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Session Presenters


A photo of Charles King

Dr. Cokethea

A photo of Dr. Cokethea Hill


A photo of Dayonne Richardson

Demicco E.

A photo of Demicco Witherspoon


A photo of Edmund Adjapong

Sams, Ed. M.

A photo of J Sams

Kathleen “Penny” Christian 

A photo of Kathleen "Penny" Christian


A photo of Marcus Strother


A photo of Monique Young

Nathaniel Turner

A photo of Nathaniel Turner


A photo of Nicole Rials


A photo of Noemí Cortes


A photo of Rito Marinez

Dr. Robin E.

A photo of Dr. Robin Henderson-Wilson


A photo of Sara Adjapong

Dr. Sonn

A photo of Sonn Sam


A photo of Spark Bookhart


A photo of Stacy Wyatt

Dr. Tonya
Waller, Ed. D. 

A photo of Tonya Waller

Dr. Tyrone
Bates, Jr.

A photo of Tyrone Bates

Charles King

Charles is the Founder and CEO of the Kansas City Teacher Residency, and has an unyielding commitment to seeing our schools in the urban context succeed, and knows that it has to start one classroom at a time, one teacher at a time. For more than 20 years he has worked in urban public schools fighting to end educational inequities, and in turn, closing the opportunity gap.  

Dr. Cokethea Hill

Dr. Cokethea Hill is the CEO + Founder of BLAQUE (Black Leaders Advancing Quality Urban Education) KC, a non-profit organization committed to significantly improving the academic, economic, social, emotional, and life outcomes of African American children in public schools. She is an innovative collaborator with over 15 years of experience working in the non-profit sector organizing communities, building collaborative partnerships, and strengthening assets in low-income urban communities. Known for her strategic approach to assisting organizations with aligning their organizational mission with the needs of the people they serve, Dr. Hill has a keen ability for building relationships and mobilizing others towards an identified goal. A native of Kansas City, she earned her undergraduate degree from Central Missouri State University, a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Avila University, and a doctoral degree from the University of Kansas in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. Recognizing the correlation of where one lives to the opportunities or lack thereof to healthcare, quality education, and gainful employment, Dr. Hill’s passion for education soon led to an increased focus on neighborhood and community conditions within the urban core. Dr. Hill’s previous employment with Mid-America Regional Council’s Green Impact Zone provided an avenue to leverage her community organizing, grant writing, and strategic planning skills to secure housing redevelopment projects, lead energy efficiency Smart Grid efforts, and public infrastructure improvements within five neighborhoods in the urban core of Kansas City.   

A champion of diversity and inclusion, Dr. Hill worked at the University of Kansas’ SWIFT Educational Center, where she provided executive coaching to school leaders implementing Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) to improve educational outcomes for students. Committed to servant leadership, Dr. Hill has served on Kansas City’s City Council and the Kansas City Public School Board. Prior to founding BLAQUE KC, Dr. Hill managed a $1.3M funding portfolio with SchoolSmartKC, a funding collaborative working to improve access to quality schools in Kansas City. Dr. Hill currently serves on several local boards and commissions including Board Chair for the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, Vice Chair of the City Planning Commission (KCMO), the Urban Neighborhood Initiative (UNI), Turn the Page Kansas City, KC Rising Steering Committee and Communities in School Mid-America Board.  

Dayonne Richardson  

Dayonne Richardson is a local children’s book author and educator of over 10 years. She currently teaches reading/writing expression for 3rd/4th grade students at Hogan Preparatory Elementary in Kansas City Missouri. In 2020 Dayonne released her first children’s book I Told the Storm and in May 2022 she will be releasing her second children’s book, Our Gift Grace. Our Gift Grace serves as a reminder of the gift we give to ourselves and others. She is also the elated founder of Mirror Mirror Books LLC, her desire is that her readers will always see themselves in anything she writes/creates.

