Speaker Bios

Friday Keynote Speaker

Janna Peskett, Director, Digital Content and Curriculum Design, Mindset Works, began her education career teaching math to special education high school students. She worked for 10 years in public schools teaching all levels of math before moving to Florida Virtual School (FLVS). During her six years at FLVS, Peskett served as the Mathematics Curriculum Specialist, where she developed fully online public education courses for students and professional development for teachers and administrators. Now serving as a curriculum and professional learning specialist at Mindset Works, Peskett develops curriculum and trains teachers in growth mindset. She translates the latest educational research on motivation into classroom practice to teach educators that all students are capable of achieving at high levels.

Saturday Mini-Keynote Speakers

Dr. Del Siegle is the Director of the National Center for Research on Gifted Education, a professor in gifted and talented education and Head of the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut. He is a past president of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) and chair-elect of the Research on Giftedness, Creativity, and Talent SIG of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). He currently is co-editor of Gifted Child Quarterly and authors a technology column for Gifted Child Today. He
joined Dr. Gary Davis and Dr. Sylvia Rimm as a co-author of the sixth edition of the popular textbook, Education of the Gifted and Talented.

Kathryn Haydon is an innovative educator and learning catalyst who fuses the art and science of creativity into her work with companies, schools, parents, and students. She delivers inspiring, practical, interactive, and motivat- ing workshops on integrating rigorous creative learning into the core curriculum in schools nationwide, and provides ongoing mentorship to teachers, administrators, and families. She specializes in the practical application of creative learning principles in the classroom and the engagement of hard-to-reach students. Kathryn studied with nationally- renowned teacher and gifted education expert Joan Franklin Smutny; worked as a teacher and administrator at The Center for Gifted at National-Louis University in Evanston, Illinois; and has been a second grade teacher, an elementary Spanish teacher and curriculum developer, and taught students ages four through high school at her own Ignite Creative Learning Studio.

Jane Harvey is a graphic artist with a BFA in Communication Design from Parsons, The New School. Valued for her integrity and trustworthiness, perception and creative agility, Jane uses visual facilitation to solve challenges and find opportunities for innovation from a unique, insightful perspective. With over 20 years as a graphic designer and art director in NYC, NJ and PA, Jane has taken a new path with visualtranslating.com. Blending expertise in business, graphic design, and listening with her fast drawing, she graphically scribes to provide engaging visuals that simplify information. Jane recently co-authored Creativity for Everybody with Kathryn Haydon, and works with Sparkitivity to make workshops visually exciting. In 2015, Jane will complete her M.S. in Creativity from the International Cen ter for Creative Studies, Buffalo State, SUNY.

Signature Series Speakers

Dr. Sandra N. Kaplan has been a teacher and administrator of gifted programs in an urban school district in California. Currently, she is clinical professor in learning and instruction at the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education. She has authored articles and books on the nature and scope of differentiated curriculum for gifted students. Her primary area of concern is modifying the core and differentiated curriculum to meet the needs of inner- city, urban, gifted learners. She is a past president of the California Association for the Gifted (CAG) and the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). She has been nationally recognized for her contributions to gifted education.

Dr. Joseph S. Renzulli is Director of UConn's National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented and a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Educational Psychology. The American Psychological Association named him among the 25 most influential psychologists in the world. He received the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Award for Innovation in Education, considered by many to be "the Nobel" for educators, and was a consultant to the White House Task Force on Education of the Gifted. His work on the Three Ring Conception of Giftedness, the Enrichment Triad Model and Cur- riculum Compacting and Differentiation were pioneering efforts in the 1970s, and he has contributed hundreds of publi- cations to the professional literature, many of which have been translated to other languages. Dr. Renzulli has received more than $50 million in research grants and several million dollars of additional funding for professional development and service projects. Dr. Renzulli established UConn's annual Confratute Program which has served more than 35,000 teachers from around the world since 1978. He also established the UConn Mentor Connection, a summer program that enables high-potential high school students to work side by side with leading scientists, historians, and artists and other leading edge university researchers. He is the co-founder, along with Dr. Reis, of the Joseph S. Renzulli Gifted and Talented Academy in Hartford, Connecticut, which has become a model for local and national urban school reform for high potential/low income students. His most recent work is an online personalized learning program that provides profiles of each student's academic strengths, interests, learning styles, and preferred modes of expression. This unique program has a search engine that matches multiply coded resources with student profiles. Teachers also use the program to select and infuse high engagement enrichment activities into any and all standardized curriculum topics.

