Presenters & Consultants

At FIRST Educational Resources, we are incredibly selective in our choice of presenters and consultants we ask to partner with our company. All of our presenters have extensive knowledge, training, and skill in their areas of expertise. Please see our team below and a short biography, for each person. If you are interested in any of our consultants working with your school or district, please contact us by email at info@firsteducation-us.com or by phone at (920) 479-6504. We look forward to having our amazing team of consultants work with your team!

Jackie Amato

Consultant and Presenter

Jackie Amato serves as District Math Coordinator and K-5 Math Coach for the Menasha Joint School District in Wisconsin. Jackie has worked in education for 25 years, the past 10 as an instructional coach, Jackie has made an impact on thousands of lives through training teachers and administrators on best practices in math education. Jackie is a Math Recovery Leader, Champion, and Intervention Specialist. Jackie’s primary area of support with FIRST is Math Instruction and Intervention.

Anne Beninghof

Consultant and Presenter

Anne M. Beninghof, an internationally recognized consultant and trainer, has more than thirty years of experience working with students and teachers, in a variety of public and private settings. She has been a special education teacher, faculty member at the University of Hartford and the University of Colorado, has published several books and videos, and provided staff development in 49 states. Anne’s primary area of support with FIRST is Co-Teaching.

Cale Birk

Consultant and Presenter

Cale Birk is the District Principal of Innovation for School District #73 in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada. Drawing upon his experiences as a school-based administrator over the past 14 years, Cale believes we must model the learning that we want for our students at every level in all scenarios. Cale builds the capacity of administrators and teachers to embrace the day-to-day parameters in education in creating dynamic learning experiences in the K-16 system. Cale’s primary areas of support with FIRST include: Vision Development, Instructional Rounds, PLCs, Deeper Learning and Technology.

Richard Cash

Consultant and Presenter

Dr. Richard M. Cash is an award winning author and educator who has worked in the field of education for 30 years. His range of experience includes teaching, curriculum coordination, and program administration. Currently, he is an internationally recognized education consultant (www.nrich.consulting). Richard’s areas of expertise and support with FIRST include: educational programming, rigorous and challenging curriculum design, differentiated instruction, 21st century skills, brain-compatible classrooms, gifted & talented education, and self-regulated learning.

Charlie Coleman

Consultant and Presenter

Charlie Coleman is an award-winning educator, author and consultant. Charlie has been honored by a number of organizations. Charlie brings his experience, enthusiasm and sense of humor to every event and situation. He is currently Principal of Cowichan Secondary School in Duncan, British Columbia, Canada. Charlie’s areas of expertise and support with FIRST include: response to intervention, leadership and working in collaborative teams.

George Couros

Consultant and Presenter

George Couros is an “Innovative Teaching, Learning, and Leadership Consultant”, as well as the author of “The Innovator’s Mindset“. Formerly, George was the Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning with Parkland School Division, located in Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada, and has over 17 years of experience as an educator, in a myriad of roles from K-12. George’s engaging keynotes and workshops keep educators excited about education and how to improve the learning experiences for all students. George’s primary area of expertise and support with FIRST is innovation in education, engagement and instructional strategies.

Peter Dewitt

Consultant and Presenter

Peter DeWitt (Ed.D.) is a former school principal in Upstate, NY, and now serves as an international consultant. Before becoming a principal he taught elementary school for eleven years. His syndicated blog Finding Common Ground is published by Education Week and he is a freelance writer for Vanguard Magazine.Peter has presented nationally and internationally as a Visible Learning trainer, instructional coaching trainer and his own work on collaborative leadership. Peter has run workshops and provided keynotes at the state, national and international level in the U.S. UK and Australia. Peter’s primary areas of expertise and support with FIRST revolves around his best selling book, Collaborative Leadership: Six Influences that Matter Most.

