Regional Speakers

For the last five years, Elisabeth Alkier has been a Reading and Writing teacher at Bode Middle School in St. Joseph, and she loves every minute of it. She’s also a Prairie Lands Writing Project Teacher Consultant. This past summer, she 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 as much to teach her as she has to teach them!
Karen Ambuehl has spent the last fifteen years working with students in the Kirkwood School District in Kirkwood, MO. For twelve years, she taught students English at Kirkwood High School, and for the last three years, she has worked with teachers and students at North Kirkwood Middle School in her role as a Literacy Coach. Karen earned her MA in English from Truman State University in 2000 and became a National Board Certified Teacher in English in 2014. Throughout her career, she has focused on the power of critical reading, writing, and speaking to empower and transform students into active and informed members of society.
Julius B. Anthony is Founder and President of St. Louis Black Authors of Children’s Literature Initiative, a subsidiary of The ECE Prep School, LLC. Julius has enjoyed more than twenty years as an early childhood education teacher and administrator and has served on several Boards, curriculum committees, and state level work groups.  Julius is also the Founding Principal of City Academy, a bourgeoning independent day school located in one of St. Louis city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods. Throughout his professional life, Julius has enjoyed writing motivational poems and short stories for his students and has always been a fierce advocate of culturally competent literacy based early childhood education instruction.  In October 2014, Julius published his first children’s book, a collection of original poems entitled Me! Ten Poetic Affirmations.  Julius is a graduate of Howard University, 2001 graduate of Leadership St. Louis (FOCUS St. Louis), and a 1995 fellow of Washington University’s National Endowment for the Humanities’ (NEH) Harlem Renaissance Project.
Colleen Appel retired from her job as a middle school English teacher in 2012 to see what would happen next. She now works for the Ozarks Writing Project. She has been studying argument writing for four years and leads professional development sessions in schools in southwest Missouri. She also coordinates the middle school and high school youth writing conferences for OWP. In her spare time, she writes poetry, holds classes on the power of writing to heal, and tries to make her journals look like works of art.
Erin Baker
Erin Baker graduated from Missouri State University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Education in 1995.  In 1998, she earned her Master’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia in Curriculum and Instruction. In 1998, she completed Reading Recovery/Early Literacy training and worked for four years as a Reading Recovery teacher.  In 2002, Erin earned her National Board Certified Teacher certificate in Early Childhood Generalist.   She taught in grades PK through 7th for seventeen years.  In 2012, Erin left the classroom to become a trainer with the Missouri Reading Initiative.  Since then, she has worked with fifteen school districts across the state, facilitating teachers’ work as they incorporate best practices into their literacy instruction through Balanced Literacy.  When Erin is not working in one of her many schools, she can be found at home in Columbia, Missouri, with her dog in her lap and her nose in a book.
Linda Joe Baker has a vast history of educational experiences and expertise in the area of literacy.  She has served in the roles of classroom teacher, Title I teacher, Reading Recovery/Early Learning Specialist, and Literacy Coordinator. Linda has been instrumental in the development of the Missouri Reading Initiative professional development program in the state since its inception. One of her major roles in the Missouri Reading Initiative is working with literacy coaches throughout Missouri and mentoring new trainers that are recruited to the program.
During his 40 plus year teaching career, Sam Bommarito taught virtually every grade from K through graduate school. This includes teaching reading courses at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Most of Dr. Sam’s career was spent as a Title 1 reading specialist/staff developer.  He participated in four years of extensive training by cadre with Lucy Calkin’s Reading and Writing workshop. Since his retirement in 2015, he has been busy with various volunteer projects, including a project in which he uses “cyber-conferencing” as part of reading/writing workshop.  Dr. Bommarito is currently co-editor of the Missouri Reader, a professional reading journal published by the Missouri State Council of the International Literacy Association, celebrating its 40th year of publication.

