Keynote Speakers

Monday, October 28th

Symposium Opening Keynote (3:15pm – 5:15pm)

Broadening the Definition of Student Success: A Spotlight on Mental Health
Dr. Brooke Stafford-Brizard, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

As support builds for a more holistic approach to education for all students, urgency also builds for the same rigor and personalization that we apply to the design and implementation of academic instruction to be brought to non-academic areas. Across every aspect of a child’s education, we owe our students and educators access to quality supports grounded in the science of child and adolescent learning and development. Within this context schools are increasingly focused on how they can support students’ mental health. Parents name it as key to their child’s success and a priority on par with reading and math. Policymakers are passing laws supporting resourcing for mental health supports in states across the country. Teachers are advocating for professional development to address student needs as well as their own. With such strong demand and potential resources for systems, how will educators identify and implement personalized evidence-based mental health supports for students? How do the skills and mindsets connected to mental health correlate to and even predict academic outcomes? How does this connect to school efforts around social emotional learning? And how might a focus on mental health be key to improved outcomes for all students? 

Tuesday, October 29th

Morning Keynote (8:00am – 9:15am)

Future Makers
Derek Wenmoth, CORE Education

We’re constantly exposed to stories of change on the horizon, from artificial intelligence to driverless cars; from the threat of war, to the shortage of food and fresh water; from the exploration of life on other planets to the slow degradation of the state of our own planet’s ecosystem. While awareness of these things has certainly been rising in recent years, the scale and scope of their impact is often not appreciated until the change has already occurred, and the sense of ‘helplessness’ to do anything about it is pervasive across all areas of society.

 As educators, it is our responsibility to be thinking about how we prepare our young people for such an uncertain, constantly changing future. We must ask two important questions as we think about the organization of our schools, our curriculum and our approach to learning. They are:

  • What will learning be like in the future? And
  • What must we learn for the future?

Our response to these questions will be pivotal in determining what sort of future we want to see and how so many of the issues and concerns that currently confront us may be addressed.

Imagine the difference if, instead of seeing ourselves primarily as ‘instructors’, passing on the knowledge and skills to a new generation as we have for decades past, we were to see ourselves as ‘future makers’, investing in the development of the young people in our charge in ways that ensure they’ll be equipped to make decisions about how they will live and work in the future world, so that this change doesn’t simply happen to them, but they can feel empowered and enabled to do something about it, to live and to thrive, not simply survive into the future.

Drawing on his experience as an educator, policymaker and thought leader in the New Zealand context, Derek will explore some of the ways in which leaders and teachers may respond in order to ensure schools remain relevant and ‘future-focused’ in all areas of their activity. Derek will reference the work he’s done in monitoring global trends and influences, and suggest what we must do to ensure we’re preparing our students to be confident, connected and capable learners in a world where change is the constant, and how we might work together to manage the change required in our schools and in our communities in ways that honor the past and pursue the future.


Luncheon Keynote (12:15pm – 2:00pm)

Transforming Learning For A Brighter Future
Jackie Statum Allen, Bush Foundation
Supt. Kirsten Baesler, ND State Supt. of Education
Dr. James Lane, VA Supt. of Public Instruction

What would it take to ensure every student has the opportunity to learn in a student-centered education system? Three extraordinary leaders are illuminating a path forward to show how systems transformation can be done with a commitment to high-quality, student-centered learning for all and an emphasis on educational equity. Each speaker will provide short, powerful talks drawing on their journeys offering insights and inspiration on how the work they are leading is transforming education, connecting communities, and shining a light on the future of learning. 

 “For every student to succeed, we need an education system that works for all students. This requires a more personal, more relevant approach to education. Creating real, sustainable change to the way we approach education will require a lot of people to think bigger and differently about what is possible. We know that in order to accomplish our goal, we need to inspire, equip and connect people who want to make student-centered learning an essential part of the education system.” – Bush Foundation

We are honored to welcome three leaders whose commitment to students and educational equity is evident in the work they lead and in the inspiration they provide to all who are seeking to transform education systems and make learning more personal and responsive to each student’s needs.