Demicco E. Witherspoon

Demicco Witherspoon’s passion is rooted in implementing effective instructional classroom practices focusing on delivering high quality instruction. Witherspoon is currently serving as the Instructional Coordinator for Teachers Like Me.  Witherspoon has a 22-year career in education through various roles: secondary math educator, department chair, teacher leader, teacher mentor, building leadership team member, and club/class sponsor in Kansas City Public Schools and Grandview C4 schools.   Witherspoon was 1999 alumna of Alcorn State University, an HBCU located in Lorman, Mississippi. Witherspoon achieved a master’s and two Education Specialist degrees in Curriculum & Instruction as well as K-12 Administration and Building Leadership. 

Edmund Adjapong 

Dr. Edmund Adjapong, a native of the Bronx, NY, is an associate professor in the Educational Studies Department at Seton Hall University. Dr. Adjapong, a former middle school science educator, is also a faculty fellow at the Institute of Urban and Minority Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and the editor of “#HipHopEd: The Compilation on Hip-Hop Education Series.” He is the director of the Science Genius Program, a program that engages youth in the sciences through hip-hop. Dr. Adjapong is a STEM, and Urban Education advocate whose work and research address issues of race, class, inequities in education, and misperceptions of urban youth. His current focus is on incorporating youth culture into educational spaces, specifically on utilizing hip-hop culture and sensibilities as an approach to teaching and learning. 

Jamila Sams, Ed. M.

Jamila Sams, Ed.M. is an educator with over 25 years of experience working with youth of all ages and backgrounds. Her areas of expertise include educational leadership, youth development, nonprofit management, and strategic partnership development. As the founder of Go to Ms. Sams Inc., Jamila works tirelessly to provide services to educators, nonprofit professionals, and members of the business community around three core areas: School Climate and Culture; Youth Program Development and Training; and Strategic Partnership Development. Clients include the Maryland State Department of Education; the New York City Department of Education; QLIK Corporation; Mentor Foundation USA; The University of Maryland Baltimore; Mentor International; and El Desafio (The Challenge) in Rosario, Argentina. Jamila has been a featured speaker for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the National Gathering for the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color, and the Center for the Promotion of Social Emotional Learning National Conference. Jamila’s breakout TEDX entitled, “Why Are You” has been viewed over 1000 times to date. In 2020, Jamila launched the We Do it for the Culture™ Curriculum; a culturally responsive social emotional learning curriculum rooted in HipHop culture for grades 6-12. The curriculum serves over 40 schools nationwide and growing annually. Ms. Sams is a proud native of Philadelphia, a self-proclaimed HipHop head and a first generation college graduate of Lincoln University, PA. She obtained her master’s degree in Educational Administration & Supervision from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland and serves on the executive board of Words Beats & Life in Washington, D.C. 

Kathleen “Penny” Christian

Kathleen “Penny” Christian is a native New Orleanian who has called Lexington, KY home since 1994. She and her husband Claude are the proud parents of four wonderful daughters. She has been fighting for equity in education for 20-plus years. Penny began her advocacy journey as a PTA president at both the elementary and middle school levels. She then advanced to 16th District PTA President in Fayette County, from 2019-2021. She is currently Vice President of Leadership Outreach for Kentucky PTA. Over the years, her advocacy work at the district level includes serving on the Parent Superintendent Interview Committee and as a Parent Representative on the District Safety Advisory Council. She has facilitated multiple presentations with school administrators on the importance of PTA and Family Engagement. One of the most rewarding experiences for her has been being selected as a member of the Inaugural Cohort of the EdTrust Family Fellowship. Recently, Kathleen completed her requirements to become a Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership (CIPL) with the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. As a result of her advocacy work, she is now also a Prichard Committee member. Penny currently serves as a parent (family) representative on the Kentucky Coalition for Advancing Education. 

