Nov. 11-13, 2018

Cragun’s on Gull Lake

Brainerd, Minnesota

Download Guide

2018 MREA Annual Conference

As competition for student engagement in the learning process has changed over the years, the biggest hurdle for any school or teacher is finding ways to make learning relevant, authentic, and valuable in students’ lives. How do we evaluate whether what we are doing in our classrooms is truly worth being engaged in?



4:00 PM   Conference Check-in starts

5:30 PM   Light Dinner Buffet

7:00 PM   Early-Bird Workshops


7:00 AM     Breakfast Buffet

8:15 AM     Welcome & Opening Keynote Speaker

10:05 AM  Breakout Sessions 1

11:10 AM   Breakout Sessions 2

12:00 PM   Lunch

1:30 PM     Breakout Sessions 3

3:00 PM    Mindstorm

4:15 PM     Legislative Lessons & Social

6:00 PM    Awards Banquet

7:30 PM    Dessert & Conversation


7:30 AM     Breakfast & Gallery Walk

9:30 AM     Closing Speaker

10:30 AM    MREA Annual Business Meeting (View agenda and details)

11:00 AM     Prizes, Pick up CEUs & Send-off

Click on the session title below to view the presentation.

Early Bird Sessions

General & Deep Dive Sessions

Breakout Session  1

Breakout Session 2

Breakouts Session 3

Continuous Improvement: Essential Role of School Leaders*

Lakeshore 1

Toni Cox, Eileen Weber

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) recognizes that successful school improvement and support is a systems-level function. Examine research-based leadership practices for both district and school leaders and explore resources and supports through Minnesota’s Regional Centers of Excellence, including the district self-reflection process and instructional feedback observation protocol. Download presentation  Download ticket handout  Download screener resource

Financial and Capital Projects: Tools & Case Studies

Lakeshore 2

Barbie Doyle, Jodie Zesbaugh

School districts have many options available to them for meeting financial and capital needs. Explore available tools and find the right combination to solve difficult financial and political challenges to meet district goals. Hear about creative districts successful in combining tools to solve unique challenges. Learn about popular and obscure tools to finance capital projects, including permitted uses of funds, procedures, advantages, and disadvantages. Download presentation.

Media Lessons: Stories that Make a Mark

Lakeshore 3

Dawn Zimmerman

What do you do when the media calls? Schools often are given opportunities to share their story. Gain insight into the four-part formula for building an effective story and best practices to optimize a media opportunity and make a meaningful mark. Leave with a media toolkit to implement. Download presentation with toolkit

Twists, Turns & Celebrations of Personalized Learning*

Lakeshore 4

Kelly Braun, Erin Kyllo, Matt Rosaaen, Rachel Udstuen

Spring Grove and Kasson-Mantorville school districts will share their journeys into Personalized Learning with strategies and lessons learned around strategic planning, design thinking, and consensus-building. Hear the 30,000-foot administrative view and classroom practice tips. From Learning Innovation Grants to personalized professional development, find out their twists and turns in the journey to make learning personal & engaging for students and staff. Download presentation

*Denotes sessions that qualify for Certificate for Continuing Education (CEU)

Suzy Pepper Rollins

Acceleration: Moving Students to Success

Closing gaps historically have focused on filling every hole a learner has. What if we chose acceleration instead? Acceleration prepares students for success just in time for new learning. We lay the groundwork for acquisition learning by establishing just enough prior knowledge to both instill curiosity and connect to new information. Learn more Suzy also will lead a deep dive workshop from Breakout 1 through Breakout 3.

Sam Walseth

Legislative Lessons: What’s Next for Rural Schools?

Sam Walseth has logged 18 legislative sessions lobbying at the Minnesota State Capitol and leading successful coalitions to improve equity in educational opportunities for rural students. He will provide an insider’s perspective on the 2018 legislative activities and share what’s next for rural schools.

Nigel Nisbet

Learning Revolution: Active vs. Passive Classrooms

Nigel Nisbet transformed the math classroom as a teacher and now is leading content development at the MIND Research Institute to help schools of all sizes do the same. He will share proven methods, tools and tactics that result in students that are better prepared for success in school and the knowledge-based economy. Learn more  Nigel also will host a breakout on rigor.