Jenni Donohoo

Consultant and Presenter

Jenni Donohoo, PhD, is a three-time best-selling author and professional learning facilitator with more than 20 years experience in leading school change. Jenni’s three books include: Collaborative Inquiry for Educators: A Facilitator’s Guide to School Improvement, The Transformative Power of Collaborative Inquiry: Realizing Change in Schools and Classrooms (co-authored by Moses Velasco) and Collective Efficacy: How Educators’ Beliefs Impact Student Learning. Her primary area of expertise and support with FIRST is leadership, collaborative inquiry and collective efficacy.

Myron Dueck

Consultant and Presenter

Myron Dueck is a vice-principal and teacher in School District 67 in Penticton, British Columbia, Canada and international consultant and presenter. He has previously taught in Manitoba and the South Island of New Zealand. Over the past 16 years of teaching, Myron has experience in a variety of subjects ranging from grades 4 to 12. Myron has twice been published in EL Magazine. His best-selling book, Grading Smarter, Not Harder – Assessment Strategies that Motivate Kids and Help Them Learn was released by ASCD in July 2014. His primary area of expertise and support with FIRST include: grading & assessment, instructional strategies, support change and best practices in leadership.

John Eller

Consultant and Presenter

John F. Eller is a dynamic and highly sought-after speaker and consultant. He has been in education for over 30 years serving in almost every role including service a teacher, elementary principal, assistant superintendent for curriculum and learning, director of a regional principals’ academy, and was the statewide executive director of Minnesota ASCD. John also serves as an effectiveness coach, helping teachers, leaders, and managers successfully implement programs and successfully manage change. Dr. Eller’s areas of expertise and support with FIRST include: school culture and climate, working positively with difficult and resistant people, teacher appraisal and growth, leading successful PLCs, managing conflict, and effective group facilitation.

Erik Francis

Consultant and Presenter

Erik M. Francis is an author, educator, and speaker who specializes in teaching and learning that promotes cognitive rigor and college and career readiness. He provides professional development and consultation on increasing student achievement, teacher effectiveness, program compliance, and overall school performance. He is also the author of Now That’s a Good Question! How to Promote Cognitive Rigor Through Classroom Questioning published by ASCD.​ Erik has been an educator for over twenty years and his primary area of expertise and support with FIRST include: assessment, instructional strategies and engagement, and rigorous curriculum design.

Thomas R. Guskey

Consultant and Presenter

Dr. Thomas Guskey is Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Kentucky. A graduate of the University of Chicago, he began his career as a middle school teacher, served as an administrator in Chicago Public Schools and was the first Director of the Center for the Improvement of Teaching and Learning, a national educational research center. He is the author/editor of 20 award-winning books and more than 200 book chapters and articles that have appeared in prominent research journals as well as Educational Leadership, Kappan and School Administrator. Dr. Guskey’s primary area of expertise and support with FIRST includes; assessment and grading, and meaningful professional development.

Pete Hall

Consultant and Presenter

Professional Development Agent Pete Hall, a 12-year veteran school principal on sabbatical, proudly offers professional development experiences, workshops, mentoring support, keynote addresses, and other educational consulting services full-time. After a teaching career that spanned three states and included primary, intermediate, and middle-school positions as well as being principal of two separate elementary schools.
His leadership works include authoring over a dozen articles on leadership and publishing six books on a variety of educational topics. Pete’s primary area of expertise and support with FIRST is educational leadership and reflection.

Tom Hierck

Consultant, Presenter and Senior Advisor

Tom Hierck has been an educator since 1983 in a career that has spanned all grade levels and roles in public education. His experiences as a teacher, administrator, district leader, department of education project leader, and executive director have provided a unique context for his education philosophy. With 29 years of experience in public education—including secondary, middle, and elementary schools—Tom is a compelling presenter and staff developer, infusing his message of hope with strategies culled from the real world. Tom is the author of 19 book related to education and his primary areas of expertise and support with FIRST include: culture, RTI, assessment and grading, and leadership practices.

