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Leader U 2019 TASL Speakers
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Keynote - Courageous Culture: The Art of School Transformation


  Ryan Jackson

Dr. Ryan B. Jackson is the Executive Lead Principal of The Mount Pleasant Arts Innovation Zone, America’s first and only Pre-K through 12 STEAM Campus. Under the campus’ Courage 2 Create vision, The Mount, as it is colloquially known, has secured unprecedented industry partnerships with such heavyweights as Parker-Hannifin, NASA, Sanofi Pharmaceuticals, O’More College of Design and Berklee School of Music.In only his second year at The Mount, Dr. Jackson and his team have implemented a revolutionary STEAM model that includes the counties first 1:1 implementation and the state’s first second through twelfth grade STEAM Summit (in conjunction with Junior Achievement of Middle TN). 
Previously, Jackson served ten years at Maplewood High School in Nashville, TN, as an English teacher, Dean of Students and Graduation Coach and as an assistant principal over the Academy of Energy & Power. Jackson is passionate art education and is a sincere advocate for the Underdog, as well as the founder of #FitLeaders, a national group of educators and industry leaders dedicated to professional success through healthy living. He resides in Spring Hill, TN with his wife and young child.

Session Speakers

  Candi Norwood

Candi Collier Norwood has been involved in career and technical education (CTE) for 19 years. After completing an enlistment in the U.S. Air Force, she taught business and marketing at Henry County High School for 13 years. She served at the Tennessee Department of Education Division of College, Career and Technical Education for five years as the Director of Student Success. Currently, she is the CTE director for Milan Special School District. She holds an MBA from Murray State University and an Ed.S. from TN Technological University.  

Session: College, Career and Technical Education: Crucial for Success

  Emerald Mitchell

Dr. Emerald Mitchell is the Executive Director of Moves & Grooves, a nonprofit arts organization which serves over 350 youth from Middle Tennessee each year in afterschool and enrichment programming. Since moving to Nashville in 2000, she has worked diligently to mitigate the “exposure gap” and ensure that underserved youth are exposed to experiences that will help them realize their aspirations. Dr. Mitchell received her Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Fisk University, M.B.A. from the University of Phoenix campus, Master’s in Education from Tennessee State University and received her Doctorate in Leadership and Professional Practice from Trevecca Nazarene University. 

Session: There’s No “I” in STEAM: A Look Into the Cognitive Process of Learning, Arts and the Brain

  Gayle Porterfield

Gayle Porterfield is an award winning teacher and staff development leader who has taught second, fourth, and middle school language arts and math in the Murfreesboro/Nashville, Tennessee area. The opportunity to work with students living in poverty has opened many doors to creativity in creating supportive learning environments for students dealing with challenges out of their control. Her Classroom Co-op model “Rooms With A View” caught the attention of Gov. Bill Haslam and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. She is a passionate educator with a love for empowering all children and their parents to have a voice in their education for a positive impact on their future.

Session: Practical Ways to Deal with the Poverty Issue 

  Elaine Swafford
In July 2012, Dr. Elaine Swafford took the helm as the Director of the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, the first all-girls public charter STEM school in the State of Tennessee. She and her team are in the seventh year of overseeing a school turnaround process and are meeting expectations of leading exceptional gains in student progress and academic achievement. After being on the brink of closure prior to her arrival, the school has now earned Reward School Status, among other awards. As the Executive Principal, she successfully led the Howard School of Academics and Technology in turnaround reform efforts from 2004 to 2007. She left the Howard School to become Area II Superintendent for the Hamilton County Department of Education.

Session: How Purposeful Impact with Data Turned a Tennessee School From Bottom 5% to Top 5%

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