Early Bird Sessions

7:00 pm Sunday 

  • Continuous Improvement: Essential Role of School Leaders  
  • Financial and Capital Projects: Tools & Case Studies 
  • Media Lessons: Stories that Make A Mark 
  • Twists, Turns & Celebrations of Personalized Learning 

Deep Dive Session

Active Learning: Moving Students into the Fast Lane

10:05 am – 2:45 pm Monday (Tech Room 1)

Gain further insights from Suzy Pepper Rollins in this fast-paced, hands-on session and leave with easily implementable techniques to transform students from passive sitters to active thinkers. This student-centered, highly visible approach will focus on research-based strategies for every component of the lesson structure. Participants will leave with a new perspective of what the active classroom can look like, complete with strategies for every grade and content. This session will also recharge your passion with new practices to get students intellectually moving! Participants will join Lunch at 12 pm in Main Dining Room. Download resources

Breakout Session  1

10:05 am Monday 

  • Achieving a Landmark Bond Referendum 
  • Alternative Teacher Licensing and Micro-Credentialing 
  • Basics of Effective English Learner Program 
  • Collaborative School Counseling 
  • Emergency 101: Preparing Students  
  • IB Framework for Success in Greater Minnesota 
  • If Rigor Were Easy, We’d All Be Doing It! 
  • One Big Rock to Student- Centered Classrooms  
  • Self-Paced Math Experience 

Breakout Session 2

11:10 am Monday 

  • Cybersecurity and Students: What You Should Know 
  • Enlivening Arts and Engagement
  • High Reliability: Becoming Level 1 Certified
  • Innovative Projects Improving Mental Health 
  • Making Changes and Having Difficult Conversations
  • Maximize Construction Proceeds 
  • Unit Planning for Long-Term Success
  • Using edTPA for Teacher Growth 
  • Using Home Languages in Classrooms
  • Vision 2025: Minnesota Blueprint for AFNR Education 

Breakouts Session 3

1:30 pm Monday 

  • 10 Seconds to View…A Lifetime on the Web 
  • Employment Law for Rural Administrators 
  • ENVoY and Transforming Power of Influence 
  • Leverage Commitment to Develop World’s Best Workforce 
  • Making Our Schools Safer 
  • Poetry Out Loud: Engaging Classroom Curriculum 
  • Restorative Practices: Alternative for Punitive Consequences 
  • Tiered Licensure and You 
  • The Death of Discipline: Alternatives to Suspension

Achieving a Landmark Bond Referendum

Lakeshore 1

Dave Bergeron, Laine Larson, Arif Quraishi

Get an overview of Brainerd Public Schools’ landmark successful bond referendum. Hear about the process and overall public engagement regarding the project and learn about endless options for continued improvement within your district.

Alternative Teacher Licensing and Micro-Credentialing

Lakeshore 2

Troy Haugen, Mary Jacobson

The nine service cooperatives throughout the state have collectively undergone an effort to analyze data, discuss the root cause, explore solutions and determine alternative pathways to teacher licensing that dovetails with job embedded professional growth opportunities. Findings led to applying to the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) to become a program provider for teachers seeking licensure in additional areas. Microcredentials will provide the content and assessment necessary for teachers to build knowledge and demonstrate proficiency on singular skills (micro) in effort to address standards in certain licensing areas and to experience high quality professional growth one skill at a time. Download presentation.

Building an Effective English Learner Program*

Paul Bunyan 4

Gwen Anderson

Running a successful English Learners (ELs) program in your district can be tricky with regulations and implementing best practices. This session aimed at administrators, EL coordinators, and teachers will provide an overview of the EL identification process, must-haves for EL Language Instruction Education Plans (LIEP, a.k.a., Plan of Service), and professional development needs for all classroom teachers and paraprofessionals. Bring your district LIEP plan for specific questions and problem-solving. Download presentation. Download resources.

Collaborative School Counseling*

Paul Bunyan 3

Leah Zimmerman

School Counselors play a vital role in the school and are often asked: “What do school counselors do?” The more important question is, “How are students different as a result of what school counselors do?” Learn about collaborative counseling efforts benefiting students, parents, teachers, administrators, and the overall community. Download presentation.  Download evaluation tool.

Emergency 101: Preparing Students*

Lakeshore 3

Brandon Raymo

Fire drill, tornado, lock down, etc…. Emergencies can arise at any moment in our schools. This session will help you prepare if an emergency ever arises in the school building. Learn techniques and practices to keep you and your students safe. This session will help you question current practice and policy. When you leave, you will have a wealth of knowledge on how to respond properly to a variety of emergency situations.

IB Framework for Success in Greater Minnesota*

Pioneer Room

Dale Christy, Jon Peterson

The International Baccalaureate (IB) program serves students ages 3-18. IB programs for younger students help students see the connections between subjects through conceptual teaching and learning. It focuses on engaging students in their own learning and helping them see the world from many perspectives. Practicing Minnesota IB teachers will share their experiences and demonstrate how it provides a framework for teaching.

