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We are very pleased to announce the amazing speaker lineup for our 2023 conference!
Scroll below to read more about our speakers and the fields in which they specialize.
Carolyn Strom, Ph.D. – Friday’s Keynote Speaker
|Dr. Carolyn Strom is a clinical professor, classroom researcher, and former first grade teacher. Her work centers on bridging the disconnect between neuroscientific research and instructional practices used in public schools, preschools, and daycare settings. She collaborates widely with districts, teachers, and ed tech organizations; currently, she is leading an initiative for New York City early childhood educators and families called ‘Cortex in the Classroom,’ which centers on the practical application of reading science in early childhood. Carolyn is a recent recipient of NYU Steinhardt’s Teaching Excellence Award (2023) and has published her work in The Reading Teacher, The Reading League Journal, and The Handbook of Learning Disabilities. She maintains a clinical practice in New York City, where she works with children who have dyslexia and related reading difficulties.|
Leta Palmiter has 25 years of experience teaching in all grades, abilities, and settings. Currently, she is the founder and director of Illuminations Center for Dyslexia in Meridian, Mississippi. The Center’s mission is to impact the lives of children, adolescents, and adults with explicit, structured literacy instruction. Leta is certified by the State of Mississippi for dyslexia therapy, English, Mathematics, Elementary Education, and Special Education. All therapists at Illuminations are certified at the national level. Illuminations’ program has an excellent track record with reading improvement of one grade level in 8 weeks on standardized assessments done at independent school sites for 90% of their students.
Mississippi Rising is her story and the stories of those who made this change possible. Leta was educated in Mississippi but has the experience of also completing elementary school in Rhode Island. A graduate of three different Mississippi Institutes of Higher Learning, she also studied at Vanderbilt University and taught adjunct classes at the University of West Alabama. While her time in the elementary classroom may have been brief, the experience as a classroom teacher, special education teacher, and interventionist, in the public, private, and parochial settings allows her a lens to view the changes wrought over the years. She states, “History is always tinged by the voice of the narrator, but with the voices of so many educators ringing in my ears, many just a call or email away, this Mississippi story will ring true for all who read. It is my hope that I do our story justice, and that those educators and researchers that I have worked beside all these years see it as an insightful picture of the journey we have taken together.”
Dr. Alfred W. Tatum – Featured Friday Morning Breakout Speaker
|Dr. Alfred W. Tatum, Literacy Professor in the School of Education at Metropolitan State University of Denver, currently serves as President-Elect of the Literacy Research Association. His research focuses on the literacy development of struggling and non-struggling readers and writers, particularly African American boys. He has authored 87 publications on the topic. His current research focuses on moving children and adolescents toward advanced reading, writing, and intellectual development.
Prior to joining MSU Denver, Alfred Tatum served as dean of the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago for seven years where he also directed the UIC Reading Clinic for 14 years.
Dr. Tatum authored the award-winning book, Teaching Reading to Black Adolescent Males: Closing the Achievement Gap (2005). He also authored, Reading for Their Life: (Re) building the Textual Lineages of African American Males (2009), Fearless Voices: Engaging a New Generation of African American Adolescent Male Writers (2013), and Teaching Black Boys in the Elementary Grades: Advanced Disciplinary Reading and Writing to Secure Their Futures (2021).
