Keynote and featured speakers for the 2011 Connections conference

Dan Thurmon
March 16, 2011
  • Opening Keynote Speaker - Megacenter - 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. - Success in Action
  • Theater - 10:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m. - Celebrating Your Style

Dan Thurmon began his entrepreneurial career when he was eleven years old after learning to juggle at a Renaissance Festival. That one event uncovered a passion for inspiring audiences that has only grown over time. As an entertainer, Dan has appeared at thousands of events across the country and overseas. His performing credits include national television appearances and collaborations with major musical artists. He has also traveled to the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan to entertain and encourage US Armed Forces.

Dan's performing experience taught him the essentials to consistently deliver superior performances on and off the stage. Those lessons, combined with a business education and thirst for motivational influences, led him to develop an original communication style as he built a successful company.

Dan is author of the book Success in Action and President of Motivation Works, Inc., an international speaking and entertainment firm. He teaches audiences how to manage the demands of their busy lives with increased focus and decisive action. His unique programs always blend meaningful content with emotionally charged performances.

Dan is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in Marketing. He has also studied business management, music, theater, acting, dance, gymnastics, and aviation. Dan has achieved the highest earned award of the National Speakers Association, receiving the elite designation of "Certified Speaking Professional." He currently lives in the Atlanta area with his wife, Sheilia, and their children, Eddie and Maggie.

Bruce Christopher
March 17, 2011
  • Closing Keynote Speaker - St. Charles Ballroom - 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. - Are We Having Fun Yet?
  • Theater - 9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. - Bambi vs. Godzilla!
  • Theater - 10:45 a.m. - 11:45 a.m. - Leap! The Net Will Appear

"Laugh 'til you cry. . .Learn 'til you change!" These are the only rules that apply at a Bruce Christopher presentation.

At the heart of it all, what separates Psychologist-Humorist Bruce Christopher from the rest of the pack is his outrageously funny and dynamic delivery of today's hot topics. He has captivated audiences internationally by giving them real and practical solutions for success, without fluff and hype.

His best selling topics consistently sell out to standing room only crowds at national conventions, corporate conferences and sales meetings. He has been honored to speak (twice!) at the exclusive Million Dollar Round Table Conference, the Royal College of Surgeons in London, the Mayo Clinic, and on the largest stage in the world.

Bruce has been called "America's foremost Enter-Trainer today" by the American Heart Association, he has been listed in the "Mission Possible" project as one of twelve great Americans to watch, and he is a Clinical Psychologist holding degrees in both Professional Psychology and Interpersonal Communication.

As a credentialed professional speaker, Bruce's client list comprises some of the best organizations in the world; he speaks over 150 times a year and is one of the most sought after speakers in the Fortune 500.

Steve Barkley
March 17, 2011
  • Preservation Hall A - 8:15 a.m. - 9:15 a.m. - Teacher Collegiality to Support Student Achievement
  • Preservation Hall A - 9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. - Tapping Student Effort - Increasing Student Achievement
  • Preservation Hall A - 10:45 a.m. - 11:45 a.m. - Questions for Life: Facilitating Learning for Students and Teachers

Steve Barkley, Executive Vice-President of Performance Learning Systems, Inc., began his career in education 30 years ago as an elementary school teacher. For the past 20 years he has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education and colleges throughout the United States and Canada. He has designed and conducted short and long term inservice training for teachers and administrators of all levels. He has extensive experience guiding districts through the process of school restructuring and site based management, as well as working with both teachers and students to develop School-to-Work programs. He has been a keynote speaker and presenter at National Staff Development Council Conferences, the High Schools that Work Summer Conferences, and has also presented for the European Council of International Schools, the Mediterranean Association of International Schools, Aruba Institute of Pedagogy and Enka Schools of Istanbul, Turkey. Recently, Steve has been concentrating on working with several districts in leadership training, coaching skills, and teacher growth. With the publication of his recent books Quality Teaching in a Culture of Coaching and WOW: Adding Pizzazz to Teaching and Learning, Steve stands out as an authority on developing and sustaining quality school mentoring and coaching programs. His newest book, Tapping Student Effort: Increasing Student Achievement, further captures Steve's energy as he shares the formula for creating exciting and useful classroom practices where students exert effort to learn.