Marcus Strother 

Marcus Strother is the President and CEO of MENTOR California, the California affiliate of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, the unifying national champion for expanding quality mentoring relationships for young people.  
A father, husband, career educator, youth and community advocate, he is a 24-year veteran in public education. Marcus spent eight years in the classroom and nine as a high school administrator, most recently as Director of Youth Development at Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD). At SCUSD he oversaw the district’s Expanded Learning Programs, Summer Programming and Boys and Girls of Color initiatives, which included the coordination of the Men’s Leadership Academy (MLA) and Women’s Leadership Academy (WLA). The program focused on supporting youth in the development of their personal social justice framework through civic engagement and community building. 
Outside the traditional classroom, Marcus provides professional teacher training in the Freedom Writers Methodology as a Freedom Writer Teacher and is building a movement in education, mentoring and youth development around the ideology he describes as “Life Data.” Human testimony is assessment! When he is not working with youth, he spends Wednesday nights teaching a Creative Writing class at Folsom State Prison. He and his wife have traveled abroad with students to support the building of three schools in the Dominican Republic and a medical clinic in Peru, working with the Yanesha people.  
Marcus is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and has earned two graduate degrees in Education from Olivet Nazarene University. Marcus is an award-winning educator and has been named Illinois Public Citizen of the Year, Illinois 40 Under 40, and a Sacramento Kings/Wal-Mart Community Playmaker. He lives with his wife, twin sons, and daughter in Elk Grove, California.  

Monique Young

Monique Young started her career as a professional school counselor in Kansas City. During her work, she grew a passion for creating safe and welcoming places for students. Monique now serves as an education consultant, guiding other school counselors, social workers, and administrators through building data-driven school mental health teams.  

Nathaniel Turner, JD, MALS  

Author and TED speaker Nathaniel A. Turner, JD, MALS, is a self-described “Humanity Propulsion Engineer.” Nate is the author of several books, including the children’s series The Amazing World of STEM and the history-making Raising Supaman.  

His diverse education and wide range of experiences and professions a is only part of what makes this modern-day Renaissance man’s presentations “can’t miss” events. Truly setting Nate apart is his unique comical ability to see the world differently and he challenges audiences in an edu-taining way to live outside the box so that the world might experience us at our best.  

Nicole Rials  

Nicole Rials is a Licensed Specialist Clinical Social Worker (LSCSW) with over 20 years of practice, teaching, and executive leadership experience. Nicole’s therapy and consulting practice includes services to BIPOC leaders and professionals, first responders, and businesses/organizations. Her primary focus is on building relational health and wellness within self, and across the various life systems that we engage in. Nicole earned a Master’s of Social Work from the University of Kansas in May, 2000 and her practice principles are to “Live with Courage, Be Guided by Integrity, Choose to Trust, Demonstrate Loyalty, and Do It with Excellence.”  

Noemí Cortes 

Noemí Cortés has dedicated her work to building the capacity of people to speak up and speak back to inequities in the education system. With over 20 years of experience, Noemi has worked as a classroom teacher, teacher educator in institutions of higher education, district-level administrator, and leadership coach.  

Through her private consulting business, Liberatory Ed, LLC, Noemi has supported various non-profit organizations with the design and execution of innovative programs as well as infrastructure development. She currently works as a leadership coach to non-profit education leaders and charter school leaders in Kansas City as well as teachers and administrators across the state of Illinois.

Rito Martinez

Rito is currently the Founder and President of Love and Liberation, a healing justice and equity justice executive coaching and consulting firm. Rito currently supports the following efforts:  

  • Leading racial justice and racial healing transformative practices with Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Chicago  
  • Transformative coaching in partnership with Surge Institute, Moonshot EdVentures, Nexus Equity Fellowship, and Community Equity Partners  
  • Co-design and co-lead the Great Expectations Equity Fellowship with the Office of Equity Chicago Public Schools

Dr. Robin E. Henderson-Wilson

Dr. Robin E. Henderson-Wilson is a career educator, leader, author, consultant, and certified mindfulness trainer. Dr. Robin is a hard-working, tenacious, and inspiring professional who has committed her life’s work to empower those around her to think big and to dream even bigger. She earned her undergraduate degree at Butler University and her subsequent graduate degrees at Indiana University (M.S. in Counseling) and Ball State University (Ph.D. in Education). Most recently, she has teamed up with Mindful Momentum to develop The Engaged Leader, a program designed to empower leaders to use mindfulness to propel themselves and their organizations forward.  

Sara Adjapong 

Sara Adjapong is a New York City public school leader who supports teacher teams in developing project-based curricula and coaches teachers on instructional practices that foster student, teacher, and community relationships. In her current role, she supports the school communities in expanding work-based learning approaches, such as workplace challenges and internship programs that bridge industries, communities, and classrooms. As a former English Language Arts teacher in the Internationals Network for Public Schools, Sara is passionate about working with Multilingual Learners and immigrant communities.