Dr. Tatum earned his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Lynne Fitzhugh, PhD, CALT-QI – Featured Friday Afternoon Breakout Speaker
|Lynne Fitzhugh received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Southern Methodist University with a concentration in dyslexia and learning disabilities. Dr. Fitzhugh is a Certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT) – Qualified Instructor (QI), Founding President of the Colorado Literacy & Learning Center, and Director and Lecturer of the Colorado College’s Master of Arts in Teaching – Dyslexia Specialist Program. Dr. Fitzhugh is a former President of the Academic Language Therapy Association and currently serves as President of the ALTA Charitable Foundation. Dr. Fitzhugh has been appointed as a representative to the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities and serves on the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy’s Professional Development National Workgroup. She is a former board member of the International Dyslexia Association and the International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council.|
Breakout Session Speakers
|Beth Anderson, B.A., M.Ed.||With a B.A. in linguistics and a M.Ed. in reading, Beth Anderson taught English language learners for more than 20 years. That classroom community taught her valuable lessons as she advocated for students and was fascinated by the power of books to teach, connect, and inspire. In 2013, she began her journey writing for children. Combining her love of writing with the joys of discovery and learning, she found her niche with narrative nonfiction and historical fiction picture books.|
|Bridget Barley, Jemicy School Director of Middle School, author of Paragraphology™
||Bridget Barley is in her 18th year at the Jemicy School in Owings Mills, MD, and is currently the Director of Middle School. During her time at Jemicy, she has served as a classroom teacher, Department Chair, and the Dean of Students from the lower and middle schools. Ms. Barley earned her B.A. in English from Villa Julie College (Stevenson University). She was a 2016 Associate Faculty of Education at the Notre Dame of Maryland University. Barley developed Paragraphology™ in 2006, and she has enjoyed opportunities to share her knowledge of structured writing at various conferences/venues throughout the country.|
|Lindsey Beveridge, Senior Literacy Consultant, Office of Elementary Literacy and School Readiness, Colorado Department of Education||The Literacy Team in the Office of Elementary Literacy and School Readiness supports the implementation of the Colorado Reading to Ensure Academic Development Act (READ Act). They provide guidance, data analysis, professional development and monitoring to districts and schools in support of scientifically and evidence-based reading instruction.|
|Allison Caldwell, M.Ed||Allison Caldwell received a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus in elementary reading instruction in 2012. She has worked in education since 2008 and served various roles from special education teacher, reading specialist, and school administrator. Allison is also a Certified Dyslexia Specialist, certified in Orton-Gillingham through the Institute of Multisensory education (IMSE) and LETRS trained. She is passionate about her work with teachers and administrators and supporting their work with students.
Allison currently is a professional development specialist for The Reading League (national). They are a non-profit organization whose mission is to further advance the awareness, understanding and use of evidence aligned reading instruction. She has experience working with large groups of teachers and administrators. Allison is also a certified Orton-Gillingham trainer and practicum supervisor through IMSE. She routinely works with teachers on supporting their practices in both a coaching and consulting capacity as well as supporting building administrators with their ongoing learning and collaborates with many different stakeholders across the state of New Mexico.
Prior to leaving the classroom, Allison worked with students from kindergarten through high school. She has worked with teachers and school administrators in schools from pre-kindergarten through high school as well. Having a wide range of experience, allows her to support teachers across grade levels to align curriculum and instruction through knowledge building, modeling and observation.
|Laura Colligan, Ed.S., Regional Office and State Organizations Outreach Specialist||Laura Colligan has 25+ years of initiating and delivering sustained results and effective change to make an IMPACT at the student level and to drive systemic organizational reform. Strategic and results-oriented leader with a talent for aligning teams to spur and sustain fundamental change and improvement in systems, processes, and outcome data. Proactive change agent is able to implement and sustain evidence-based practices into organizations at all levels.|
|Caiti Daigh, Implementation Specialist||Caiti Daigh is an Implementation Specialist with Really Great Reading®. She holds degrees in Communications, Elementary Education, and has a masters degree in Learning and Technology. Caiti was a classroom educator for seven years, with a strong passion for standards alignment, cross content learning, integrating technology in the classroom and using data to drive instruction. She started her career at Really Great Reading® with the InferCabulary team and is well versed on vocabulary acquisition, best practice vocabulary strategies, and providing professional development to help educators bring these strategies to life in their classrooms. As an implementation specialist, Caiti hopes to make a positive impact on educators by providing effective, engaging instruction, and giving them the functional tools to make a positive impact on students.|
|Carolee Dean, M.S., CCC-SLP, CALT||
Carolee Dean, M.S., CCC-SLP, CALT is a speech-language pathologist, certified academic language therapist, children’s book author, and the founder of Word Travel Press. She has combined her love of children’s literature and her success with writing young adult novels with her years of experience working in the field of dyslexia remediation to create the HOT ROD series of decodable books. She is currently the Western Region Representative for the International Dyslexia Association and frequently speaks at local, state, national, and international conferences.