Dr. Joyce VanTassel-Baska is the Jody and Layton Smith Professor Emerita of Education and founding director of the Center for Gifted Education at The College of William and Mary in Virginia where she developed a graduate program and a research and development center in gifted education. She also initiated and directed the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University. Prior to her work in higher education, Dr. VanTassel-Baska served as the state director of gifted programs for Illinois, as a regional director of a gifted service center in the Chicago area, as coordinator of gifted programs for the Toledo, Ohio public school system, and as a teacher of gifted high school students in English and Latin. She has worked as a consultant on gifted education in all 50 states and for key national groups and has consulted internationally in over 25 countries. Dr. VanTassel-Baska has published widely including 29 books and over 550 refereed journal articles, book chapters, and scholarly reports. Recent books include: Content-based Curriculum for Gifted Learners (2011) (with Catherine Little) and Patterns and Profiles of Low Income Learners (2010). Recent curriculum work includes units of study on leadership (with Linda Avery) and on Roman culture (with Ariel Baska). She also served as the editor of Gifted and Talented International, a research journal of the World Council on Gifted and Talented, for seven years from 1998-2005. She was selected as a Fulbright Scholar to New Zealand in 2000 and a visiting scholar to Cambridge University in England in 1993. Her major research interests are on the talent development process and effective curricular interventions with the gifted. She has served as principal investigator on 62 grants and contracts totaling over $15 million. She holds B.A., M.A., M.Ed., and Ed.D. degrees from the University of Toledo, where she also received a Distinguished Achievement Alumna Award in 2002.

Invited Speakers

Susan Baum, PhD is co-director of the International Center for Talent Development and Director of the National Institute for 2E Research and Development at Bridges Academy in California. Professor Emeritus from The College of New Rochelle, and an international consultant, Susan is published in a multitude of books, chapters, and articles in the areas of twice-exceptional students, primary-aged gifted students, social and emotional factors affecting gifted students, and multiple intelligences. She served on the Board of Directors of the National Association for Gifted Children and is past president and co-founder of the Association for the Education of Gifted Underachieving Students. She is recipient of the Weinfeld Group's Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in educating the twice-exceptional child.

Dr. Susan T. Berry has a doctorate in clinical psychology from Fordham University in New York. She is a licensed psychologist in Connecticut and New York and practices primarily in Glastonbury, Connecticut. She specializes in providing support and therapeutic services to gifted children and their parents, and gifted adults. 

Karen Beitler teaches AP ECE Environmental Science, Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, and Forensics at James Hillhouse High School in New Haven, CT. She serves as a Curriculum Facilitator, founding member of CRISP Collaborative Science for All (CCSA) and is on the board for Educators for Progress, Innovation and Collaboration (EPIC). She is a Fellow at the Yale New Haven Teachers Institute and has been involved with Yale's Biotechnology Program. 

Dr. Carla Brigandi is an Assistant Professor of Gifted Education and West Virginia University. She received her PhD in Gifted Education and Talent Development from the University of Connecticut in 2015. Carla teaches and presents nationally and internationally on a variety of topics in gifted education, and in 2015, she served as the Confratute 2015 coordinator. 

Elissa F. Brown, PhD is the director of the Hunter College Center for Gifted Studies and Education and program coordinator of Hunter's Advanced Certificate Program in Gifted Education. She is an education policy fellow under the Institute for Educational Leadership. Before coming to Hunter, she was the North Carolina state director of gifted education and teacher preparation programs. Dr. Brown was the former director of the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William & Mary from 2002-2007. She has been a district gifted-program coordinator, the principal of a specialized high school, and a classroom teacher. She has served as an adjunct professor at several universities, including Rutgers and Duke University. She is a published author in the field of gifted education and presents widely. She is the parent of three children and lives in East Harlem, NY.

Jonathan Craig is the director of the Talcott Mountain Science Center and Academy where he has worked for 35 years. He has led numerous workshops for teachers throughout the region and across the country on learning styles, evolution and brain hemisphericity, GLOBE environmental analysis, geology, and anthropology. TMSC is a regional center and private school specializing in Gifted Education. Dr. Jessica Lodwick is a new associate at Talcott Mountain and holds her doctorate in Anthropology. 

Shelbi Cole serves as the deputy director of content for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Cole is responsible for ensuring that the assessments measure the depth and breadth of the Common Core State Standards. She oversees the processes used for item writing, item quality, item alignment, item sensitivity, and bias and data reviews, as well as the production of formative assessment and professional development materials for mathematics and English language arts. Cole served as the director of mathematics for Smarter Balanced prior to stepping into the role as deputy director of content. Before joining Smarter Balanced, Cole served as a mathematics education consultant for the Connecticut State Department of Education, overseeing the development of the state's high school mathematics assessment and contributing to the state's transition plan for the Common Core State Standards. Prior to that role, she was a high school mathematics teacher. Cole received her master's of secondary education and PhD in educational psychology with an emphasis on gifted and talented education from the University of Connecticut, Storrs.

