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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.

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.

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