Stephanie Prather, M.A.

“The Visionary for School Success”

Stephanie Prather is president of Professional Development Plus! She is committed to partnering with school districts to support leadership development, instructional change, and improved student performance. She has experienced 30+ years of successful professional learning activities in school districts across the country. She has worked with and co-presented with leading literacy researchers in developing educational materials that include Ann Brown, Michael Pressley, P. David Pearson and Asa Hilliard. Her experiences range from being an award-winning teacher and Literacy Leader to the Vice President of a Professional Development division for a major educational publishing company. Her track record includes successful curriculum and professional learning implementations in a number of large school districts across the country. Her tenure at Open Court, Harcourt, Voyager Expanded Learning, and Pearson Education publishing companies has contributed to her expertise. She holds an M.A. in Reading and Children’s Literature, and a B.A. in English and Speech from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.

Earl Thomas

Earl Thomas, Ed.D.

“Adult and Early Childhood Educa2on Change

Dr. Earl Thomas is a highly competent professor, trainer, consultant and administrator. His twenty plus year career expands working in federally funded programs, non-profit agencies, federal and state government, public schools and higher education. His expertise is uniquely grounded in serving low-income populations, monitoring quality assurance in Pre-k programs and providing oversight and delivery of professional development training to early childhood education professionals. Earl’s knowledge of adult learning principles and practices, combined with a stellar knowledge base and real world experiences in early childhood education programs makes him a real education change leader. He has led such change efforts as co-designing the state of Kansas’s first federal and state funded Early Head Start partnership program. In addition, his leadership has resulted in the redesign of the training and technical assistance system serving Head Start and Early Head Start programs in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. His most recent consultant work activities have addressed school improvement reforms such as: data driven practices, building ECE teacher knowledge base and skills in developmentally appropriate practices and parent engagement. Earl is a dedicated educator with a passion for professional development and quality improvement in early childhood education.


David Lamont Bell, Ed.D.

“The Change Agent"

Dr. Bell is dedicated to the transformation of teachers through ongoing instructional coaching. He specializes in the area of Curriculum and Instruction and Multicultural Education. He is a researcher of professional development of teachers resulting in publications on teacher retention, minimizing diversity barriers, and connecting teaching and student learning. He is a published co-author of Transforming Schools: A Practical Guide for Empowering Change Agents to Facilitate Diversity through Transformation. (2008). He is the Associate Dean for curriculum andaccreditation at West Chester  University. College of Education and Social Work in Pennsylvania.


Leslie Talbot

"All-Things-Charter Coach"

Leslie is a leader who devotes her professional time to charter management consulting, school design teams, and new school startups. She conducts site/program reviews and evaluations, school restructures, and school expansions or replications. In her tenure as Director of Research & Evaluation at Teach for America (TFA), she developed an evaluation framework to assess the performance of the TSF corps members. That framework focused on challenges and successes and school site outcomes and impacts. Leslie has directed the Middle Grades Critical Thinking Project and codirected New York’s Middle Grades School State Policy Initiative. She has authored several publications over the years and currently runs a blog on her own educational website.

Christine Hill

Dr. Christine Hill

"International Educator and Passionate Advocate"

Dr. Christine Hill is an accomplished educator with 30 years’ experience in school districts across the US and internationally.  She has had the good fortune to serve in a wide variety of roles during her career and has worked as a teacher, facilitator, instructional coach, district office administrator, curriculum specialist, university professor, principal, national consultant, Chief of Curriculum, and Assistant Superintendent. 

She considers herself a ‘pedagogical coach’ who collaborates with others to take out of shape curriculum and instructional practices and fashion an endurance athlete out of them.  As such, she has worked to help teachers advance their implementation of instructional strategies and produce healthy, enduring results.  But more than a seasoned educator and administrator, Dr. Hill is a person who is focused on using her drive and untiring commitment to provide greater learning opportunities for students.  She is a change agent, a courageous leader, and a risk taker.

Christine received her B.S. in Education from Iowa State University and it was there that she developed a passion for literacy and technology.  While working as a young school teacher, she met and married her husband, David, and moved with him during his military career.  During her travels, she has worked in Iowa, Hawaii, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Virginia and Japan.  During this time, she earned her M.A. in Gifted Education from The University of Connecticut.  This experience was a turning point in her career and took her classroom practice to the next level.  Christine is of the opinion that learning should be engaging, invigorating, challenging and FUN! Her interest in curriculum development and rigorous, engaging instruction is rooted in what is best for ALL children and this is where her heart lies.

While earning her Ph.D. from The College of William and Mary, she established an expertise in curriculum development and working with data teams to develop plans designed to close the achievement gap and increase rigor for all students.  In addition, Christine has spent many years providing professional development and facilitating the needs of adult learners.   A life-long learner, she is currently nearing completion of her ESL certification and plans to next focus her studies in special education. 

At the end of the day, she is driven by an early experience. One of her first jobs entailed teaching inmates in a correctional facility.  Many were reading and writing at a lower grade school level and her interaction with these men impressed upon her the impact that lack of educational opportunity and support can have.  Her goal is to ensure that no students fall through the cracks.  As a result, she will be on the ground and working collaboratively with her colleagues toward that objective.