Wednesday, October 30th

Morning Keynote (8:00am – 9:15am)

Leading with Learners: Elevating Student Voice in Education Transformation
Student Panel facilitated by Virgel Hammonds, KnowledgeWorks
Aidyn Grice, Learner, Norris Academy (WI)
Alyssia Leach, Learner/Entrepreneur, GripTape and University of Louisville
Elias Hernandez, Learner, River Springs School (CA)
Landon Kreps, Learner, Alamosa High School
Victoria Borunda, Learner, ACE Leadership High School

This keynote provides a forum to amplify the most critical of all voices in the work of transforming learning – the voices of students. Joining us from diverse backgrounds and experiences, these students will share their personal journey on how student-centered approaches to K-12 education have changed the way they learn, fostered greater ownership of their learning, and opened doors to pursue their personal and academic goals.

Virgel Hammonds Chief Learning Officer at KnowledgeWorks will facilitate a panel discussion with our student leaders of tomorrow in an unfiltered and honest conversation. The students will provide their first-hand accounts of what it’s like to reimagine their own education and illuminate their own paths forward.

Audience members – this is your chance to ask questions to students immersed in innovative learning. Send your questions to the students through Twitter using #iNACOL19.


Luncheon Keynote (12:15pm – 2:00pm)

The Role of Leadership in Building the Capacity of Schools to Meet Student Needs
Dr. Pedro Noguera, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA

Educational leaders who succeed in serving the needs of all their students must find ways to pursue excellence and equity simultaneously and to create conditions in schools that address the academic and non-academic needs of children (i.e. health, nutrition, safety, etc). For this to occur, leaders must have a clear sense of how to systematically build the capacity of schools to meet the needs of the students they serve. This presentation will describe how such strategies are being implemented successfully at a small number of successful schools in the United States, even in the most disadvantaged communities where the needs are great. It will also provide concrete strategies for school leaders to develop effective partnerships with community organizations and parents that can help in furthering efforts to raise achievement and transform the culture and performance of schools.  

Speaker Bios

Dr. Brooke Stafford-Brizard, Director of Whole Child Development, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

Dr. Brooke Stafford-Brizard is the Director of Whole Child Development at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, where she leads work to support a comprehensive, Whole Child approach to learning and development. Before joining CZI, Dr. Stafford-Brizard worked as an independent consultant supporting the integration of cognitive and social-emotional development into school districts and charter management organizations through a connection between research, policy, and practice. As a Senior Advisor with Turnaround for Children, Dr. Stafford-Brizard authored The Building Blocks for Learning, a nationally recognized developmental framework supporting comprehensive student development. She began her career as a teacher with Teach for America at an intermediate school in the Bronx and later co-founded the Young Women’s College Prep Charter School in Rochester, NY. Stafford-Brizard is a Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow and a member of the Aspen Institute’s Global Leadership Network.

Derek Wenmoth, Principal Consultant, CORE Education

Derek is currently a Principal Consultant at CORE Education, a not-for-profit education research and development organization that he co-founded with two colleagues in 2013, based in Christchurch, New Zealand. 

He has been a teacher, principal, teacher educator and policy advisor across all parts of the education system, from early childhood to tertiary. Derek is regarded as one of New Zealand education’s foremost future-focused thinkers, and is regularly asked to consult with school leaders, policymakers and government agencies regarding the future directions of New Zealand education. 

Derek has been at the forefront of much of the system level innovation in New Zealand over the past few decades, including setting up the Virtual Learning Network for students in rural and remote schools around the country, assisting with the establishment of new schools and pioneering work in the area of modern learning environments, establishing new models of practice-based initial teacher education and more recently, in pioneering thinking about learning ecologies involving the whole community in the education of our young people.

Derek is regularly invited to speak at conferences both nationally and internationally, and maintains a blog on matters relating to e-learning and other aspects of interest to educators. 

In recognition of his work in this area, Derek was designated one of the “Global Six” in 2008 by the George Lucas Educational Foundation that recognizes individuals making a difference in education.

Jackie Statum Allen, Education Portfolio Director, Bush Foundation

Jackie Statum AllenJackie Statum Allen joined the Bush Foundation as the Education Portfolio Director in 2018. She manages the strategy, programs, and partnerships for the Foundation’s education initiative. The focus of the initiative is to make education more relevant for students in terms of who they are, how they learn, and where they want to go.

Prior to her current role, Jackie spent more than a decade working in public school district administration. Most recently, she led the Office of Strategic Planning, Policy and Grants Development for Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) in Minnesota. In that role, she led several high-impact projects including developing and implementing multiple district strategic plans, developing inclusive policies, and managing informational campaigns for referendum ballot issues. Prior to SPPS, she worked in operations and budget management with Chicago Public Schools. She also has experience working in brand marketing and manufacturing engineering.

