Regional Speakers

For the last seven years, Elisabeth Alkier has been a reading and writing teacher at Bode Middle School in St. Joseph, Missouri, and loves every minute of it. She’s also a Prairie Lands Writing Project Co-Director and has had the privilege of being a PLWP Summer Institute Facilitator at Missouri Western State University. She loves writing with her students, reading with her students, and learning with her students— they always seem to have a lot to teach her!

Jenn Baldwin is the K-12 Librarian for the Jasper R-V School district. Jenn received her BS in Education and Masters degrees from Pittsburg State University  in Pittsburg, KS. As a member of the MSTA Reading Circle committee, she enjoys reading and sharing the best middle grade books published each year.

Nichole Ballard-Long is a Library Media Specialist at Lafayette High School, a large suburban school in a western suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. A Nationally Board Certified Teacher, she works with colleagues in all subject areas to connect students to literature, collaborate on a wide variety of projects and products, and support literacy in any way possible. In that capacity, she serves on the Missouri Gateway Award Committee as its Vice Chair, encouraging students across the state to connect with quality books.  In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with family, hiking, and, of course, reading like a maniac.

Tracking down spies, investigating murders, and learning how toilets work—it’s all part of the job of a nonfiction writer. Stephanie is the author of 23 published books. Her newest series—Twisted True Tales From Science—was released in 2017. When Stephanie isn’t investigating weird and strange stories, she loves to visit schools and libraries and teach people that writing can be as exciting as detective work. Stephanie is represented by Stacey Graham of Red sofa Literary.

Jamie Becker is the Library Media Specialist at Wright City High School, in Wright City, Missouri where she is committed to identifying books of interest for all her students and collaborating with teachers on various projects.  She is a member of the MASL Gateway Award Committee, currently serving a 1-year term. Prior to joining the faculty at Wright City, she was an elementary Library Media Specialist and elementary educator. Jamie holds Masters degrees in both Library Media and Educational Technology.  She has previously presented at the Kappa Delta Pi biennial convocation, the Missouri Summit featuring Google for Education, and at district professional development events.

Andria Benmuvhar has taught in St. Louis since 2002 at Affton High School, Parkway South High School, and Parkway West High School. She has been a part of the Gateway Writing Project since 2005 and continues to consider it her professional home. Currently, Andria teaches English 1, AP English Literature and Composition, and English 4. She enjoys the balance between these classes and the chance to watch students grow over the years.

Dawn Bessee is a native Arkansan and has been in the field of education for 28 years. She spent 17 years as a middle school and secondary school literacy teacher in Arkansas before assuming her current position as a K-12 Literacy Specialist. This job allows her to support teachers in 22 school districts of northeast Arkansas. She also teaches graduate-level education courses at Belhaven University. Dawn is a board member of the Arkansas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts (ACTELA), the state affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and the Arkansas delegate for the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE (ALAN). In addition to these roles, she also peer-reviews for the Arkansas English Journal and Voices in the Middle publications. Over the past 12 years, Dawn has presented various sessions at state, regional, national, and international literacy conferences.

The National Writing Project not only changed Kim Blevins’ teaching methods, but also gave her the chutzpah to present. In NWP fashion, she leads interactive sessions and talks about the “warts” of her lessons in addition to the successes. Presentations are on trending topics she has tried out in the trenches: brain-based classrooms, organic teaching, the commonplace book, and “The Shoes,” a powerful essay turned in anonymously. Her website, has favorite lessons and ideas for free! Kim loves to write and has published in education magazines and on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance blog. She has also freelanced for the last 25 years, including a fun stint as a magazine editor.  If you come to the Friday night Open Mic, she hopes to give you a laugh from an irreverent piece on teaching, or aging, or being a woman, or all of the above. Her tweeter is @blevinskim if you wanna follow. Kim has taught ELA for 17 years in the Ozarks and now the KC area at Blue Springs. In addition to loving all things having to do with words, she like to adventure at home and abroad. And bike. And take pretty pictures. She hopes to meet you at Write to Learn!

Amanda Bramley has taught ELA in grades 9-12 for the past fifteen years. Currently, she teaches AP Language and Composition, Creative Writing, and the ACT Prep Course at Fort Zumwalt South High School in St. Peters, MO.  Amanda has earned her B.A. in English at Maryville University, a writing certificate at NYU, her teaching certificate at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and her M.F.A. at Lindenwood University.  She has had work published in BlazeVox and the Lindenwood Review.  This spring she will published again in the Lindenwood Review and in UMSL’s Natural Bridge.  She lives in Dogtown, St. Louis with her husband, her son, and her two pugs.