Jacqueline Carothers, Ed.D.

"The Leadership Team Builder"

Dr. Carothers is the expert at developing, and managing leadership capacity-building
opportunities for principals, assistant principals, administrators, and school
leadership teams. Her coach/trainer skills are strengthened by certifications from Learning Forward’s (NSDC) Staff Developers Academy Program Vangent, the Organizational Health Program and Real Colors. Dr. Carothers served as principal in two elementary
schools and received the Chicago Public Schools Principal of Excellence Award and holds an Ed.D from the University of Illinois in School Leadership. Dr. Carothers is passionate about coaching Turnaround school leaders.

Dr. Cynthia

Cynthia Felton, Ph.D.

“The Leader’s Leader”

Dr. Felton brings a wealth of talent as a leader of leaders. For 13 years she coached principals from novice to successful building leaders. She has completed the Two- Year Academy for staff developers hosted by Learning Forward (NSDC), making her wellprepared to successfully lead others. She is a former high school principal, assistant principal, district administrator, and director of CLASS leadership development for Chicago Principal’s association. She has served on the board of directors for the Illinois Councils of Teachers of Mathematics, the Metropolitan Mathematics Club of Chicago, and as a consultant to textbook publishers. She is very highly regarded by all ofthose under her direction or tutelage.


Paula Filler

“The Special Needs Awareness Advocate”

Nothing gives Paula more joy than helping teachers and students recognize learning as an essential and active component of life for all learners. Paula is a dynamic presenter, dedicated to leaving participants energized, inspired and ready to accommodate every learner in an inclusive and engaging way. She honed her talents during her tenure as an elementary grade-level learning disabilities therapist. She further enhanced her skills by serving as a professional developer in the areas of literacy, self-advocacy, learning strategies, curriculum development, and particularly learning disability awareness. Paula has spoken at

numerous regional, state, and national


Susan test

Susan Schwicardi, Ed.D.

“The 21st Century PD Specialist”

Susan has been a successful teacher, principal, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, as well as an adjunct professor over the years. Her career has taken her from working with low to high performing schools in a variety of settings, all with unique challenges. Past challenges and achievements as an educational leader have set the foundation for her consulting work. Susan’s knowledge of best practices in curriculum, instruction, and assessment, combined with her collaborative, problem solving approach are her greatest strengths. She believes that as a consultant, it is her responsibility to exit a school or district knowing those educational leaders have developed a plan for improvement and have the knowledge and the skills they need to sustain their path to creating a highly skilled teaching force and ultimately, improved student achievement. Her most recent consultant work has addressed school improvement team functions, data retreats, walkthroughs, audits and coaching around curriculum and instructional practices, engagement strategies, and assessment. Susan is passionate and dedicated to assisting districts and schools to realize their accomplishments and make steady growth as they strive to raise the level of rigor for ALL student populations and demographics.

Vinni Hall

Vinni Hall

Pedagogy Specialist – UDL

“Teach a child to fish.”

The Universal Design for Learning is all about the art of learning/teaching, delivering instruction and teaching students to learn how they learn. Dr. Hall is an expert in supporting teachers and administrators to vary their pedagogy to engage students and improve their competencies. Her skills as a troubleshooter are designed to communicate the purpose of education to all stakeholders. Vinni Hall, Ph.D. served as associate professor and chair at Chicago State University. She has also taught as an adjunct professor in the departments of special education at University of Illinois, Chicago State University and Roosevelt University. Her research interests include teacher efficacy, curriculum and instruction, and effective learning strategies for differently-abled learners. Dr. Hall served on the Illinois State Board of Education for 10 years, the National Association for School Boards, Commission on Poverty, Early Learning Council, and on National Vocational Committees. She has presented at many educational conferences. She served as president of the Illinois Council for Exceptional Children and the Chicago Council for Exceptional Children. She taught and was an administrator in Chicago Public Schools for many years.


Charisse Brown, M.A, SPHR

“The Gold Miner- Refining People and Processes”

Charisse brings outstanding human resources talent. She loves the role of strategic partner that helps administrations acquire talent, enhance people capabilities through training and coaching, and organize performance. She has 18 years of expertise in facilitating change through collaborative identification of process improvements and their subsequent implementation. Charisse holds a B.A., in Sociology and an M.A. in Industrial & Organizational Psychology. She has led a $1M cost-saving human resources initiative to standardize and outsource the administration of FMLA.

Linda Cole

Linda Coles, Ed.D.

“The Principal Whisperer”

Linda began her education career as a successful kindergarten-primary teacher. After several years in the classroom, she set her goal to go into administration. She has been an assistant principal, principal of a regional gifted school, and finally she was asked to start a college prep high school for higher achieving students. Currently she is working with principals. Her knowledge of current leadership skills have allowed the principals she has coached to move their schools to the next academic achievement level. She believes that the school leader should set the tone to bring about a culture and climate that allows students to achieve to their highest capacity. She is adept in instructional best practices, data analysis, classroom management, differentiation, as well as working with principals to maintain time management for themselves that benefits the school community. She is a collaborative coach and works with principals to take deep dives into what currently exists and how to move the student academic achievement to the next level. She has been trained in blended coaching and has successfully led principals as they navigated their first year in the principalship


Ana Gil-Garcia, Ph.D.

