Meet the Speakers

Featured Speakers

Dr. Gordon Martell – Keynote Speaker

Superintendent, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools

Presentation: “Tapahtêyimowin: Leadership and Humility in Indigenous Education”

Description: Improving Indigenous student outcomes requires leaders who practice deference to Indigenous people and knowledges. An appreciative stance grounded in relationship and services space for Indigenous models of community development to emerge. These models contribute to sustainable change by challenging complacency and instigating acts of imagination and courage, enlivening a new narrative characterized by Indigenous influence and effective schools. 

Bio: Gordon is from the Waterhen Lake First Nation in Treaty Six Territory. He is a superintendent with Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools and an adjunct professor in Educational Administration at the University of Saskatchewan. Gordon has 30 years’ experience in Indigenous education. He was the 2017 recipient of the Canadian Association for the Study of Educational Administration’s Thomas B. Greenfield Dissertation Award. He supports First Nations in the development of on-reserve First Nations education systems.


Russell Hunter – Plenary Speaker

Principal, Whitefish Lake 128 First Nation/Goodfish Lake

Presentation: “Leadership from the Heart" 

Description: In his presentation, Russell will share his experiences and philosophy of educational leadership. Although school principals are constantly inundated with vast amounts of information, paper, situations, and people, they still need to maintain a sense of balance and focus. In his opinion, Russell believes that the heart of teaching and subsequently, the heart of leadership constitutes a large part of working with children. The heart of leadership refers to relationships, connections and understandings that truly define our work in education.

Bio: Russell is currently the principal in Whitefish Lake 128 First Nation/Goodfish Lake, the community he was born and raised in. His community is located two hours northeast of Edmonton, near St. Paul/Lac La Biche. He is a father of four children, a grandfather to ten, soon to be twelve, and a husband of 38 years. He has experience working with First Nation and non-First Nation schools. He truly believes in a holistic model of education, and their school is currently doing focused work on trauma, grief and loss, as well as land-based learning. He completed his Master of Education in Educational Studies through the University of Alberta in 2011.


Dr. Rob Nellis – Plenary Speaker

Faculty Member, School of Education, Red Deer College

Presentation: “The Love We Remember: Stories, Becoming, and Relationships in Context”

Description: What's at stake in the stories we tell ourselves? This session inquires into the love one brings to their work, its debt and responsibility to context and personal history, and implications for space of pedagogical encounter. The work draws from arts-based approaches, poetic inquiry and life writing. 

Bio: Robert Christopher Nellis is a continuous faculty member in the Red Deer College School of Education and Past Co-President of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies. His PhD thesis received the 2008 Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies Dissertation Award, and he is the author of Haunting Inquiry: Classic NFB Documentary, Jacques Derrida, and the Curricular Otherwise (Sense, 2009).


Dr. Mark Yurick – Plenary Speaker

Former Coordinator, Professional Development, Alberta Teachers’ Association

Presentation: “Made in Alberta – The Professional Practice Standards”

Description: The role of the Professional Practice Standards is quite simple, to ensure Quality Teaching results in Optimum Learning for All Students. This presentation will focus upon how the standards and the supporting regulations relating to Growth, Supervision, and Evaluation will help teachers, principals and system leaders work together to achieve the goal of  Optimum Learning for All Students. The key role of principal as instructional leader as they work with their teachers to support and promote Quality Teaching will be an integral focus of the presentation. 

BioMark has recently retired from the Coordinator, Professional Development with the Alberta Teachers’ Association. Mark has been involved as an Association representative in the development of all three of the professional practice standards. In addition, his portfolio within the Association included work on curriculum, teacher professional growth, school leadership, and the role of the profession in Practice Review. Prior to joining the Alberta Teachers’ Association as a staff officer in professional development in the summer of 2007, Mark was a principal with Edmonton Public Schools. His career with that district spanned over twenty years, as a classroom teacher, school counsellor, curriculum coordinator, and principal. Mark has completed his master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction in Science, and his doctorate in Teacher Professionalism and Professionalization focusing upon models of pre-service teacher education.