Garnet Hillman

Consultant and Presenter

Garnet Hillman is a former Instructional Coach in Deerfield, IL and also previously served as a High School World Language instructor. She has been an educator for fifteen wonderful years. Garnet enjoys working with new technology to differentiate instruction and connect with the students on a whole new level. One of her many responsibilities is working with teachers to improve instructional practice and grading policies. A passionate educator, Garnet has extensively researched and executed standards based learning and grading in her classroom to maximize student growth and achievement. Garnet’s primary area of expertise and support with FIRST includes: assessment, grading, instructional coaching and feedback.

Lee Ann Jung

Consultant and Presenter

Lee Ann Jung, PhD, is co-founder of and consultant for student growth works. She provides support internationally to schools in the areas of inclusion, standards-based grading, and intervention planning and progress monitoring. She has worked in the field of special education since 1994 and has served in the roles of teacher, administrator, consultant, and former Professor and Director of In the College of Education at University of Kentucky. Dr. Jung has authored or coauthored 4 books, more than 40 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, and has been awarded more than 4 million dollars in federal funding to support personnel preparation and research. Dr. Jungs’ primary expertise and support with FIRST includes: RTI, Special Education and Assessment and Grading.

Jim Knight

Consultant and Presenter

Dr. Jim Knight, President of the Instructional Coaching Group, is a research associate at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. He has spent more than a decade studying instructional coaching, writing two books on the topic: Instructional Coaching: A Partnership Approach to Improving Instruction, published by Corwin Press & NSDC, and Coaching Classroom Management, written with Randy Sprick, Wendy Reinke, and Tricia McCale and published by Pacific Northwest Press. Jim is frequently asked to guide professional learning for instructional coaches and has presented and consulted in more than 40 states, most Canadian provinces, and in Japan. Jim’s primary area of expertise and support with FIRST includes: instructional coaching, instructional strategies and formative assessment.

Eric Larsen

Consultant and Presenter

Eric Larsen has 18 years of professional experience spanning public schools, college, and regional/state level positions. After teaching agriscience for 11 years, he began a three year tenure with Cornell University in their Department of Education. As a professional development specialist and director of Agricultural Education Outreach for the state of New York, Eric worked closely with teachers and administrators in rural, suburban and urban settings. Eric continued his work in educational leadership, serving as an education consultant for Career Pathways at the Wisconsin DPI. At the DPI, Eric was also tapped to help lead the efforts around Disciplinary Literacy in the Common Core Standards. Eric has served both CESA 8 and CESA 6 as a coordinator for Learning and Assessment. His primary expertise and support with FIRST includes data literacy, assessment and professional learning communities.

Garth Larson

President, Consultant and Presenter

Garth Larson, Ed.D is the K-12 Director of Learning for the Winneconne Community School District in Northeast Wisconsin and also serves as President of FIRST Educational Resources based out of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Garth has previously worked as an elementary principal in two separate Northeast Wisconsin School Districts and started his career in education as a high school speech and English teacher. Garth currently consults to school districts around the country and provides customized professional development around a variety of topics, mainly Professional Learning Communities, Response to Intervention/Multi-Tiered Systems of Support, Learning-Centered Grading Practices, and School Improvement.

Danica Lewis

Consultant and Presenter

Danica Lewis is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Pupil Services for the Fond du Lac School District in Wisconsin where she leads curriculum development, instruction, assessment, and special education services for the 7,500 students of the Fond du Lac community. During her 7 years in this role, Danica led the implementation of standards-based grading K-12 and facilitated the strengthening of professional learning communities in the 16 schools of the district. Danica has facilitated impactful professional learning around literacy, data analysis, and PLC leadership for the principals in her district as she knows that a strong instructional leader in a school building is critical to improving student learning.

Paula Maeker

Consultant and Presenter

Paula Maeker is currently Assistant Principal at Canyon Pointe Elementary in Tomball ISD, Tomball, Texas. She also works as a national consultant and advocate for learner-centered education. She has more than eighteen years’ experience as an elementary teacher, literacy specialist, instructional coach, program coordinator, and administrator. Much of Paula’s career has been spent serving urban, high-needs campuses to ensure high levels of learning for all. She specializes in building collaborative teams, developing collective teacher efficacy, refining high-impact instructional practices, using data to inform learning, and creating instructional frameworks that meet the needs of diverse learners and close the achievement gap among all populations.

