Meet Our Speakers

Orlando Featured Speakers

Dr. Ruby Payne

AUTHOR OF A FRAMEWORK FOR UNDERSTANDING POVERTY, CREATOR OF aha! Process

Ruby K. Payne, Ph.D. is the founder of aha! Process and an author, speaker, publisher, and career educator. Recognized internationally for A Framework for Understanding Poverty, her foundational book and workshop, Dr. Ruby Payne has helped students and adults of all economic backgrounds achieve academic, professional, and personal success.

As an expert on the mindsets of economic classes and overcoming the hurdles of poverty, she has trained hundreds of thousands of professionals, from educators and school administrators to community, church, and business leaders.

Payne founded aha! Process to offer a broad range of training solutions–workshops, consulting, books, and trainings for K–12, higher education, and communities—with a focus on creating sustainable success for everyone.

In the field of education, her career-long goal of offering strategies for successfully raising student achievement and overcoming economic class barriers has become the cornerstone of aha! Process’ K-12 work, used with school districts across the country. Dr. Payne’s work stems from more than 30 years of experience in public schools as a high school department head, principal, and central office administrator of staff development. Sequels to her original Frameworkbook include Research-Based Strategies(2009) and School Improvement: 9 Systemic Processes to Raise Achievement(2010), coauthored with Donna Magee, Ed.D. In 2000 she co-authored Bridges Out of Povertywith Philip E. DeVol and Terie Dreussi-Smith as the organization branched out into working toward healthy, sustainable communities.Dr. Payne has written and co-authored more than a dozen books besides the bestselling A Framework for Understanding Poverty and Bridges Out of Poverty. Two recent co-authored publications are How Much of Yourself Do You Own? A process for building your emotional resourcesand Bridges to Health and Healthcare: New solutions for improving access and services.

The 5thedition of A Framework for Understanding Poverty: A Cognitive Approach(2013) was given top honors for professional development with the REVERE Golden Lamp Award from Association of American Publishers in 2014. Also, two of her publications were honored in 2011: Removing the Mask: Giftedness in Povertyreceived a Gold Medal from Independent Publishers in the Education category, and Boys in Poverty: A Framework for Understanding Dropout (Solution Tree Press) received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Association of Educational Publishers in the Professional Development category. Both titles were co-authored with the late Dr. Paul Slocumb.

Dr. Ruby Payne received a bachelor’s degree from Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana; a master’s degree in English literature from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan; and doctorate in educational leadership and policy from Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois.

Baruti Kafele

Urban School Turnaround Specialist, Author of Closing the Attitude Gap

Award-winning principal, internationally-renowned education speaker and best-selling author, Principal Kafele is on fire! He’s on a personal mission to close the ATTITUDE GAP, the world over.

A highly-regarded urban public school educator in New Jersey for over twenty years, Principal Kafele distinguished himself in the classroom and as a school leader. As a middle and high school principal, he led the transformation of four different schools, including “The Mighty” Newark Tech, which went from a low-performing school in need of improvement to national recognition by the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education, and U.S. News and World Report Magazine recognizing it three times as one of America’s best high schools. Currently, Principal Kafele is one of the most sought-after education speakers for transforming the attitudes of at-risk student populations in America. His newest book is titled, Closing the Attitude Gap: How to Fire Up Your Students to Strive for Success.

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 teachers.net 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.

Larry Thompson

Supportive Discipline Innovator, Creator of Responsibility-Centered Discipline

Author of Roadmap to Responsibility and Give ‘em Five, Larry Thompson, M.Ed., is often called upon to deliver keynote presentations for state and national education conferences because of his knowledge, humor and passion for assisting today’s students. He has helped thousands of educators and schools throughout North America break away from their traditional discipline models to a model that creates a responsible climate and responsible students. Larry has served in a wide variety of roles in education – from special education teacher to alternative and traditional high school principal. As creator of the Responsibility-Centered Discipline program, Larry understands that systems must be created that can be realistically implemented and sustained.

Brian Mendler

International Speaker, Author, Expert on Working with Disruptive Students

Brian Mendler trains tens of thousands of educators a year and is a highly regarded dynamic speaker. Through his affiliation with Teacher Learning Center, he provides staff development training for K-12 educators and youth service workers throughout the world with a focus on how to be successful with even the most difficult students.