Dr. Mona Nashman-Smith – Closing Keynote Speaker

CEO/Principal, Edmonton Islamic Academy

Presentation: “Executing Outstanding Leadership (You Can't Do it Alone!)

Description: Executing outstanding leadership requires engaging and motivating others to help move a school from ‘good to great’. This session will focus on strategies that outstanding leaders use to engage school stakeholders in the development of a school’s Mission and Vision and subsequently, how outstanding leaders create opportunities that motivate school stakeholders to align all practices, behaviors, and initiatives with the school’s Mission and Vision.

Bio: Mona’s leadership extends to public, international and faith based schools in Canada, Germany and Oman. Other leadership appointments include President of the Middle East International Baccalaureate Association; Commissioner for Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (USA); Governor on the Oman Medical College; and Trustee for the Association for the Advancement of International Education (USA). In 2016 she received an MBE from Queen Elizabeth II and today serves as CEO/Principal for the Edmonton Islamic Academy.



Concurrent Sessions 

What’s Working? Promising Practices in Supporting Success of Indigenous Students

Dr. Karen Andrews, Research Director, Alberta Education

Schools implement a variety of practices in their commitment to improving outcomes for Indigenous students. This session highlights study findings of evidence-based practices to support Indigenous students and their education. Participants will share strategies seen/identified in their school authority that contributed to increased success for Indigenous students. 

Bio: Karen Andrews, PhD,  is the Director of Research at Alberta Education. She is responsible for setting the direction and leading research that informs policy and practice. She supports research collaboration across Alberta and provides leadership on Canadian and international studies; representing the education system on boards and committees. 


Building, Breaking, and Restoring Parent/Caregiver Trust in Schools: The Importance of Being Proactive and Knowing When to Move On

Carla Babichuk, Field Experience Associate, University of Alberta

In this session I will share with participants what my research showed regarding what matters in building and restoring parental/caregiver trust in schools. Participants will be invited to engage in discussion regarding their own experiences with parental/caregiver trust. I will also share my conceptual framework to support this important work in the Principal Leadership Quality Standard.

Bio: I received my B.Ed. from University of Alberta, my M.Ed. from the University of San Diego, and continue to be involved in post-graduate studies. I have been a classroom teacher (in Alberta and internationally), consultant, assistant principal, and I'm currently on secondment to the University of Alberta from my assistant principal position with Edmonton Public Schools. 


Session A: Supervision as Instructional Support — Four Pathways

Session B: Supervision and Evaluation: Responsive Overall Instructional Leadership

Dr. Jim Brandon, Associate Dean, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary 

Session A: The purpose of instructional supervision is supporting professionals to build and improve their instructional practice. Supervision pathways should be varied and differentiated so that all teachers are engaged in a range of (a) individual, (b) small group, (c) peer, and (d) collective instructional supervision approaches clearly focused on building and supporting quality professional practice on an ongoing basis.

Session BEffective supervision and evaluation are part of a career-long continuum of practice that fosters teacher growth while ensuring quality teaching. Informed instructional support and growth focused teacher evaluation can be significant contributors to teacher learning through all career stages. Professional relationships based on mutual respect, and openness within a collaborativ culture, promote growth and ensure quality teaching.

Bio: Jim Brandon is the Associate Dean of Professional and Community Engagement in the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education. His research focuses on quality teaching, overall instructional leadership, and professional evaluation is complemented by 23 years in the superintendency, nine years in the principalship, and four years as a vice-principal. Dr. Brandon is a past president of the College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS) and served as its Director of Leadership Learning from 2009 until he joined the U of C in 2011. 


Modelling and Supporting PLCs at the School and District Levels

Dr. Ken Brien, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, University of New Brunswick

We hear about PLCs all the time in schools? But how do we know if our school is really operating as a PLC? How do we encourage collaboration, collective responsibility, shared vision, and an emphasis on learning by all? How do we model and support these components at the district level? Using three research instruments, this interactive session will provide guidance on how to support PLCs in your school and how to support and model them within your district. 