Michael McDowell

Consultant and Presenter

Michael McDowell, Ed.D. is the Superintendent of the Ross School District in California. Most recently, he served as the Associate Superintendent of Instructional and Personnel Services at the Tamalpais Union High School District. During his tenure, the Tamalpais Union High School District was recognized by the Marzano Research Laboratories as one of the top highly reliable organizations in the United States, and schools within the district received recognitions by the US News and World Report, and honored with California Distinguished Schools accolades. Dr. McDowell is a national presenter, speaking on instruction, learning, leadership and innovation. He has provided professional development services to large school districts, State Departments of Education, and higher education.

Katherine McKnight

Presenter and Consultant

Dr. Katherine McKnight is a dynamic presenter, dedicated teacher, and award-winning author. In addition to speaking at professional development conferences, she is a regular consultant in schools and classrooms all over the country and in Europe. Administrators and teachers welcome her expertise, witty good humor, and hands-on approach to education. Katie received her B.A. degree from George Washington University, her M.Ed. from Northeastern Illinois University, and her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She currently serves as a Distinguished Professor of Research at National Louis University. Dr. McKnight’s primary expertise and support with FIRST includes: literacy support K-12, leadership, and assessment.

Jay Mc Tighe

Presenter and Consultant

Jay McTighe brings a wealth of experience developed during a rich and varied career in education. He served as director of the Maryland Assessment Consortium, a state collaboration of school districts working together to develop and share formative performance assessments. Prior to this position, Jay was involved with school improvement projects at the Maryland State Department of Education where he helped lead Maryland’s standards-based reforms, including the development of performance-based statewide assessments. Jay has an extensive background in professional development and is a regular speaker at national, state, and district conferences and workshops. He has made presentations in 47 states within the United States, in 7 Canadian provinces, and internationally to educators in 37 countries on six continents.

Anthony Muhammad

Consultant and Presenter

Anthony Muhammad is one of the most sought after educational consultants in North America. He currently serves as the CEO of New Frontier 21 Consulting, a company dedicated to providing cutting-edge professional development to schools all over the world. He served as a practitioner for nearly twenty years. Dr. Muhammad served as a middle school teacher, assistant principal, middle school principal, and high school principal. His tenure as a practitioner has earned him several awards as both a teacher and a principal. Dr. Muhammad is recognized as one of the field’s leading experts in the areas of school culture and organizational climate. His work has allowed him to work with schools in all 50 U.S. states, 10 Canadian provinces, the Caribbean, South America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

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Tremain Nelson

Consultant and Presenter

Tremain Nelson is well known for his passion for education that has been apparent through his service as a teacher, administrator, and educational consultant in the K-12 community for over 15 years. He is always ready to share his passion for making a difference in the lives of students. His passion can be seen in every opportunity he gets to create high-quality instructional opportunities for teachers, students, and instructional leaders. Tremain continues to provide consultation and coaching at the state, district, and campus levels that results in systematic change around the execution of professional learning communities and math instruction. Tremain has presented all over the United States with positive reviews, as he has a great ability to engage his audience and help make real change in schools across the country. 

Ken O’Connor

Consultant and Presenter

Ken O’Connor (also known as “The Grade Doctor” has been an independent consultant from 1996 to the present. He has been a staff development presenter and facilitator on assessment, grading and reporting in 45 states and 9 Canadian provinces and 21 countries outside North America. He has presented at NESA Conferences in Bahrain, Bangkok, Kathmandu, Athens, Muscat and Istanbul, and at ECIS in Amsterdam. He was a member of the ASCD Faculty and the ASCD Understanding by Design cadre. Ken’s primary area of expertise and support with FIRST includes assessment and grading for learning.

