My Corwin Team
Dr. Sonja Hollins-Alexander has been in education for 23 years, with 16 of those being in educational leadership at the school, district. and higher education levels. She has served as school social worker, teacher, assistant principal, principal, assistant director and director of professional learning for DeKalb County School District in Metro Atlanta. She is a professor in the Education Department at Argosy University and the author of Online Professional Development through Virtual Learning Communities (Corwin, 2013). Her varied experience includes: Strategic Planning, Organizational Improvement, Policy Development, Project and Program Management, Stakeholder Communication and Engagement, Budget Planning, Grant Writing, Instructional Design, Curriculum Development and Implementation, Facilitator of Adult Learning, Conference Facilitation and Design, Quality Assurance Team Member for AdvancED, and the development of Online Collaborative/Instructional Software. Dr. Alexander is currently the Director of Professional Learning for Corwin.
Olivia Amador-Valerio is currently a principal with the Chula Vista Elementary School District with thirteen years of experience. As a bilingual teacher, reading and language arts specialist, and earned doctorate in Educational Leadership, she has dedicated her career to improving student achievement for English Learners focused on collaborative conversations, designated and integrated English Language Development , and providing coaching and mentoring services for school staffs. Certified with the Visible Learning in Literacy model and the Gradual Release of Responsibility framework, she provides clients with a personalized professional development experience connected to high impact practices linked with the areas of concentration.
Laura Besser is an educational consultant dedicated to improving the quality of teaching, learning, and leadership in schools. Motivated by her vision of all students having a future of unlimited possibilities, Laura provides results-driven professional development through presentations at conferences, seminars, and workshops and through site-based implementation support. Her true passion is developing high-performing learning teams. Laura’s high energy, positive, and enthusiastic approach to learning motivates and engages clients. Her areas of expertise include leadership and accountability, standards and assessment, data and collaboration, and literacy and instruction. Laura’s experience as a principal, classroom teacher, and instructional coach have impacted the manner in which she provides professional development. She facilitates learning experiences that are job-embedded, rigorous, and collaborative. Laura has contributed, authored, or co-authored: Leaders Make It Happen, Data Teams the Big Picture, Navigating Assessment and Collaboration with the Common Core State Standards, Standards and Assessment the Core of Quality Instruction.
Karen is currently the Executive Director of 6-12 Educational Services for Valley View School District 365U, in Romeoville/Bolingbrook, Illinois that serves 18,000 students. Previously, Karen was the Director of Literacy and Social Studies for 6-12 in VVSD, after serving as the English Department Chair for Romeoville high school. Karen’s classroom experience includes high school English, special education (behavior disorder), and alternative education. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English Secondary Education and a Master’s Degree in Educational School Leadership.
While serving as Literacy Director, Karen led the development of new English language arts and social studies curricular frameworks in response to the Common Core State Standards. Karen’s efforts in leading the implementation of ELA CCSS have greatly impacted student growth and achievement in Valley View. Her focus has been on helping guide teachers in VVSD adjust their classroom practices to address student needs related to the importance of text complexity, implement a sound assessment design system, and effectively analyze data to drive changes in teaching approaches. These shifts have had a positive impact on reading performance at the 6-12 level, with consistent growth seen for the past four years
Cathy Lassiter, Ed.D. is an education consultant with over 30 years experience as a public school teacher, principal, central office administrator and consultant. She supports large and small districts in the areas of leadership development, school culture, principal and teacher evaluation, collaboration, instruction, assessment and closing achievement gaps. Cathy is the author of The Secrets and Simple Truths of High-Performing School Cultures, published in 2012. She was a contributing author and content editor for Activate: A Leader’s Guide to People, Practices and Processes written with John Hattie and Brian McNulty. Additionally, Cathy was a primary author for the Getting Ready for the Common Core State Standards handbook series, and she was the architect of several leadership development seminars that have been highly successful. Cathy is a high energy, passionate speaker who is in great demand both in the U.S. and in Canada.
Dr. Law completed her doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy. Her dissertation concentrated on the principal’s role in increasing teacher implementation of effective instructional practices. She also had the pleasure of co-authoring “The Reflective Leader: Implementing a Multidimensional Leadership Performance System.” Leadership is Dr. Law’s passion; she has worked with numerous principals and district leaders on the implementation of best-practices in education.
Nicole has received various recognitions throughout her career. One of many, was the 2008 National Milken Award from the state of Indiana. Nicole resides in Indianapolis, Indiana with her husband, Stan and son, Kyle. Nicole and her family enjoy cruising, skiing, and spending lazy summer days at many of Florida’s beaches.