Jackie is originally from St. Louis, Missouri. She has a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and a master’s degree from Northwestern University – Kellogg School of Management. She lives in the Twin Cities with her husband and two young daughters.

Kirsten Baesler, State School Superintendent, North Dakota Dept. of Education 

Kirsten Baesler is the state school superintendent of North Dakota. In her position, she oversees the education of more than 121,000 public and private school students. She was elected as state school superintendent in November 2012, and re-elected to her second term in 2016 with 75 percent of the vote.

Before taking office in January 2013, Superintendent Baesler had a 24-year career in the Bismarck public school system as a vice principal, library media specialist, classroom teacher and instructional assistant. She also worked for the North Dakota School Boards Association as the association’s assistant director.

Superintendent Baesler served on the Mandan school board for nine years. Her colleagues chose her as their president for seven of those nine years.

She is one of the nine directors of the Council of Chief State School Officers, a national organization that represents state education organizations across the nation. CCSSO provides leadership, technical assistance and advocacy on major educational issues.

Superintendent Baesler is one of 25 women leaders chosen from across the country for the Governing Institute’s 2019 Women in Government Leadership Program, which provides training for participants to serve as mentors and advisers for other prospective female leaders.

She is a member of the advisory board of the Civics Education Initiative, an organization that advocates for a proposal to require high school students to pass a civics exam before they may graduate. Superintendent Baesler successfully backed this idea during the North Dakota Legislature in 2015.

She serves on more than a dozen boards, including the Education Standards and Practices Board, the Educational Technology Council, the Teachers’ Fund for Retirement Board, and the Board of University and School Lands, which manages state land holdings and oversees a $4.2 billion trust fund that benefits North Dakota’s public schools.

She earned two associates’ degrees from Bismarck State College, a bachelor’s degree in education from Minot State University, and a master’s degree in library and information technology from Valley City State University. She holds Valley City State University’s Distinguished Alumni Award and the Rising Star Award from Bismarck State College. She has completed the Graduate School Educational Leadership Program at Harvard University.

Superintendent Baesler is a native of Flasher, N.D. She lives in Mandan, N.D., and has three adult sons.

Dr. James F. Lane, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Virginia Dept. of Education

Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction, leads the Commonwealth’s Virginia is for Learners initiative — a commitment to ensure that every public school student is ready to thrive after graduation. Education is the most effective tool to reduce poverty, address social challenges, and sustain economic advancement for all Virginians. The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is prioritizing equity and building a broad coalition of support that represents stakeholders from across the Commonwealth to ensure every student graduates with life ready skills that include the 5 C’s — critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, collaboration and citizenship. Under Dr. Lane’s leadership, the Commonwealth is committed to ensuring that students and families, regardless of their race, economic status, or native language, feel welcome in school and have access to the resources they need to succeed.


Virgel Hammonds, Chief Learning Officer, KnowledgeWorks

As the Chief Learning Officer of competency-based education work at KnowledgeWorks, Virgel Hammonds partners with national policymakers and local learning communities throughout the country to redesign learning structures to become more learner-centered and based on proficiency, rather than seat time. He also works with KnowledgeWorks staff to build out competency-based education tools and services to help districts implement this personalized learning model.

Virgel previously served as the superintendent of RSU 2 school district in Maine. There, he collaborated with five communities to develop and implement a curriculum designed to ensure mastery of standards by all students. Before serving as superintendent, Virgel was a high school principal at Lindsay Unified School District in California. With 4,100 K-12 students in the district, 100 percent qualify for free and reduced lunch. There, Virgel helped implement a personalized learning model where “learners” don’t earn letter grades, but rather are awarded mastery for subjects in which they’ve proven to be proficient.

Currently, Hammonds also serves on multiple boards and leadership councils: Innovation Lab Network Leadership Advisory Council; Jobs for Maine Graduates Executive Board; Literacy for Maine Board; Maine School Superintendents Executive Committee; Maine Academic Decathlon Executive Committee; Maine Healthy Communities Board; and iNACOL board.

Virgel earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and his Master of Education from Fresno Pacific University.

Aidyn Grice, Learner, Norris Academy (WI)

Aidyn is a student at Norris Academy, a one-school public district in Mukwonago, Wisconsin serving learners ages 5-22. Norris Academy partners with a residential center to house their high population of learners who are in the foster care and justice systems. Norris Academy works to empower learners to develop the dispositions necessary to acquire knowledge and skills to pursue their passions, aspirations, and future to their fullest potential.