Steve is a highly motivational and riveting speaker who is extraordinarily knowledgeable about life in the classroom. A catalyst for growth - he is a true role model who practices what he teaches.

Lois Barnes
March 16, 2011
  • Salon VI - 10:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m. - Skills for a Lifetime: Teaching Students the Habits of Success
  • Salon VI - 12:45 p.m. - 1:45 p.m. - Creating Rigorous Academic and Career Technical Assignments Using the Depth of Knowledge Levels
  • Salon VI - 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. - Developing Integrated Curriculum: Tools and Steps

Lois J. Barnes is Director, State Services for School Improvement with the Southern Regional Education Board's High Schools That Work, where she has also worked as a school improvement consultant in several school districts through the Urban Initiative of HSTW. Prior to SREB, Lois had over twenty-five years in public education as a middle and high school social studies teacher, assistant principal, director of secondary schools, and assistant superintendent for K-12 curriculum and instruction. She also worked for the Kentucky Department of Education implementing aspects of Kentucky's Education Reform Act and as an adjunct professor at The University of Kentucky. She has had articles published in educational journals and has critically read textbooks for three publishing companies. Lois was the National Endowment for the Humanities Teacher-Scholar from the state of Kentucky, and she has received numerous awards for teaching and international study, including a Fulbright-Hays fellowship. Lois has presented at national and state conferences, including national workshops for High Schools That Work.

Barbara Blackburn
March 16, 2011
  • Preservation Hall A - 10:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m. - Motivating the Unmotivated
  • Preservation Hall A - 12:45 p.m. - 1:45 p.m. - Content Area Literacy for the Young and the Restless
  • Preservation Hall A - 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. - Motivating the Unmotivated
  • Preservation Hall A - 3:15 p.m. - 4:15 p.m. - Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word

Dr. Barbara Blackburn has dedicated her life to raising the level of rigor and motivation for professional educators and students alike. What differentiates Barbara's eleven books are her easily executable concrete examples based on decades of experience as a teacher, professor, and consultant. Barbara's dedication to education was inspired in her early years by her parents, Bob and Rose. Her father's doctorate and life-time career as a professor taught her the importance of professional training. Her mother's career as school secretary shaped Barbara's appreciation of the effort all staff play in the education of every child.

Barbara has taught early childhood, elementary, middle, and high school students and has served as an educational consultant for three publishing companies. She holds a master's degree in school administration and is certified as a school principal in North Carolina. She received her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In 2006, she received the award for Outstanding Junior Professor at Winthrop University. She recently left her position at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to write and speak full-time.

Jim Brazell
March 17, 2011
  • New Orleans Ballroom - 9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. - Preparing Students for the 21st Century: An Exploration of Emerging Technology, Participatory Culture, and Pedagogy
  • New Orleans Ballroom - 10:45 a.m. - 11:45 a.m. - STEM: Mainstreaming CTE

Jim Brazell is a technology forecaster, public speaker and strategist focusing on innovation and transformative systems. He is a member of the Radical Platypus group, Thornburg Center for Professional Development, and a member of the Digital Media Collaboratory UT Austin (2002-2010). Jim's mission is to catalyze national education, workforce and economic development innovation.

Since October 1,2010, Jim has delivered speeches to TEDx Peachtree, Reliance 21 STEM Workshop for Materials Science, the National Career Pathway Network, the National School Board Association Technology and Learning Conference, Armed Forces Communications Electronics Association (Alamo Cyber), Citadel STEM Initiative, Global Education Conference Online, and the Huether Lasallian Conference.

Jim is known as a boundary spanner and someone who crosses among economic development, arts and workforce associations as well as the worlds of educational technology, STEM, arts, humanities and career and technical education. Between 2008 and 2010, Jim delivered over 100 speeches to audiences ranging from the 2009 inaugural NSF High Impact Technology Exchange Conference -- Educating America's Technical Workforce, and the International Conference on Technology Policy, and Innovation on energy policy in Norway in 2008, and solutions to the financial crisis in 2009 in Portugal.

