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Distinguished Speakers Series

With the day-to-day stressors of managing Covid receding, new (and not-so-new) pressures on K-12 education are swirling. In collaboration with the Colorado Department of Education we are excited to be able to provide this professional development opportunity. Join us this Fall & Spring for an amazing virtual line up of some of the country’s leading voices on what students and educators need NOW to help our schools succeed.

Fresh Ideas
Proven Strategies
Real Conversations

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!

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

Hard to believe it’s been nearly two and a half years since the pandemic began. There isn’t a single human on the planet who hasn’t been affected, and nowhere is this more visible than in our schools. Despite staffing shortages, mental health challenges (for students and adults), and significant opportunity gaps throughout our profession, educators throughout Colorado continue to show up and do the work each day, and there are stories of success around every corner.

The Colorado Department of Education is proud to sponsor the 3rd Annual Distinguished Speakers Series – and bring you some of the nation’s leading education voices who will address the state’s most critical and important issues – all in the comfort of your own classroom, office, or living room. This series is brought to you through funding from the 1801 Healthy Schools Grant and the Office of Standards and Instructional Support. For more information contact Michelle Malvey at *
And if you can’t make it on a certain date – we’ll send the recording right to you.

We look forward to seeing you!

Meet the Team of Highly Engaging
Distinguished Speakers!

Alex Kajitani – Host

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!”

Ken Williams

Ken Williams is the author of the wildly popular book Ruthless Equity, and the co-author of the best-selling book, Starting a Movement. He is a nationally recognized trainer, speaker, coach and consultant in leadership and school culture. A former principal, Ken is known for his powerful and engaging combination of “heart, humor and the hammer.” He is an expert in helping schools build capacity in the collective commitments required of learning for all cultures.

Leigh Ann Erickson headshot

Leigh Ann Erickson

Leigh Ann Erickson is a 2019 Iowa Teacher of the Year Finalist, and the author of the young adult novel What is White Privilege? She is the founder of Undone Consulting and the Undone Movement, which works with teachers across the nation to end educational inequity, including teaching predominantly white students how to dismantle systemic racism.

Douglas Reeves headshot

Dr. Douglas Reeves

Dr. Douglas Reeves is the author of many acclaimed books on education and leadership including, most recently, Fearless Schools: Building Resilience and Trust for Teaching, Learning, and Leading. He has twice been named to the Harvard University Distinguished Authors Series, and received the Contribution to the Field Award from the National Staff Development Association. He was also selected as the Brock International Laureate for his global contributions to education.

Jay McTighe headshot

Jay McTighe

Jay McTighe is a veteran educator and best-selling author of 18 books, including the highly acclaimed Understanding by Design with Grant Wiggins. His books have been translated into 14 languages and are being used around the world. A highly experienced professional development provider, he has served as a teacher, resource specialist, program coordinator, director of a state program for gifted students, and administrator for innovative programs at the Maryland Department of Education.

Judy Willis headshot

Dr. Judy Willis

Dr. Judy Willis combined her 15 years as a board-certified practicing neurologist with ten subsequent years as a classroom teacher to become a leading authority in the neuroscience of learning. Dr. Willis has written nine books applying neuroscience research to successful learning and teaching strategies. She is an adjunct faculty at Williams College, and was selected by Edutopia as one of their “Big Thinkers on Education.”

Takeru TK Nagayoshi headshot

Takeru “TK” Nagayoshi

Takeru “TK” Nagayoshi is the 2020 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, a fierce educator and advocate for our profession. He received the 2021 Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence, and his commentary and analysis on K-12 issues have appeared in hundreds of media outlets. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at Northeastern University, and as the Professional Learning Director of Community Events at Panorama Education, where he leads large-scale events focused on Social Emotion Learning.

Mike Mattos headshot

Mike Mattos

Mike Mattos is an internationally recognized author, presenter, and practitioner who specializes in uniting teachers, administrators, and support staff to transform schools by implementing response to intervention and professional learning communities. As a principal, his school (with a large population of at-risk youth) won the California Distinguished School and National Title I Achieving School awards. Mike was named the Orange County Middle School Administrator of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators.

Jennifer Braverman headshot

Jennifer Braverman

Jennifer Braverman is the 2016 Burlington County Teacher of the Year and an adjunct professor at the College of New Jersey. An educator and art activist, she combines her passion for social justice with education and has received numerous awards at the national level for inspiring her students to use their voice for change and reach beyond their potential.

Kareem Neal headshot

Kareem Neal

Kareem Neal is the 2019 Arizona Teacher of the Year and a 2022 inductee in the National Teachers Hall of Fame. Currently a special education teacher in Phoenix, AZ, Kareeem also works as a restorative justice trainer for his district, and serves on the Board of Directors for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).

Read comments from last Fall’s Distinguished Speaker Series:

“Some of the best trainings I’ve ever been to!”

“Very inspiring and high positive energy!”

“What exceptional resources and tremendous presentations!”