If Rigor Were Easy, We’d All Be Doing It!*

Lakeshore 4

Nigel Nisbet

Rigor in the classroom means that students are engaged in solving challenging problems to which neither the answer nor the solution strategy are in any way obvious. It sounds so simple and yet it is so hard to achieve. And from the perspective of administration, how do you ensure that all students have the opportunity to learn in this kind of rich, challenging environment? This presentation will explore tools and best practices to enable systemwide implementation of rigorous, engaging learning opportunities for every student.

One Big Rock to Student-Centered Classrooms*

Dutch Room

Jennifer Stefan, Sandra Tokarczyk

Learn how an engaged school board, committed administrators, and passionate educators can support the whole child and positively impact student achievement. Armed with evidence-based instructional strategies and strong tiers of support, Deer River Schools educators are breaking down barriers to achieve student centered classrooms with rigor. Hera about the “one big rock” that greatly impacted their success and how they are creating classrooms with strong conditions for learning and nurturing a growth mindset.

Self-Paced Math Experience*

Paul Bunyan 1

Kelsey Morken, Chris Strinmoen

Personalizing the math learning experience has been transformational for the Spring Grove School District. They are seeing increased student ownership of learning and engagement with the implementation of an online personalized 5-12 math program which allowed students to work at their own pace. Students were able to move ahead or back up according to their instructional need. Using data from the program, teachers can design their instruction around whole group, small group, and individual student need.

*Denotes sessions that qualify for Certificate for Continuing Education (CEU)

Cybersecurity and Students: What You Should Know*

Lakeshore 1

Ryan Cloutier

Every day we see news reports of data breaches, privacy violations, safety concerns and other cybersecurity incidents designed to create organizational chaos and sometimes personal harm. Schools are increasingly becoming targets of cyber-attacks from professional hackers and students have access to information technology that can be used for hacking, disrupting school technology infrastructure, and other mischief. In this session, we will identify initial steps a school district can take to protect data, networks, and privacy. We will also discuss ways to engage students in channeling their technical knowledge into cybersecurity careers.

Enlivening Arts and Engagement*

Lakeshore 2

Mary Harding, Curt Tryggestad

Learn about professional development opportunities available to arts teachers, classroom teachers, schools and districts across the state, including content specialists in the arts, revitalized programs and new programs. Research shows that strong arts education programming results in increased engagement, critical and creative thinking skills and fun. Hear about the master teacher network that will include teachers who deliver arts content across the state and how your school can become a demonstration school. Hear about Comprehensive Arts Planning Process (CAPP), where schools and communities can access free or low-cost facilitators and support to develop their local vision for the arts.

High Reliability: Becoming Level 1 Certified*

Paul Bunyan 1

Arick Follingstad, Eric Pingrey

The Walker-Hackensack-Akeley and Verndale Schools Districts with support from Sourcewell worked to become certified in Level 1 as a Marzano Research High Reliability School. Both districts reviewed procedures and practices to ensure their schools provide a safe and collaborative environment for all students and staff. Attend this session to hear about measuring various leading indicators to move your school to one of High Reliability.

Innovative Projects Improving Mental Health*

Paul Bunyan 2

Darren Kermes

The alarming increase in student mental health needs is an ongoing concern for schools across Minnesota. The 2017 Minnesota Legislature afforded five “qualifying school units” the opportunity to develop innovative projects to improve mental health outcomes for youth. The SouthWest Metro Intermediate District was one of the districts identified under this pilot project. Partnering with Scott County, SouthWest Metro has launched a multi-tiered approach to mental health service delivery, including a day-treatment program, services above those available in a typical special education setting, and providers to assist transitioning students.

Making Changes and Having Difficult Conversations

Paul Bunyan 3

Dr. Rae Villebrun

Floodwood School has experienced major changes throughout the last few years. Changes were necessary and were forced through being identified as a Focus School in 2014. Learn how the district made the changes and how it is growing better each year.

Maximize Construction Proceeds

Lakeshore 3

David Fjeldheim, Steve Pumper

In this rising interest rate environment, significant dollars can be added to your construction project by taking a diligent approach to investing your construction bond proceeds while your project is being completed. A case study of Sebeka’s investment process will be shared to demonstrate what thought process should be used when deciding how to manage those funds, and the benefits of being proactive from the beginning of the project.

Unit Planning for Long-Term Success*

Lakeshore 4

Steve Booth, Andrea Hoyum

Unit Planning grew from Laporte Schools’ professional development using the Authentic Intellectual work (AIW) framework of a storyline and a unit plan. The storyline is a brief overview and the unit plan is a more descriptive plan linked off the storyline that together become a living document. Unit plans will evolve as teachers grow as professionals.