Dea Borneman is an Associate Professor of Library Science at Missouri State University and head of Haseltine Library at the Greenwood Laboratory School. Dea has made numerous state, regional, and national presentations, which usually demonstrate ways to effectively combine technology with traditional literacy skills. She believes the school librarian should always strive to work as an educational partner with classroom teachers. In 2013, Rebecca Crowder and Dea received the TLC (Teacher/Librarian Collaboration) Award from the Missouri Association of School Librarians for their work together. Dea is an advisor to the Children’s and Young Adult Book Review of Missouri and a steering committee member for the Children’s Literature Festival of the Ozarks.

David Brosch is the Technology Director for Sunrise R-IX School district in Desoto, Missouri. David put himself through grad school for English Composition and post-baccalaureate teacher certification working as an industrial IT technician in St. Louis. His professional interests are at the three-way intersection of writing, art, and technology. Alongside teaching English, he has run both student-centered robotics and code-heavy computer classrooms. He is currently the coach for a successful competitive LEGO robotics team. In his spare time, he writes, makes art, and restores classic Jeeps.


After working professionally as a journalist for nearly five years for such newspapers as The Boston Globe, The St. Petersburg Times (Tampa Bay Times), and The Kansas City Star, Amber Buck returned to school to get her master’s degree in education journalism at the University of Southern California. There, she joined Teach For America and later began teaching English in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She continues to freelance for The Kansas City Star and teaches freshman English at J.C. Harmon High School in her hometown of Kansas City, Kansas. She is currently in her seventh year of teaching and is the owner of Tempest Composure, which trains educators to edit student essays for individuality and voice.
Emily Callahan taught second through fourth grades in the North Kansas City School District for thirteen years.  She was a literacy demonstration teacher and welcomed visitors from inside and around the district to come into her classroom to get smarter with her and her kids. This year, Emily is in her first year as an instructional coach at a brand new Charter School, Quality Hill Academy, in downtown Kansas City.  She spends her time co-teaching, co-planning, demonstrating lessons, and learning with teachers and students.
Cathy Cartier has been teaching English Language Arts at Affton High School for over fifteen years and has served as ELA curriculum chair for the high school for eight years.  She became a Gateway Writing Project teacher consultant in 2010, and was named Missouri State Teacher of the Year in 2013.  Cathy has since learned so much from a network of exceptional educators across our nation.  She am an adjunct professor at the University of Missouri in St. Louis, teaching a course entitled “Writing for Teachers.”  She also enjoys blogging and participating in twitter chats as one of many experts on NBC Education Nation’s Parent Toolkit website.
Dona Coleman has co-presented four times at Write to Learn and has been an English teacher for twenty-four years, the last seventeen of which she has spent in the Fort Zumwalt School District in St. Charles County, where she teaches CT and Pre AP English II (and most recently AP Language). She is a long time resident of South St. Louis, where she enjoys living with her husband and golden retriever Susie and watching the documentaries of Werner Herzog.
Stacey Conrad is a high school librarian at Palmyra High School, in northeast Missouri. One year into her first job as an English teacher, she realized that she was most passionate about reading and matching students with books they would actually finish, not grammar.   Currently in her eleventh year as a librarian, her favorite thing to hear from students is, “This book was awesome! What else do you have for me?” Stacey is midway through her five year commitment to the Gateway Readers Award executive committee, enjoying the opportunity to talk about books with other teachers and librarians around the state.  She posts a weekly book review at

Scott Courtois works for the Missouri Reading Initiative as a balanced literacy trainer.  He travels to Missouri School providing balanced literacy professional development opportunities to grades kindergarten through eighth grade teachers.  Scott has been an educator for twenty years.  During his tenure he has worked as a Reading Recovery /Early Literacy Teacher, Title I Reading Teacher, reading coach and has taught grades 1st, 3rd and 5th grades.  Scott has a strong educational background and has received in-depth training and ongoing professional development in curriculum design, balanced literacy, reading strategies and assessment.