Wycla Bratton, an educator in Kansas City, believes every scholar is equipped with the abilities to succeed beyond measure. He believes that the best investment you can make is in a child, and he has lived that belief out as he’s volunteered and worked with many organizations, camps, and programs targeting youth development. Some of these experiences include Kansas City Freedom Schools, Great Circle, and the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus Foundation Emerging Leaders Conference. Wycla received his Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education Language Arts from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He is excited to be a part of the students’ growth, as he believes these scholars will be the game changers of generations to come.

Linda Brock recently retired from teaching ELA (grades 7-12) in the Blue Springs School District. She is a Greater Kansas City Writing Project teacher consultant and PD coordinator, serves as an adjunct for UCM, and is developing her own educational consulting business, LCB Educational Consulting. She enjoys leading learning labs, providing in-service, writing curriculum, and mentoring teachers.

Chelsea Brown is a seventh grade English Language Arts teacher at Ozark Middle School.  She is a graduate of College of the Ozarks and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction at Lindenwood University.  Before becoming an educator, Chelsea worked for a non-profit in development and technology support.  She loves increasing student engagement with innovate and creative classroom activities! Chelsea and her husband are expecting their first baby, a little girl, in May!

Julie Bryant, former kindergarten and 1st grade teacher, is a Professor of Education at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri, where she teaches courses in literacy and literature. Julie serves as the Endowed Chair for the department and served as the Faculty Senate President in 2016-17. She often presents at local, state, and national conferences. She obtained her doctorate degree from Liberty University in Leadership, Curriculum and Instruction, and Reading. She loves reading, scrapbooking, shopping, eating out, and camping with her husband and two children.

Barri Bumgarner, the author of two thrillers and one YA book, is an Assistant Professor at Westminster College, a liberal arts college in Fulton, Missouri. The author of 8 Days, Slipping, and Dregs, Barri has also published seventeen short stories and hundreds of articles, both academic and teacher-education focused. Barri published her first novel, 8 Days, a sci-fi thriller that was both the culmination of her love of writing and her interest in the future of technology, and it landed her on an FBI watch list. Since then, her teaching and writing have revolved around research, best teaching practices, and nonfiction projects. Her most recent published story, “Why Not Me,” is being developed as a full nonfiction manuscript to raise awareness about a single mother’s fight against stage 3 breast cancer to save not only herself, but her family as well. Barri teaches teachers how to teach, but has less success with her canine children. When she isn’t teaching or writing, she loves to travel, watch sports, and read, as well as creating and playing with all things digital. Visit her author page at:

Josie Clark is in her ninth year of teaching Reading and Writing Workshop to eighth graders in St. Joseph, Missouri.  In addition to being a classroom teacher, she is a co-director of Prairie Lands Writing Project (PLWP) at Missouri Western State University. Through PLWP, she organizes creative writing activities for middle schoolers during the school year and directs a creative writing day camp for middle schoolers every summer. She also sponsors her school’s student council. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English Education and a master’s in Writing Studies. In her spare time, she loves to surround herself with books and foster kittens from the animal shelter.

Melanie Clark teaches English, yearbook, newspaper, and journalism at Marshfield High School. She graduated from Missouri State University with a Bachelor’s and Master’s in English, completing her certification during graduate school. Melanie lived in Germany until she was 11 and moved to Missouri. Since then she’s stayed in Southwest Missouri and currently lives in Springfield with her husband, 3 cats, and chihuahua. She is passionate about many things, but the core of her passions are learning and stories. In fact, she has put reading as a hobby since forever. She spends her time trying to help students ensure that the stories of their lives are ones they can be proud of.

Amanda Collier has been an educator for seven years and has taught at both the secondary and college level. She currently teaches 10th and 11th grade Communication Arts at Buchanan County R-IV High School. While her experience in the classroom has varied, her focus has remained the same: building a community of readers within her class. When she’s not working with students, she writes as often as she can. Her work has been published over the past few years in genres varying from academic writing to personal essays. Some pieces have been published in multiple journals and online publishing sites.

In 22 years of teaching, Tracy Cooper has taught history, English, literacy intervention, ESL, and education courses for secondary and post-secondary students.  She currently serves as the Curriculum Instructional Coach of Secondary Literacy for the Kansas City Kansas Public Schools. She developed and guides the district’s secondary literacy intervention initiative, “Targeted Literacy,” a model intended to provide responsive literacy support for urban students through an intentional emphasis on skills, motivation, and self-efficacy across disciplines.  Tracy is also an education blogger focused on support for secondary literacy teachers.