Using edTPA for Teacher Growth


Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter, Dr. Matt Loyd

Explore edTPA and how it can be used within a district. Teachers will learn about their role in supporting a student teacher through the edTPA process. Administrators and school board members will learn how a candidate’s edTPA scores can be used to build a personalized, effective professional development plan to mentor a new teacher in their first year on the job. Learn how edTPA can align with district TDE plans to support new teachers, grow their competencies and keep them in the profession. Bring your district’s teacher evaluation plan or use models provided during the session.

Using Home Languages in Classrooms*

Paul Bunyan 4

Gwen Anderson

Schools want all students to grow. Using the students’ home language in the classroom will increase their learning—content and language. Home language use also strengthens students’ identities and connections to home and culture. Teachers can use home languages in the classroom without needing to know the languages represented. This session, aimed at administrators and classroom teachers, describes the benefits of using home languages and strategies/examples of how this works in all classrooms. Teachers will also have time to bring lesson plans and discuss how home languages can be incorporated into existing curriculum and lessons.

Vision 2025: Minnesota Blueprint for AFNR Education*


Sarah Dornink, Kari Schwab

The Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council (MAELC) recently released its 2025 Agriculture, Food and Natural Resource (AFNR) Education Blueprint made possible through the collaboration of 250 stakeholders. The Blueprint provides key goals and strategies to enhance AFNR education at multiple levels, including agricultural literacy, school-based AFNR education, post-secondary AFNR education, teacher preparation in Agricultural Education, and Farm Business Management. This workshop will focus on the goals and strategies related to Minnesota’s high school AFNR programs and provide attendees an opportunity to give input and shape AFNR education over the next seven years.

*Denotes sessions that qualify for Certificate for Continuing Education (CEU)

10 Seconds to View…A Lifetime on the Web*

Lakeshore 1

Kristi Hastings, Josh Heggem

Get a sampling of “10 Seconds to View … A Lifetime on the Web,” a comprehensive course to teach middle and high school students about the serious implications of social media use. Students get an opportunity to think about the consequences of social media activity before they press “send.” The presentation also covers various school policies and procedures implicated by social media use, such as technology acceptable use, cyber-bullying, harassment, discrimination, and hazing, as well as real-world examples that resulted in serious criminal, school, or other consequences. Time is also devoted to answering specific student questions regarding situations the students have encountered in their daily lives, and to giving them strategies for handling those situations in the future. Download presentation. Download handout.

Employment Law for Rural Administrators

Lakeshore 2

Jim Martin

This presentation is an overview of several employment law issues that administrators must tackle, including payment of overtime requirements, hours worked, independent contractor vs. employee status, documentation of employee conduct, employee data under the Minnesota Data Practices Act, reasonable accommodation of employees under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and so on.

Making Our Schools Safer

Lakeshore 3

John Bryant, David Leapaldt

How can our schools be made safer? Hear about how passive and active measures, coupled with effective policies can make a school a safer place for our children. See how safety measures can be applied to existing and new buildings and how policies might differ depending on the physical circumstances.

ENVoY and Transforming Power of Influence*

Paul Bunyan 1

Josh Smith

Learn about the positive impact ENVoY has had on the staff and students of Pillager Elementary School. Educators face more challenges annually and it seems that testing and student performance hang in the balance with every decision schools face. Learn how ENVoY has provided a framework for meeting these challenges.

Leverage Commitment to Develop World’s Best Workforce*

Paul Bunyan 2

Brenda Bendson, Lisa Rydberg

Crosby-Ironton Schools will share how it used the mandated World’s Best Workforce to leverage its commitment to provide relevant, engaging, innovative, and enriching learning experiences for students. We will be highlighting our development of our Technology and Innovative learning (STEAM focus learning K-12), What I Need (K-6 reading intervention and enrichment), Balanced Literacy and Balanced Math (K-6), Academic Academies (10-12). Gain examples of how this programming is changing student engagement and see data on how it is also increasing student achievement.

Poetry Out Loud: Engaging Classroom Curriculum*

Paul Bunyan 3

Laura Meyer, Melissa Wray

Poetry Out Loud is a dynamic national poetry recitation contest for high school students that encourages participants to learn about poetry through performance and recitation. The curriculum is designed to fit into a teacher’s busy schedule and satisfy most of the NCTE English Language Arts Standards and aligns with Common Core Standards. Come learn more about how you can utilize this free curriculum to engage and empower your students through poetry and performance.

The Death of Discipline: Alternatives to Suspension*

Paul Bunyan 4

Laura Booth, Colleen Schatz

The session will begin with an overview of the law as it pertains to removing students from school. In addition, we will share with our audience a variety of positive strategies to help students and staff keep our students in school and engaged in learning.