Bio: I received my doctorate in Educational Administration and Leadership in 2004 from the University of Alberta Department of Educational Policy Studies, and began my appointment at UNB in 2005. Previously, I was a high school teacher and administrator in English and French schools in Northern Ontario for 15 years. Currently, I am the president of the Commonwealth Council for Educational Administration and Management (CCEAM). My work has taken me to many countries to teach and share my research. 


Principals’ Perspectives in Schools That Learn

Carolyn Cameron, Leadership Excellence Branch, Alberta Education

My research explores what it is like to be a principal who wishes to create a school community that learns together. Based on the in-depth study of the experiences of three school principals, I will share emerging understandings about instructional leadership that is adaptive to the changing needs of today’s learners.

Bio: I am a doctoral student at the University of Calgary in K-12 Educational Leadership. My career spans 34 years as a teacher, school and district administrator. Highlights include opportunities to design, teach, and lead in inquiry-based, collaborative learning environments as well as sharing my team’s work provincially and internationally.


Homophobia in the Hallways: Heterosexism and Transphobia in Canadian Catholic Schoools

Dr. Tonya D. Callaghan, Associate Professor, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary

Clashes between Catholic canonical law and Canadian common law regarding gender and sexual minorities continue to be played out in Canadian Catholic schools. Although Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms ensures same-sex equality in Canada, gender and sexually diverse individuals experience a form of doctrinal disciplining in Canadian Catholic schools.

BioTonya Callaghan is an Associate Professor with the University of Calgary Werklund School of Education. She taught secondary English for over ten years in Canadian and international schools, in rural and urban settings, and in Catholic and non-Catholic systems. Her second book, Homophobia in the Hallways, was published in 2018 with the University of Toronto Press.


Principals Panel: Being a Principal: Wisdom, Wishes, and Warnings 

Panel Members:  Darrin Degrande & Maureen Ference

This session will give you the opportunity to gain insights into the principal’s role from a panel of your colleagues who are living that role.  Informal but informative, this session is what you are looking for if you are thinking about school administration, are new to the role, or would simply like to share ideas with colleagues.

Darrin Degrande, Principal, A. Blair McPherson School, Edmonton Public Schools

This is Darrin’s 29th year in education - 8 years teaching, 10 years as an assistant principal and 11 years as a principal.  He has worked across divisions as both a teacher and administrator.  He believes relationships are the foundation of great learning communities, but there is more to building a strong learning culture.  He completed his Master of Science in Educational Administration in 2009.

Maureen Ference, Principal of H.E. Bourgoin Middle School with Northern Lights Public Schools

Maureen is a University of Alberta graduate and completed her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership at San Diego State University. She is an Association Administrator Instructor and is currently leading her division's Aspiring Leadership Cohort. She sits on various committees including the Professional Practice Review Committee, Council for School Leadership, and Leadership Standards Advisory Committee with Alberta Education.


Bridging the school-grouphome divide: How teachers can build resilience and create stability for kids in grouphomes.

Matthew Halton, Graduate Student, Department of Educational Policy Studies, University of Alberta

Resilience is not inherent. Teachers and Grouphome staff have the opportunity to increase the likelihood that kids with thrive through purposeful bridge-building between these two worlds.  Matt will summarize a recent research project examining grouphome-school relationships and provide an opportunity for participants to explore some options for a brighter future. 

Bio: Matt is a veteran school-based youth worker and graduate student in Educational Policy Studies. Having piloted the Success Coach program in Edmonton Public School Board, Matt’s research interests include resiliency and restorative cultures in schools, teacher/student power relations, and de-colonial issues in education as they pertain to children and youth in care. Matt obtained his Bachelor of Child and Youth Care from the University of Victoria.


Task-based language teaching (TBLT): How is implementation possible at the school level?

Marcela Herrere-Farfán, PhD Candidate, Department of Secondary Education, Universtiy of Alberta

In this session, I will present the findings of a study based on Chilean EFL teachers’ perceptions of task-based language teaching (TBLT) and compare them with some studies in the Canadian context. In addition, I will propose how this could be implemented in the Alberta context to support ESL teachers.