Liz Costanzo Morrison is the K-5 Interdisciplinary Coordinator for Elementary Science and Social Studies for the Parkway School District. Liz is a National Board Certified Teacher and a former National Social Studies Teacher of the Year. She has presented at conferences at the local, state, and national level on topics ranging from the Enslaved at George Washington’s Mount Vernon to Best Practices for Professional Learning Communities. Liz is passionate about writing to learn and demonstrates her passion as a published author of YA historical fiction.
Rebecca Crowder has been a teacher for eighteen years, with the past ten years at Greenwood Laboratory School at Missouri State University. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Education and her Master’s in Elementary Education from Missouri State, and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Texas Tech University. She has presented at local, regional, state, national, and international conferences on topics including technology use in the classroom, the integration of curricular subjects, and the integration of arts into core curriculum. Her dissertation topic focuses on the use of drama within reading instruction.


Vickie Daniels is an instructional coach in the Hollister School District.  She works primarily with elementary teachers, but also works with and conducts professional development training with middle school and high school teachers in the district.  Vickie is in her fifth year as an instructional coach and also works part-time as the Assistant Elementary Principal.  Her primary instructional coaching focus is English Language Arts for grades two through twelve.  She has presented at the Write to Learn conference for the last three years and has presented at several other conferences, including technology conferences.
Casey Daugherty is a veteran teacher of English and currently works as a Literacy Specialist with Republic R-III Schools. A Teacher Consultant with the National Writing Project, Casey has worked in numerous leadership roles with the Ozarks Writing Project since 2007. She is sought for her expertise in writing instruction, presenting work at national and international conferences. As a traveler, teacher, researcher, and volunteer, she has visited schools in Central and South America, Europe, and Asia. She studied educational practices in Japan through a Toyota International Teacher Award, and she recently returned from the United Kingdom where she conducted research in the teaching of writing as a recipient of the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching.
Millie Davis is Senior Developer, Affiliates, and Director of the Intellectual Freedom Center at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).  She works with leaders in NCTE’s affiliates and assemblies, with the NCTE Research Foundation and its programs, including Cultivating New Voices Among Scholars of Color (CNV), with educators experiencing challenges to texts, and with other organizations that espouse intellectual freedom.  Millie is a lover of writing (and reading) and a former high school English teacher and adviser of an award-winning literary magazine. A teacher consultant from the Capital Writing Project in Richmond, Virginia, she has taught writing at J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Virginia; Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois; at the Danville, Illinois Correctional Center; and the Osher Livelong Learning Institute of the University of Illinois.
Mary DeMichele is a certified teacher, consultant, and theater artist who believes that play is an integral part of learning for all ages. As an academic high school teacher, she integrated improv game structures and experienced their rapid and positive effect on teaching and learning. Wanting to share the power of integrating improv to enhance learning, she founded Academic Play (  She is the author of the book, Improv ‘n ink: Overcoming “I Don’t Know What to Write!” The book is based on the research article “Improv and Ink, Increasing Individual Writing Fluency with Collaborative Improv,” published in the International Journal of Education and the Arts.
Andrea Dreste Boyle is an Elementary educator with over ten years of experience in various roles. After graduating from Fontbonne University with a degree in education, Andrea travelled to South Korea where she gained invaluable experience as an ESL teacher. She has also served as an enrichment teacher, fifth grade teacher, and is currently enjoying her role as a third grade teacher in University City School District in St Louis. She has recently completed her studies for her Master’s degree, and hopes to continue to apply her skills and knowledge to help her students achieve great things. When she’s not teaching, she enjoys running around with her one and a half year old and relaxing with her husband.
Amanda Durnal has ten years of experience working in classrooms that range from the 7th grade through the 10th grade.  She started her career in Blue Springs and made the jump over the state line to the Blue Valley School District in southern Johnson County, where she currently teaches 10th grade.  Amanda graduated from Mizzou a few moons ago, was a Fellow through MU, and has accumulated 30+ hours of graduate work surrounding the learner and the process of reading and writing.  She is proud to be a member of the Greater Kansas City Writing Project (Summer 2007) and always encourages others to engage with that program when and if they can.