Restorative Practices: Alternative for Punitive Consequences*


Jacqualyn Hickey, Lisa Kurtzbein

High school administrators will learn about how Benson Public Schools uses Restorative Practices to reduce to use of punitive consequences. Attendees will learn some basic principles of Restorative Practices, will see how BPS has applied these practices as a means of responding to problem behaviors, and the outcome data collected from this program.

Tiered Licensure and You

Lakeshore 4

Alex Liuzzi

Get the latest information on Tiered Licensure statute and rule, the application process, and implications for districts and teachers in Minnesota.

*Denotes sessions that qualify for Certificate for Continuing Education (CEU)

Speaker Bios (A-L)

Gwen Anderson, M.A. in TESL and National Board-Certified Teacher in English as a New Language, is an English Language Development Specialist for the Regional Centers of Excellence. She has fifteen years’ experience teaching EL K-12 and higher education for preservice teachers. She has a specific interest in language policy and EL program design/administration.

Brenda Bendson has been an educator for twelve years, teaching grades 1, 3, and 4 has been a literacy coach for the past two years. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict with a degree in Elementary Education and have a master’s degree in Math and Literacy. She has been trained through the University of Minnesota with Reading First for small group reading and completed her master’s project in guided math.  

Dave Bergeron Over the last 24 years, Dave has focused his efforts on assisting Midwest K-12 school districts in the development and implementation of strong long-term strategic facility plans. With a wide range of experience in community engagement and referendum planning, Dave has helped develop in excess of $600 million dollars of comprehensive K-12 long-range plans. 

Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter is a former HS math teacher and is now in her 14th year in the teacher education program at SMSU. She is a member of the National Academy of EdTPA Consultants and supervises student teachers as they complete the edTPA. She also teaches classes in Professional Development for pre-service teacher education candidates. 

Laura Booth has been an education lawyer for 30 years representing school districts in administrative, state and federal court proceedings. Laura is a summa cum laude graduate of Hamline University School of Law and a former school district Human Resource Director with a business/human relations degree from Michigan State University.  She  was appointed as a Special Assistant Attorney General in Minnesota to assist with litigation involving special education and discrimination issues raised by students residing in juvenile detention facilities and was also appointed by Minnesota’s governor to a task force on special education rules. She has completed certified mediation training and is active in efforts to promote educational equity. 

Steve Booth has taught grades 1-5 at Laporte School since 1993. He grew up in northern California and on a resort in northern Minnesota and graduated from Laporte School. His Political Science degree is from Carleton College and his Elementary Education BS from the University of Montana at Missoula as well as a Master’s in Education from Bemidji State University. He served in the Peace Corps, Papua New Guinea, 1990-92 as a community development worker and later did a Fulbright Teaching Exchange year in Birmingham, England. He coaches junior high and high school boys and girls cross country running and junior high and high school speech at Laporte.

Kelly Braun is in her 6th year as Director of Teaching & Learning in the Kasson-Mantorville Public Schools and her 8th year as adjunct faculty member for St. Mary’s University’s Master’s in Literacy program. She provides professional development to other districts as an independent consultant, focusing on K-6 reading instruction & intervention, instructional coaching and data supported strategic planning.  Prior to her current positions, she has been a classroom teacher, reading specialist and instructional coach. She received her Elementary Education degree from Winona State University and her K-12 Reading Certificate, Masters in Literacy and K-12 Principal from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in Winona.    

John Bryant is the President and CEO of GeoComm, a St. Cloud based software and services organization that provides location-based solutions to public safety professionals. He has more than 35 years of experience in sales, product management, marketing and general management. John has a BSS degree from Cornell College in Economics & Business, as well as Philosophy.  John also earned an MBA in Finance and Marketing from the Carlson School of Business at the University of Minnesota.  

Dale Christy just finished his 31st year in education. He has a master’s in educational leadership and Administration and has Minnesota Principal and Superintendent Licensure. Dale has taught social studies at the Grand Rapids Area Learning Center and Grand Rapids High School, served as the ISD #318 Gifted Education Coordinator, and has been the International Baccalaureate Coordinator since 2008.  He also teaches IB Economics and IB Theory of Knowledge, the capstone course of the IB Program.  

Ryan Cloutier is Principal Security Architect at Sourcewell and has over 15 years of experience including multiple architect and security roles. Most recently Ryan worked for a Fortune 500 health care company. Ryan’s approach of “Empowering security through user convenience” helps organizations adopt strong security practices with a minimal amount of disruption. 

Toni Cox is statewide Program Manager with Minnesota’s Regional Centers of Excellence, aiding districts and schools to support change and continuous improvement. In 2015, the Regional Centers of Excellence was named one of Harvard Ash Center’s Top 25 Innovations in Government. Her teaching career with the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Schools included work as a classroom and Title I teacher, as well as Literacy Coordinator. She recently completed the administrative licensure program at Bethel University. 