Brian is a certified K-12 and special education teacher with extensive experience working with challenging students in general ed, self-contained, and inclusion settings.  In his training sessions and books, he draws on his own experience as a very disruptive student with severe undiagnosed ADHD and reading difficulties.

Brian is the author of several books including That One Kid and The Taming of the Crew.  He has also co-authored Strategies for Successful Classroom Management, Power Struggles 2nd Edition, and the bestseller Discipline With Dignity 3rd Edition: New Challenges, New Solutions.

Las Vegas Featured Speakers

Dr. Stuart Ablon

Harvard Professor, Author The School Discipline Fix, Founder Think:Kids

J. Stuart Ablon, Ph.D., is the Director of Think:Kids in the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is also Associate Professor and the Thomas G. Stemberg Endowed Chair in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ablon is author of the books Changeable: The Surprising Science Behind Helping Anyone ChangeTreating Explosive Kids: The Collaborative Problem Solving Approach, and The School Discipline Fix.

Dr. Ablon received his doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of California at Berkeley and completed his training at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. , Dr. Ablon was ranked #5 on the list of the world’s top rated keynote speakers in the academic arena. Dr. Ablon trains parents, educators, and clinicians, and helps organizations throughout the world implement the Collaborative Problem Solving approach.

David Rendall

International Speaker, Neurodiversity Thought Leader, Author of The Freak Factor

During the last fifteen years, David Rendall has spoken to audiences on every inhabited continent. His clients include the US Air Force and the Australian Government, as well as companies in the Fortune 500 including, AT&T, State Farm Insurance and Ralph Lauren.

Prior to becoming a speaker, he was a management professor, stand-up comedian and endurance athlete. He also managed nonprofit enterprises that provided employment for people with disabilities. He has more than twenty years of experience leading people and organizations.

David has a doctor of management degree in organizational leadership, as well as a graduate degree in psychology. He is the author of three books:

  • The Four Factors of Effective Leadership
  • The Freak Factor
  • The Freak Factor for Kids

Baruti Kafele

Urban School Turnaround Specialist, Author of Closing the Attitude Gap

Award-winning principal, internationally-renowned education speaker and best-selling author, Principal Kafele is on fire! He’s on a personal mission to close the ATTITUDE GAP, the world over.

A highly-regarded urban public school educator in New Jersey for over twenty years, Principal Kafele distinguished himself in the classroom and as a school leader. As a middle and high school principal, he led the transformation of four different schools, including “The Mighty” Newark Tech, which went from a low-performing school in need of improvement to national recognition by the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education, and U.S. News and World Report Magazine recognizing it three times as one of America’s best high schools. Currently, Principal Kafele is one of the most sought-after education speakers for transforming the attitudes of at-risk student populations in America. His newest book is titled, Closing the Attitude Gap: How to Fire Up Your Students to Strive for Success.

Larry Thompson

Supportive Discipline Innovator, Creator of Responsibility-Centered Discipline

Author of Roadmap to Responsibility and Give ‘em Five, Larry Thompson, M.Ed., is often called upon to deliver keynote presentations for state and national education conferences because of his knowledge, humor and passion for assisting today’s students. He has helped thousands of educators and schools throughout North America break away from their traditional discipline models to a model that creates a responsible climate and responsible students. Larry has served in a wide variety of roles in education – from special education teacher to alternative and traditional high school principal. As creator of the Responsibility-Centered Discipline program, Larry understands that systems must be created that can be realistically implemented and sustained.

Brian Mendler

International Speaker, Author, Expert on Working with Disruptive Students

Brian Mendler trains tens of thousands of educators a year and is a highly regarded dynamic speaker. Through his affiliation with Teacher Learning Center, he provides staff development training for K-12 educators and youth service workers throughout the world with a focus on how to be successful with even the most difficult students.

Brian is a certified K-12 and special education teacher with extensive experience working with challenging students in general ed, self-contained, and inclusion settings.  In his training sessions and books, he draws on his own experience as a very disruptive student with severe undiagnosed ADHD and reading difficulties.

Brian is the author of several books including That One Kid and The Taming of the Crew.  He has also co-authored Strategies for Successful Classroom Management, Power Struggles 2nd Edition, and the bestseller Discipline With Dignity 3rd Edition: New Challenges, New Solutions.

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