Alison Crane has been an English language arts teacher for the past fifteen years; the majority of those years have been in the middle school classroom. Last November, she presented at a roundtable session at the NCTE conference in Houston, and this spring her article, “Embracing Uncertainty: When Inquiry Drives the Reading Conference” will be published in the March issue of Voices from the Middle. Currently, she is a 7/8th grade ELA teacher at Reeds Spring Middle School and lives in Springfield, Missouri.

Mary DeMichele is a certified teacher, coach, consultant, and improviser with over 25 years’ experience in educational, clinical and professional settings. As a founding member of a New York area improv troupe in the late 1990’s, she integrated improv into her classrooms and experienced its transformative effect on teaching and learning. She founded Academic Play to continue sharing the benefits of improv and how to apply them. Mary is the author of Improv ’n Ink: Overcoming “I Don’t Know What to Write!” and One Rule Improv: The Fast, Easy, No Fear Approach to Teaching, Learning and Applying Improv. Her website and blog can be found at or

Lara Dieckmann teaches English at Harrisburg High School. Her courses include dual credit composition, public speaking, and contemporary literature, as well as sophomore English. Lara also serves as the speech coach for the district, traveling with forensic competitors across mid-Missouri. This extracurricular activity allows her to draw upon her experience with drama. She worked as a visiting assistant professor in theatre at California State University at Los Angeles before returning to the Midwest. Recently, she participated in the Missouri Writer’s Project Summer Institute and now works with the MWP on developing and presenting professional development opportunities to teachers in the area. She is passionate about books, art, music, writing, and her Golden Retriever, Miss Tillie.

Jeff Dierking has been teaching in the Raytown School District since 2000. For the first 18 years, Jeff taught English at Raytown High School, including dual credit courses. In 2018-2019, he took over the Missouri Option Program for the district, operating at Herndon Career Center and working with at-risk seniors towards graduation. He coordinates both high school English curriculum and the district’s dual credit partnerships. When he’s not focused on school, he’s probably reading, listening to podcasts, playing sand volleyball poorly, or editing videos for his 11-year old daughter Lucy’s Youtube channel. His wife, Mariah, mostly tolerates his obsessions with all nerdy pursuits and only rolls her eyes occasionally—usually when it has to do with the complicated mechanics of Dungeons & Dragons.

Libby Dierking has been an instructor for the Early Childhood/Elementary Department at the University of Central Missouri since 2010. Prior to teaching at UCM, she taught in the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District for 30 years. While teaching, Libby taught grades 2, 3, 5 and 6 and special education. She also taught special education and math at the middle school level. While working for the district, she was awarded three PEAK Grants, Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, and the Excellence in Teaching award. While teaching in Lee’ s Summit, she was a Literacy Coach and Mentor for the MU Fellowship program. She was involved in many committees, including literacy, assessment, math, and social studies. After retiring, she began working for UCM. While working for the university, she has been involved in the development of the Clinical Pathway program. She has given presentations on how to engage students within the classroom at school districts in the Kansas City metro area and at universities in Arkansas, Georgia, and Missouri.


Joanne Fish is an Assistant Professor at Fontbonne University in St. Louis, Missouri. Joanne teaches pre-service teacher candidates and those wishing to earn special reading certification how to work with struggling readers in grades K-12. She often incorporates highly engaging methods to help students who have reading difficulties. Using technology is one of those methods she uses to allow young readers to experience multi-sensory approaches to learning reading strategies. Joanne is also a critical researcher who conducted her doctoral research at a state mental health facility using institutional ethnography to study the intersection of literacy and mental health. Her research proved that clients with low functional literacy skills were not able to access the same levels of treatment as their more literate peers. Joanne is currently researching the impact of trauma on literacy skills acquisition, learning motivation, and reading interests.

Declan FitzPatrick serves as the Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Fox C-6 School District in Arnold, Missouri. Declan has been working with teachers to develop authentic ways for students to capture and complicate their thinking for 24 years. He has published two articles: “Constructing Complexity” (English Journal, Nov. 2008) and “Reading Level Response” in Reflective Teaching, Reflective Learning (Heinemann 2005).

Chelsie Floyd is a 7th grade English Language Arts teacher and Robotics Coach at Ozark Middle School. She is a graduate of Arkansas State University and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction at Lindenwood University. Chelsie has been an educator for six years in many different subject areas. Her passion is to create lifelong learners by developing critical thinking and engagement through ingenious ways of learning.