Aidyn loves learning at Norris because he is afforded the opportunity to work directly with his learning specialist to determine which pathway he will take to demonstrate what he has learned.  Aidyn is a hands-on learner who really enjoys classes where he can build things. He also enjoys the outdoors, all kinds of sports, and aspires to play football at Ohio State University.

Alyssia Leach, Learner/Entrepreneur, GripTape and University of Louisville

Alyssia Leach is a recent graduate of duPont Manual School in Louisville, Kentucky. She is one of nine Youth Leadership Board members at GripTape. This is the key leadership group for the organization. Additionally, Alyssia was a Learning Challenger with GripTape (meaning she chose a path to pursue and then built and executed her own learning). 

Alyssia is the founder of The Black Rose Effect, Inc. and The Student Boss. Her company, The Black Rose Effect, was started in 2016 while she was a sophomore in high school to help women and girls enhance their natural beauty. In 2018, Alyssia started an organization originally called TeenBoss where she connected with teens around the world (Mexico, Jamaica, and even New Zealand). She started TeenBoss to meet like-minded people who were driven to succeed in school or business. TeenBoss is now known as The Student Boss.

Alyssia is outgoing, and believes fully in the importance of youth having active roles in their own learning and development.

Elias Hernandez, Learner, River Springs School (CA)

Elias is a 6th grade student with River Springs Charter School where he is starting his fifth year. Elias has been very successful in this school where he finds that the education is truly tailored to meet his personalized learning needs and builds upon his strengths. English is Elias’s second language and Spanish is the language spoken at home. Elias’s parents are very committed to his education and made the choice to enroll Elias in a school that would ensure learning based on his strengths and interests.


Landon Kreps, Learner, Alamosa High School

Landon is from rural Colorado. He is one of nine Youth Leadership Board members at GripTape. Landon has also been a Learning Challenger with GripTape. For Landon’s learning journey, he focused on public performance of music. His learning journey became a life changing experience for him (i.e., leading his own learning and seeing a different model than what is provided in traditional high schools was eye opening and empowering). He was no fan of school. He has since become highly involved in learning and education and leadership through GripTape, and even mentioned considering being a teacher now that he sees other ways youth can engage with learning and what the role of a teacher can actually be. Landon is highly reflective and speaks with incredible honesty while being very humble and showing vulnerability. 

Victoria Borunda, Learner, ACE Leadership High School

Victoria is from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Victoria participated in the Future Focused X3 Internship program both as a high school student and as a recent high school graduate (internship alumni). Both of her internship experiences were with one of the largest hospitals in Albuquerque, in the area of HR and Community Health. Her high school, focused on architecture, construction and engineering, helped her realize that she enjoys project management while the internship program strengthened her desire to pursue a career in the healthcare sector.


Pedro Noguera, Ph.D, Professor of Education, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA

Pedro Noguera is a distinguished professor of education at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA. A sociologist, Noguera’s research focuses on the ways in which schools are influenced by social and economic conditions, as well as by demographic trends in local, regional, and global contexts.

He is the author, co-author and editor of 13 books. His most recent books are The Crisis of Connection with Niobe Way, Carol Gilligan and Aisha Ali (NYU Press) and Race, Equity and Education: The Pursuit of Equality in Education 60 Years After Brown (Springer Press), and he has published over 250 research articles, book chapters, research reports, and editorials.

He serves on the boards of numerous national and local organizations, including the Economic Policy Institute, the National Equity Institute and The Nation Magazine. Noguera appears as a regular commentator on educational issues on several national media outlets, and his editorials on educational issues have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Dallas Morning News and Los Angeles Times.

Prior to joining the faculty at UCLA he served as a tenured professor and holder of endowed chairs at New York University (2003 – 2015), Harvard University (2000 – 2003), and the University of California, Berkeley (1990 – 2000). Noguera was recently appointed to serve as a special advisor to the Governor of New Mexico on education policy. He also advises the state departments of education in Washington, Oregon, and Nevada, and from 2009 – 2012 he served as a Trustee for the State University of New York (SUNY) as an appointee of the Governor.

In 2014 he was elected to the National Academy of Education and Phi Delta Kappa honor society. Noguera has received seven honorary doctorates from American universities, and he recently received awards from the Center for the Advanced Study of the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, from the National Association of Secondary Principals, and from the McSilver Institute at NYU for his research and advocacy efforts aimed at fighting poverty.