Dean specializes in dyslexia as well as narrative intervention and uses stories as the foundation for treating a wide range of skills required for reading and writing such as morphology, vocabulary, sentence structure and more. She is the author of Story Frames for Teaching Literacy: Enhancing Student Learning Through the Power of Storytelling (Paul H. Brookes Publishing, 2021).
|Kristen DeBeer, Multisensory Math Tutor||Kristen is a multisensory math tutor in the south metro Denver area. She received her multisensory math instruction and training from Marilyn Zecher, M.A., CALT, a nationally known speaker, former classroom and demonstration teacher, and certified academic language therapist and specialist, at the Multisensory Training Institute of ASDEC in Rockville, MD and is in the process of becoming certified Associate. She also has experience as a tutor to her own dyslexic son, for whom multisensory methods were highly effective. Kristen holds a BA in Spanish with a minor in Mathematics from Drake University and an MBA from the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.
|Ana Dodson, Psy D.||Ana M. Dodson, MA, PsyD, is a School Psychologist and works at St. Anne’s Episcopal School and KPLA. Ana is certified as an EMDR therapist for adults and children and is also certified in the Neurosequential Model of Education Program created by Dr. Bruce Perry. As a former teacher and reading specialist, she is particularly interested in how the development of Social Emotional Learning skills can be transferred into the classroom. Dodson is the creator of a summer Mental Health Academy for teachers. She is currently working on a book for teachers on simple, effective activities that can be integrated into the school day and support SEL for students.|
|Judi Dodson, MA||Judi is the Trainer Relations and Learning Consultant for 95 Percent Group™. In addition, she is a literacy consultant, teaches classes, and speaks at conferences on topics related to the role of language in learning to read, instructional choices that can change and develop the reading brain, and social and emotional development and the impact of trauma on learning. Judi was a national LETRS trainer. Before beginning her literacy consulting work, she worked for 20 years as a special educator in Colorado. Judi is the author of 50 Nifty Activities for Reading Instruction and 50 Nifty Activities for Speaking and Listening: for Oral Language and Comprehension. She is currently working on the upcoming supplemental reading series for developing readers called, Venture Town Readers, which will be published by 95 Percent Group™ later this year. Judi’s second area of passion is global education for young women. She is the president of Peruvian Hearts, a non-profit organization dedicated to the education, mentorship, and development of leadership for young women in Peru. Judi believes that literacy is a social justice, equity and inclusivity issue and this adds passion to her work with teachers and students.|
|Jolene Gutiérrez, M.L.S.||Jolene Gutiérrez is an award-winning teacher-librarian and has been working with diverse learners at Denver Academy for the past 28 years. Jolene is contributor to and author of many publications. She’s an active member of SCBWI and The Author’s Guild, part of the KidLitCollective group, a member of the critique group 6 Ladies and a MANuscript, and a co-creator of #KidlitZombieWeek.|
Erin Hamilton, Ph.D., Region Office and State Organization Outreach Specialist, Lexia Learning
|A passionate leader who combines successful team-building capabilities and excellent communication skills to cultivate trusting and productive relationships and motivate teams toward goal attainments. Accomplished in achieving high student outcomes by designing and monitoring the implementation of K-12 curricula. An experienced facilitator, and presenter of high-quality instruction and formative assessment which inﬂuences analytical decision making. Almost twenty years of educational experience and strong motivation towards success and exceeding personal goals.|
|Mandy Harris, Senior Literacy Consultant, Office of Elementary Literacy and School Readiness, Colorado Department of Education||The Literacy Team in the Office of Elementary Literacy and School Readiness supports the implementation of the Colorado Reading to Ensure Academic Development Act (READ Act). They provide guidance, data analysis, professional development and monitoring to districts and schools in support of scientifically and evidence-based reading instruction.|
