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Paul Tough

Best-selling Author

Paul Tough, bestselling author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character, ushered in a tidal change in thinking with his argument that curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, self-control and grit are better indicators of success than IQ. In his latest book,  Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why,  he offers a practical guidebook for educators, parents and community groups dedicated to improving the lives of children growing up in adversity — with all-new strategies based in the emerging science of success.

Mr. Tough identifies a phenomenon in our culture that he calls the “adversity gap”: Some kids, especially those growing up in poverty, simply have too much adversity in their lives, and others, especially those growing up in affluence, actually experience too little. Tough says that children develop character strengths when they persevere through adversity. And it’s our job – the adults in their schools and their communities and their homes – to provide the support and guidance they need to manage and grow from those setbacks and disappointments.

Mr. Tough is also the author of Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America, the NYT Bestseller which chronicled the inspiring story of the Harlem Children’s Zone. He is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, where he has written cover articles about first-generation college students, character education and OxyContin addiction in Appalachia, among other topics. He has also contributed stories to This American Life, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Esquire and GQ.


Dr. Peter DeWitt

Best-selling Author

Peter DeWitt, Ed.D is a former K-5 teacher (11 years) and principal (8 years). He runs workshops and provides keynotes nationally and internationally focusing on collaborative leadership, fostering inclusive school climates, and student engagement.

Besides focusing on collaborative leadership, Peter is a Visible Learning Trainer for John Hattie, and an Instructional Coaching trainer for Jim Knight. He is the Series Editor for the Connected Educator Series (Corwin Press) and the Impact Series (Corwin Press).

His Finding Common Ground blog is published by Education Week and he is a freelance writer for Vanguard Magazine (SAANYS). He is the 2013 School Administrators Association of New York State’s (SAANYS) Outstanding Educator of the Year, and the 2015 Education Blogger of the Year(Academy of Education Arts & Sciences).

Peter is the author of several books, they include: Dignity for All: Safeguarding LGBT Students (Corwin Press. 2012), School Climate Change (ASCD, co-authored with Sean Slade. 2014), Flipping Leadership Doesn’t Mean Reinventing the Wheel (Corwin Press. 2014), Collaborative Leadership: 6 Influences That Matter Most (Corwin Press/Learning Forward, 2016), School Climate: Leading With Collective Teacher Efficacy (Corwin Press/ Ontario Principals Council. 2017).

His articles have appeared in education journals at the state, national and international level. He has written for Principal Magazine, Education Week, Educational Leadership, The Huffington Post, PBS, ASCD Whole Child, Connected Principals, Smartblogs and ASCD Express.  

Peter has presented at forums, conferences, and panel discussions at state and national conferences. Some of the highlights has been to present for the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), ICLE’s Model Schools, and NBC’s Education Nation.

Peter has worked with the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), the National Education Association (NEA), the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), the National Association of School Psychologists, the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), l’Association des directions et directions adjointes des écoles franco-ontariennes (ADFO), the Catholic Principals’ Council of Ontario (CPCO), and the Ontario Principals’ Council (OPC), National School Climate Center, GLSEN, PBS, NBC, NPR, BAM Radio Network and


Merlyna Valentine

Transformational Leadership Principal, National Speaker & Consultant

Merlyna Mathieu Valentine is a national speaker, consultant, trainer, and owner of Merlyna Valentine Consulting, LLC. As a well-respected educator for over thirty years, Ms. Valentine served as a teacher, principal, and executive director in a highly successful school district. Her transformational leadership as a school principal resulted in her school being recognized as a “Top Gains” school.  She has been recognized with numerous awards and commendations such as teacher of the year, principal of the year, University of New Orleans Alumnus of the Year, and the NABSE Ida B. Wells Risk Taker Award to name a few.

Ms. Valentine was chosen as a “Quiet Hero” by a local news station and was featured in a special segment. She was also chosen as a “True Saint” by the Sean Payton Show. Ms. Valentine has been featured in several articles in the Times Picayune and Ebony Magazine. Dr. Harry K. Wong showcased her school and leadership in an article on his website. In honor of her story of survival, courage, and hope, Ms. Valentine’s story was featured on the Today Show.

Against overwhelming odds, Ms. Valentine overcame a medical tragedy and thrives in her new life. She has learned some valuable lessons since 2007, when her life as she knew it was forever changed and she experienced the closest call to death imaginable. Instead of focusing on what happened and what’s missing from her new life as a quad amputee, she chooses to embrace this new path with a positive attitude. She accepts no excuses and models this in her daily life. She is living proof that ordinary people do extraordinary things every day. Ms. Valentine has transformed adversity into success and disabilities into possibilities. Her passion for education and living life to the fullest captivates audiences and inspires them to be the difference in the lives of students.


Dr. Yong Zhao

Expert on Globalization & Education

Yong Zhao currently serves as a Foundations Distinguished Professor at the University of Kansas and was previously the Presidential Chair and Director of the Institute for Global and Online Education in the College of Education, University of Oregon, where he is also a Professor in the Department of Educational Measurement, Policy, and Leadership. He is also a professorial fellow at the Mitchell Institute for Health and Education Policy, Victoria University. His works focus on the implications of globalization and technology on education. He has published over 100 articles and 20 books, including Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon: Why China has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World, Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization and World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students. He is a recipient of the Early Career Award from the American Educational Research Association and was named one of the 2012 10 most influential people in educational technology by the Tech & Learn Magazine. He is an elected fellow of the International Academy for Education. His latest book World Class Learners has won several awards including the Society of Professors of Education Book Award (2013), Association of Education Publishers’ (AEP) Judges’ Award and Distinguished Achievement Award in Education Leadership (2013).

Until December 2010, Yong Zhao was University Distinguished Professor at the College of Education, Michigan State University, where he also served as the founding director of the Center for Teaching and Technology, executive director of the Confucius Institute, as well as the US-China Center for Research on Educational Excellence.

Zhao was born in China’s Sichuan Province. He received his B.A. in English Language Education from Sichuan Institute of Foreign Languages in Chongqing, China in 1986. After teaching English in China for six years, he came to Linfield College as a visiting scholar in 1992. He then began his graduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1993. He received his A.M. in Education in 1994 and Ph.D. in 1996. He joined the faculty at MSU in 1996 after working as the Language Center Coordinator at Willamette University and a language specialist at Hamilton College.


Dr. Ned Hallowell

International Speaker, ADHD Expert

Dr. Hallowell is a highly recognized International speaker. He has presented to thousands on topics such as ADHDstrategies on handling your fast-pace life, the Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, how to help your employees Shine, ADHD and Relationships and other pertinent family and health issues. He has been prominently featured in the media, including 20/20, Oprah, Dr. Oz, CNN, PBS and NPR as well as 60 Minutes, The Today Show, Dateline, Good Morning America, US News and World Report, Newsweek, the Harvard Business Review, Washington Post, New York Times and other popular publications.

From corporate audiences to parent-teacher workshops and national television shows, people who listen to Dr. Hallowell come away stimulated, inspired and empowered to change their lives. He is a charismatic speaker, combining the knowledge of a Harvard instructor with his incredible understanding of ADHD, human nature and the struggles we face in this crazy/busy world.

Dr. Hallowell is considered to be one of the foremost experts on the topic of ADHD. He is the co-author, with Dr. John Ratey, of Driven to Distraction, and Answers to Distraction, which have sold more than a million copies. In 2005, Drs. Hallowell and Ratey released their much-awaited third book on ADHD, Delivered from Distraction. “Delivered” provides updated information on the treatment of ADHD and more on adult ADHD.

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