Convention Workshop Descriptions and Presenter Bios

Convention workshops are free and only open to members of MSEA. Members must register for each session they wish to attend. Please register for only one session per time period to be eligible for a certificate of attendance and allow other members the opportunity to participate, as seating is limited. Click here if you would like to see the full workshop schedule.

Please note that registration closes Thursday, October 8 or when all seats for a workshop are filled. Unless otherwise noted, each workshop is capped at 60 participants.

9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

IEP 101 for the Elementary School Classroom Teacher

Participants will investigate the relevant pages of the Maryland IEP for the elementary classroom teacher. Participants will learn what and how to prepare for the IEP meeting, including what data to bring, work samples that are beneficial, and how to present this information to the IEP team.


Barbara Friedlander, a Nationally Board Certified special education teacher, is a learning and achievement specialist in Montgomery County Public Schools. She has earned a certification in Administration and Supervision and Equity and Excellence in Education. With over 30 years of experience in teaching and learning, she is the co-author of Powerful Writing Strategies for All Students and the president of the University of Maryland College of Education Alumni Chapter.

Joanna Dwin has been in the field of special education for 26 years. She has taught elementary and secondary special education, worked in the special education office of Montgomery County as an instructional specialist for 11 years and a special education supervisor for three years.

Using Powerful Language during Instruction to Increase the Academic Achievement of Reluctant Learners

Gary Hughes, the author of Powerful Language for Reluctant Learners “An Educator’s Guide”, presents how to teach and reach reluctant learners using powerful language techniques. These magic words will change the game in your classroom with reluctant learners. Batter up!


Gary Hughes has been a Maryland educator for 21 years and currently teaches secondary English to high school students. He believes passionately that all students should receive a quality education that meets their learning styles and social-emotional needs. He has consistent success reaching at-risk and struggling learners, which he attributes to building genuine and caring relationships with students starting on the first day of school.

Becoming a Trauma-Informed Educator

Young people have experienced traumatic events with serious ramifications. Anxiety, depression, grief, and feelings of hopelessness are issues that educators have to address. This session will equip educators with a trauma-based approach to better identify, understand, and support our youth.


Dr. Eunice Humphrey is trained in counseling and educational leadership and has a unique 15-year background working in non-profits, education, counseling, and leadership. Currently he a high school assistant principal in Prince George’s County, he is a also a licensed clinical professional counselor in Maryland and works closely with immigrant families and children using mindfulness, person-centered, and solution-focused approaches.

School Counseling in an Online World

Discover how school counselors can transition to an online setting during uncharted times. Explore essential virtual components and discuss ways to mirror your school counseling program to an online setting.


Dr. Laura Jones is an elementary school counselor in Frederick County. She is in her 25th year and still excited about her work and making a difference in the lives of others! Currently, she is the president of the Maryland School Counselor Association. Her doctoral dissertation was on the psychological benefits of laughter for school counselors at work and beyond. She hopes to share joy and laughter together on this online journey.

Live, Laugh, and Love Learning! Critical Thinking through Maximum Student Engagement

This intense session includes multiple strategies that educators can immediately use to enhance student engagement and motivation. Interact in activities for constructing meaning, including human graphing and synectics. Enhance literacy through differentiated instruction with multiple intelligences in any content by effectively communicating through brainstorming, randomness, and questioning.


Shonda Pegram is a secondary science educator in the Prince George’s County Public School System. She’s educated, trained, and coached numerous students and teachers at all levels. She specializes in building teacher capacity and brings a sense of compassion and empowerment to educators by fully understanding the classroom experience.

Teaching Elementary in an Online World

Discover tips and tricks for engaging students in an online setting that may lead to more consistent participation and attendance. Virtual teaching doesn’t have to limit the potential of your students’ abilities! We will be working together to create opportunities for collaboration in our classrooms. Maximum of 50 participants.


Giovanna Papa is a 3rd grade teacher in a Title I school in Washington County. She is a second-year teacher who enjoys putting a technological spin on assignments and curriculum. She is a part of the Early Career Educator Task Force for MSEA and runs the Early Career Educator Network for Washington County.

10:20 a.m. – 11:20 a.m.

The Reckoning: Acknowledging, Resetting, Rebuilding; Promoting Cultures of Belonging

In a safe environment without shaming or blaming, we will explore the universality of bias; how unintentional, implicit biases impact the workplace, learning, and individual well-being; how to identify our own (personal and knowledge/learning) blind spots; and how to expand our inclusive behaviors and communication and promote cultures of belonging.


Leslie Fair is a New York-licensed school psychologist and special education teacher. Her first teaching job was as a special education teacher at Chapel Forge Special Center in Bowie, Maryland. She was in service to the United Nations as a senior stress counsellor and training officer for approximately 15 years. She is the founder/principal of Inclusion Strategies LLC., delivering a portfolio of offerings at intersections between work and family such as diversity and inclusion, resilient parenting, and resilience/well-being.

Common Core Standards to Make the Elementary Classroom Accessible to All

Participants will experience a process to analyze Common Core Standards for identifying the essential knowledge and skills students need to access grade-level standards. The session is interactive with resources teachers can use to back map from grade-level standards and identify scaffolding, supports, and accommodations for the elementary student.