|Michael J. Hildebrandt, M.S.Ed., Ph.D.||Michael is former faculty member of Landmark School and a Lecturer in the School of Education at Gordon College. Michael holds a B.A. from Colby College, an M.S.Ed. in Language and Literacy from Simmons College, and a Ph.D. in Education from the University of New Hampshire. Michael’s doctoral work investigated the intersection of executive functions and motivation and self-regulated learning. He teaches graduate courses in special education and human development. In addition to his teaching, Michael provides educational consultation for K-12 schools and teachers, college faculty, and parents as well as executive function coaching to adolescents and adults.|
|Katie Hughes, Implementation Specialist||Katie Hughes is an Implementation Specialist with Really Great Reading®. Katie began her career in education in 2004 as a first-grade classroom in a Title 1 school in Colorado. She later became an instructional coach and then transferred to the role of a reading interventionist. Throughout these years, she facilitated many professional development opportunities and provided coaching support to educators. She assisted teachers with the MTSS process and data analysis protocols to determine the most appropriate interventions for student achievement. She also participated in the Alameda Literacy Project in which she completed LETRs 2nd edition. During her years as an instructional coach, she participated in Really Great Reading’s Decoding and the Struggling Reader’s workshops. She helped her school implement Boost for their intermediate students. In her role as a reading interventionist, she taught Blast and HD Word. It was during this time that she truly learned how to teach students how to decode. The direct, explicit, and systematic instruction provided in these programs was a life changer for her and her students. Watching the most struggling and impacted students transition from non-readers to confident and successful readers has been one of the most rewarding experiences in her career.
In 2015, Katie began working as an Implementation Specialist at Really Great Reading® and she has loved supporting educators with their implementation. She supports educators in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Southern California. Katie leverages her experience as a classroom teacher, reading interventionist, and instructional coach to support educators in developing their literacy knowledge, data analysis, and implementation.
|Melody K. Ilk, M.A.||Melody Ilk, M.A., is a national literacy consultant with years of successful experience in schools and districts around the country. Melody has a strong history of involvement in the implementation of scientifically based literacy practices, school-improvement systems, and the infrastructures necessary for increased literacy performance. Melody is an approved consultant for the state of Colorado and guides schools through the construction of scientifically based literacy systems and infrastructures through assessment, data analysis, differentiated tiers of instruction, and shared leadership. This work with educators, administrators, and superintendents has led to significant gains in literacy achievement and instructional effectiveness in all tiers of instruction. Melody has been a LETRS facilitator since the release of the first edition and is the lead author and facilitator for LETRS for Administrators. She is also a coauthor and trainer for A Principal’s Primer for Raising Reading Achievement.
|Paula Kavalec, Manager of Educational Partnerships, MEd Educational Leadership||Paula Kavalec, MEd, joined Collaborative Classroom™ in 2022 as the Manager of Educational Partnerships for Colorado & New Mexico. Paula was a stay-at-home mom and a military spouse before returning to education as a Title One Interventionist. She has been an elementary and middle school classroom teacher and had an administrative career in a small rural school. Paula’s passion is developing close and lasting relationships, and she continues her commitment to education through her work with school districts, leaders, and teachers. She is dedicated to ensuring that all students become critical readers, writers, and thinkers by supporting and empowering teachers with the tools for success.|
|Karen Kemp, Ph.D.||Dr. Karen Kemp has held leadership and administrative positions throughout her public-school tenancy, including: Assistant Principal, Pupil Services Coordinator, Director of Special Education, Program Specialist, and of course, classroom teacher. Karen is a certified Critical Friends coach and the author and co-author of several publications that promote the implementation of evidence-based classroom practices. They include: RTI: The Classroom Connection to Literacy; Teach All, Reach All – Elementary & Secondary; and Cool Kids: A Proactive Approach to Social Responsibility.
