Ms. Jenni Brasington

Ms. Brasington is a senior director of consultative services for Scholastic Education and is a founding partner of the Center for Active Family Engagement (CAFÉ). She has more than 25 years of experience working with pre-K to grade 12 schools as an administrator, early childhood coordinator and school counselor to improve student achievement and build effective family school partnerships that support student learning. Brasington has focused her work over the past 17 years on building the capacity of educators to engage with families in ways that support learning and increase student achievement. Most recently, she served as director of family and community engagement for Acelero Learning, a large Head Start grantee with delegate agencies in four states.

Developer of the Family Friendly Walk Through program, Brasington also was co-author of the Family Engagement Assessment, a tool that measures a school’s capacity for developing effective partnerships with families. Over this past year, she and her partners at CAFÉ have assisted schools across the U.S. and Australia in building capacity for sustainable family engagement.

Friday, March 13
9:15-10:45 a.m. – Featured Presentation 22: An Ounce of Prevention: Catching Kids Early and Including Families (Repeat of 49.)
1:30-3:00 p.m. – Featured Presentations 49: An Ounce of Prevention: Catching Kids Early and Including Families (Repeat of 22.)

Velda McKenzie

Velda is a veteran of more than 35 years in the classroom. Her experience includes teaching physical education in grades Pre-K through sixth grade and science and reading in the fourth grade. She developed and implemented the preschool program at the Children’s Therapy School. McKenzie has been recognized as Teacher of the Year in Columbia and Mexico and was the Walmart Teacher of the Year in 2000. She received the Missouri Pioneer in Education Award in 2015. She has served on the district professional development committee and professional learning committee and has chaired the physical education department. She presently is the director of Centralia’s afterschool program.

McKenzie is a Conscious Discipline certified instructor. She has provided in-service trainings for large and small groups, keynotes, and classroom coaching. She has trained education professionals of all types at various meetings and conferences. She is passionate about providing teachers, parents and afterschool programs with the skills need to respond to life’s situations rather than react to them.

Saturday, March 14
10:30-11:30 a.m. – Featured Presentation 76: Begin Your Day the “Brain Smart” Way
11:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m. – Featured Presentation 90: The Five Steps of Self-Regulation

Brad Mears

Brad is a researcher and professor at the University of Central Missouri. He also serves as the founder and president of the Mears Foundation for Autism.

Mears found his passion for developmental neurology as a teacher in an early childhood special education and elementary school. He earned his doctoral degree from the University of Northern Colorado in pedagogy.

As a speaker, Mears is internationally known. He has served on the committee for the Hawaii International Conference on Education and was even awarded the honor of presenting all three keynote addresses at the 2012 World Symposium on Child Development in London. Mears and his wife, Kerri, are the proud parents of four: Connor (19) and triplets Callie, Gavin and Madison (15).

Friday, March 13
9:15-10:45 a.m. – Featured Presentation 20: Follow the Directions: Understanding How the Brain is Developing Through a Directional Pattern
12:15-1:15 p.m. – Featured Presentation 40: Why is Everything I Hear about Autism Constantly Changing?
1:30-3:00 p.m. – Featured Presentation 47: Adapting the Environment to the Learning Brain

Ernesto Rodriguez

Ernesto is a gifted presenter whose knowledge of early childhood and literacy development has had an impact on schools and children for over 20 years. His objective is to render his knowledge, experience and expertise in all aspects of literacy development and educational sales. He is a high-energy, confident professional with an excellent work ethic.

Friday, March 13
9:15-10:45 a.m. – Featured Presentation 22: An Ounce of Prevention: Catching Kids Early and Including Families (Repeat of 49.)
1:30-3:00 p.m. – Featured Presentations 49: An Ounce of Prevention: Catching Kids Early and Including Families (Repeat of 22.)

Clarissa A. Willis

Clarissa is an associate professor of special education at the University of Southern Indiana. Formerly, she was the senior vice president of education for the Kaplan Early Learning Company. Dr. Willis was also the associate director of the Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Development and Learning at East Tennessee State University for eight years. During that time she was Principal Investigator for Project TIES (a multi-year federal inclusion project), and directed the First District Tennessee Early Intervention System and the Tennessee State Technical Assistance Project. She is the senior author of two new comprehensive curriculum projects – Learn Every Day: The Program for Infants, Toddlers and Twos; and Learn Every Day: The Preschool Curriculum. Willis is the author of 13 teacher-resource books including Teaching Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Inclusive Literacy Lessons for Early Childhood and My Child Has Autism: What Parents Need to Know. Her research on autism and early childhood development also has been published in journals such as Teaching Young Children and Young Children.

Dr. Willis is an active member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI).

Willis speaks nationally and internationally on topics such as brain research, early childhood special education and best practices in early childhood education. She was an invited guest at the president’s conference on brain research and early childhood education held at the White House. Willis received a doctorate in early childhood special education from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. A former kindergarten teacher and a licensed speech-language pathologist, she believes in the process of educating all children through exploration and discovery.

Friday, March 13
1:30-3:00 p.m. – Featured Presentation 48: Social Skills: Tips for Success and Full Inclusion for all Learners
Saturday, March 14
9:15-10:15 a.m. – Featured Presentation 60: The Monster in the Closet! Understanding Stress in Young Children

I always gain a lot of valuable information that I can pass on to my parents to assist them in being better parents, understanding their child’s development better and assisting me in connecting to more resources to help my families that I work with.