Sarah Dornink  is Executive Director for the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council, a 17-member legislative council dedicated to promoting and expanding Agricultural Education in Minnesota.  Previously, she was the Center Program Manager for the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.  She holds Bachelor of Science and master’s degrees in Agricultural Education from the University of Minnesota. She is a member of Minnesota Agri-Women and an alumnus of the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership (MARL) program. 

Barbie Doyle joined the Ehlers’ Education Team in the Minnesota office assisting school districts with designing and implementing financial solutions.  Prior to joining Ehlers, Barbie worked for Region V Computer Services for over 20 years.  Most recently, she was the Executive Director providing service and support to Minnesota school districts with their business office operations. 

David Fjeldheim has been Superintendent of Sebeka Schools since 2004. Under his leadership, Sebeka’s secondary school has been named a Reward School, and the elementary schools was recognized as a Celebration School.  David was named an Administrator of Excellence by MASA in 2015. 

Arick Follingstad is the K-12 Principal/District Assessment Coordinator at Verndale Public School, starting his 4th year in this role. Prior to becoming a school administrator, he spent 8 years as a high school mathematics teacher and coach.  He earned his master’s degree in Educational Leadership, as well as his Principal License and Superintendent License, through Minnesota State University Moorhead.    

Mary Harding, MAED, BA, 2002 National Dance Teacher of the Year, has been head of the dance program at the Perpich Arts High School since 1990. Her research, “Peer Coaching in the Arts Classroom”, received multiple awards and was published in the June 2009 edition of JODE. Her article, “Assessment In The High School Technique Class- Creating Thinking Dancers”, was published in the August 2012 edition of JODE. She has presented at multiple national conferences on assessment, curriculum and standards and was a member of the Minnesota Standards writing team (2008 and 2018) and on the National Core Arts Standards dance writing team. 

Kristi Hastings was named a “Super Lawyer” by Minnesota Lawyer in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. She grew up on her family’s dairy farm near Ashley, North Dakota and completed both her undergraduate and juris doctorate education at the University of North Dakota. 

Troy Haugen currently serves as the Career & Technical Education Coordinator and the Coordinator of the Otter Tail Family Services Collaborative at Lakes Country Service Cooperative in Fergus Falls.  He  administers the Carl Perkins grant for 26 school districts in west-central Minnesota. Troy is a licensed teacher, school principal and superintendent and has been in education for over 20 years and serves as an adjunct instructor of graduate education.  He has a special interest in teacher licensure, alternative pathways to licensure, education policy, rural education, and equity in education.   

Joshua M. Heggem has been recognized as a “Rising Star” by Minnesota Lawyer in 2015, 2016, and 2017. He grew up in Aitkin, Minnesota, and graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College and the University of Minnesota Law School.  

Jacqualyn Hickey has served as a School Psychologist for 10 years, with experiences in both urban and rural k-12 education.  

Andrea Hoyum is in her second year teaching at Laporte Schools after teaching 12 years with Pipestone Schools. She teaches high school English and concurrent enrollment Literature and Composition. She graduated from Bemidji State University and holds a bachelor’s degree in English Education and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative and Technical Writing. She is earning her master’s degree at Moorhead State University.  

Mary Jacobson began her teaching career 27 years as a classroom teacher in the primary grades and found her niche in literacy. She received a Doctorate of Education from Hamline University in 2003 and taught preservice teachers for 14years at both Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota. She joined the Regional Centers of Excellence in 2012 and then began her current position as a senior education consultant at Sourcewell Education Solutions.  

Darren Kermes is the Superintendent of the SouthWest Metro Intermediate District.  Darren’s leadership and vision formed SouthWest Metro by merging the former Carver-Scott and Minnesota River Valley Cooperatives into a single entity.  Prior to this, Darren served as a special services director in New Prague and Austin Public Schools. He began his career at the Minnesota Department of Education where he supervised the compliance systems for the state.  He earned his master’s and Juris Doctorate in law from the University of Arizona and administrative licenses from the University of Minnesota.   

Lisa Kurtzbein is a graduate of Moorhead State University with a degree in special education in 1993.  She graduated from Southwest State University with a master’s degree in Educational Leadership in 2006. She has taught special education for 20 years in Lake City and Benson and is now in her third year co-teaching restorative justice. She was Section 3A track coach of the year and has coached girls track coach for 25 years.

Erin Kyllo currently serves as the Middle School Principal in Kasson-Mantorville Public Schools, and before that was Administrative Dean at Chanhassen High School. In Chanhassen, Ms. Kyllo provided  feedback around Personalized Learning, the district’s PL Star, and focused 30-minute dialogues. She was a classroom teacher in Inver Grove Heights and a Graduate Induction Resident in the Rochester Public Schools. Ms. Kyllo received her Elementary Education and Master of Education degrees from Winona State University, earning her Educational Specialist degree from the University of St. Thomas.  