Currently, Karen is a Regional Consultant Manager for 95 Percent Group™. She spends her time providing consultation, facilitation, and on-going support to schools and districts throughout the United States.
|Bette Lovelace, Literacy Consultant||Bette Lovelace is a former speech and language pathologist, special and general education teacher, state reading specialist and program specialist with the Arizona Department of Education, and former national LETRS facilitator. Lovelace presented sound wall classes for Tools4Reading and is currently an independent consultant with 95 Percent Group™.|
|Lauren McGrath, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Denver||Lauren McGrath is an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department and Director of the L.E.a.R.N. Lab (Learning Exceptionalities and Related Neuropsychology). With funding from NIH, Lauren’s research investigates risk and protective factors for developmental disorders, especially dyslexia and ADHD. My students and I are active in disseminating our work on dyslexia and ADHD to the community through partnerships with dyslexia advocacy groups and the Colorado Department of Education. As a clinical scientist, Lauren promotes the integration of evidence-based practices for children with learning and attention challenges into the clinical training of graduate students in the Developmental Neuropsychology Clinic and the Center for Child and Family Psychology in the Psychology Department.|
Craig Nydick, Attorney, U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights
Craig Nydick is an attorney with the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Aside from his tenure with OCR, Craig was an elementary and middle school teacher, a plaintiff-side employment law attorney, and worked for the U.S. Department of Labor. When he’s not working, Craig enjoys filling his phone with pictures of his dog and annoying his wife by playing guitar just as they’re getting ready to leave the house.
|Vicki Piquette, Professor of Reading, Language, and Literacy at CSU-Pueblo||Vicki Piquette is an Assistant Professor at CSU-Pueblo. She is finishing up an Ed.D in Reading, Language, and Literacy, has a Master’s degree in Reading, previously taught elementary school and moved to higher education over 16 years ago.|
|Sarah Richards, Reading Interventionist||Sarah Richards is a Wilson® Dyslexia Practitioner in the Bright MINDS Program. She has teaching certifications in Spanish, English Language Arts as well as English as a Second Language/Linguistically Diverse Education- all at the secondary level. She has 20+ years of teaching experience in a variety of settings (including time spent abroad in Spain, Russia and Germany) and has been fortunate enough to work with secondary students as well as adults in those settings. She considers herself a career teacher and loves the opportunity to improve her practice for her students.|
|Michelle Rozenman, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Denver||Michelle Rozenman, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist in Colorado and a clinical supervisor in the Child and Family Clinic in the DU Department of Psychology. Dr. Rozenman studies stress and anxiety in youth including evidence-based interventions to improve anxiety. She received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, and completed a predoctoral internship and postdoctoral T32 fellowship at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior. She subsequently held a faculty position in the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, where she conducted research and served as Associate Director of UCLA Health’s Pediatric OCD Intensive Outpatient Program. Dr. Rozenman joined the faculty at DU in Fall 2018.|
|Laura Santerre-Lemmon, Ph.D. University of Denver||Dr. Santerre-Lemmon is a Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of the Developmental Neuropsychology Clinic in the Department of Psychology at the University of Denver. She received her PhD in Clinical Child Psychology with a specialization in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience from DU. She specializes in the comprehensive assessment of dyslexia, ADHD, and other neurodiversities and mental health conditions in youth. She served as state dyslexia expert for the CDE Dyslexia Working Group from 2019-2023 and enjoys consulting and training about the assessment of dyslexia and common comorbidities.|
|Nora Schlesinger, PhD Director of Language and Literacy Education||Dr. Schlesinger is the Director of Language and Literacy Education at Wilson® Language Training (WLT). Prior to working at WLT, she was an Assistant Professor of Literacy. After receiving her B.S in Food Science and Nutrition from Colorado State University she pursued a master’s in education from Arizona State University (ASU). For almost 20 years she worked in AZ as a teacher in public, private, and independent schools. Dr. Schlesinger became a certified Structured Literacy Dyslexia Specialist and later a Wilson® Dyslexia Practitioner. Her passion for literacy led her to pursue a Ph.D. from ASU in the Department of Speech and Hearing Science. She is an ardent advocate for individuals who struggle with reading. Dr. Schlesinger has served as a board member for the International Dyslexia Association (IDA)-AZ branch and for the IDA-GA branch. She has been involved with the passage of Senate Bills both in AZ and GA for individuals with dyslexia.|
