Featured Speakers & Presenters

Featured Speakers

Matt de la Peña

Matt de la Peña is the New York Times bestselling, Newbery Medal winning author of six young adult novels (including Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here and The Living) and four picture books (including Last Stop on Market Street and Love). Matt received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific, where he attended school on a full athletic scholarship for basketball. de la Peña currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his family. He teaches creative writing and visits high schools and colleges throughout the country.


  • Keynote: The Story Behind the Story (Day 2)
  • Session: Thinking and Talking Well Using Picture Books (K–5) (Day 2, with Debra Crouch)
  • Session: The Power of Musicality in Story (Day 2)

Dr. Mary Howard

Dr. Mary Howard is a leading expert in literacy, and independent consultant nationwide and in Canada. She has worked with educators to create a research-based literacy program grounded in current brain research. An educator for almost four decades, she combines years of classroom experience as a special educator, reading specialist, and Reading Recovery teacher with a multitude of experiences as a reading consultant, and nationwide lecturer. She understands the realities of today’s classroom and supports teachers across the country in creating high-quality literacy experiences for every child.
Dr. Mary Howard is the author of Good to Great: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters (2012), Moving Forward with RTI: Reading and Writing Activities for Every Instructional Setting and Tier (2010), and many more.


  • Keynote: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters
  • Panel: Finding Your Voice as a Leader of Balanced Literacy Instruction (K–5) (with Maria Iams)

Maria Nichols

Maria Nichols supports educators and refines her own craft in urban schools in the San Diego Unified School District, and in districts across the United States. Her work as a teacher, literacy coach, administrator and author has focused on the development of thoughtful teaching and learning inside classrooms alive with purposeful, productive talk.
Maria has recently expanded her focus on dialogic processes to include the design and implementation of elementary Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) teaching and learning. This work emphasizes interdisciplinary unit design incorporating Design Thinking, enabling student inquiry of issues with global reach and local impact. Embedded in this work is processes for developing student’s ability to read, think and talk among multiple perspectives to broaden their inquiry and deepen understanding.
Maria is the author of several texts and articles, including Comprehension Through Conversation (Heinemann 2006), Talking About Texts (Shell 2008), Expanding Comprehension with Multigenre Text Sets (Scholastic 2009), and most recently “Real Talk, Real Teaching,” published in Ed Leadership (2014).


  • Keynote: Literacy: A Window into Hearts and Minds
  • Session: Teaching About and Through Purposeful Talk


Dr. Yvonne Freeman and Dr. David Freeman are professors emeriti at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Both are interested in effective education for emergent bilinguals. They present regularly at international, national, and state conferences. They have worked extensively in schools in the U.S. They have also worked with educators in Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Argentina, Uruguay, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Lithuania, Mallorca, and Sweden.

The Freemans have published books, articles and book chapters jointly and separately on the topics of second language teaching, biliteracy, bilingual education, linguistics, and second language acquisition. In the spring of 2018, their newest book came out, Dual Language Essentials for Teachers and Administrators, (2nd Edition). In 2016, they published ESL Teaching: Principles for Success and Grammar and Syntax in Context, published by Corwin. Other books by the Freemans published by Heinemann include Essential Linguistics: What Teachers Need to Know to Teach ESL, Reading, Spelling, and Grammar 2nd edition (2014), among others.


  • Keynote: Reading Our Way to Language Proficiency


Ann Stewart

Ann Stewart is a professional development trainer with 26 years of experience in the education industry. She has spent the past 16 years developing and facilitating customized workshops and seminars for local and national school districts in literacy and English language acquisition techniques used by classroom teachers and administrators in grades PreK-8.

Prior to consulting, she served as a classroom teacher, Reading Recovery teacher and literacy strategy coach in both the Mount Diablo and Fairfield-Suisun Unified School Districts in California. She completed her Master in Business Administration with an emphasis in Global Management and is a Certified Professional Coach with the International Coach Federation. She is currently living in Chattanooga Tennessee.

Cherissa Kreider-Beck

Cherissa Kreider-Beck is an English Language Arts Coordinator for the San Diego County Office of Education, supporting administrators and teachers in 42 different school districts in Southern California. Prior to working at the County level, she spent 22 years in San Diego Unified School district with 17 years of experience as a Literacy Peer Coach/Staff Developer. Her classroom teaching experience—in kindergarten through sixth grade—ignited her passion for and research into literacy instruction.