Bio: Marcela Herrera-Farfán is a Chilean English language teacher and has 10 years of experience teaching at secondary education in Chile. She has been an international graduate student at the University of Alberta since 2011. She studied her Master in Education at that University and currently she is a doctorate candidate student. As part of her education, she has worked as graduate research assistant and graduate teacher assistant. Currently, apart from working on her doctoral dissertation, she is working as research assistant in Education Policy Studies.


Leadership and the Identity of Catholic and Other Religiously-affiliated Schools

Dr. Matt Hoven, Associate Professor, St. Joseph's College

Matt will explore the leadership advantages and challenges within catholic and other religiously-affiliated schools: a common worldview, multiple religious viewpoints, authenticity to self and a religious tradition, a diverse student body, and external pressures from ecclesial, parental and government bodies. Discussion will unpack practical suggestions for future school leadership. 

Bio: Dr. Matt Hoven is an associate professor at St. Joseph's College at the University of Alberta , and also works in the university's Faculty off Education. He has taught in local Catholic schools and now researches about education, religion-usually Catholicism-and sport. He lives in Edmonton with Crystal and their children. 


Catholic Schools as Communities of “Lived Inclusion for Everyone”: Issues Around Sexuality

Dr. Doris Keiser, Associate Professor, St. Joseph's College, University of Alberta 

In this session we will explore questions relating to sexuality and Catholic Education, particularly in light of recent attention to trangendered student/staff and restroom access. Following an overview of background information and Catholic teaching and theology, we will dialogue about how best to be inclusive and loving communities. 

BioDoris Kieser has a PhD in Education and Masters Degrees in Counselling Psychology and Theology. At St. Joe’s, she teaches in all the controversial ethical areas. Her 2015 book, Catholic Sexual Theology and Adolescent Girls, sold well among family and friends, and launched her current research into purity, females, and sexuality, which makes her fun at dinner parties


We Freed the Butterfly

Jeremy Klassen, Mathematics Teacher, Ross Sheppard High School, Edmonton

Although there will be a bit of math this will mostly be a personal and anecdotal overview of the state of mathematics education in Alberta from the perspective of a secondary teacher. I will offer some specific, unambiguous suggestions as to what could be altered to improve our students’ performances.

Bio: I completed a B.Sc. at Trinity Western University, my B.Ed. at the University of Alberta and a MMT at the University of Waterloo. My teaching experience includes NAIT, Sylvan Learning Center, Metro, Diplomax, YouTube and Edmonton Public Schools. I also work with the Center for Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC) creating and marking math contests. For the past 4 years I have organized a high school math competition and I helped launch a Saturday math course for motivated students. 


Supporting an Effective Pedagogy of Reading: The Role of School Leaders

Dr. Janet McConaghy, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education, Concordia University of Edmonton

Reading is a powerful element in students’ language and literacy learning and development. It is a multifaceted process that involves both reading the words and interpreting and constructing meaning from the text.  This session will examine what students need to know and do to enjoy reading and to become confident, successful, and competent readers. We will focus on the role of school leaders in supporting an effective pedagogy of reading in classrooms at all levels. 

Bio: Dr. Janet McConaghy is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at Concordia University of Edmonton.  She holds a PhD in Elementary Education from the University of Alberta with a specialization in language and literacy development within the context of the social and pedagogical approach to dialogic teaching.  She is an experienced classroom teacher and has worked extensively with teachers and students as a language arts consultant and reading specialist. She has co-authored numerous literature and literacy teaching resources, articles and contributions to language arts textbook chapters.  


