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Leader U 2014 Speakers
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Keynote Address

Dr. Dan Lawson
Tullahoma City Director of Schools

Keynote speaker Dr. Dan Lawson is the current superintendent of schools for Tullahoma City Schools, (1997-present). In the past, he has served as an adjunct professor of Educational Leadership for MTSU (2002-2011). Prior to that he was superintendent of the Mountain Grove R-III Schools in Mountain Grove, Missouri (1990-1997). He received his degrees from University of Mississippi.

STEM/Common Core for Special Needs Students (Session 1)

Karel Lea Biggs

New Providence Middle School (Clarksville-Montgomery County)


Karel Lea Biggs teaches sixth and seventh graders science at New Providence Middle School in Clarksville, a low-income building serving many military dependents as well as many children considered to be at-risk. She is team leader for her seventh grade cluster, and has served on the Middle School Reform Team, as well as co-sponsoring the Chess and Board Game Club and the Knitting and Crochet Club. A member of NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) and PET (Professional Educators of Tennessee), she has co-authored a children’s book on the Duck River Watershed for Project WET and the Center for Excellence in Field Biology at Austin Peay State University. She was also voted by her peers as "Best New Teacher” and "Best Classroom Teacher” at New Providence Middle School. She has a business degree from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, plus an education certification from Wright State University in Celina, Ohio, and lastly, a Master’s in Education from Cumberland University, in Lebanon, Tennessee.

Cathy Kolb
Moore Magnet STEM Elementary School (Clarksville-Montgomery County)


Cathy Kolb is a 32-year veteran special educator with experience at the elementary, middle, high school, and adjunct faculty level (Austin Peay State University). As a military spouse, she has had the opportunity to teach in Tennessee, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and DoDDs Germany. Cathy is currently the resource special education teacher at Moore Magnet STEM Elementary School in Clarksville-Montgomery County. Moore Magnet was the first STEM elementary school organized in the county (2009). She was awarded the 2014 Clarksville-Montgomery Co. Teacher of the Year Grades 5-8. Her degrees include a B.S. from Western Kentucky University in Special Education/Psychology, an M.A. from Austin Peay State University in Reading/Curriculum & Instruction, Psychometry Certification from Southwestern Oklahoma State University, and an Ed.S from Austin Peay State University in Administration.

Sherry Hersh

New Providence Middle School (Clarksville-Montgomery County)


Sherry Hersh was a paralegal while in the military. During her 20 year career, she worked mostly in the Judge Advocate General’s Office (JAGC) in the criminal law division. When she retired in 1997, she pursued a career as a teacher. She has been a teacher for 13 years at New Providence Middle School, teaching 7th grade science where she teaches both regular and special education students and currently teach two inclusion classes this year.

Student Discipline in the Cyber Age (Session 1)

Christy Ballard

General Counsel, Tennessee Department of Education (TNDOE)

Christy Ballard has served as the general counsel for the Tennessee Department of Education (TNDOE) for 11 years where she advises the commissioner and other TNDOE personnel as well as the superintendents of the four state special schools and the Achievement School District on legal issues. Her responsibilities include overseeing the work of the TNDOE’s contracts office and the assistant general counsels for civil rights and special education. She regularly assists the TNDOE’s human resources office on personnel matters, advises the TNDOE’s public information officer regarding public records requests and issues written opinions on behalf of the commissioner to interested persons. Christy analyzes education related legislation and assists the assistant commissioner for legislation & policy by attending meetings of the Tennessee General Assembly and speaking with individual legislators. Additionally, her duties include acting as a liaison to the attorney general’s office when the TNDOE is a party to a lawsuit or when the attorney general is drafting education related opinions, and working with the Tennessee State Board of Education’s general counsel on matters related to Tennessee’s state education regulations.