Barbara Friedlander, a Nationally Board Certified special education teacher, is a learning and achievement specialist in Montgomery County Public Schools. She has earned a certification in Administration and Supervision and Equity and Excellence in Education. With over 30 years of experience in teaching and learning, she is the co-author of Powerful Writing Strategies for All Students and the president of the University of Maryland College of Education Alumni Chapter.

Vivian Aoun is a learning and achievement specialist with Montgomery County Public Schools. She earned her certification as a reading specialist in Maryland and is an active member of the International Literacy Association and the MSDE Literacy Association. She has been an instructional specialist curriculum writer with a concentration on literacy for MCPS and has over 25 years of teaching and educator coaching experience, focusing on teachers of reading and first-year teachers.

The Power of Hope: Maintaining a Mindset that Inspires, Influences, and Impacts Student Achievemnt

Learn content tips and strategies that will aid attendees in identifying three specific areas of growth to increase their capacity to inspire, influence, and impact their students towards academic growth and achievement.


Cortland Jones is a 28-year veteran of Prince George’s County Public Schools teaching art, graphic design, and now, writing enrichment. He has also served as the peer mediation coordinator on the middle/high school level, along with the position of Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) team leader on the middle/high school level. He is the author of Apples of Grace: 31 Days of Inspiration for the Educator, providing content to aid educators in winning student cooperation.

The Fab Four! Four Foldables to Boost Engagement during Distance-Learning

Discover how to use Foldables® to engage students, boost retention, and deepen learning. This hands-on session will help you motivate students and convert abstract concepts into a kinesthetic experience. Learn four power-packed Foldables, strategies and protocols to motivate students to “show up” during distance-learning, and much more!


Amy Kines brings 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher, staff developer, and instructional specialist to her company, Ready Aim Teach, in Rockville, Maryland. In addition to achieving both National Board Certification and a master’s degree in school administration from Johns Hopkins, she is thrilled to be able to impact teaching and learning on a broader scale through her passion for active learning and student engagement.

Together Yet Different: How to Build Resilience in Students Post-Pandemic

The social isolation, economic stress, resource barriers, and enduring uncertainties of coronavirus created a perfect storm for student anxiety, depression, grief, and trauma. To meet these unprecedented needs, educators can step up to this new normal by boosting their resilience-building skills. This workshop will show you how.


Frank Kros is a career child advocate who has served as a childcare worker, child abuse investigator, children’s home administrator, consultant, professor, attorney, writer, and speaker. The Maryland State Council on Child Abuse and Neglect named Kros its 2019 Advocate of the Year for his work on childhood trauma.

Co-teaching: How to Make It Work

This session will provide co-teachers with a path to achieve a more balanced and cohesive co-teaching environment. Participants will leave with specific questions and strategies to guide discussions and help to resolve conflicts among co-teaching counterparts. Maximum of 50 participants.


Michelle Woodfork has taught elementary school for over 25 years in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. She is a Nationally Board Certified educator who currently teaches 5th grade in Montgomery County.

12:20 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.

Reciprocal Mentorship: Overcoming the Trauma of 2020 Through Relationship

The 2019–2020 school year ended abruptly as students left their school environments due to coronavirus and witnessed the traumatic death of George Floyd and the continued protests for racial justice. In this workshop, educators will learn techniques and resources to help their students and themselves overcome trauma and move forward in positive and productive ways. Maximum of 50 participants.


Laura Brown is a career library media specialist with over 20 years of experience in education. Her passion is providing library patrons with the resources and instruction they need to reach their instructional, academic, and personal goals. She is excited to acquire resources in varied formats for patrons and enjoys providing instruction in collaboration with fellow educators on their core subjects of teaching.

Adapting Your Lessons for Digital and Virtual Learning

This session will discuss considerations and strategies necessary to modify instruction for digital learning. Participants will learn about strategies and tools for making the transition from traditional learning models to digital models, with a focus on blended learning, tech tools, and accommodations. Maximum of 25 participants.


Alia Dahl is a 6th  grade language arts teacher, technology coach, and Schoology ambassador, as well as the creator and facilitator of an online blended learning graduate course at Hood College. She has been teaching for 14 years and holds a master’s degree in instructional technology and a Bachelors in education. She is a member of the Vanguard Leadership Program for technology mentors and author of the blog, A Dahl’s House: The (mis)adventures and musings of your friendly, neighborhood teacher.

NEA Member Benefits Student Loan Forgiveness Calculator by Savi

With the high cost of student loans taking up large portions of our salaries and complicated procedures to see if/what you can qualify for, we walk through the procedures for doing so on the Savi platform.


Michael Gavin has been with NEA Member Benefits since 2007. Originally from Philadelphia, he is the affiliate relations specialist for Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and the Federal Education Association.

Elevating Instruction for Multilingual Learners

This session will provide classroom teachers with the tools to provide rigorous, accessible daily instruction for emerging multilingual students. By exploring the guidelines of culturally responsive teaching, participants will gain new strategies and tools for providing access to grade-level content and complex text across subjects.