“But What About Us?” A Case Study Investigating the Experiences of Lesbian and Gay Parents and their Relationships with/in Schools

Craig Michaud, Edmonton Public Schools

This presentation explores a case study investigating the relationship between lesbian and gay parents and their child(ren)’s school community. Two questions are considered: How do gay and lesbian parents experience their relationship with their child(ren)s school? And, how do gay or lesbian parents perceive their sexual orientation as impacting their relationship with their child(ren)’s school community? The presentation aims to deepen understanding into the needs of lesbian and gay parents and to inform school practice that strengthens this group’s relationship with/in schools. The presentation reviews pertinent discourses, policies, and findings that inform the current educational understanding impacting the relationship between gay or lesbian identified parents and the schools their children attend.

Bio: Craig Michaud, B.Ed., M.Ed, is a graduate of the Masters of Educational Studies Program at the University of Alberta and an elementary school teacher for Edmonton Public School Board. His graduate research focused on the perspectives of gay teachers in Alberta, Canada.


Developing Your Leadership Identity

Cynthia Munro, Graduate Student, Department of Educational Policy Studies, University of Alberta

Effective leadership development balances technical skill development with helping leaders and aspiring leaders to build a resilient mindset for dealing with adaptive challenges. This session will enable participants to build leadership identity through storytelling and metaphor, to understand their own leadership styles and the culture within which they work.

Bio: Cynthia Munro is an adult educator, with over 20 years of experience in the public sector. In her role at the University of Alberta, she designs and delivers leadership development for academic leaders, facilitates team enhancement activities, and conducts research on the impact of professional development programming. Cynthia is in the final stages of her MEd in Adult, Community and Higher Education, with her thesis research focusing on the experiences of women transitioning into academic leadership roles.


More than just odes and sonnets: The power and privilege of using poetry to build classroom communities

Mary Pinkoski, Doctoral student in Educational Policy Studies, Faculty of Education, University of Alberta; Edmonton Poet Laureate (2013-2015) 

Interweaving spoken word poems and stories of my work as an arts educator, this session will be an engaging and collaborative dialogue on how educators can use poetry to creatively permeate and foster our classroom and school communities by honouring the lived experiences of students and educators.  

Bio: Mary Pinkoski is an acclaimed spoken word poet and arts educator. Mary was Edmonton’s 5th Poet Laureate (2013-2015), where she created the Youth Poet Laureate role. In 2015, Mary was named an Edmonton Top 40 Under 40 and was awarded a University of Alberta Alumni Horizons Award.


Translating Educational Research to Practice: How to Evaluate Research Quality Across Diverse Methodologies

Dr. Cheryl Poth, Associate Professor, Centre for Applied Measurement and Evaluation, Faculty of Education, University of Alberta

Dr. Poth’s career as science educator, school leader, collaborative researcher, and developmental evaluator spans diverse contexts both internationally and within Canada. As co-founder of the Alberta Clinical and Community-based Evaluation Research Team in 2009, we specialize in community-involved program evaluation and applied social research with a focus on building capacity across wide variety of sectors, such as education, justice, social services, health care, mental health, and early childhood development. She has developed and teaches courses in classroom assessment, mixed methods research, and program evaluation.

Educators are expected to make research-based decisions as leaders. Yet many leaders are challenged in identifying what research to pay attention to. This session will introduce key principles of research quality across three methodologies (quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods) and then explore some ways to translate research to practice within educational settings. This interactive session will provide opportunities for applying these ideas and participants are encouraged to contribute examples of research-based decisions they make in their everyday lives for discussion.


Understanding the Link Between Learning to Teach and Teaching Practice in Later Years

Dr. Larry Prochner, Professor of Early Childhood Education and Chair, Department of Educational Policy Studies, University of Alberta 

John Dewey established a school for children at the University of Chicago in 1896 as a laboratory for his ideas on curriculum. This presentation explores the Dewey School’s experiment from the teaching standpoint, to consider what experiences of learning to teach in initial teacher education reveal about later understandings about teaching in new ways.

Bio: Dr. Prochner’s research involves the comparative, international, and historical investigation of issues in early childhood education. His current project is a five-country study of teacher education in progressive experimental schools.