Colin Flynn teaches AP Literature and Composition, AP Seminar, and College Credit Composition at Washington High School in Washington, Missouri. As an avid reader, Colin advocates for independent choice reading. Students in his class spend one-fifth of their weekly class time reading what they want, regardless of level or genre. In spring 2016, he was awarded a Book Love Grant from Penny Kittle’s Book Love Foundation. In order to help students prepare for the world after high school, Colin also utilizes a PBL model in his classroom, helping students to discover their passions and solve real world problems. Outside of the classroom, Mr. Flynn coaches boys basketball and enjoys travelling the world with his family. This year marks the third time Colin has presented at Write to Learn.​

Bryan Gaskill is currently a teacher at Marshall High School in Marshall, Missouri.  He has taught high school English for the past 11 years.  He graduated from Missouri Valley College with a BA in English and the University of Central Missouri with a MA in English.  He enjoys working with all learners and has helped develop a successful service learning program that engages students within the community.  He is a Missouri Writing Project consultant and an MCTE and NCTE member.  He is the father of two awesome kids and is married to the most amazing librarian in the world.

Tori Grable has spent most of her career teaching middle school readers and writers in Northwest Missouri. She has also served as a Communication Arts curriculum coordinator for the St. Joseph School District and as a literacy curriculum facilitator for the Smithville School District. She is a National Writing Project Teacher Consultant and a nationally certified teacher. She has participated in numerous DESE-related projects over the last twenty-plus years; has presented workshops at Write to Learn, METC, and Elevate EDU conferences; and has provided professional development related to literacy and educational technology for other school districts. Her true passion, though, is learning daily with her seventh-grade students.

Rebecca Groves has taught for 27 years, 19 of which have been with her favorite age—middle school! Rebecca currently teaches sixth grade literacy at Wydown Middle School in Saint Louis, Missouri. She enjoys igniting the fire of learning in her students and is a sucker for a good memoir. Out of school she enjoys hiking in the woods, spending time with her family, and traveling overseas to work with children in South Sudan.

Lynn Hagen works at Battle High School in Columbia, Missouri.  Lynn is a Reading Specialist and a Literacy teacher.  She spent the first fifteen years of her career in middle school, and has been in high school the last six years. She is a passionate advocate for student voice in reading and writing. You can follow her at

Colette Love Hilliard is a writer and teacher at Ritenour High School in St. Louis, Missouri. She has been teaching English Language Arts for more than a decade, and this year she was honored by her peers as the 2018-2019 Diamond Circle Teacher of the Year. She is also the author of the blackout poetry book A Wonderful Catastrophe, which she hopes will inspire readers to create something beautiful out of something broken. Her greatest loves are her husband and dog, and she still gets nervous on the first day of school.

Riina Hirsch is a sixteen year veteran of 9th grade English classrooms. She loves teaching like breathing. An avid reader, learner, and blogger ( and, she has earned a doctorate in Teacher Leadership and presented at numerous regional conferences. She prides herself on being a reformed Luddite who has developed a firm belief in the power of technology to support literacy and transform learning. She is constantly learning from her #PLN using her @dr_riina Twitter handle.


Candy Holloway is a dedicated teacher of reading and writing who has served as a classroom teacher leader and now Secondary ELA Curriculum Coordinator.  With 28 years of experience, her goal of promoting literature appreciation and love of writing in students is evident in her work as a literacy trainer and promotion of teacher collaboration across school districts in St. Charles County.  She has learned from and trained colleagues both locally and nationally, through various professional development and reading and writing workshops.  In addition, Candy has been involved with the Gateway Writing Project and the Missouri Reading Initiative as a participant and model teacher and continues to be a life-long learner as an active member of MoCTE, NCTE, and LARC.

Melissa Horner is an Educational and Curricular Consultant with a focus on Indigenizing and Decolonizing Practices through curriculum design, public presentations, and professional development workshops. Drawing on her experiences as a secondary English teacher, her research and writing focuses on social transformation by: 1) teaching about issues of race/racism in rural, predominantly White contexts; 2) foregrounding Indigenous epistemologies and the impact that has on dominant education practices; and 3) understanding the role of learners’ affective responses—especially resistance, apathy, and aggression—have on social justice/Indigenizing pedagogies. She has presented her work at the National Council for Teachers of English Annual Convention, the Montana Education Association Annual Conference, Montana Annual Indian Education for All Best Practices Conference, and as part of the National American Indian Heritage Month at the University of Missouri. She can be reached at

Dana Humphrey has 37 years of educational experience as a middle school English teacher, department chair, district curriculum coordinator, and professional development presenter. She currently serves as the ELA Consultant for Education Plus.  Dana has presented numerous workshops at the local, state, and national levels and has written and co-authored articles and chapters in books on effective instructional pedagogy.