Ethan Evans is a second-year librarian at Lathrop High School. Before joining the library world, he taught high school communication arts for three years. He loves prose and poetry (naturally). In his free time he particularly likes to read anything by Matt de la Peña, Ted Kooser, Rainbow Rowell, Jandy Nelson, or Tania Runyan. He is interested in helping teachers build mutually beneficial relationships with their librarians and looks forward to the evolution of the position.
Anne Farmer has taught twenty-one years in a secondary classroom. She has earned four degrees: a Doctorate in Education, Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction, Bachelor of Science in Education, and a Bachelor of Arts in English. She has been named Fort Osage School’s high school and district teacher of the year. She has also been named the Kansas Region 4 Secondary Teacher of the Year and was inducted into the Southwestern College’s Educator Hall of Fame. Anne has presented at numerous conferences including past Write to Learn conferences and at the Urban Sites Network National Conference in Louisville, Kentucky and Walt Disney World with her National Writing Project affiliation. She has been married for twenty-three years and has a son at Northwest Missouri State and a son who is a high school freshman; she co-founded and runs the Baby Grace ministry that celebrated ten years of service last year.  She loves reading, writing, and savoring a cup of hot tea!
Joanne Fish is an Assistant Professor at Fontbonne University in St. Louis, Missouri. Dr. Fish is 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. This work was the catalyst of her interest in critical literacy and how it could be used to help enhance reading skills. Joanne also has begun a research agenda which focuses on trauma informed education.
Michelle Fulton’s ten-year teaching life has been filled with being a participant in the Kansas City Writing Project and the Pacific Coast Literacy Institute. This is her second year incorporating independent reading in her classroom, and it has completely changed her teaching world. Michelle’s other (outside of school) life is filled with Irish dancing, reading YA fiction and Diana Gabaldon, taking ballroom dancing lessons with her husband, and selling PartyLite candles. Michelle has been married for two years and she and her husband are raising a carrot-addicted Carolina dog, Orion.



Bryan Gaskill is currently a teacher at Marshall High School in Marshall, Missouri.  He has taught high school English for the past nine 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.
Kathy Gibson is an assistant professor and teaches English, media, and yearbook at Greenwood Lab School. She served as journal editor for the Missouri Middle School Association’s journal, The Transescent, for fourteen years. She’s been researching digital storytelling and literacy for several years and has co-authored several articles and chapters.  Recently, she’s become interested in transmedia in educational settings.


With an undergraduate degree in education and a graduate degree in literature, Christy Goldsmith enjoyed teaching all levels of English in Missouri high schools for eight years. In 2014, she left one classroom for another as she began working on a PhD in English Education at the University of Missouri. Her research focuses on pre-service English Education and writing pedagogy. Currently, she teaches classes in MU’s College of Education and in the English department at Central Methodist University’s Columbia location. Connect with Christy on Twitter: @TeachGoldsmith
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.


Shannon Grieshaber has been a Ft. Zumwalt girl her whole life.  She attended elementary, junior high, and high school in the district, was hired at Ft. Zumwalt South High School as a Special Education teacher upon her graduation from Southwest Missouri State University in 1992, and moved to Ft. Zumwalt West High School when it opened in 1998.  In 2005, she received her Masters of Arts in Library Media Specialist and has been serving as a librarian (her dream job) at West High since 2007.  Shannon is currently Chair of the Gateway Readers Award Committee for the Missouri Association of School Librarians and has been serving on this committee for the past four years.  She is a Hufflepuff who is passionate about reading, audiobooks, and, obviously, Harry Potter.

Lynn Hagen and Melita Walker both work 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 four years. She is a passionate advocate for student voice in reading and writing. You can follow her at  Melita is an Assistant Principal at Battle High School. She has worked as an English teacher, Reading Specialist, and Literacy Coach at both the middle and high school levels.  She is passionate about literacy and student advocacy and values the opportunity that TEDx provides for student voices. Last year, they both helped with Battle High School’s first TEDx Event.  It was a huge success, and they are currently planning the second one, which will happen in March 2017.