Will Remmert

Consultant and Presenter

Will Remmert, an elementary principal, consultant, and doctoral student in the Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development PhD program at the University of Minnesota, works with educators at all levels to implement proven practices designed to enhance student and professional learning. With over 20 years of experience as a teacher and administrator at both the elementary and secondary levels, Will has been instrumental in leading his staff to adopt a collaborative culture focused on improving student learning for ALL. His schools have earned the unique distinction of Reward School by the Minnesota Department of Education for ranking in the top 15 percent of Title I schools in the state. Will’s work centers on the impact of school culture, professional community, leadership, and belief ideologies for improved student learning.

LaVonna Roth

Consultant and Presenter

Highly energetic and dynamic, LaVonna Roth is an internationally recognized keynote speaker, consultant and author, bridging how the brain learns (and thinks), with people’s incredible intrinsic skills and talents (how they S.H.I.N.E.) is her deep passion. Her goal is to help individuals become confident in who they are, and for them to use that aptitude in making a difference within their communities. Over 25,000 educators, students and organizations have benefited from LaVonna’s wealth of practical, applicable, and down-to-earth strategies and insights to the most common and frustrating educational, behavioral and issues. These effective strategies are a direct result from years of research, as well as, firsthand classroom, consulting and life experiences.

Tom Schimmer

Consultant and Presenter

Tom Schimmer is an independent education author, speaker, and consultant from Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada). He is recognized as a leader and expert in the areas of assessment for learning, sound grading practices, educational leadership, and positive behavior interventions and supports. Tom is an experienced, sought-after presenter who has delivered both keynote and workshop sessions and major conferences, as well as for schools and/or school districts, internationally. After holding a variety of roles in education throughout his career, Tom was appointed to the position of District Principal where he was a member of the senior management team in Penticton, BC in 2009.

Don Smith

Consultant and Presenter

Don Smith has 15 years of professional experience in public schools. Don is currently the Director of Teaching and Learning for the School District of Waupaca, in Wisconsin. He also works in a curriculum role with the Winneconne School District and Mayville School Districts, assisting the Directors of Curriculum in those respective districts. Prior to his current role, Don was the principal at Fond du Lac STEM Academy and Fond du Lac STEM Institute, as well as the the District Assessment Coordinator for the Fond du Lac Area School District (WI). Don continually leads professional development sessions centered on research based practices in instruction and assessment. His primary areas of expertise and support with FIRST include: professional learning communities, assessment and grading, culture, and evidence-based decision making.

Jim Smith

Consultant and Presenter

Jim Smith has been an educational practitioner in the public schools for nearly three decades. Starting out as a social studies teacher at Centennial Middle School in Minnesota, he quickly recognized classroom assessment as the central component of the teaching and learning process. As the school implemented the PLC process, Jim developed an innovative assessment and data support structure for teachers to develop collaborative common assessments and be informed by the results. In a few years the school was recognized as one of the highest performing in the state, known for its student achievement and innovative approaches to learning. Jim’s primary area of expertise and support with FIRST are data and assessment.

Rachel Syrja

Consultant and Presenter

Ms. Syrja is an Author, Consultant and Managing Partner in the professional development practice of Active Teaching Solutions, LLC. Rachel has worked with various school districts of all sizes and demographics conducting numerous workshops for teachers and administrators all over the United States. ​Raised in a bilingual household, Rachel has an acute sense of the needs of English Learners. She has over 23 years as an educator, district leader, coach, and professional developer. Her extensive and varied experience makes her uniquely qualified to lead, consult and partner with districts in the areas of curriculum, instruction, assessment and equity for all learners.

Gerry Varty

Consultant and Presenter

Gerry Varty is executive director of the Central Alberta Regional Consortium in Canada. He has facilitated the work of professional learning communities as a vehicle for ongoing action research and growth.For 15 years, Gerry served as coordinator of his district’s participation in the Alberta Initiative for School Improvement. Gerry introduces and guides new initiatives in schools and helps to manage and facilitate educational change in cultural, pedagogical, and structural domains. He has been a classroom teacher for grades 3–12, a principal, director of curriculum and instruction, and assistant superintendent for learning support and system improvement. Gerry has also served in several advisory roles as a respected leader in mathematics education, assessment, and instructional design initiatives during his 30-year career in public education.