The TRIPOD Survey: Does it have a leg to stand on? (Session 1)

R. Jill Pittman

Assistant Principal, Overton High School (Metro-Nashville Public Schools)

R. Jill Pittman came to Nashville in 2006 from Jacksonville, Florida, where she served for seven years as a school administrator. She has been a school leader in Nashville as a high school Academy Principal and as Head of School for an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme. Jill earned her Bachelor’s degree in Foreign Language Education from the University of Georgia. She taught Spanish (and other subjects) in public and private schools in Atlanta and Savannah, GA, for ten years. After completion of her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership at Georgia Southern University, Jill continued her work in K-12 education and later completed an Executive Leadership Certification in Higher Ed Administration at the University of Florida. She earned her Ph.D. in Public Administration at Tennessee State University’s Institute of Government in the College of Urban Affairs. Jill is a member of Leadership Nashville's Class of 2012, completed Harvard University's Urban School Leaders Institute, was appointed to the Mayor's Task Force on Special Education, and serves on other committees and task force groups in Nashville. She currently serves on the Executive Board of Professional Educators of Tennessee, works as an adjunct professor in Lipscomb University's Masters of Civic Leadership program, and is the Assistant Principal and Principal of the Academy of Information Technology at Overton High School.

Classroom Management with Integrity & Self-Control: The "SMARTR" Approach (Session 2)

Janie Holland

Bradley County Schools

Janie Holland is the Math Intervention and Support specialist for Bradley County Schools, TN. She is an associate of the Center for Teacher Effectiveness Time To Teach! She has been a teacher for 21 years with a BS in Elementary Education from Lee University and a Master’s in Education from Tusculum College.

PARCC Update (Session 2)

Emily Barton

Assistant Commissioner of Curriculum & Instruction, Tennessee Dept. of Education (TNDOE)

Emily Barton is the Assistant Commissioner of Curriculum and Instruction for the Tennessee Department of Education. In this capacity, she oversees Tennessee’s transition to Common Core State Standards (including assessment design, instructional materials and educator training and support) as well as Tennessee’s work with educator evaluation. Prior to this role, Emily served as Chief of Staff for Commissioner Kevin Huffman supporting the development of the Department of Education’s strategic plan. For five years before coming to Tennessee, Emily managed Teach For America’s D.C. Region and launched the organization’s work in Connecticut. In both regions, Emily more than doubled the size of the teaching corps, staff and funding base and pioneered new initiatives in teacher professional development, community and state engagement and alumni innovation. She started her career in education in a rural community in Louisiana, teaching seventh grade math.

Where Did You Find That? Web Resources for Those "Other" Classes (Session 2)
Coming to Terms with the TEAM Rubric: A Look at Scoring (Session 4)

Tim Childers

L&N STEM Academy (Knox County)

Tim Childers currently serves as an Assistant Principal for Technology Integration at the L&N STEM Academy, a STEM Magnet for Knox County Schools. He serves on the Blog Team for the Discovery Educator Network Leadership Council for Tennessee and was selected as a STAR DEN Guru for Discovery. In 2010 he was selected as one of TechSmith's "20 to Watch" rising educators for his use of video in professional development. He has led workshops for the TN Education Technology Conference, the FL Education Technology Conference, and the International Society for Technology in Education. In 2012 he was selected as a keynote speaker for the Mid-South Technology Conference hosted by Memphis City Schools.

Law Talk©: Managing the Defiant Student (Session 3)

Mike Sheppard

Sheppard Law Group, PLC / General Counsel, Professional Educators of Tennessee

Mike Sheppard is an experienced lawyer with more than 25 years litigation and corporate experience. He has been an executive, litigation manager, and general counsel. A 1981 graduate of the Salmon P. Chase College of Law, Mr. Sheppard is admitted to practice before all Ohio trial and appellate courts, the Ohio Supreme Court, all Tennessee trial and appellate courts, the Tennessee Supreme Court, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, and the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Sheppard co-authors a yearly review of the United States Supreme Court decisions for the Tennessee Bar Association and is a member of both the Tennessee and American Bar Associations. He handles complex litigation in the areas of medical malpractice, personal injury, ERISA, workers' compensation, social security, mass tort, commercial subrogation, and business transactions. He has also co-authored a number of articles for the Nashville Business Journal and the founder of "LawTalk©.” General Counsel for Professional Educators of Tennessee.