Lisa Inniss has a love of learning and helping her students be the best versions of themselves. Teaching just over twenty years, she started with ninth grade English and then moved to reading for eighth and ninth graders. Lisa has been teaching eighth grade English at West Middle School in Columbia, Missouri for 7 years. Currently, Lisa is the Membership Chair for the Missouri Council of Teachers of English. When she is not teaching, Lisa enjoys spending time with friends and family, playing board and card games, reading YA, and writing.

Dawnavyn James graduated from Stephens College with her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education degree. She is currently pursuing a Master of Education in Student Learning and Well Being. She has been teaching elementary students at Stephens College for four years and acts as a College Student Supervisor. The Children’s School consists of a multiage kindergarten through fifth grade classroom where students are grouped by ability rather than age.  Art and science are integrated throughout the curriculum to help enhance and nurture student learning.

A 30-year veteran of the classroom, Debbie Jameson has taught first, second, third, and fifth grades and Title 1 for grades K-5 and was a Reading Recovery Teacher.  She provided professional development for her district and taught graduate courses through the local university. Being involved in the many facets of the Missouri Assessment Program during her years in education helped her gain an understanding of state-level curriculum and assessment decisions. After serving a year as the Assistant Director of English Language Arts, Debbie brings practical experience to her job as Director of English Language Arts at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Danielle Johnson recently earned her doctorate in literacy education at the University of Missouri with a dissertation examining the intended and unintended consequences of reading intervention testing and programming.  She is currently a middle school reading specialist and Language Arts Department Chair at Oakland Middle School in Columbia Public Schools, where she teaches 6th grade English and reading intervention.  Danielle also teaches a variety of classes at MU in the College of Education, including methods courses and classes on adolescent learners.

Sarah Johnson is a Reading Specialist for Grades K-5 at Trautwein Elementary School in St. Louis County.  She received her Bachelor and Master’s Degrees in Education from Missouri State University.  Sarah completed Reading Recovery Teacher Leader and Comprehensive Intervention Model (CIM) training at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.  In addition to teaching students each day, Sarah coordinates the OASIS tutoring program in her school and facilitates a literacy study group for her colleagues.  Sarah has taught for over 30 years in Missouri schools.  She has experience as a preschool teacher, primary classroom teacher, elementary reading specialist, Reading Recovery Teacher and Teacher Leader, and college instructor.  Sarah has presented over 30 breakout sessions at local, state, and national literacy conferences.  Her current areas of interest include effective reading and writing instruction for primary students and comprehension strategy instruction.  She is an active member of the International Literacy Association and the National Council of Teachers of English.  In her spare time, Sarah enjoys traveling, taking long walks, playing golf, and reading.

William Kerns is an Assistant Professor in the College of Education at Harris-Stowe State University. Prior to entering higher education, William worked as an English teacher as well as a reading teacher and reading specialist. His university teaching specialties are in the areas of English language arts and literacy. He is passionate about the promotion of active engagement in writing workshops that draw on a Vygotskian approach to the understanding of how students learn and improve their skills.

ClauDean Kizart is an educator who has made her passion her vocation…Service in Education! A native of Chicago, she has worked in the field of education for over 21 years. Currently, she works with the St. Louis Regional Professional Development Center (RPDC) housed at Education Plus, where she provides professional development and coaching on various topics including student engagement, equity, literacy, data-based decision making (DBDM), diversity, and inclusion. Her teaching and professional development experience, in both the elementary and post-secondary sectors, as well as her doctoral research, have helped her become an emerging professional in providing data-informed and research-based solutions to positively impact education!

Sofie Kondro is an ELA instructor and Track and Field coach at Reeds Spring High School. Sofie has spoken at several regional and international conferences, including ISTE in 2017. When Sofie isn’t teaching or coaching, you can find her listening to Podcasts and hanging out with her husband and cat.