Building a Strong Foundation in the Early Years and Beyond

Dr. Natalie Prytuluk, Director-Early Years,  Inclusive Learning, Edmonton Public Schools

This session provides educational leaders with greater understanding of early childhood research and development to:

  1. effectively make decisions for staffing and programming
  2. use resources to support teacher professional growth and supervision
  3. support developmentally appropriate pedagogy to impact success in the early years and beyond.

Participants will receive practical tools to support teaching and learning. 

Bio: During her twenty-seven year career as a central leader,  Alberta Education senior-manager, and teacher, Natalie has helped children reach their potential through evidence-based practices and research.  A past recipient of Alberta Excellence in Teaching and ATA Advocate for Young Children awards, Natalie brings her passion for early childhood to current work with Edmonton Public Schools.


A closer look at classroom strategies that are strongly associated with student performance

Dr. Alfred Sakyi, Senior Manager, Alberta Education

Participants will review results of secondary analysis of international assessments to determine factors associated with student performance. It will be an interactive session with opportunity for participants to review sample results, compare Alberta results with other jurisdictions and discuss implications for their work.

Bio: Dr. Alfred Sakyi is a senior manager for corporate research at Alberta Education and a graduate of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto.  He provided expertise for measuring and reporting project results during the years of the Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI) and is currently providing research leadership on key education priorities and initiatives


Why and How to Build Student Ethnocultural Identity (A Trump-Era Necessity)

Elizabeth Shen, Principal, Lynnwood School, Edmonton Public Schools; PhD Candidate, Department of Educational Policy Studies, University of Alberta

Given the ever increasing diversity that exists in today’s classrooms and the increasingly anti-diversity political climate influencing mainstream attitudes, it is more important than ever that educators understand how to build positive student (and staff) ethnocultural identity in order to create a safe and caring school environment. This presentation will look at Shen’s current research data and its application for today’s schools.

Bio: Elizabeth Shen is a PhD candidate in Educational Administration and Leadership. As a recipient of the University of Alberta Doctoral Recruitment Scholarship, Shen has been researching the development of positive ethnocultural identity development in minority youth. Shen currently works as a principal with Edmonton Public Schools and has 25 years of experience working as a teacher and principal in rural and urban districts from kindergarten to Grade 12.


Flexible Pathways to Success: Technology to Design for Diversity

Dr. Veronica Smith, University of Alberta and Dr. Karen Andrews, Alberta Education

All students can benefit from meaningful use of technology. However, designing for diversity and implementing higher-levels of use is not a simple process. Flexible Pathways project identified factors in personalizing learning in 26 inclusive classrooms across five districts. We will discuss the findings of this unique Research Community of Practice.  

Veronica Smith, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the U of A. She has worked in research and teaching roles and has expertise in conducting research in education settings and establishing an evidence base for interventions for children and youth with developmental disabilities. Her research interests include; teachers, supporting children and youth with developmental disabilities, and understanding the implementation of curricular innovations in educational settings.

Karen Andrews, PhD is the Director of Research at Alberta Education. She is responsible for setting the direction and leading research that informs policy and practice. She supports research across Alberta and provides leadership on Canadian and international studies; representing the education system on boards and committees. 


School Administrators' Conceptions of Risk in Parent-School Relations and Classroom Assessment (UofA Ethics ID Pro 00078737) 

Dr. Bonnie Stelmach, Associate Professor, Department of Educational Policy Studies, University of Alberta

Are you a current principal?  Would you like to participate in a study examining how principals think about risk, and how it factors into decisions you make as a principal when working in the areas of parent relations and student assessment?  In this session you will participate in a computer-based simulation that will require you to think about how you prioritize requests from parents and other stakeholders, and how you weight the importance of the communications you receive.  Which correspondence will you respond to first?  Which correspondence will you ignore?  How does risk enter into your decisions?  What does risk mean to you?  You will also have the opportunity to volunteer for an individual interview at some point after the computer simulation.  Drs. Darryl Hunter and Bonnie Stelmach are conducting this study.  

Bio: Bonnie Stelmach is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Policy Studies.  She has taught in rural and northern Alberta, and internationally.  Her research interests include parents' roles in education.