is an experienced teacher and Reading Specialist. Alisa taught Kindergarten, 1st grade, and provided reading support services as a Reading Specialist. She holds a master’s degree is Reading and Literacy, along with an ESL endorsement and an administrative endorsement. Alisa was trained in the Heggerty Phonemic Awareness curriculum by Dr. Heggerty himself and worked closely with him for over six years. Alisa began working with Literacy Resources, LLC in 2013 and serves as the Chief Academic Officer. She has provided professional development for the Heggerty Phonemic Awareness curriculum across the United States and in Australia. Alisa lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and their three daughters.
Julie Washington, Ph.D., is a professor and Chair of the Department of Communication Sciences Disorders in the College of Education and Human Development at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Julie’s research program is focused on language assessment and improving academic outcomes of young African American children who speak African American English. She is the director of the Georgia Learning Disabilities Research Innovation Hub that is focused on understanding the role of cultural dialect in the identification of reading disabilities in school-aged African American children, and particularly those growing up in poverty. She is also a director of the Center for Research on the Challenges of Acquiring Language and Literacy at GSU. Julie’s research is funded by the National Institutes of Health, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute on Child Health and Human Development.
Tracy Weeden, Ed.D., is a seasoned and passionate leader dedicated to advancing literacy and academic excellence. She has spent her career developing scalable and innovative programs, systems, and teams. In her current role as President and CEO of Neuhaus Education Center, Tracy is expanding the reach and impact of the Neuhaus Education Center (NEC) within the State of Texas, and on a national level. The NEC mission provides evidence-based professional learning to educators, information and resources to families, and adult literacy services. Prior to serving at NEC, she was the Executive Director of Academic Planning for Scholastic Achievement Partners. Tracy spent 5 years as the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for the Houston ISD. A graduate from the University of Detroit, with a B.A. in Speech Communications and English, Tracy also received her M.Ed. and Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from the University of Houston.