“The World-View Educator”

Dr. Gil-Garcia, Venezuelan-American
university professor at Northeastern Illinois
University, was listed as one of 100 Most Influential Hispanics in 2010 in the
United States. She has successfully conducted reading comprehension, bilingual/bicultural, and school leadership trainings in Armenia, Panama, Guatemala, Venezuela, Ecuador, Spain, Peru, Uruguay, Hungary and Puerto Rico giving her a most valued world view of education. She is a published co-author of 3 books and 31 reference articles, and a three-time Fulbright Scholar. For her, teaching is the most effective weapon an educator can use to fight poverty and marginal thinking.


Lita McClinton

"The Change Sustainer "

Lita turns to Kuan Chung for the basis of her educational beliefs. “If you plan for a year, plant a seed. If for ten years, plant a tree. If for a hundred years, teach the people…” She believes that if you want to see sustainable change in our educational institutions, we must teach the people as opposed to planting a seed. It is through educating our teachers and thereby our students that we will change what we want to see in our schools. Lita has worked with students and staff to help enhance student academic achievement. She has been a teacher, a literacy coach, and a professional development presenter. Along with a colleague, she has written a 5-day professional development seminar that focuses on the writing process.

Kimberly Norton-Matthews

"The Creative One"

Kimberly’s creative talents are readily identifiable when integrating instruction across the curriculum. She develops activities for students that make math turn into reading and then into art. She has created and developed a play-and-project based summer camp experience for young children aged 3 through 7 years of age, focusing on art, music, and dramatic play. Kim is proud of her work as a site manager of SES programs in several Chicago Public Schools, who are focused on making AYP as well as her work as a professional developer for several educational organizations’ afterschool and RTL initiative programs. educational organizations’ afterschool and RTL initiative programs.


Linda Farruggia

“The Research-to-Reality Guru"

As a ‘Research-to-Reality Guru, Linda assists educators as they review current, develop new skills and strategies, and subsequently apply those strategies to both improve student achievement and to the maintenance their own craft. Her unique talents served her well during her tenure as president of the Illinois Reading Council, adjunct university professor, teacher, principal, director of curriculum and of professional development, director of Title I, and director of training. She specializes in balanced literacy, writing, science differentiation, gifted education, adult learning practices and positivediscipline techniques.


Cheryl Hudson-Jackson

"The Performance Optimizer"

Cheryl’s high energy and diverse experience in corporate America and along with her educational background make her a highly effective coach and mentor to students and professionals. Her Spectacular program has been a major tool used to increase Social Studies, Math, English scores, and life skills in schools. Cheryl’s Effective Communications series has been taught to professionals in corporations and non-for-profit organizations to optimize performance. Her organic style and ability to deliver custom training makes Cheryl an inspiring choice to motivate and coach your organization.


Gwen Lee, Ph.D.

"The High School Specialist"

Dr. Lee is a passionate presenter and mentor to high school personnel. She is an active presenter of high school issues at leadership conferences for organizations such as Learning Forward (National Staff Development Council), High Schools That Work, U.S. Department of Education/ Office of Vocational Education, and the Illinois Principal’s Association of Aspiring Principals Workshop. She has been recognized as State of Illinois Principal of the Year (98-99) and ISC4 Administrator of the Year in 2003. Her publications include: Thornton Township High Schools’ Leadership Academy Training Manual, The study of Protégé’s Perceptions of Mentoring Relationships In Secondary Schools, and Constructing a Mentoring Program. She is currently an adjunct professor at National Louis University.

Gina Grant

Gina Grant

“S.T.E.M. Innovator”

Gina Grant is an urban educator with 20 years of experience in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. As an administrator she had extensive experience in leading district–wide initiatives and systemic changes for Chicago Public Schools in the areas of science, and technology. Gina has management experience with nonprofit organizations in the development of long-term strategic planning; grant writing, partnerships, program/course development, evaluation, technology integration and digital badging for students,  educators and administrators. Gina is a leader in the Hive Chicago Learning Network. The Mozilla Foundation included Ms. Grant in the Network 50: People Who Made the Internet a Better Place in 2016. Her work with developing and sharing Minecraft themed challenges and activities for youth in Chicago has been a great way for young people to learn how to deal with issues of the environment and develop empathy through civic engagement. Gina’s Minecraft work has received recognition both nationally and internationally.

Yvonne Perkins

Yvonne Perkins

“The Magic Maker”

Yvonne has devoted several decades to the preparation of secondary students for life beyond high school through honing and refining their critical thinking, writing, and speaking skills. She believes great teaching is a mixture of miracles, magic and alchemy performed daily along with willing apprentices. The secret ingredients are: passion, purpose, perspective and patience combined with a healthy dose of preparation. Her skill set includes assisting teachers as they uncover their own magic formula to create classroom environments conducive to great teaching and learning