Laine Larson is superintendent of Brainerd Public Schools. Laine Larson is in her second year as superintendent there and was also superintendent in Thief River Falls.  

David Leapaldt has been an architect for 38 years with much of his work focused on K-12 education. He is known for his community facilitation and creative approach to bringing together the district and community achieve educational goals. He is registered in four states and recently involved in making safety and security improvements in existing buildings and in new construction. Learn more at

Alex Liuzzi was recently named Executive Director of the Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board, a new independent board established in January 2018.  Prior to this he worked as a middle school teacher, instructor in teacher preparation, and teacher education specialist with the Minnesota Board of Teaching. 

Dr. Matthew Loyd joined Tarleton State University as Director of Teacher Education in summer 2018. Prior to that he was Director of Assessment and Accreditation at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. Dr. Loyd was born and raised in Georgia and attended Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama where he graduated cum laude with special honors in Music Education. He then received his master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Columbus State University in 2010. In 2014, Dr. Loyd earned a doctorate in Teaching and Learning from Argosy University, in Phoenix. Dr. Loyd is also a scoring supervisor for Pearson working in the edTPA performing arts division.

Speaker Bios (M-Z)

Jim Martin has been practicing employment law for over 25 years and has served as an HR director in two metro area suburban school districts.  With Booth Law Group Jim provides advice and guidance to many school districts and charter schools in Minnesota. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota where he teaches a course in school human resources administration. 

Laura Meyer has been an English Teacher in the Big Lake School District for the past 20 years.  She is a National Board-Certified Teacher and 10 years ago started coordinating Big Lake High School’s participation in Poetry Out Loud. She has seen this program positively influence the lives of hundreds of students. She lives in rural Kimball. 

Kelsey Morken is a Math and elementary school educator in her 11th year of teaching.  She has her Master’s in Teaching and Learning and has teaching experience in multiple rural school settings.  She is part of the district’s design team for personalized learning and is an innovator in the classroom. 

Jon Peterson is a retired high school science teacher who began his career in rural Wisconsin and then moved to the Osseo, Minnesota school district. He taught science and coached 37 years in middle school and high school. The last 10 years of his teaching he was also the IB coordinator at Park Center HS where he helped guide the implementation of new IB programs. Since 2015 he has been the Executive Director at MNIB supporting MN IB schools and staff with training, MDE reimbursements and organizing the MNIB Summer Conference. Each year MNIB holds staff development workshops and roundtables for over 1000 teachers. 

 Eric Pingrey joined Walker Hackensack Akeley school district as superintendent in 2016, following eight years as a principal in Wyoming. He has taught Social Studies and been a dean of students, principal, and coach. He received his undergraduate degrees in History, Social Science and Secondary Education and earned a master’s degree in Educational Administration in South Dakota. Eric has worked with Marzano Research since 2014 before entering the High Reliability Schools Network in 2017.  

Steve Pumper joined PMA Financial Network in July of 2009.  Prior to joining PMA, Steve worked as a school business manager in Minnesota schools for 22 years. He brings that experience in helping PMA develop services that are beneficial to the Business Manager in the field.  Steve is a Registered Representative with FINRA and holds his series 7, 50 and 63 securities licenses. 

Arif Quraishi has managed the delivery and execution of over $1 billion of public sector work, with over 25 years of experience in overseeing facility master planning, design and construction of K-12 facilities. He also has an extensive knowledge of strategic planning, funding and referendum planning for K-12 school districts. 

Brandon Raymo has been Assistant Director of the Minnesota River Valley Education District for 8 years and was a High School Social Studies Teacher for 4 years at Yellow Medicine East Schools. He has his MS in Educational Technology and is an Instructional and Technology Coach. 

Matt Rosaaen is an elementary teacher in the Spring Grove School District.  He received a master’s degree in Education in 2010 and will receive complete an Educational Leadership program in May 2019. 

Lisa Rydberg is in her 16th year in education, currently in her fourth year as a Teacher on Special Assignment with a focus on Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for the Crosby-Ironton Schools.  Prior to that she was School Counselor for the secondary building for three years and has been a Special Education teacher (EBD) and Dean of Students. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology and Psychology, with a minor in Sociology and earned a 5th year Master Certification in Special Education-EBD and completed a Master of Science Program in School Counseling. 

Colleen Schatz has been in the special education business for over 30 years both in the classroom and as an administrator. During the past three years she has worked with SWWC Service Cooperative as an Assistant Director of Alternative Programs and Principal at Red Rock Ridge Learning Center in Windom.  

