Distinguished Speaker Fall Series

It’s a new world. Start your school year with a message that reflects it.


Join us this fall for inspiring, engaging virtual PD that will help you succeed.

Distinguished Speaker Fall Series

It’s a new world. Start your school year with a message that reflects it.

Join us this fall for inspiring, engaging virtual PD that will help you succeed.

Registration is free, but space is limited. Sign up now to attend one, or all of the sessions!

You only need to register once, and you’ll receive the links for every session

Certificates of Completion provided for each session

Attend from your home, your classroom, or wherever you want!

*We know how busy you are, and will send you a text reminder before the event start time!

With every facet of our society being deeply affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, education throughout Colorado is being transformed on a day-to-day basis. As schools and districts announce their plans for starting online, in-person, or in-between, educators of all experience levels have been forced to adapt, adjust and transform their practice to fit the needs of their students.

To help support Colorado’s students and educators, the Colorado Department of Education has partnered with three of the country’s top educators, all of whom are leading authorities in creating a positive social emotional climate for students. These distinguished speakers will provide expert guidance on developing and maintaining an emotionally safe school and classroom culture during the Covid-19 pandemic, regardless of what the school schedules, locations, and policy decisions look like.

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In addition, far too many students, especially those from highly vulnerable populations —such as homeless and foster youth, those with chronic conditions, and students from rural communities across Colorado—are struggling with day-to-day life. They are looking to our schools to provide an array of needs, from food and shelter to emotional and academic support. These students’ relationships with teachers, administrators, counselors, and office staff are particularly critical at this time.

In this ongoing 4-part series, each presenter will give participants high-leverage tools that can be implemented in both the brick-and-mortar and remote learning environments (or a hybrid of the two). 

We look forward to seeing you!

Meet the Team of Highly Engaging Distinguished Speakers!

Alex Kajitani

Alex Kajitani is the 2009 California Teacher of the Year, and a Top-4 Finalist for National Teacher of the Year. A highly sought-after keynote speaker, he is the author of several books, including Owning It, which was named “Recommended Reading” by the U.S. Department of Education. His “Rappin’ Mathematician” videos have received hundreds of thousands of views, and he has been honored at The White House, and featured on The CBS Evening News, where Katie Couric declared, “I LOVE that guy!”

Monica Washington

Monica Washington is the 2014 Texas Teacher of the Year, and a 2015 NEA Foundation Global Fellow. A passionate advocate for creating equitable and inclusive school environments, she serves as the Leading Educator Ambassador for Equity for the Education Civil Rights Alliance. A decorated educator for over 22 years, she currently works as an instructional coach and solution designer for BetterLesson, where she supports teachers and administrators across the country to make positive shifts in instruction and leadership.

Dorina Sackman-Ebuwa

Dorina Sackman-Ebuwa is the 2014 Florida Teacher of the Year, National Teacher of the Year finalist, and a nationally recognized ELL teacher for over 23 years. An expert on transformational emotional intelligence, her unique presentation and teaching style is often described as a “Tasmanian devil on a double espresso!” She has spent the past 23 years empowering students of diverse backgrounds at the K-12, college and adult learner levels.

Speaker Series Schedule

Wednesday, September 16, 2020 (2-4 pm MST)

Alex Kajitani

Online, In-Person or In-Between: Proven Strategies for Building Relationships with Students During the Pandemic

Twenty years ago, Alex Kajitani was a struggling new teacher in one of California’s poorest neighborhoods. His students seemed unmotivated, unengaged and uninterested in what he was teaching. Demoralized and desperate, he set out on a journey to turn his class, and his life, around.

Today, Alex holds the title of California Teacher of the Year and Top-4 Finalist for National Teacher of the Year, 2009, and is lauded for his motivation, innovation and “real talk” on what it takes to truly connect with our students on a level that is authentic, real and transformative.

When schools began shutting their doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic last March, Alex immediately set out to support teachers, students and their parents. He created “Wacky Math Hour,” a free online weekly class to keep students motivated and learning. Thousands of kids from all over the world signed up, and and returned each week to stay engaged. Unquestionably, the key to his success was the ability to create and build relationships, even from thousands of miles away.

In this session, Alex shares the exact strategies educators of all subjects and levels can use, inspiring them to new heights and fresh ways of thinking. His message resonates deeply, and will set Colorado’s educators on the immediate path to success as the school year gets underway.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020 (2-4 pm MST)

Dorina Sackman-Ebuwa

Transformational Emotional Intelligence for Educators

In this new environment of remote and distance learning, an increased amount of pressure has been placed on teachers (new teachers especially) to ensure that students are safe, equitably educated, and loved. It has also resulted in teachers experiencing heightened levels of stress far beyond recent years.

In this highly interactive and engaging session, Dorina will teach educators in all roles about Transformational Emotional Intelligence (TEI). She will illustrate how, with personal and professional reflective practice, any educator can learn to appropriately respond to the current world around them, while effectively educating ALL children with equity and empathy.

Specific topics covered will include:

  • How emotional intelligence impacts teachers, teaching and school culture.
  • The importance of teachers’ awareness of their own emotional intelligence and why it is vital to succeed in today’s e-educational environment.
  • How emotional intelligence transforms teacher practice and everyday happiness (so they’ll return the following year!).

Wednesday, October 14, 2020 (2-4 pm MST)

Monica Washington

Connecting Social-Emotional Learning with Culturally Responsive Teaching

For too long, social-emotional learning and culturally responsive teaching have been considered separate methods for supporting and sustaining positive relationships with students. However, it is only when we connect both pedagogical practices that we can begin to incorporate strategies that are truly inclusive, improve instruction, and support students.

As our country confronts the reality of inequitable social practices and systemic racism, it is critical that educators at every level embrace teaching students from backgrounds and communities different than their own. 

In this session, participants will explore strategies that:

  • Consider students’ racial and ethnic backgrounds when determining how and why to teach specific curriculum.
  • Empower students from vulnerable populations, including homeless and foster youth, rural communities and those with chronic conditions.
  • Build relationships with these students based on an asset-based perspective, rather than a deficit-based model.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020 (2-4 pm MST)

Dorina Sackman-Ebuwa

Social Emotional Learning for RurALL

Of Colorado’s 178 school districts, 80% are rural. And with the poverty rate in rural Colorado (14.8%) exceeding the poverty rate in urban areas (12.7%), rural communities have been hit especially hard during the Covid-10 pandemic. While there exist many challenges in educating students from rural communities, it is critical that educators are equipped with implementable, empowering strategies to support these students, their parents, and communities.

Presented by an educator who lives in a rural community with a population of 824 people, this session focuses on the one of the key factors to ensure academic and social success for rural students—embedding the five competencies of social emotional learning into lessons, interactions, and school practices.

In this highly interactive and energetic session, participants will discover how embedding these competencies—Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision-Making—impacts student performance both in and out of school.

Using evidence and research-based strategies modeled by the facilitator, participants observe how (now more than ever), placing SEL in the forefront of education opens doors and hearts to the empathy, compassion, and education that is needed right now.

Have questions?

Contact Alex Kajitani at AlexKajitani@gmail.com or (858) 336-8678.