Kate Kraybill is in her 20th year of teaching in Missouri.  She began her career in Gasconade R-2 teaching elementary. She has taught middle school in Bowling Green and Monroe City school districts, where she began her Writing Project professional development. This is also where her love of curriculum creation and development began. Before coming to Blue Springs School District, she began her high school ELA teaching at Riverview Gardens High School.  As a ninth grade ELA teacher in Blue Springs, she has been a part of the secondary ELA Curriculum Cadre, ninth grade ELA department chair, and Freshman Center I-Tech. This past summer she participated in the GKCWP Summer Institute and through that has done research on student engagement in classic literature and the importance of free choice reading in the classroom.  She previously presented at Write to Learn in 2017 on her department’s Generational Memoir Day Project.

Calli Larson is a seventh and eighth grade English teacher at Cole Camp Middle School. Calli received her BS in English Education from the University of Central Missouri, as well as her Masters in Educational Technology. During her undergradate studies, Calli wanted to return to a rural community to teach students to love literature. This is Calli’s fifth year teaching, and her third year teaching middle school, at a rural school 20 minutes from her hometown. After teaching high school for a couple years, she decided to go back to teaching middle school to get students started using technology earlier. Her heart still lies in rural schools, but it has changed from just helping students love literature to learning how to incorporate technology into everyday life.​

Shannon Lesko and Emily Pagano met way back in 2007 as students at Truman State University, where they studied English and education together. Fast forward to 2012 when they were lucky enough to be hired at the same school, Fort Zumwalt East High School, and became fast friends. After teaching down the hall from one another for six years, Shannon moved to Parkway South High School. They continue to collaborate, focusing on cooperative learning structures and choice in their classrooms to enhance student engagement.

Ashley McCrady has been teaching for seven years since graduating from Truman State University. Over the course of those seven years, she’s taught 8th-11th grade, Mythology, and Contemporary Literature. She’s also directed several of Southern Boone’s theater productions, including Shrek, the Musical; Much Ado about Nothing; and High School Musical. She’s a freshly-minted Missouri Writing Project teacher consultant, having completed the most recent Summer Institute at Mizzou with a fabulous cohort. When she’s not teaching or fulfilling her extracurricular commitments, she can be found at home with her family binge-watching Netflix and hosting impromptu kitchen dance parties.

Mike Metz is an Assistant Professor of English Education at the University of Missouri-Columbia.  Prior to joining Mizzou, Mike worked with the Center to Support Excellence in Teaching (CSET) at Stanford University, the Stanford Teacher Education Program (STEP), and the University of Chicago’s Urban Teacher Education Program (UTEP).  A National Board Certified Teacher in Early Adolescent Language Arts, Mike has taught pre-K through Master’s students, in public, private, and charter schools over the past 20+ years.  For the majority of Mike’s teaching career, he taught middle and high school on the South Side of Chicago.  Mike has worked with the Chicago Public Schools, The University of Chicago Charter Schools, San Francisco Unified School District, and the Palo Alto Unified School District, among others, to help teachers develop their professional expertise.  Mike’s research examines teaching practices that support students in culturally and linguistically complex classrooms.  He is particularly interested in decentering Standardized English in Language Arts classrooms to create spaces that explore the beauty of all forms of language employed by the sophisticated language users that make up our pluralistic society.

Although not a superhero, Cory Milles does have a dual identity. He is a middle school teacher by day and a writer by night. He has been teaching writing for over a decade as well as writing Young Adult novels that seek to capture the power of story to transform his readers. When he’s not writing, teaching, or listening to his collection of movie scores, he can usually be found reading more on the craft of writing. He is the author of the Young Adult novels LegacyParadox, Redemption, New Miller’s Grove, and the upcoming The Reboot. He frequently writes for the Save the Cat!​ web site on screenwriting. You can visit him at

Lindsey Mueller graduated from Columbia College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies.  She went on to obtain her Master’s Degree in Learning, Teaching, and Curriculum from the University of Missouri-Columbia.  Lindsey has been teaching for 11 years.  During this time, she has taught Reading Recovery, first grade, second grade, third grade, and served as a literacy coach.  Having grown up a reluctant reader and writer, Lindsey is passionate about engaging students in their learning and fostering a love of literacy early. When she is not teaching, you can find her buried in a pile of books or playing with her two children.

Kerri Stith has been teaching for 12 years, with 10 years in second grade and the last two in third grade.  She is a leader in her building, serving as levels chair and currently as the 3-5 lit leader for her building.  She does this because of her love for sharing her knowledge with others, and also her love of learning from others. Teachers are forever students!  Kerri graduated from Columbia College in 2006 and started her career teaching in the North Callaway School District.  This district helped her realize her passion and helped her complete her Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Missouri in 2011. She is now a third grade teacher in Columbia Public Schools. She was able to help readers over the summer as a district SB 319 reading teacher. This fueled her passion for sharing the love of reading and how it will empower today’s youth.