Rachel Hamby has been teaching high school English for seven years. Currently, she is teaching 11th and 12th grade English at Mountain Grove High School. A quote at the front of her classroom reads: “You matter. Education matters. What we do in this classroom matters.” And that is precisely how Rachel approaches her work. She is continually looking for ways to encourage students, increase rigor, and create excitement for content.
Zachary Hamby has been a high school English teacher for eleven years. During this time, he has discovered the power of Reader’s Theater script-stories and other interactive learning strategies in the secondary classroom. He strives to be a creative educator and an inspirational mentor for his students. He is the creator of the website and currently teaches at Ava High School.
Melinda Hammerschmidt’s love of reading and writing was fostered during summers spent on her grandparents’ farm in Center Ridge, Arkansas, where her grandmother turned her dining room into a lending library for the school system and the city, which she maintained until age 96. Melinda graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a Bachelors of Science in Education, received her Masters in education form Drury University, is certified in special reading for Missouri, K-12, and gifted education K-12, and successfully defended her dissertation to obtain her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from Texas Tech University, graduating in December 2016.  Melinda has taught for sixteen years full time and 5 years part time as an extended learning teacher and tutor. Melinda currently is the first grade instructor at Greenwood Laboratory School in Springfield.
Kathy Heitmeyer is a career teacher whose classroom experience includes work in a grades 1-3 multi-age room and then as a kindergarten teacher.  She then taught Reading Recovery and served as a K-2 Title I teacher—totaling thirty years in public schools.  She is currently in her ninth year of work as a Trainer for the Missouri Reading Initiative, serving schools throughout Missouri, primarily in the St. Louis area.  Kathy graduated from Stephens College with a BA in Elementary Education and then from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a MED in Curriculum and Instruction, Reading Education.
Kathy Heitmeyer
Lea Hickerson attended Missouri State University for her B.S. in English Education and earned her Masters from Southwest Baptist University; she has been teaching for seven years. She began her teaching career at Springfield Catholic High School and started teaching for Rolla Public Schools in 2011. Lea has taught a variety of English and writing classes, and most recently added Career Communications to the list. It is in teaching Career Communications that Lea realized that she had to find a new approach to the curriculum and the classroom in order to reach this often ignored demographic of students who only want to get out of school and who believe they hate English. It requires an unconventional approach and a reach far beyond the box, and by doing so, Lea has brought creativity and the real world together to help engage students in a new way.
Riina Hirsch is a sixteen year veteran of 9th grade English classrooms. She loves teaching like breathing. An avid reader, learner, and blogger (, 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.
Jennifer Ivy is a first year teacher at Fredericktown R-1 High School. She attended Southeast Missouri State to receive her Bachelors of Science in English Education. She graduated from Southeast Missouri State in December, 2015. Currently she teaches Freshman and Sophomore English, as well as Drama I as an elective. In her free time, she enjoys reading and spending time with her family.
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. 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 new job as Director of English Language Arts at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Kim Chism Jasper (left) is an award-winning journalist and teacher with thirty years’ experience working with students in grades 7-college. She is a frequent workshop presenter, sharing ideas at numerous conferences, including Write to Learn, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the Joint Conference for Librarians of Color. She is a past president of the Missouri Association of Teachers of English, sits on the Writers Hall of Fame Board, is a National Writing Project participant (through the Ozarks Writing Project), and is a member of NCTE’s Social Media Team (#nctechat). She believes in the power of words, that stories can save lives, and that the classroom must be a safe place for student writers and readers. Follow her on Twitter: @KimChismJasper

Dana Whitesell Martin is a twenty-four year veteran teacher, surviving multiple swings in education, teaching generations in a small town, and a book ban. She is a career long member of NCTE and knows how to surround herself with smart people. Her latest adventure is marrying at forty-five and having children twenty-five years apart. Sleep deprivation and teaching middle school make for a hot mess and a wonderful adventure.