Cherissa also works as a literacy consultant, working with school districts across the United States. She taught for 8 years at the University of San Diego as an adjunct professor, teaching Master’s level courses in literacy instruction and curriculum design and evaluation.

Debra Crouch

Debra Crouch works nationally as an independent educational consultant, collaborating with districts and schools in designing professional learning opportunities. Her work empowers teachers, principals, and coaches to envision instructional decisions that matter for children—decisions about processes for learning that unfold over time, across texts and among practices.

Debra is a former classroom teacher who initiated and led the development of balanced literacy practices in her own school district and has been involved in education for the past 28 years as a classroom teacher, coach, consultant, and author. She actively shares her thinking and practices through long-term professional learning opportunities with districts across the country serving children from diverse backgrounds, languages, and socioeconomic needs.

Dr. Eva Pando Solís

Dr. Eva Pando Solís is an award-winning educator with more than 20 years of experience teaching at grade levels K–8 and at University. Her work is specialized in the areas of literacy, curriculum development, English language development, and teacher coaching. Eva’s excellence in teaching was recognized in the year 2000 with “Teacher of the Year” awards from the Paramount Unified School District and the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

Eva began her career in 1986 in her native Spain, where she taught Spanish Language and Literature, as well as English as a Second Language to elementary and middle school students. In 1993, she relocated to California when the Paramount Unified School District (PUSD) recruited her to teach in the district’s bilingual and immersion programs for second-language learners. Eva has also worked as a district-wide mentor and coach for more than seven years.

Eva’s credentials include a Bachelor’s in Education and a Master’s in English, both from the University of Oviedo (Spain); a Master’s degree in Spanish from California State University, Long Beach; a certificate in Reading Recovery® from California State University, San Bernardino, and a Doctorate in Applied Linguistics with a research emphasis in language contact from the University of Granada (Spain).

Jorge Cuevas Antillón

Jorge Cuevas Antillón is a renowned teacher, professional development provider, and curriculum writer. His expertise comes from decades in public school education, as a teacher, as a reading coach, as a school/district administrator, as a graduate school university instructor, as a textbook author and as an educational grant writer/manager. Right now he is honored to be the District Advisor for Curriculum and Instruction at San Diego County Office of Education, where he is the editor of the state Spanish Language Development standards and steward of the California and national Common Core en español standards for both language arts and mathematics.

Liliya Stefoglo

Liliya Stefoglo brings a passion for supporting ELL students to every professional experience.

She utilizes her extensive background in ELL services and programming to support best practices for ELL students. Liliya’s personal background as a refugee immigrant gives her a first-hand perspective on the experiences of ELL students and their families and their cultural, social-emotional, linguistic, and academic needs. She supports schools to establish efficient communication and collaboration systems that are critical to the success of their ELL programs. Liliya has successfully managed state and federal budgets, developed improvement plans, and evaluated programs to ensure students are at the center of instruction.

Liliya has been in education for twenty-four years and has never stopped learning and growing as a professional. She began her career as an Educational Assistant then became a teacher in the Federal Way (WA) School District. Liliya led and managed the K-12 ELL Program in the Issaquah (WA) School District. She served as Director of ELL and AVID in the Tukwila (WA) School District. Liliya currently works as an independent consultant, founding Seeing Beyond, LLC, as a response to requests for professional services from school districts and agencies. Throughout her career, Liliya has always sought to learn more, collaborate with others, and do what is best for students.

Lyn Reggett

Lyn Reggett is a literacy and publishing consultant currently working in the United States and Australia. Lyn began her teaching career in New Zealand where she taught mainly in elementary schools and became one of the first Reading Recovery Teacher Leaders in New Zealand.

In the United States she has worked extensively as a consultant in elementary and middle schools particularly in New York City, Seattle, San Diego and Sacramento. In Australia she continues working as a coach, believing that coaches need to be working actively in classrooms, as well as leading professional development sessions.

She has been associated with Eleanor Curtain Publishing since 2009, pursuing her interest in, and passion for literacy teaching and learning. She works as part of a talented and dedicated team to develop and produce high quality books for students. One of the joys of her job is to field test this material in schools, where students enlighten and teach her.

Maria Iams

Maria Iams is an education consultant specializing in instructional leadership and best practices in reading and writing at the K–8 levels. She has extensive experience coaching school leaders as they manage and communicate change, especially in teaching practices and standards. Maria has spearheaded many literacy initiatives in schools across the country and has supported principals and teachers in transforming the reading and writing lives of their students.