Phil Warrick

Consultant and Presenter

Phil Warrick, EdD, is associate vice president of Marzano Research. He was an award-winning administrator in Nebraska for nearly 12 years, most recently as principal of Round Rock High School, which serves nearly 3,000 students. Dr. Warrick has been an adjunct professor at Peru State College since 2005. Dr. Warrick was named 2005 Nebraska State High School Principal of the Year, 2004 Nebraska Secondary School Principals Region One Principal of the Year, and 1998 Nebraska Outstanding New Principal of the Year and Nebraska Secondary School Principals Region One Assistant Principal of the Year. He earned a bachelor of science from Chadron State College and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Chris Weber

Consultant and Presenter

A native of Southern California, Dr. Chris Weber has been in service to community and country his entire life. A graduate of the US Air Force Academy, Chris flew C-141s during his military career. A former high school, middle school, and elementary school teacher and administrator, Chris has had a great deal of success helping students who historically underachieve learn at extraordinarily high levels.​

As a principal and school district leader in California and Chicago, Chris and his colleagues have developed systems of Response to Intervention that have led to heretofore unrealized levels of learning at schools across the country. Chris’ primary area of expertise and support with FIRST includes: RTI, SEL, C&I, and equity.

Todd Whitaker

Consultant and Presenter

Dr. Todd Whitaker has been fortunate to be able to blend his passion with his career. Recognized as a leading presenter in the field of education, his message about the importance of teaching has resonated with hundreds of thousands of educators around the world. One of the nation’s leading authorities on staff motivation, teacher leadership, and principal effectiveness, Dr. Whitaker has written over 30 books including the national best seller, What Great Teachers Do Differently. Other titles include: Shifting The Monkey, Dealing With Difficult Teachers, 10 Minute Inservice, The Ball, What Great Principals Do Differently, Motivating & Inspiring Teachers, and Dealing With Difficult Parents.

Kenneth Williams

Consultant and Presenter

Kenneth C. Williams shares his experience and expertise as a nationally recognized trainer, speaker, coach and consultant in leadership and education. He is the Chief Visionary Officer of Unfold the Soul, an organization dedicated to helping schools live their posters. Skilled in joining the why of the work to the how of the work, Ken is known for his powerful and engaging combinations of “heart, humor, and hammer.” He is an expert at helping schools build capacity in the collective commitments required of learning for all cultures. Ken is a distinguished teacher, mentor, public speaker, school leader and the author of two books. His latest best-seller, co-authored by Tom Hierck, is Starting an Movement: Building Culture from the Inside Out in Professional Learning Communities.

Greg Wolcott

Consultant and Presenter

Greg Wolcott currently serves as the Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning at Woodridge School District 68 in Woodridge, Illinois, a suburb 30 miles west of Chicago. As an educator in the Chicagoland area for over 20 years, Greg is passionate about developing opportunities for all students to succeed as well as finding ways for all teachers and staff members to utilize their strengths to maximize the learning of each and every child whom they interact with on a daily basis.Greg consults throughout the United States on a variety of subjects including adult learning, developing innovative practices in the classroom to engage all learners, formative assessment to drive instruction, response to instruction/intervention, and data usage for school improvement.

Rick Wormeli

Consultant and Presenter

One of the first Nationally Board Certified teachers in America, Rick brings innovation, energy, validity and high standards to both his presentations, and his instructional practice, which includes 36 years teaching math, science, English, physical education, health, and history, and coaching teachers and principals. Rick’s work has been reported in numerous media, including ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” National Geographic and Good Housekeeping magazines, What Matters Most: Teaching for the 21st Century, and the Washington Post. With his substantive presentations, sense of humor, and unconventional approaches, he’s been asked to present to teachers and administrators in all 50 states, Canada, China, Europe, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Australia, and the Middle East.