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-8th grade reading intervention and 8th grade Communication Arts.  Her position allows her to offer building-wide content area literacy PD.  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 an elementary reading specialist at Trautwein Elementary School in St. Louis County.  She has experience as a primary classroom teacher, reading specialist, and Reading Recovery Teacher Leader.  She especially enjoys teaching beginning readers and writers.
Melissa Kaufman is a seventh grade ELA teacher in St. Louis, Missouri who has been teaching for seven years. Melissa attended Drury University for her undergraduate degree and Capella University for her graduate degree. She has a Masters in education. She loves reading and writing, and sharing that love with her students. In her spare time, she also coaches competitive swimming.
Shannon Kelley 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. This is their fifth year of teaching, and this year, they’ve worked hard to incorporate more cooperative learning structures and choice texts into their classrooms to enhance student engagement.
Nick Kremer is the English Language Arts and Social Studies Coordinator for Columbia Public Schools and a doctoral student in English Education at the University of Missouri.  He regularly teaches education courses for Truman State University, Columbia College, the University of Missouri-Columbia, and MU Online.  Recently, Nick served on the English Language Arts 6-12 Missouri Learning Standards revision committee.  Nick is a board member for the Missouri Writing Project and a longtime presenter at the Write to Learn Conference.   If he had free time anymore, he would enjoy music, playing sports, watching films, gaming, and most things nerdy…
Mary Ellen Ladd has been a teacher in the field of literacy for twenty-three years. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Arts, both in Elementary Education. She began her teaching career in middle school communication arts, until discovering her true passion in Reading Recovery and Early Literacy. She went on to earn her Reading Specialist Certification as well. Recently retired from the public school system, Mary Ellen is currently employed by the Missouri Reading Initiative as a literacy trainer, providing high-quality professional development to school districts throughout the state in balanced literacy and the reading/writing workshop model.
Amy Lannin directs the Campus Writing Program at the University of Missouri.  In addition, Lannin is an Assistant Professor of English Education in the College of Education.  Amy has taught courses on the teaching of writing, literature, and media.  She has also taught graduate seminars and advises doctoral students.  Amy’s research includes writing instruction, assessment, and professional development.  For several years, she has been involved with the National Writing Project, currently serving as Director for the Missouri Writing Project and the state network of five NWP sites: the Missouri Writing Projects Network.   Amy has been involved with fellow ELA leaders in the Missouri Council of Teachers of English and currently serves as President.
Katie Liseo is currently a 3rd grade co-teacher to a class of forty-four students at a brand new charter school in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, Quality Hill Academy.  Katie previously taught for five years in the North Kansas City Schools, where she taught 4th and 5th grades.  While at NKC Schools, Katie was a writing demonstration teacher who welcomed visitors to come into her classroom to learn with her and her students. Katie loves learning with her students and colleagues.  She is excited to share her learning with others and continue to grow as a teacher.
G. Leayn Losh is currently in her 28th year of teaching vocal music. She lives in Kansas City, Kansas. Leayn is from the St. Joseph area, where she attended MWSU for her undergrad degrees. She presently teaches middle school Vocal Music and coaches Debate in the Kansas City, Kansas School District #500. Leayn graduated with a Masters in Humanities and Fine Arts Education from Rockhurst University. She currently belongs to the Greater Kansas City Writing Project, where she has taught lyric writing classes and workshops to students and teachers. Leayn also owns and operates her own business, Musical Theatrical Studios, where she produces concerts and shows and teaches private lessons. Leayn can be seen around KC, Mo playing piano, directing, conducting and music directing musical theater. She enjoys writing research papers on current music topics such as teaching ELL learners in the vocal music class and producing students’ original song
Karen Marquart has a passion for Elementary Education. Before becoming a Trainer for the Missouri Reading Initiative, she taught first grade for ten years, Reading Recovery for sixteen, and served as a Literacy Coach for six years. She was recognized as District Teacher of the Year in the R-XIII School District.  Her passion for teaching reading and writing inspires educators to continue to improve themselves through staff development.
Michelle McClaine is a teaching consultant for the Greater Kansas City Writing Project, where she has presented her action research on resistant readers all over the Kansas City Metropolitan area, as well as in the Writing and Thinking Conference, at Missouri State University, and the 2015 Urban Sites Network Conference in New Orleans. Michelle believes that one’s mindset determines the choices one will make throughout life. She encourages her students to think outside of the box and to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Also, she motivates her students to embrace failure, especially when it comes to learning something difficult or new, because this is what can ultimately lead to success in the classroom.  Michelle has been a language arts teacher for ten years; she has taught 8th-12th grade, and currently is an English teacher at Sumner Academy of Arts and Science in Kansas City, Kansas.