Dr. Sonn Sam

Sonn began his career with Big Picture Learning in 2003 and has not looked back. He began as an advisor, then as a principal, and most recently as Chief Innovation Officer at East Side High School New Jersey, where he led the Big Picture Academy. In this role, he focused on expanding the internship program, deepening the rigor of internship projects and exhibitions. Under his leadership, Big Picture Academy has become a staple innovation model within the Newark Public School District, earning praise and recognition from district leadership and school-level staff alike. He also personally mentored and trained a Big Picture Academy advisor, who won the Teacher of the Year Award in 2017.  

Outside of Big Picture, Sonn is a leader to the community at large. In his effort to utilize technology to transform teaching and learning, Sonn was the Co-Chair of New Jersey Future Ready State-Wide Initiative: Use of Space and Time Gear. Sonn is also a certified Google trainer, training students, staff, and administration on Google Apps for Education across the United States. Additionally, pursuing his passion for training and supporting new administrators, Sonn has served as a mentor in the New Jersey Leaders to Leaders program.  Sonn now lives in sunny Orlando, Florida, with his beautiful wife, three amazing kids, and two dogs.

Spark Bookhart 

Spark Bookhart is a transformative leader. From his student organizing days at Tuskegee University to his careers in law enforcement, community economic development, professional organizing, youth development, non-profit executive leadership, local/national political campaigns, and entrepreneurship, Spark has consistently tapped into the power of what he calls, “average, every day, ordinary people” to utilize their inherent power to impact their own lives in transformative ways. 

As a long-time community organizer, Spark convenes the Parent Power Lab, a fully immersive parent organization built to surface the power of public-school parents and families, then utilize that power to positively impact the educational outcomes for their children in a massive way. Spark serves on the faculty of the innovative Public Schools’ Community Organizer Training Program and is a professional coach with initiative clients such as the Obama Foundation, YouthBuild USA, and public schools nationwide. 

Stacey Wyatt 

A veteran educator, and community and equity advocate for nearly 30 years, Stacey currently provides leadership coaching and professional learning for educational and community-based leaders. Known as an authentic leader who uses a throughline of LOVE – which she defines as “a consistent, caring, fearless demand for high expectations with high levels of support” backed by foundational research. Her work as an educator, instructional leader, and community change agent underscores her belief that equity is rooted in building capacity, fueling agency, and creating access and success for historically marginalized people. This belief led to the creation of Bloom Educational Services, her effort of love. Having experienced an interrupted and systemically racist education herself, she looked to create a way to help provide a trauma-informed, socially just, and liberatory response to community teaching and learning as a route to the culturally responsive and sustainable educational action.

Dr. Tonya Waller, Ed. D.  

Dr. Tonya Waller is a Director in the University of Kansas Center for Educational Opportunity Programs (CEOP). Dr. Waller has served as an educator and youth advocate for over 25 years, having worked as a classroom teacher for 10 years prior to her 17-year tenure with the US Department of Education’s GEAR UP program. She is a social justice advocate with research interests in urban education, Trauma Informed Care, and Culturally Responsive pedagogy. In addition to her CEOP duties, Dr. Waller also teaches UNIV101 for first-generation freshman college students at the University of Kansas, and is co-owner of Summit Educational Consultants, LLC.

Dr. Tyrone Bates, Jr.  

Dr. Bates is from Kansas City, Kansas by way of Chicago, Illinois. A graduate of Wyandotte High School, Northwest Missouri State University, Pittsburgh State University, and the University of Missouri, Columbia where he earned his Educational Doctorate.  

Dr. Bates was a biology and chemistry teacher, an Academic Coach/Kauffman Scholars, and a high school and elementary administrator. He owns a consulting business (True Empowering, LLC), and is currently a Coordinator of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.  Dr. Bates is married to his wife of 21 years LaJasmia (Jazzee), a Registered Nurse in the state of Kansas and they share six beautiful children, La’Shana, Tyrone III, Tamar, Trinity, Tamia, and Emmanuel.