Loan Mascorro is a National Partner Consultant with The Core Collaborative and a certified consultant with Corwin. She assists school systems in effectively implementing Impact Teams, Common Formative Assessments 2.0, Learning Intentions and Success Criteria, Student-Centered Curriculum Design, and English Language Learner programs. During her nearly two decades in public education, Loan has served as a classroom teacher, assistant principal, principal, and professional development specialist. She has worked nationally with schools and districts in providing coaching support for implementing formative assessment and effective teacher collaboration practices. As a school principal, she saw positive changes in teaching and dramatic gains in student learning as a result of deep implementation of student-centered initiatives. With her expertise in curriculum, assessment, instruction, and leadership, Loan has been living her passion for building strong partnerships with schools by supporting the implementation of processes wherein adults value learning together and putting students first.
Dave Nagel’s education experience includes middle school teacher, middle school assistant principal, high school associate principal, and director of credit-recovery programs. Dave developed an effective credit recovery model at Ben Davis High School in Indiana that differentiated goals for students based on specific proficiency measures, improving the graduation rate 14% within four years. He was selected by graduating seniors as “Senior Choice” winner multiple times for dramatically influencing their lives. Dave’s professional development expertise includes: Prioritizing Standards, Common Formative Assessments, Authentic Performance Tasks, Scoring Guides, Rigorous Curriculum Design™, and Effective Grading Practices. He has done extensive work helping schools build effective collaborative teams by focusing on adult actions that adhere to specific protocols and norms of collaboration. Published often in Principal Leadership and Educational Leadership, Dave regularly presents regularly at national conferences. His 2014 Corwin book, Effective Grading Practices for Secondary Teachers, focuses on practical grading practices to reduce failure.
Tremain has been passionate about education through his 15+ years of service as a teacher, administrator, and educational consultant in the K-12 community. As a teacher, he worked closely with low-income high school math students taking algebra multiple times, efforts that resulted in superior state exam pass rates year after year and recognition on Annenberg’s Insights into Algebra Workshop Series. As an administrator, Tremain assisted instructional leaders and educators in ensuring high quality lesson preparation and delivery. He oversaw compliance with campus, district, state, and federal policies and developed and coordinated the selection of appropriate programs and strategies. Currently an educational consultant, Tremain helps school systems across the U.S. with best practices in K-12 mathematics, data driven Instruction, state standards, assessments, and research-based instructional strategies. His former work as an engineer continues to fuel his passion for the integration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics into the K-12 curriculum.
MARY JANE O’CONNELL
Mary Jane O’Connell brings a practitioner’s perspective to all of her work. She has seven years of classroom teaching experience and 23 years of experience as a principal in year-round schools ranging from 450 to 980 students. Since 2008, she has served as a consultant for K-12 teachers and central office and school administrators in a variety of urban, suburban, and rural settings. A skilled and highly organized facilitator, Mary Jane works with both large and small groups. She quickly establishes rapport and trust and is able to actively engage participants both at home and abroad, including Zambia where she assisted college professors in improving their teacher-training programs. Her strengths are in curriculum, assessment, instruction, and data analysis for school improvement. Providing personalized individual coaching for school leaders and working on-site to support implementation efforts, she builds partnerships that lead to significant increases in student learning. Mary Jane is the co-author of Partnering With Students: Building Ownership of Learning.
Ainsley Rose recently retired after 35 years in public education. As the former director of curriculum and instruction for the Western Quebec School Board in Gatineau, Quebec, Ainsley was responsible for initiating many systemic changes that continue to impact teaching and learning within the school board today. With experience as an elementary and secondary classroom teacher and principal, as well as an instructor of graduate-level courses for administrators and pre-service teachers, Ainsley shares perspectives that resonate with all educators. He is also a published author, keynote presenter, and facilitator. His presentations deliver practical school improvement strategies that work at every level, from within the classroom to district-wide support.
Tracey Shiel is an author-consultant with over 20 years in the field of education as a social studies teacher, reading teacher, principal, business administrator, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, and interim superintendent. Through her company, Thought Partners, Tracey brings a wealth of real-world experience and research to her presentations, coaching, and implementation support. She specializes in balanced leadership coaching, implementation planning and execution, and special project educational services of the highest quality to assist leaders and educators in achieving superior academic performance. Tracey is a certified Leadership Performance Coach, a Hallmarks Educational Coach, and a certified presenter of Corwin’s Visible Learning Plus, Common Formative Assessments 2.0, and Learning Intentions and Success Criteria. Her leadership model – Balanced Leadership Coaching—melds together coaching techniques with consulting components. Tracey is the author of “Designing and Using Performance Tasks” (2016) and “Engaging Students through Performance: Creating Performance Tasks to Monitor Student Learning” (2011).
Dr. Julie R. Smith is a thirty-five year veteran educator, speaker, consultant, and author. Her passion, area of focus, and expertise is in building leadership capacity within people and systems; school improvement planning, and teacher, principal, and district evaluation models. Dr. Smith continues her learning by providing workshops in North America and Canada around Professor John Hattie’s research in Visible Learning as a Visible LearningPlus Consultant with Corwin. She is also trained to provide workshops in Dr. James Popham’s research around designing and implementing defensible teacher evaluation programs and Dr. Russ Quaglia’s Student Voice and Aspiration Framework. She most recently co-authored Evaluating Instructional Leadership: Recognized Practices For Success (2015).
