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Leader U 2020 Speakers
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Keynote - Dr. Sidney McPhee
  Dr. Sidney McPhee 


Dr. Sidney A. McPhee, the tenth president of Middle Tennessee State University, has presided over one of the most remarkable periods of growth and progress in the institution’s century-plus of service.

McPhee’s presidency, which began in 2001, has led MTSU through a period of unrivaled growth and success. His efforts have enabled MTSU to ascend to a position of higher education leadership, not only in Tennessee but to positions of national and international prominence, with world-class programs that attract students from across the country and around the globe. During his tenure, the university has grown in both student numbers and physical facilities, with today's campus hosting almost 23,000 students, covering almost 1000 acres, and benefiting from nearly $1 billion in construction and renovation. Among those projects were MTSU’s $147-million Science Building, a 250,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art teaching, and research facility, which opened in Fall 2014.

Session Speakers

  Katrina Adkins

Dr. Katrina Adkins has been in education for 20 years. She has taught Kindergarten, 1st and 3rd Grade, 6th through 12th Grade computer science, as well as college. Katrina’s strong desire to integrate technology into her classroom resulted in a Masters in Instructional Technology and a Doctorate in Instructional Technology & Distance Education. She spent 7 years in administration as a Director of Technology as well as a Technology Coach. Dr. Adkins has been featured at conferences and schools across the world and has authored dozens of educational technology whitepapers, books, journal articles, and blog posts. 

Session: How Student Choice and Voice Plays in Our Digital World

Session: How Technology Impacts What We Teach

  Christy Ballard

Christy Ballard has served as the general counsel for the Tennessee Department of Education (TNDOE) for 15 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.

Session: Legal Authority for Student Discipline

  Tim Childers

Tim Childers is the Health Science SLC Administrator at Fulton High School in Knox County Schools. He has been in Knox County for 8 years, and in education for 19. Tim is a former board member for PET and an enthusiastic supporter of PET in our schools. He was named one of the first DEN Gurus for Discovery Education and was listed on the very first "20 to Watch" lists by TechSmith. He has led workshops across the state, as well as being a featured speaker for MACUL and a keynote speaker for the Mid-South Technology Conference. He is also an avid photographer, and you can follow him on Instagram at @TimChilders .

Session: Cell Phone Wars

Session: Personalized Learning When Your School is not 1:1


  Charles Clark

Dr. Charles Clark went to work in manufacturing for 10 years before deciding to attend Jackson State Community College. He has worked in education in a variety of positions starting out as a substitute teacher, in-school suspension teacher, program director for at-risk students, P.E. teacher, basketball coach, assistant to the principal, Instructional Facilitator and trainer, Curriculum Coordinator, 504 Rehabilitation Coordinator, middle school principal, supervisor of Instruction, Interventionist, high school assistant principal and high school principal. He also has experience with Title I reviews of schools and SACS Accreditation for schools, colleges, and universities. He has been employed with Jackson State Community College as an adjunct in Psychology and as an Assistant Professor before leaving to move a middle school in West Tennessee forward. He retired to use his skillset working with educators and promoting implementation along with facilitating the learner in professional development. 

Session: Speaking On: Schooling and Perceptions

  Tamera Crews

Tamera Crews Ed.D is a 15-year classroom teacher who has a passion for seeing students push their educational limits. She lives in Ethridge, Tennessee in her empty nest with her husband. Raising 5 children who all have STEM-related careers has helped her understand how important STEM education is for the future of our students. She is currently the STEM teacher at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School where she and her fellow teachers are focused on achieving STEM accreditation status this year.

Session: STEM with Early Ed: Would You Hire a First Grader?



Timothy Drinkwine

Born and raised in Middle Tennessee, Drinkwine is in his 2nd year serving in Maury County Schools as the Principal of Mount Pleasant Middle School of the Visual and Performing Arts after a year of touring the world with his wife and two children in 2017-2018. Drinkwine most recently served as principal of Eakin Elementary School in Nashville for three years. Before coming to Mt. Pleasant, Drinkwine also served in Williamson County Schools as assistant principal of Spring Station Middle School for four years and before that, taught in Sunset Middle School for four years.

Session: Turnaround Principles for the Turnaround Principal

  April Ebbinger

Dr. April Ebbinger is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist, who currently practices in Metro Nashville Public Schools. Dr. Ebbinger began her career as a K-12 educator before transitioning to training pre-service teachers in higher education. Since beginning her career in education, Dr. Ebbinger thrives to ensure all students are successful including those with learning differences. 

Session: Intellectually Gifted: Writing Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for Gifted Students

  Mark Gullion

Mark Gullion has served in Rutherford County Schools for 18 years.  He started his career as an elementary teacher, served as administrator for 10 years, Special Education Coordinator for 3 years, and just recently finished his second year as RTI and Federal Programs Coordinator.  While serving as principal at Cedar Grove Elementary in Smyrna, his faculty and staff earned the distinction of Reward School 3 times.  He has also served in many other leadership roles with the Tennessee State Department of Education - TNCore Leadership Coach, Textbook Adoption Committees, and PIE Conference Presenter.

Session: RTI: Building The Pyramid, Structuring Interventions for ALL Students

  Matthew Slight

Matthew Slight is the Principal of West Creek High School in Clarksville, TN. Matthew has been in secondary education for 16 years and as a classroom teacher, he taught English and Criminal Justice. Prior to education, Matthew served as a law enforcement officer for over 10 years including a year as a civilian peacekeeper with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo. Matthew holds a BA in English from Olivet Nazarene University and he earned his M.A.Ed Instructional Leadership from Cumberland University.

Session: Winning the War on Power Struggles

  The TN Department of Education will discuss the new reading initiative.

Session: TDOE Reading Initiative

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