Susan Shankle Gordon offers instructional leadership in the Montgomery County Office of School Support and Improvement, providing support to schools about instruction, English language development, professional development, and equity. She is a graduate of George Washington University and Hood College and began her multicultural education growing up in Latin America.

Melaika Brown is a learning and achievement specialist in the Office of School Support and Improvement for Montgomery County, supporting school-based leaders and teachers in kindergarten through grade 12 with an emphasis on curriculum and equity. With 16 years of teaching experience, she supports schools with implementing and monitoring school improvement plans to meet the needs of all students.

The Kinesthetic Classroom: Teaching and Learning through Movement

This highly interactive session will enliven your K-12 classroom and content through the use of dynamic movement. Participants will experience a six-level framework for using movement thoughtfully and purposefully in every teaching and learning ecosystem. The brain/body connection and the reasons why movement enhances the learning process will be discussed.


Mike Kuczala is a thought leader on using physical activity in teaching, training, and learning. He has delivered keynote addresses, given presentations, and taught graduate courses on four continents. His presentations, courses, books, and videos have reached more than 100,000 teachers, trainers, corporate executives, parents, and students. He is also the coauthor of the Corwin Press bestseller and Association of Educational Publishers’ Distinguished Achievement Award nominated book The Kinesthetic Classroom: Teaching and Learning through Movement.

Surviving Adolescence in the Classroom: The Development Dynamic

Adolescence is a transitional and developmental stage in human growth, typically from ages 10 to 19, when a child matures into adulthood. It is during this pivotal time that educators need the most support to guide these young people towards academic, emotional, and social success.


Tomeko L. Vick is a secondary educator with over 20 years of instructional experience that spans across elementary, middle, and alternative education settings. She is an advocate for all things related to public education and is very passionate about professional development and instructional mentorship.

1:40 p.m. – 2:40 p.m.

Preparing Students for Post Secondary Options through Digital Formats

The coronavirus crisis has changed the way we prepare our students for their post-secondary activities. Educators must prepare students to research, apply, and fund their paths using only virtual formats. The traditional recruitment for students into their various careers will need newly trained professionals to assist them with the process. Maximum of 25 participants.


Sunta D. Harris is a leader in teacher mentoring using behavior management, literacy integration, and co-teaching to give educators the common practices to succeed in the classroom. She is a community leader working with youth organizations and nonprofits who has worked in the educational field for over 15 years, teaching from the elementary to the university level. She has been awarded for her outstanding teaching and her commitment to community service.

Elizabeth Dennis is an educator with over 20 years of experience in special education, college summit, and English. She has been a peer leader advisor for several years, assisting many students to find their career path in college, trade schools, or the military. She also has organized many college tours, career fairs, and test prep courses.

Middle and High School Math Strategies for ESOL Students

This session will provide strategies for best practices in meeting the needs of ESOL students in mathematics, including cross-curricular word problem instructional design, test-taking strategies for students with emerging English vocabularies, tips on how to employ graphics to teach core content, and recommendations for ensuring culturally proficient math instruction.


Kimberly Carson has taught grades 6–12 in Virginia and Maryland for 16 years. She has worked with ESOL students in middle and high school settings in mastering instructional content and preparing for standardized testing in math and English.

Increasing Student Engagement

Increasing student engagement is a powerful and effective approach to increasing student achievement. It is only through engagement that learning is maximized. This session will provide strategies to engage students, encourage team work, and create an inclusive, productive environment to increase student achievement. Maximum of 40 participants.


Maya Lars has been a passionate educator for the past 19 years and held many positions with Prince George’s County Public Schools, including classroom teacher, instructional lead teacher, school test coordinator, and National Board cohort facilitator. She is currently a reading specialist at Beltsville Academy.

#FigureItOut: New Mind-Blowing Classroom Management Strategies to the Rescue!

Classroom management never made more sense in 2020! In this new jam-packed session, participants will be engaged and empowered with techniques needed to set high expectations, maximize instructional time, and create effective classroom environments while minimizing behavioral disruptions. Educators will gain renewed confidence and restored creativity through productive interactive instruction.


Shonda Pegram is a secondary science educator in the Prince George’s County Public School System. She’s educated, trained, and coached numerous students and teachers at all levels. She specializes in building teacher capacity and brings a sense of compassion and empowerment to educators by fully understanding the classroom experience.

Feeling the Pain and Experiencing the Growth: How to Engage in Crucial Conversations about Race and Ethnicity to Improve Student Learning

Participants will discuss and use Singleton’s courageous conversations compass to identify racial and ethnic biases and beliefs. Using a case study approach, participants will also develop interventions to barriers for interaction. This workshop will provide thought-provoking concepts and practices to apply in and out of the classroom.


Melissa Thomas is an ESOL resource teacher in Carroll County Public Schools and an MSDE Master Teacher whose experience includes ESOL, secondary English, and Spanish. She has a bachelor’s degree in secondary education/communications and an master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with certifications that include Maryland APC: ESOL Pre-K–12, English, Spanish, and speech communication. She is also an adjunct college professor at McDaniel College with a background in teacher mentoring, educational technology, and curriculum writing.