Glenda Nugent has been recognized locally, statewide, and nationally for her innovative teaching and dedication to literacy education. In addition to being an award-winning classroom teacher, she has served as a literacy specialist, literacy coach, and administrator of literacy and early childhood programs at the state and district levels.  In these roles, and as an international literacy consultant, she has provided support for many schools and teachers, leading them in effective standards-based literacy practices.  She has led district and state-wide literacy reforms that have resulted in significant achievement gains by focusing on standards, comprehensive literacy instruction, early literacy, differentiation, and intervention.  As a literacy consultant, she has provided extensive professional development for teachers and administrators in effective literacy practices throughout the United States and in Canada, Puerto Rico, and England. She has served as a literacy volunteer with schools in South Africa and Pakistan. She is currently the International Literacy Association (ILA) Coordinator for the Missouri Literacy Association and Co-Editor for The Missouri Reader.

Robert Petrone is an Associate Professor of Literacy/English Education at the University of Missouri. Unified by a commitment to equity, his work focuses on understanding the literacy and learning lives of youth, particularly those who have been marginalized by schools, and how teachers can develop curriculum designed to facilitate social justice. His two current projects involve working with Indigenous youth in an alternative school setting and developing a community literacy center with youth in a village in Uganda. His work has appeared in Journal of Literacy ResearchTeaching and Teacher EducationEnglish EducationJournal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, English Journal, and he has a co-authored book, Re-thinking the “Adolescent” in Adolescent Literacy. He can be reached at

Woods Prael has an MSE in Secondary Literacy from the University of Central Missouri, has taught English Language Arts for 19 years, is an instructional coach at Warrensburg High School, teaches ELA Classroom Management at UCM, and provides struggling freshmen with reading assistance.  Working for the Missouri STARR program (Select Teachers As a Regional Resource) and the Missouri Staff Development Council, Woods has presented at numerous middle schools, high schools, universities, and to anyone willing to listen.  With an academic focus on struggling teen readers, behavior issues, and classroom engagement, his passion stems from being the product of San Francisco’s McAteer High School, which the city deemed too dangerous and unsalvageable to stay open.

Stephanie Regier is in her tenth year of teaching middle school and is currently a 6th-8th Writing teacher at Southern Boone Middle School in Ashland, Missouri. She received her undergraduate degree from Kansas State University, her Masters from MidAmerica Nazarene University, and has recently completed coursework for her administrative certificate from Fort Hays State University. Teaching middle school is her passion because she loves finding “out of the box” ways to engage this age group in the writing process through theater, music, and student interests.

Tamara Rhomberg has been in education for more than 30 years, working as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, district administrator, Title I Director, and adjunct professor.  In 2012, she received the Missouri State IRA Council Literacy Award.  She is an active member of local, state, and national literacy organizations and has presented locally and nationally on a variety of literacy topics.

Amanda Robertson has taught for nine years. The first five were spent teaching math, Spanish, and Bible at a residential treatment facility for troubled teens in Kansas City. The next four have been spent at Marshfield High School as a math and English teacher for At-Risk students. She is passionate about helping reluctant learners find their place in school. She is also passionate about sharing what she has learned about behavior management, differentiation, and the power of novelty with anyone who will listen. Outside of school, Amanda is a huge Marvel fan and prefers dogs to cats. Some of her life goals are to publish a book about her teaching experiences and visit every national park in the United States.

Taylor Rose is from St. Louis, Missouri and is in her third year of teaching. She currently teaches readers and writers in English I and IV at Parkway West High School, her alma mater. After earning her Master’s Degree in Learning, Teaching, and Curriculum through the University of Missouri-Columbia, she returned home as a Longhorn. Taylor has attended the Missouri Writing Project through her Master’s coursework and was honored to present Sharing Stories: Reading and Research this past year at the Gateway Writing Project before attending the Missouri Writing Project for the very first time. She is excited for a weekend of learning with and from such talented Missouri educators!

Kris Schuler has been an intermediate teacher for 24 years. While teaching fifth and sixth grade, she had the opportunity to teach all four core classes, specializing in science. She spent 1/4 of her career working with at-risk students in a self-contained classroom. Additionally, she was an Instructional Coach and provided in-house professional development for her building. After receiving her doctorate degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Kris accepted a position with the education department at the University of Central Missouri. She is currently teaching social studies and science in the Junior block program. She is passionate about instructional strategies, mentoring new teachers, and curriculum building.