Cory Milles has been teaching writing for over a decade. In his spare time, he writes 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 Legacy, Paradox, Redemption, and the upcoming New Miller’s Grove. He is featured in the book LOST Thought: Leading Thinkers Discuss LOST. You can visit him at

Diane Mora teaches sheltered communication arts classes at East High School in Kansas City Public Schools, focusing on developing English writing and English literacy skills of students who come from all over the world.  From 2012-2016 she served as an ELL Instructional Specialist and Senior Program Coordinator at the Kansas City RPDC.  A National Writing Project Teacher Consultant, her love for developing writing skills is born from a desire to help students find their voice in a new language. Her style as a learner, teacher, and facilitator is hands on, inquiry based, and self-reflective.



Kati Nilges graduated from Westminster College in 2007 with a Bachelor’s in English and secondary education.  She earned her Masters of Education and Education Specialist degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2013 and 2015.  This is her tenth year of teaching high school English courses.  For the majority of her career, Kati has taught English III and foundations-level courses (most recently, a sophomore course—Reading Foundations).  It was the Foundations students that sparked her interested in reaching the reluctant, unmotivated, and struggling readers.  Through high-interest texts and activities linking subjects and themes to the real world, Kati has worked to bridge the gap between students who hate reading and the literature and nonfiction that is required by the curriculum.

Jaimie O’Connor is a resident of Saint Louis, Missouri and teaches English at Fort Zumwalt West High School in O’Fallon. She is currently teaching Pre-AP English 2, ACT Prep, and AP Language and Composition. She has been teaching for four years and has participated in a variety of professional development instruction and curriculum writing. She is excited to be presenting at Write to Learn for the third year in a row!



Melinda Odom is a 5th-grade teacher for Hollister Elementary. In this role, she teaches all areas of curriculum. Prior to teaching 5th grade, she taught Kindergarten.  Melinda believes in helping students change their mindsets and develop their potential.  She holds an Early Childhood and Elementary Education degree from Southwest Baptist University and is currently earning her Master’s Degree in Elementary Education.  She has been married for twenty-two years and has three teenage children.  She and her husband are also licensed foster parents.

Anna Osborn has over sixteen years of teaching experience in language arts.  She taught both honors and AP English before becoming a reading interventionist with Columbia Public Schools in 2006.  She has spent the past eleven years teaching the love of reading and reading strategies to students who are identified as reading one or more years below level.  Anna firmly believes in the power of good story to change lives.  Currently, Anna is serving a two-year term as a member of the second cohort of Heinemann Fellows.



Tricia Owens has had the privilege of teaching English Language Arts for the last thirteen years.  Though most of those years were spent on the high school level, she has spent the last two years on the middle school level. Tricia has a Master’s Degree in the Art of Teaching from Missouri Baptist University, and she achieved National Board Certification in 2014.  Her goal as an educator is to empower students to be the thinkers, readers, writers, and communicators that will shape the world around them.

Christopher Pearson started teaching in 2008 as a reading para-professional in the Maplewood-Richmond Heights School District, then moved to Ritenour School District in 2011. Originally starting with only teaching 11th grade English Language Arts, he is in his second year of teaching both ELA 11 and 9th grade ELA.  When he is not teaching, Christopher is either at his church where he serves as Associate Pastor or spending time with his wife, Katie, and their three kids.



Landi Quinlin is a working wife and mother of four children.  She lives in Oregon, Missouri, about twenty-five miles from Bode Middle School in St. Joseph, Missouri, where she has worked as an ELA teacher for the past three years.  This is her 17th year of teaching.  Landi is a certified teacher in four curricular areas, and she has been teaching English language arts for the past eleven years.  Her previous experience includes South Holt High School in a small rural district and Raytown South High School in Raytown, Missouri.  She obtained her Master’s degree from the University of Central Missouri in 2004, and she will finish her Specialist degree in K-12 administration at Northwest Missouri State University in May.

Tamara Rhomberg has been in education for more than thirty-one 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.



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.