Maria’s leadership coaching spans industries; her education clients include school districts that partner with the Center for Educational Leadership (CEL), Mondo Publishing, New Leaders, The Gates Foundation, and The Global Online Academy. Her corporate clients include work with leaders at Microsoft, Google, YouTube, Blue Shield of California, Russell Investments, North Point Advisors, and more.

Maria earned a B.A. in Communications and an M.S.Ed in Leadership and Supervision and holds certificates in Cognitive CoachingSM and School District Administration and Supervision. She has co-written and published education curricula for both teachers and school leaders and recently celebrated the fifth publishing of her co-authored book, Text Savvy.

Maria lives in the Bay Area with her husband and two children, Mia and Andrew, and is often seen running or at CrossFit on the weekends.

Nilaja Taylor

Nilaja Taylor has served in the field of education for the past 17 years. She is dedicated to fostering quality learning experiences that cultivate the desire to learn in students. During those years, she took various roles within the field, which include: District Coordinator for Elementary Schools, Instructional Facilitator, Literacy Coach, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, and an ELL teacher.

Nilaja concentrates in literacy and is currently “All But Dissertation” in the process of obtaining her PhD in Reading. She also specializes in collaborating with administrators and instructional staff in incorporating best practices in literacy instruction that supports the needs of all learners, including the linguistically and culturally diverse population.

Pam Schaff

Pam Schaff is the Educational Consultant behind Seeing Beyond based in Bellevue, Washington. She believes it is essential that we make a choice to see beyond. Preparing ALL children to live successfully with a solid foundation has a ripple effect that is felt in their classroom, their school, and finally the neighborhood they live in. Our firm provides educational consulting and training services focused on the integration of language, literacy, and content that accelerates the growth of every child, in particular, Language Learners.

Paulina Rodríguez Cañizares

Paulina Rodríguez Cañizares is a bilingual educator from Argentina that is passionate about supporting emerging bilinguals in their path to biliteracy. Her journey started as a teacher of English as a Second Language in her home country and evolved into a bilingual reading intervention teacher and later curriculum specialist for Denver Public Schools (DPS). In this role, she supported teachers in implementing effective small group instruction for struggling readers and the choice and creation of equitable resources for emerging bilinguals both in English and Spanish.

Upon getting her Masters of Arts in Educational Equity and Cultural Diversity at the University of Colorado in Boulder, she transitioned to her current role as a bilingual instructional coordinator with the English Language Acquisition Department at DPS. In this role, she is in charge of supporting elementary schools in strengthening their bilingual programs by working on assessment, curriculum, instructional practices that better support emergent bilinguals.

Tammy Jones

Tammy Jones is co-author of Apprenticeship in Literacy: Transitions Across Reading and Writing, with Dr. Linda Dorn. Tammy’s background is rich in professional development. Tammy has designed, organized and supervised the large-scale training of public school teachers in major urban districts such as San Bernardino, Houston, Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, and Denver. As a Professional Development team builder, she has personally helped numerous districts implement systemic changes and improvements in their literacy practices. Tammy has experience as a former classroom teacher and Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, as well as an Early Childhood Curriculum Specialist at the Arkansas Department of Education. Tammy serves as a senior author and consultant for the development of educational products and training resources, while also continuing to train literacy leaders across the country. Tammy presents at state, regional and national conferences including ASCD and IRA.

Vivian Pratts

Vivian Pratts is an experienced Special Education Teacher, Bilingual Teacher, Elementary Principal and Bilingual/ESL PK-12 Director. She has over 30 years of educational experience. She is currently an Educational Consultant and working on her doctoral dissertation. Her research interests include translanguaging with emergent and experienced bilinguals, as well as how teachers extend and support student’s linguistic repertoire. Vivian presents at local, state and national level. She provides professional development for parents, teachers and administrators.

Additionally, she currently serves as Instructional and Professional Development Chair on the Board for the Texas Association for Bilingual Education (TABE). She has also served as TABE President, Past President, and Bilingual ESL Director Representative. Honors include her campus being featured as a Best Practice in Leadership and Dual Language Programs in the 2nd edition of Dual Language Essentials for Teachers and Administrators, co-authored by Drs. Yvonne and David Freeman and Dr. Sandra Mercuri. Additionally, Mrs. Pratts was selected by her peers as Spring Branch ISD’s Elementary Principal of the Year in 2015-2016.