Melissa Schwab is a Secondary Literacy Coordinator and Instructional Coach for the School District of Washington.  She works with 7-12 ELA teachers on curriculum, instruction, and assessment.  She also works with teachers K-12 on instructional strategies.  Before transitioning out of the classroom, she taught high school English for 16 years.  Melissa holds an Educational Specialist degree in Curriculum and Instruction.  Currently, she is finishing up her Doctorate of Education in Teaching and Learning Leadership. Melissa has a passion for helping teachers apply best practices in the classroom, especially in the areas of student voice, inquiry learning, and critical thinking. She believes that learning is a journey and teachers should function as a guide for students.  One of her favorite philosophies is the one doing the talking is the one doing the thinking, and the one doing the thinking is the one doing the learning.  Outside of school, Melissa enjoys attending her daughter’s basketball and jujitsu activities, coaching and doing CrossFit, and snuggling her pets.  This is Melissa’s first time to present at Write to Learn.

Lisa Scroggs joined the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as English Language Arts Assistant Director in June 2016 after thirty-one years in the classroom. Prior to joining DESE, Lisa taught middle school reading for three years and high school English and journalism for twenty-one years, including class-within-a-class English II and dual credit composition in conjunction with Lincoln University. Her seven years as a library media specialist provided experience in the integration of ELA and technology with content areas ranging from the arts to business to science and beyond.

Colleen Shuler is an Instructor of Education at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri.  She teaches emergent literacy and content area literacy courses in addition to methods courses in math and science.  She recently retired after 26 years as a classroom teacher in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 6th grades and now has the opportunity to share her knowledge and passion for teaching with future teachers.  She obtained her doctorate at Evangel University in the area of Educational Leadership, Curriculum and Instruction, and Technology.  She loves scrapbooking, golfing, spending time with her husband Henry, taking care of the grandkids, and all things Crayola.

Chris Smith has taught in the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District for the past 11 years.  There, he has taught all content areas as a 4th/5th, and now 5th/6th, looping teacher.  In 2017, Chris was honored as Elementary Teacher of the Year, due to his leadership roles and high student achievement.  Chris serves as a mentor to new teachers, has been involved in the district’s extensive curriculum development, and currently leads the K-6 Writing Curriculum Action Team.  In his free time, Chris enjoys spending time with his wife and two children, building things, and running long-distances.

Lysha Thompson is the Library Media Specialist at Miller County R-3 Schools in Tuscumbia, Missouri. Lysha received her Bachelor of Science degree from William Woods University and a MLIS from the University of Central Missouri. As a member of the MSTA Reading Circle, she reads over 100 books each year in search of the best young adult books to share with Missouri teachers.

Jessica Todd is in her seventh year of teaching English Language Arts to middle school students. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University and her Master’s degree from The Ohio State University, and she has happily spent her whole career in Saint Louis, Missouri. While Jessica is also a certified K-12 Reading Specialist, the general middle school setting is where she loves to be. While on a yearlong sabbatical in Berlin, Germany, Jessica helped found the organization March for Public Education. Though she is certainly an avid supporter of public schools, Jessica is dedicated to ensuring that all students in every setting have access to the quality education they deserve. Jessica is keen on learning how to better differentiate teaching and learning through the use of technology, and last year she became a Google Level 2 Certified Educator. Her professional interests lie in the areas of curriculum development and teacher instruction. Outside of school, Jessica enjoys writing short stories, essays, and poetry. She is an unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma.

Betty Porter Walls, currently an Associate Professor in the College of Education at Harris-Stowe State University (HSSU) in St. Louis, Missouri, is a career educator with specializations in the areas of literacy/reading, early childhood education, leadership development, diversity and social justice, and curriculum and instruction.  A noted literacy consultant and professional development presenter, Betty is the recipient of several awards, including the “High Flyer Award” from the University of Missouri-Columbia, “Celebrate Literacy Award” from the Missouri State Council of the International Reading Association, “People Making A World of Difference” from the B’nai B’rith, “Salute to Excellence in Education Award” from the St. Louis American Newspaper, and “MoSTAR (Star Educator)” from Missourians for Students at Risk. 

Kelli Westmoreland is a veteran teacher who has supported instruction through the use of classroom libraries for over twenty years. She has experience writing educational resources, and she is a frequent presenter at local, state, and national educational conferences. Currently, she is the owner of KelliWest Educational Services, offering professional development and coaching. Kelli is a doctoral candidate studying the integration of multimodal resources into ELA curricula.