Tuesday, November 1, 2022 (3:30-4:30 pm MST)

Dr. Douglas Reeves

Fearless Schools: Creating Psychological Safety for Every Student and Staff Member

In this interactive seminar, Dr. Douglas Reeves will share the evidence from his most recent book, Fearless Schools: Building Trust and Resilience for Learning, Teaching, and Leading. As students and staff recover from the global pandemic and the isolation that accompanied it, rates of anxiety, stress, and depression are at record highs. The good news is that there are specific actions that teachers and leaders can take to improve psychological safety and help students on the path to recovery. “When people are afraid, Dr. Reeves contends, they can’t learn. A fearless environment is essential for learning and effective teaching.” Participants will leave with action steps that can be implemented immediately and see results within 100 days.

  • Learn the latest evidence on resilience and psychological safety for students and staff.
  • Apply the action steps for psychological safety to their individual professional responsibilities.
  • Evaluate alternative claims about psychological safety in order to become a critical consumer of research claims.

Thursday, November 10, 2022 (3:30-4:30 pm MST)

Takeru “TK” Nagayoshi

A Foundation, Not An “Add On”: Integrating Social & Emotional Learning to Boost Academic Readiness and Performance

Character skills. Universal life skills. 21st century skills. No matter how we define it, the evidence is clear: Developing our children’s social-emotional learning (SEL) results in measurable success outcomes both in and out of school. And yet, educators often struggle to implement SEL in their classrooms, unsure of where and how to begin (let alone justify its pedagogy as worth the time and effort!). This engaging, interactive session addresses these challenges, sharing key insights and concrete strategies that approach SEL not as “add-ons” or another “nice-to-have,” but as a foundation that builds resilient students and integrates with our teaching.

  • Define core tenets of SEL and identify its five competencies as defined by the Collaborative for Academic and Social Emotional Learning (CASEL) framework.
  • Unpack the research and evidence behind SEL and its impact on key indicators of student success: academics, behavior, and school engagement (e.g., attendance and relationships).
  • Explore concrete strategies and classroom activities that connect SEL to academic skills that are applicable to all grade levels and subjects.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022 (3:30-4:30 pm MST)

Jay McTighe & Judy Willis, M.D.

Understanding By Design Meets Neuroscience

Based on their wildly popular book Understanding by Design Meets Neuroscience, best-selling authors Jay McTighe and Dr. Judy Willis will examine the intersection of the neuroscience of learning with the widely used Understanding by Design® curriculum framework. Participants will gain new insights about the application of neuroscience research to instructional planning, assessment, and application, as well as correlations of neuroscience research regarding emotions, stress and increasing learning and memory. You’ll finish this session with a deepened understanding of how to design instruction that promotes enduring understanding, increased brain effort, and transferrable long-term memory.

  • Understand what the brain needs to maximize learning that lasts.
  • Gain actionable ideas for hooking and holding students’ attention.
  • Implement instructional strategies that engage the “executive functions” of learners’ brains in active meaning-making.


Tuesday, February 21, 2023 (3:30-4:30 pm MST)

Ken Williams

Ruthless Equity!

In this powerful, unvarnished, status-quo disrupting session, best-selling author Ken Williams take us on a deep examination of the internal obstacles that often prevent us from providing genuine, equitable opportunities for every student, and how to identify and defeat these “enemies of equity.” In this session, Ken provides a provocative, empowering look at the mindsets and practices that lead to equity, and what it takes to galvanize every educator to deliver on the promise of ensuring learning, excellence and achievement for ALL students, regardless of their background.

  • Identify the four pillars of equity, what they look like in practice, how to measure them, support them, and ensure campus-wide implementation.
  • Learn how to get teachers to engage in the kind of powerful equitable practice that results in improved student achievement.
  • Understand different communication styles and learn strategies for dealing with resistance.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023 (3:30-4:30 pm MST)

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: What Matter Most & What Matters NOW!

A Special TED-Style Event Featuring Three Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Experts

In this fast-past and highly engaging session, three of the country’s top teachers will deliver a short, high-impact talk on a critical issue addressing DEI, then take live questions from the audience!

Kareem Neal

Arizona Teacher of the Year

Building True School Communities

Leigh Ann Erickson

Iowa Teacher of the Year Finalist

Talking About Race with White Students

Jennifer Braverman

Burlington County Teacher of the Year

Creating LGBTQ & Gender Inclusive Schools

Tuesday, March 7, 2023 (3:30-4:30 pm MST)

Mike Mattos

Taking Action: How to Systemically Close Learning Gaps AND Ensure High Levels of Learning for All Students

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, educators are facing an unprecedented challenge: How do we close the learning gaps created by months of school closures and uneven access to learning opportunities? In this session, Mike Mattos will discuss specific steps that schools can take to create a highly effective, multi-tiered system of supports to target learning gaps, and show how effective Professional Learning Communities implement a school-wide framework that creates a multi-tiered system of supports.

  • Understand the guiding principles behind a multi-tiered system of interventions.
  • Learn the essential actions that collaborative teams must consider at Tier 1 to effectively respond when students don’t learn.
  • How to target interventions, extension, and remediation.

* The Colorado Department of Education does not explicity or implictly endorse any particular program, resource, product, service, institution or opinion expressed in the resources or presentations, nor does CDE necessarily endorse views expressed or facts presented by the speakers. CDE and its employees do not make any warranty, express or implied, nor assume any liability for the services provided by any entity, program, speaker or resource identified on this site or assiciated presentations.

Have questions?

Contact Alex Kajitani at or (858) 336-8678.

or Michelle Malvey, CDC Healthy Schools Coordinator Health Education Services Colorado Department of Education at