Kari Schwab serves as the Program Assistant with the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council (MAELC), advocating for agricultural education at all levels throughout Minnesota. She has previous experience with the Minnesota Senate, working primarily with rural members as well as the Senate Agriculture and Rural Economies Committee. Schwab currently serves as the Chair for the Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC) Foundation and as a facilitator for the University of Minnesota-College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences’ Policy Engagement Program (PEP).  

Josh Smith has the privilege of serving as Pillager Elementary School Principal.  Previously, he served Pillager as a 5th grade teacher, Dean of Students, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and High School Principal.  

Jennifer Stefan is in her third year as the principal at King Elementary in Deer River.  Prior to entering administration, Jennifer taught first and second grade for sixteen years. Jennifer will always be a teacher first and is driven to live out her professional passion by the amazing students who make King Elementary a rewarding and wonderful place to be. 

Chris Strinmoen is a secondary math teacher. He has been a leader in the Spring Grove School District in Standards Based Assessment, Flipped Classroom, and now personalizing the learning experience for math instruction.  Chris has taught in the Dassel-Cokato, Kasson Mantorville, and Spring Grove School Districts, and has his Master’s in Education. 

Sondra Tokarczyk is in her third year as an Instructional Coach at King Elementary in Deer River, Minnesota.  Prior to becoming a coach, Sondra taught third, fourth, and fifth grade for eleven years.  Sondra is inspired daily by the dedication towards professional and student growth she sees from the teachers at King Elementary. 

Dr. Curt Tryggestad served as a high school band director for sixteen years and twenty-one years as a principal and superintendent before joining the Perpich Center in 2017.  Dr. Tryggestad earned advanced degrees from St. Cloud State University in Education Leadership and Music/Conducting and a bachelor’s degree in music from Luther College in Decorah, IA. Dr. Tryggestad has served as President of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators and the Minnesota Rural Education Association and spent seven years on the Governing Board of the American Association of School Administrators.  Appointments to Minnesota Department of Education committees include policy and practice recommendations for teacher licensure rules, online learning, open educational resources, and technology use in our schools. Dr. Tryggestad was named the Minnesota Superintendent of the Year in 2016. 

Rachel Udstuen has been the Superintendent of the Spring Grove School District since 2010.  Her previous experience includes administration and teaching in urban, rural, and international settings in charter, public, and private schools.  She has an Ed.S in Educational Leadership and is a graduate of the AASA Superintendent Certification Program.  

Dr. Rae Villebrun has been in education for 24 years in a range of positions and grade levels from para to Superintendent. She has worked in American Indian tribal and public schools and spent 10 years in the class as a teacher before moving into administration. 

 Eileen Weber has over 23 years’ experience as a teacher, principal, Teaching & Learning Coordinator, and Principal Leadership Specialist. Her experience has encompassed both public and private school systems, as well as regional and statewide support. Eileen earned her teaching, principal, and superintendent licensures through Minnesota State University Moorhead and her reading licensure through Concordia University St. Paul.  

Melissa Wray is the Outreach & Partnerships Manager at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis (, one of the largest literary centers in the nation. One of the programs she manages is Poetry Out Loud, which is a NEA-funded national poetry recitation contest for high school students, with free curriculum for classroom teachers to implement. She holds a master’s in arts & cultural leadership from the University of Minnesota and is on the Board of Directors at Coffee House Press. She grew up in rural southeast Minnesota and is passionate about supporting rural spaces. Melissa is the founder of MinneStory, a podcast about Minnesota’s rural and urban communities ( 

Jodie Zesbaugh joined Ehlers’ Roseville office as a Municipal Advisor in 2009 to help Minnesota school districts design and implement financial solutions.  Jodie’s previous work experience includes 15 years as Director of Financial Operations at South Washington County School District. One of Jodie’s greatest contributions to Ehlers clients is her hands-on experience with the many challenges faced by school districts today and her added insight in helping find financial solutions. 

Leah Zimmerman is originally from rural North Dakota and received a bachelor’s in music from NDSU and a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Colorado State University. She has worked with teenagers for the last 10 years, including 10 months in Africa. She has been School Counselor at Crookston High School, 7-12, for the last 4 years. 

Dawn Zimmerman started The Write Advantage Inc. on the belief that everyone has a story to tell. This award-winning journalist turn communications strategist is a natural storyteller known for her ability to help organizations shape and share their stories in meaningful ways. Dawn earned a bachelor’s in journalism from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, and worked on the street and in leadership positions for various media, such as KSTP, Gannett, and Forum Communications. She became an editor for Gannett at the Times Media at age 25 and earned Minnesota Journalist of the Year from the Small Business Administration for her contributions to the business community less than two years later. Learn more at

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