In the past decade, Jim has served as a volunteer to the Defense Learning Strategies Consortium, Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education Collaborative, Texas STEM Action Committee (TBEC), San Antonio-Austin Nano-Bio-Tech Summit, Austin-San Antonio Life Science Association, San Antonio-Austin-Waco Digital Convergence Initiative, the San Antonio Technology Accelerator Initiative, San Antonio Council for the Cooperation of Engineering and Scientific Societies, Alamo Inventors, and Technology Advocates of San Antonio.

In 2010, Jim volunteered to the "Cyber Action Team" Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce Technology Committee, San Antonio Cyber Patriot, spaceTEAMS, Texas Institute for Educational Robotics, San Antonio Public Library Foundation, and San Antonio College.

Jim Brazell is a 1995 graduate of Bradley University, Bachelors of Science in Sociology, Summa Cum Laude. He is a 1995 George Gilder Fellow in High Technology, Entrepreneurship and Public Policy. At Bradley, Jim was the co-principal investigator of Interlabs, the sociology of cyberspace course and the social informatics minor. Jim resides in San Antonio, Texas, with his wife, Lisa Cervantes and daughter Ava Brazell.

Gwendolyn Bryant
March 17, 2011
  • Ruby - 8:15 a.m. - 9:15 a.m. - How Culture Colors Learning: "Culturally Relevant Pedagogy the Neglected Learning Style" (2 hour session from 8:15 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.)
  • Ruby - 9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. - How Culture Colors Learning: "Culturally Relevant Pedagogy the Neglected Learning Style" (2 hour session from 8:15 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.)
  • Ruby - 10:45 a.m. - 11:45 a.m. - Vocabulary - How will I Learn These Words?

Gwendolyn L. Bryant began her career as an educator 34 years ago. She holds a Master of Education from Kent State University. She has experience in early childhood education, elementary, middle, and adult education levels. She has taught learning disability and college students over the course of her career.

Ms. Bryant is a consummate professional and a "teacher's teacher." She took her experience and served as a Lead Teacher for the Akron Public Schools. This job encompassed being a trainer and facilitator by providing support to principals, leadership's teams and teachers of grades K-12. She works on continuous improvement planning, creates individual school improvement plans, provides team building and incorporates effective teaching strategies and leadership skills in her presentations.

Since 2004, she has served as a middle school improvement coach and currently a literacy coach for Akron Public Schools. As a coach, she supports educators with implementing content standards, instructional practice, and strategies, which impact instructional delivery. In addition, Ms. Bryant plans and facilitates high quality professional development in literacy, differentiated instruction, technology, and cultural responsive teaching. Gwendolyn sees this as her opportunity to insure that no child is left behind by assisting and facilitating the qualified professional development of her fellow educators.

Gwendolyn is also an adjunct professor at Ashland University and The University of Akron. She has been a presenter at National Staff Development Conference, 2009 and 2010 Illinois State University's Connections Conference, National High Schools That Works Conferences, Ohio's Association of Black School Educators Conference and Kent State University's Early Childhood and SOAR Conferences. Aside from being featured at state and local conferences, television spots and urban and rural professional development, she has been certified as an Ohio Master Teacher. Additionally, she is the lead facilitator for Lantern Professional Development Services.

Gwendolyn has received numerous honors for her outstanding work. Some of her accolades include being awarded the Ohio' Master Teacher Certification recently granted the 2010 Marilyn Parks Lifetime Educator Achievement Award. 2005 Nominee for Disney Teacher's Award by National Alliance of Black School Educators, Honoree for Ohio Black Women Leadership Caucus, Inc. Nominee YWCA Black Women of Excellence Award in Education, and was winner of the Ambassador Award from the Akron Public Schools seven times just to name a few.

She enjoys working in urban schools. Gwendolyn's professional goal is to commit her scholarship, experience and role as an educator to be a vehicle for change in order to enhance others in becoming lifelong learners, thus making their lives better by obtaining an education with distinction.