Project-Based Learning (Session 3)

Kellie Huff

Founder of the Aurora School / Adjunct Professor, University of West Georgia

Kellie Huff is the founder of the Aurora School which has the mission to accelerate learning for children with learning challenges. She holds a Master of Arts Degree in Speech Pathology from the University of Tennessee and has served the Atlanta community as a Speech Pathologist and Educator for over 20 years. Ms. Huff honed her professional skills at Emory University where she specialized in Neurogenic Speech/Language and Cognitive Disorders. It was during that time that she began to explore and participate in the utilization of intensive, neurologically-based learning programs. Today, Ms. Huff applies her interest in neurology and brain function to her work with children and adults through intensive learning programs; academic, sports and executive performance enhancement programs. Ms. Huff serves on the Advisory Council of Academe of the Oaks, a Waldorf High School in Atlanta, The Board of Directors for Faith Community Christian Academy and is an Adjunct Professor at the University of West Georgia, Department of Speech Pathology, and a member of the Sharp Brain Council for Brain Fitness Innovation.

Response to Instruction & Intervention (RTI2) Framework Overview (Session 3)

Dr. Tammy Shelton

Executive Director of Content & Resource, Tennessee Department of Education (TNDOE)

Dr. Tammy Shelton has been in Tennessee education for 20 years. During that time she has served as a middle and high school teacher, principal, curriculum coordinator, and Supervisor of Instruction Pre-K through 12. She is a member of the PARCC Educational Leadership Cadre and is currently the Executive Director of Content & Resources for the Tennessee Department of Education.

CCSS Strategies: Understanding Metacognition (thinking about thinking) (Session 4)

Jamie James

Mathematics Curriculum Consulting Teacher (Clarksville-Montgomery County)

Jamie James is the Mathematics Curriculum Consulting Teacher in the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System and has been serving in this capacity since 2009. She is the Professional Development Planner and Presenter for the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System and Committee Member Rigorous Curriculum Design - Mid Cumberland CORE. She has BA in Education, MA in Counseling, an EdD in Educational Leadership and has been an teacher/educator for over 20 years.

Elaine Hoffert

READ180/Content Reading Consulting Teacher (Clarksville-Montgomery County)

Elaine Hoffert was an ELA teacher from 1978-2008. Currently she is the READ180/Content Reading Consulting Teacher with Clarksville-Montgomery County Tennessee School System and has been serving in this capacity since 2008. She is a graduate of Carson-Newman College.

PLCs That Embrace High Levels of Learning for All Students (Session 4)

Tracey Patterson

Whitworth-Buchanan Middle School (Rutherford County Schools)

Tracey Patterson is a Science Teacher 6th Grade at Whitworth-Buchanan Middle, Rutherford County, Tennessee. In January of 1983, Tracey Patterson began her teaching career with a B.S. degree in Special Education and earned her Master's Degree in 1993. Both degrees were earned from Middle Tennessee State University. She has taught fourth and sixth graders exclusively for 30 years. Presently, Tracey teaches sixth grade science at Whitworth-Buchanan Middle School in Rutherford County.

Karen Stroud

Whitworth-Buchanan Middle School (Rutherford County Schools)

Karen Stroud graduated from David Lipscomb University in 1975 with a B.A. in Elementary Education. She received her M Ed from Middle Tennessee State University in 1980. Karen has taught and substituted in grades K-12 in both public and private schools. Currently, Karen teaches sixth grade English Language Arts at Whitworth-Buchanan Middle School in Rutherford County.

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