|Nanci Shepardson, M.S.Ed., Ed.S., W.D.P, CPACC Director of Accessibility and Assistive Technology Solutions||Nanci Shepardson is a Reading and Educational Specialist. She graduated from Wheelock College in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in Preschool/Kindergarten Curriculum and Infant/ Toddler Development. In 2010, she graduated from Simmons University with an M.S.Ed. in Language and Literacy and an Ed.S. in Assistive Technology. She is a seasoned teacher, a credentialed K-12 Reading Specialist, and an International Dyslexia Association and Wilson® Reading System Dyslexia Practitioner (WRS Level 1 Certified). Nanci has taught preschool, kindergarten, second grade, and fourth grade, was a Reading and Educational Specialist for grades 7 through postgraduate and has tutored all ages. She consults for the International Dyslexia Association, she is a published author, an advocate for students with disabilities and their families, and is also a professional speaker on Dyslexia, language-based disabilities, and assistive technology throughout the country. Prior to joining Wilson® Language Training, she was the Head of Learning Resources at The Chapin School in Manhattan.
As the Director of Accessibility and Assistive Technology Solutions at Wilson® Language Training, she works in the Program Development Department. In her role she works with the Wilson Reading System (WRS) Team and the Technology Team to create traditional and digital tools that will augment the current WRS curriculum and materials. She stays abreast of the current technological trends and serves as a resource for parents, teachers, and schools on Assistive Technology. Equity and access for all, especially regarding access to research-based reading instruction and assistive technology services, are at the forefront of the work she does. Nanci is also a parent of a grown child with Dyslexia.
|Jessica Thurby, Reading Interventionist & Learning Specialist||Jessica Thurby is a Wilson® Dyslexia Practitioner with the Bright MINDS Program. She is a Special Education Learning Specialist at Alameda. She graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2017 majoring in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences with a minor in Special Education concentrating in Childhood Communication. After graduating, she continued her education, doing additional coursework to get her license as a Special education teacher as well as an endorsement in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse education.
|Karen Tzanetopoulos, M.S., CCC-SLP||Karen Tzanetopoulos, M.S., CCC-SLP specializes in teaching structured literacy and math for students with dyslexia. She is co-author of the book How Children Learn Math: The Science of Math Learning in Research and Practice (2023). She was the recipient of a National Science Foundation grant (2016) to study how to improve math instruction for struggling students. She has worked at the Chicago Institute for Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch, in the public schools, and now works with children in her private practice. She provides professional development to teachers on the science of math and how to improve math instruction.|
Lori Welker, Attorney, U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights
|Lori Welker is an attorney at the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Before joining OCR, Lori was a business litigation attorney, a middle and high school English teacher, and an assistant principal. Lori lives in Denver with her family and enjoys reading and sewing.|
|Mary Yarus, M.Ed., CALT, CSLDS||Mary Yarus earned an M.Ed. and is a Certified Academic Language Therapist and a Structured Language Dyslexia Specialist. Her career in education began in 2001 following her daughter’s diagnosis of dyslexia. She currently serves as an Education Specialist with Region 4 Education Service Center in Houston, Texas, providing professional development to teachers. Mary also serves on the board of Houston Branch of IDA and is a past president.|
|Colleen Zink, M.S.Ed., FIT/OGA, NBCT||Colleen Zink has over 20 years of experience in education. She is a National Board Certified Teacher and holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s in curriculum and instruction, both earned at the University of Kansas. She taught for 16 years in the general education classroom before completing her reading specialist program at Fort Hays State University. While working for 5 years as a reading specialist, she completed her Orton-Gillingham training through Orton-Gillingham Academy and is now a Fellow-in-Training with the Academy. Currently, Colleen works as the Dyslexia Coordinator for the Blue Valley School District in Overland Park, KS.|