Julie Sheerman, currently in her eighteenth year teaching senior English at Marceline High School, studies English Education through the University of Missouri’s doctoral program. In addition to her role as classroom teacher and student, she coordinates the professional development efforts of the Missouri Writing Projects Network (the cohort of five National Writing Project sites in Missouri). The role of MWPN Professional Development Coordinator allows Julie to work with teachers around the state on a variety of PD initiatives. She is especially interested in community literacy and school/community educational partnerships.



Blake Thorne’s 8th grade students sometimes use adjectives like “wacky,” “weird,” and “different” to describe him and his teaching style. He takes these descriptions as high praise. He believes they are evidence his students are being exposed to new ideas and are encouraged to think deeply and creatively. These are goals Blake has striven for throughout his five years as an English Language Arts teacher in Savannah, Missouri. Prior to being hired by Savannah, Blake attended Missouri Western State where he served as president of several honor societies and worked as a writing tutor. He graduated summa cum laude in 2012 and is a Missouri Writing Project Teacher Consultant. In addition to teaching ELA, Blake is a sponsor for his school’s weekly video broadcast and is the high school cross country coach.

Sarah Valter is currently a Mentor Teacher for the MU Fellows Program at Sappington Elementary in the Lindbergh School District in St. Louis.  She has been teaching for thirteen years and has worked with all grade levels K-5. Sarah has both a Master’s Degree from Maryville University and National Board Certification in Literacy, as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education.  She is currently working toward a Doctorate in Teacher Leadership. When she is not in the classroom, Sarah loves spending time with her own children and reading. Sarah presents regularly at local and state conferences and is passionate about authentic reading and writing instruction.



Betty Porter Walls, currently an Assistant Professor in the College of Education at Harris-Stowe State University (HSSU) in St. Louis, MO, is a career educator—classroom teacher, school administrator, university professor.  Her university teaching specializations are in the areas of literacy/reading, leadership development, diversity, curriculum and instruction, and early childhood education.  Betty is a noted literacy consultant and professional development presenter who 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.  Betty is also Treasurer of the Missouri State Council of the International Literacy Association (MSC-ILA) and Past President of the St. Louis Suburban Council of the International Reading Association.

Christine Warren teaches literature and English education courses at Southeast Missouri State University, where she also received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.  Her favorite part of her teaching assignment is mentoring eager English education teacher candidates.   She also serves as the university liaison to the Southeast Missouri English Teachers Association, a group that she is proud to be part of.  Christine is retired from Jackson Senior High School, where she taught for twenty-nine years and served as Department Chair.   She spends her free time visiting her adult daughters, spending time at her tiny house with her husband in Tennessee, cuddling with her two spoiled Boston Terriers, and reading mostly good books.



Kelli Westmoreland, Educational Resources Manager at Booksource, has twenty-four years’ experience teaching preschool, elementary school, middle school ELA, and college level writing courses. She has used classroom libraries to support her teaching throughout her entire career and now has the opportunity, via her position at Booksource, to meet teachers across the country to share ideas on balanced literacy and her passion for integrating technology and media literacy.  Kelli has developed Booksource’s Teacher Resources and has presented at many state and national conferences. Currently, she a doctoral candidate working towards an Ed.D in Transformative Learning at Webster University.

Anna Whitehead is currently in her fifth year of teaching English Language Arts at Affton High School in St. Louis, Missouri. Anna is a graduate of Truman State University, where she earned both a BA in English and an MAE in Secondary Education for English. In December 2016, she graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Masters degree in Library and Information Science. Anna has taught every level of high school students, but her favorite classes to teach are English I and Honors English I. When she isn’t teaching, Anna spends her time experimenting with new recipes; reading voraciously; taking her dog, Murphy, on long walks at the park; and, an avid traveler, planning her next great adventure.



Whitney Zanter is in her seventh year of teaching English Language Arts at Lathrop High School. She enjoys challenging students to think about themselves and the world they live in through literature and writing. To better help in that endeavor, she has taken students on a literary tour through England so they can gain a better understanding about how literature, writing, and travel can make an impact. Some of her favorite units to teach have been SerialOf Mice and MenA Thousand Splendid Suns, and poetry. In addition to teaching, she is also one of the Student Council Advisors at LHS. To put it simply, Whitney is addicted to good books, good movies, and good coffee.