Dr. Raymond Smith’s diverse experience includes over 38 years of teaching and leadership at the building, central office, and university levels. Dr. Smith pursued his area of specialty and passion in leadership development by authoring several articles for the Ohio Department of Education, co-authoring three books with a fourth book currently in the works and scheduled to be released in April 2015. Dr. Smith is an activator of learning, leading others in workshops around Professor John Hattie’s research in Visible Learning. He also conducts workshops on Dr. James Popham’s research around designing and implementing defensible teacher evaluation programs.
Tommy Thompson is principal of New London High School in Connecticut, recognized as one of America’s Best High Schools by U.S. News & World Report in 2014 for its dramatic transformation. In December 2015, the Connecticut State Department of Education officially recognized Tommy for “turning around” NLHS, showing gains on every metric currently used to assess school effectiveness. With nearly 20 years of school experience, Tommy prides himself on bridging the gap between theory and practice, putting into practice what he advocates. Understanding that one size does not fit all, he customizes workshops for each of his clients and consistently receives outstanding evaluations for his efforts. Tommy’s areas of expertise include: assessment, cultural competency, and leadership. He is certified in Common Formative Assessment 2.0, Visible Learning, and Deep Equity workshops. Mr. Thompson is a contributing author to Real Time Decisions: Educators Using Formative Assessment to Change Lives NOW!
Jay Trujillo is a distinguished educator with over 28 years of professional experience, including 14 years as high school principal. One of Jay’s schools ranked #1 among 82 schools in southern California for improvement over multiple years, earning two “Model of Excellence Awards” and numerous accolades at the local, state, and national levels. Impressively, student achievement occurred within an increasing diverse student population (e.g., poverty, English language learners, mobility). Jay’s schools have posted all-time records in daily attendance, student grades, behavior, college-going rates, honors and Advanced Placement courses. Jay’s leadership has twice earned him Principal of the Year and California Regional Finalist honors. A highly sought-after K-12 leadership consultant, his expertise and credibility have aided schools at all levels—elementary, middle, and high—to dramatically improve student achievement. Dynamic, passionate, and focused, Jay believes school leaders and teachers must strategically enact simple, yet powerful practices to successfully educate all children.
Kara Vandas works with districts across the U.S. to implement practices that best support student learning. She is the co-author of Partnering with Students: Building Ownership of Learning. Her areas of expertise include: students as partners in learning, the Visible Learning research, Instructional Coaching and High Impact Instruction, and Common Formative Assessments 2.0. As the Director of Teacher Effectiveness for the Colorado League of Charter Schools, Kara supported rural, urban, and suburban schools. While with the Edison Schools, she established an innovative teacher education program for teachers serving high-need students, trained teachers in effective instructional and classroom management practices, and taught middle school science, reading, and language arts at two charter schools. She holds a Master of Arts in Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Regis University and Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Wyoming. Kara remains passionate about supporting all students in becoming successful learners.
Stephen Ventura is the founder of Advanced Collaborative Solutions. He is a highly motivational and knowledgeable speaker who provides practical, research-based strategies. A former elementary, middle, and high school teacher, Steve has served as assistant principal, principal, director, and district superintendent. With expertise in leadership development, formative assessment and evaluation, curriculum instruction and design, Achievement TeamsTM, and grading policies/practices, Steve’s work is grounded in current research focused on disciplined collaboration, goal setting, and organizational improvement. A certified trainer for Visible Learning, Common Formative Assessments 2.0, and Student Voice, he is a frequent speaker at state and national conferences and a contributing author to Standards and Assessment: The Core of Quality Instruction (2011) and Engaged Instruction: Thriving Classrooms in the Age of the Common Core (2014). Through his intelligence, easy going manner, and sense of humor, Steve inspires teachers and leaders to pursue excellence with greater focus, rigor, and clarity.
Dr. Diane Wolf currently serves as Assistant Regional Superintendent of Schools for 30 districts in southern Illinois. With experience in grades Pre-K through college, Diane is a respected professional developer who believes all students deserve a supported and enthusiastic teacher. Effective in both large and small group settings, she has trained over 15,000 educators who regularly comment, “This was fun and inspiring!” Diane is passionate about the importance of assessments, believing they can either build or break a student-teacher relationship, so she breaks down the assessment process into manageable and doable steps applicable to every classroom. Her practical approach is evident in the title of her dissertation, “Assessment Lessons for the Burnt-out, Bewildered, or Beginning Teacher,” for which she was awarded Dissertation of the Year. Diane earned her Doctorate and Master’s degree in Educational Administration and Foundations at Illinois State University, following bachelor’s degrees in Secondary Education and Public Relations.