Kathy Gavin is an associate professor at the Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at the University of Connecticut where she serves as the math specialist. She has 30 years of experience in education as a mathematics teacher and curriculum coordinator, elementary assistant principal, and assistant professor of mathematics education. She is currently the Principal Investigator and Director of a five-year Javits Grant, Project M3: Mentoring Mathematical Minds that involves the development of math curriculum units for talented students in grades 3, 4, and 5, national field-test implementation, and professional development for teachers. She is presently coauthoring an elementary mathematics methods textbook for teachers. She is also a member of the writing team for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Navigations series and has co-authored a series of creative problem solving books.

E. Jean Gubbins is professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut and Associate Director of The National Center for Research on Gifted Education. Dr. Gubbins is involved in research studies focusing on identification and programming, curricular strategies and practices in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) high schools, reading and mathematics education in elementary schools, professional development, and using gifted education pedagogy with all students. Her research and teaching interests stem from prior experiences as a classroom teacher, teacher of gifted and talented students, evaluation consultant, and professional developer. She teaches graduate courses in gifted education and talent development related to identification, programming, curriculum development, and program evaluation.

Catherine Little is an Associate Professor in Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut. She teaches courses in gifted and talented education in the undergraduate honors program in education, and she serves as program advisor to UConn Mentor Connection. She previously served as Visiting Assistant Professor in Gifted Education and Curriculum Coordinator at the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William and Mary, where she also received her PhD in Educational Policy, Planning, and Leadership. Her research interests include professional development, teacher talent development, curriculum differentiation, and perfectionism. She presents regularly at state and national conferences and in local school districts, and she has written or co-written several curriculum units, as well as book chapters and journal articles related to curriculum implementation and other issues in gifted education.

Known simply as "Ms. Math" to children across the country, Rachel R. McAnallen, PhD has devoted her life to sharing the joy and beauty of mathematics with learners of all ages. A professional educator for over half a century, Rachel travels the world teaching her subject at every grade level. In addition to her experience in the classroom, Rachel has served as a department chair, a school board member, and a high school administrator— she claims the latter position is responsible for the majority of her gray hairs. Rachel has a passion for teaching, golf, and mathematical modular origami, though not always in that order. As a life-long learner, Rachel has completed her PhD at the University of Connecticut at age 75. Rachel approaches the world around her with a boundless curiosity and a playful sense of humor that is reflected in her teaching style.

Dr. Sally M. Reis is the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor at The University of Connecticut. She was previously Head of the Educational Psychology Department where she also served as a Principal Investigator for the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented. She was a public school teacher for 15 years, 11 of which were spent working with gifted students on the elementary, junior high, and high school levels. She has authored or co-authored over 250 articles, books, book chapters, monographs and technical reports. Her research interests are related to special populations of gifted and talented students, including: students with learning disabilities, gifted females and diverse groups of talented students. She is also interested in extensions of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model for both gifted and talented students and as a way to expand offerings and provide general enrichment to identify talents and potentials in students who have not been previously identified as gifted. She is the Co-Director of Confratute, the longest running summer institute in the development of gifts and talents. She has been a consultant to numerous schools and ministries of education throughout the U.S. and abroad. She is co-author of The Schoolwide Enrichment Model, The Secondary Triad Model, Dilemmas in Talent Development in the Middle Years, and a book published in 1998 about women's talent development entitled Work Left Undone: Choices and Compromises of Talented Females. Sally serves on several editorial boards, including the Gifted Child Quarterly, and is a past President of the National Association for Gifted Children. She has been honored with the highest award in her field as the Distinguished Scholar of the National Association for Gifted Children and named a fellow of the American Psychological Association.

Susannah Richards, PhD is on the faculty at Eastern Connecticut State University where she teaches courses in reading and language arts. She specializes in creating environments for highly able readers and writers. She has a strong background in content area literacy and differentiation strategies for integrating English Language Arts instruction to create high-level science and social studies curriculum. Her areas of expertise include literacy, literature and strategies to support the Schoolwide Enrichment Model-Reading, books for highly able students, and integrating technology to meet the needs of all students. She was on the 2013 John Newbery Award Committee and regularly reviews and presents on books for youth at international, national, state, and local conferences. In addition, after 11 years of teaching in public and private schools, she completed a PhD at the University of Connecticut where she studied and implemented curriculum differentiation strategies in reading language arts and the content areas. She has worked as curriculum consultant and professional development provider with large and small diverse urban, suburban and rural school districts in more than a dozen states.

Matthew Worwood is Associate Director of Digital Media and Design at the University of Connecticut. He recently produced a documentary that explored creativity in education, and is currently working on a crowdsourcing, visualization, and documentary project called Class of 2032. In addition to being an Apple Distinguished Educator, Matthew is also co-founder of the parent blog, DadsforCreativity.com.

Aimee Yermish, PsyD
is a clinical psychologist and educational therapist. She works with clients who manifest giftedness or multiple exceptionality, offering consultation, therapy, and assessment. Drawing on her analytical background as a scientist and practical background as a teacher, she focuses on building self-understanding, self-regulation, and range of choice in life


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