Bob Greenleaf
March 16, 2011
  • Salon III - 12:45 p.m. - 1:45 p.m. - Creating and Changing Mindsets ~ Movies of the Mind
  • Salon III - 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. - Creating and Changing Mindsets ~ Movies of the Mind
  • Salon III - 8:15 a.m. - 9:15 a.m. - Memory, Recall, the Brain & Learning: The Nonlinguistic and Visual Attributes of Memory & Recall
  • Salon III - 9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. - Student Centered Accountability: Linking Teacher Practice Directly to Student Achievement
  • Theater - 3:15 p.m. - 4:15 p.m. - Student Centered Accountability: Linking Teacher Practice Directly to Student Achievement

Robert Greenleaf was formerly a professional development specialist at the Education Alliance at Brown University. Having taught in all grades K-12, he has 20 years experience in public education ranging from superintendent of schools to assistant superintendent of schools, elementary school principal, teaching principal, teacher, and special education assistant. He served as adjunct professor at Thomas College in Maine.

President of Greenleaf Learning, a human resource development company he founded in 1987, Bob specializes in educational strategies for understanding behaviors, building esteem and achievement, and brain-based learning. Bob is the author of 8 instructional books, the creator of two double-sided albums and publishes a bi-monthly newsletter. He is the 1991 recipient of the "Outstanding Educator Award" from the Waterville Public Schools in the state of Maine. Bob holds a doctorate in education from Vanderbilt University, a masters in educational administration from Southern Maine and a bachelor's degree from Nasson College in psychology.

A past member of the National Speakers Association and Toastmasters International, he won several area and district speech events in the 1980's.

Dave Shepard
March 16, 2011
  • New Orleans Ballroom - 12:45 p.m. - 1:45 p.m. - Avoiding Classroom Comas
  • New Orleans Ballroom - 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. - Why Can't We Be Friends
  • New Orleans Ballroom - 3:15 p.m. - 4:15 p.m. - Is Learning Dead?? Who Is Responsible??
  • Salon II - 8:15 a.m. - 9:15 a.m. - Avoiding Classroom Comas
  • Salon II - 9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. - Why Can't We Be Friends

A native of rural North Carolina and a product of public education in four states, Dave Shepard brings experience, common sense, and practicality to any educational gathering. Having dealt with middle and high school students for over thirty years, his experience includes teaching, coaching, curriculum writing, program design, and administration. Since his retirement in 1999, he has devoted his time and energy to helping schools become safer, more efficient, and more successful for all students. Dave currently manages his own educational consulting firm, "The Middle Matters and More," in Lexington, Kentucky. He works actively with SREB, NMSA and ION Educational Publishers. Since the passage of the Kentucky Educational Reform Act in 1990, Dave has also worked with the Kentucky Department of Education, the University of Kentucky and over thirty Kentucky school districts to help implement this reform. Known primarily as a practitioner, he has presented at over forty state and national conferences. He has also assisted school districts in over twenty states develop and refine their educational programs by providing quality professional development. Dave has been published in several educational journals and co-authored a book titled, Teach My Kid, I Dare You! An Educators Essential Guide to Parent Involvement.

William Symonds
March 16, 2011
  • Theater - 12:45 p.m. - 1:45 p.m. - Harvard's Pathway to Prosperity Project: Why we Must Change the Nation's View of Career Education
  • Theater - 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. - Harvard's Pathway to Prosperity Project: Why we Must Change the Nation's View of Career Education

Bill Symonds is the director of the Pathways to Prosperity Project, which is based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The Pathways Project was created in 2008 to find promising solutions to our increasing failure to prepare many young adults for success. In early 2011, the Pathways Project will release a major report summing up its work to date. The report is entitled, "Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century."

Symonds helped create the Pathways Project while he was a senior fellow at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2007-8. Prior to that, he spent nearly 25 years as a senior correspondent and bureau chief for Business Week. During his career at Business Week, he led bureaus in Pittsburgh, Denver, Boston, Toronto and Rome, Italy. He also served as Business Week's chief education correspondent for many years, and wrote extensively about the role of U.S. business in school reform.