Regional Speakers

Jill Arnold

Jill Arnold is the Director of the Graduate and Online Division at Hannibal-LaGrange University.  Since joining HLGU, Jill has been an Associate Professor in the Education Division and has authored several pieces of educational research.  Her scholarly interests include reading, reading with fluency, and readers who struggle.  Jill has taught grades 1-3, has been a Title I Reading teacher, and has been a Parent Educator for several Missouri school districts.  Currently, she serves on the Advisory Board for the Hannibal Parents as Teachers Program and is a presenter at area conferences and local businesses on education and leadership.  Currently with the HLGU Education Division, Jill has helped launch an entirely online Reading Specialist certification with a Master’s degree option.

Paula Berry serves as Project Construct Coordinator in the Columbia, Missouri, School District. She has been a facilitator training teachers in constructivist practices for the past nineteen years.  She is also a consultant for Missouri Preschool Learning Communities in the Southwestern region of the state.  Paula was formerly the Director of St. Charles Community College Child Development Center for fifteen years before moving to Shell Knob, Missouri with her husband, Bill.  She has a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Administration from Tulane University.  She is passionate about collaborating with teachers to develop our youngest children into capable and confident learners.

Sam Bommarito

During his 40 plus year teaching career Dr. Sam Bommarito taught virtually every grade from K through graduate school. This includes teaching reading courses at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Most of Sam’s career was spent as a Title 1 reading specialist/staff developer.  He participated in four years of extensive training by cadre with Lucy Calkin’s Reading and Writing workshop. Since his retirement in 2015, he has been busy with various volunteer projects, including a project in which he uses “cyber-conferencing” as part of reading/writing workshop.  Dr. Bommarito is currently co-editor of the Missouri Reader, a professional reading journal published by the Missouri State Council of the International Literacy Association, celebrating its 40th year of publication.

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

Julie Bryant 2

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

Alison Evans has been teaching for 11 years.  During her first two years, she taught third grade.  For the last nine years, she’s been a first grade teacher.  Alison currently works at Macon Elementary.  She has an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction through Stephens College.  She has her Specialist in Administration degree, and is working on her Doctorate in Educational Leadership through William Woods University.  Alison is currently on her district’s technology committee for both the elementary school and the district.  Over the last few years, she has been finding new ways to engage her students using technology.

Barbara Flowers holds B.S. and M.A. degrees in Economics from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, as well as an M.A. in Economic Education from the University of Delaware.  After 18 years at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, most recently serving as center director, Flowers joined the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, where she develops K-14 economic lessons and online programming. Barbara is a recipient of the Bessie B. Moore Service Award, which recognizes dedicated service to economic education and the Abbejean Kehler Technology Award for economic education. She recently served a three-year term on the National Association of Economic Educators’ executive committee and is president of the Missouri Jump$tart Coalition.

Jennifer Fox is an Assistant Professor of Education at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri.  She recently completed her doctoral studies at the University of Missouri with a dissertation study entitled, “Secondary Literacy Teachers’ Use of a Twitter Chat Community for Voluntary Ongoing Professional Learning.”  After three years as the Area 4 Coordinator for the ILA Teachers’ Choices Project, she recently became a National Co-Chair of this project.  She is excited to share newly-published literature with classroom teachers and help them spread the love of reading to their own students.  Her interests lie in literacy, technology, and ongoing teacher professional learning.

Jennifer Fox 2

Kate Giovanini graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in 2007 and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction in 2008, both degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia.  She has taught 1st, 3rd, and 4th grade and is currently the intervention specialist at Renner Elementary for the Park Hill School District in Kansas City, Missouri.  As the intervention specialist, Kate works with tier 3 reading and math students in kindergarten through 5th grade.  In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Kate leads the Response To Intervention (RTI) team and serves on the leadership team at her building.  Kate is involved in district RTI curriculum writing and co-facilitates the district intervention specialist department. In her spare time, Kate enjoys spending time with her husband and two kids, traveling, and cheering on the Missouri Tigers.

Shelly Graff has taught in the Blue Valley School District for 19 years.  She has taught students in grades 3, 2, 1, and most recently Kindergarten.  She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Pittsburg State University and a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Kansas.  She was a Blue Valley Teacher of the Year nominee in 2016 and serves on her building’s Leadership Team.  Shelly lives in Overland Park and enjoys going on adventures with  her husband and 3 kids.

Shelly Graff

Stephanie Green is a first grade teacher in Warrensburg, Missouri. She is in her fourth year of teaching and recently received her Masters degree in Literacy Education from the University of Central Missouri. Stephanie strives to keep her students up and moving and learning through hands-on learning experiences.

Joseph Gulino, is Principal of the Gulinogroup & Fearless Leadership Consulting, formerly a school principal for twenty-six years of grades Pre-K through 12.  He was the recipient of the National Association of Secondary School Principals Middle Level Dissertation Award in 1997; and the University of San Francisco Alumni Society Outstanding Educator in Administration Award in 1999.    Dr. Gulino also served as an Associate Director of Missouri North Central from 1994 to 1996, and Director of Graduate Studies and Educational Clinical Experiences for Central Methodist University in Fayette, Missouri, from 1994 to 1999.  Dr. Gulino has been presenting around the nation at many various conferences re: educational leadership, best practices, etc.

Joseph Gulino 1

Melinda Hammerschmidt

Melinda Hammerschmidt’s love of reading and writing was fostered during summers spent on her grandparents’ farm in Center Ridge, Arkansas, where her grandmother turned her dining room into a lending library for the school system and the city, which she maintained until age 96.  Melinda graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a Bachelors of Science in Education, received her Masters in education form Drury University, is certified in special reading for Missouri, K-12, and gifted education K-12, and successfully defended her dissertation to obtain her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from Texas Tech University, graduating in December 2016.  Melinda has taught for sixteen years full time and 5 years part time as an extended learning teacher and tutor. Melinda currently is the first grade instructor at Greenwood Laboratory School in Springfield.

Jackie Higgins is a reading specialist in the Mehlville School District. She has a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree from Missouri Baptist University. She is currently pursuing a second Master’s degree in reading at Webster University. Jackie has taught fifth grade, fourth grade, first grade, Reading Recovery, and worked as a reading specialist. She enjoys spending her free time with her husband and two sons.

Jackie Higgins

Bev Jackson is a wife of 25 years and mother of two teenagers.  She has been in education for almost 20 years and has taught Pre-K, K, 1st, 2nd, 5th and 6th grades.  She is currently teaching second grade in southwest Missouri for McDonald County Schools.  Bev has her B.S. in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and she’s currently working towards her Master’s in Educational Leadership.

Rachel Johnson is originally from Platte City, Missouri.  She has a B.A. in History from Drury University and a M.A. in History from Missouri State University.  Rachel served in the Teach For America Corp from 2012-2014 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma as a Pre-K teacher.  She then returned to Missouri and got her teaching certification in elementary education and is in her 4th year of teaching Kindergarten at Maries R-I Elementary in Vienna, MO. Rachel is in the process of having her first children’s book published and hopes for it to be available by the end of the year. Rachel lives in Rolla, Missouri with her husband Tyler.

Rachel Johnson

Sarah Johnson

Sarah Johnson is currently an elementary reading specialist at Trautwein Elementary in St. Louis County.  Sarah’s career in education has included working as a primary classroom teacher, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, and English Language Learner specialist.  She has taught a variety of reading courses through Southeast Missouri State University and has been presenting at local, state, and national literacy conferences for over 20 years.  She is a member of the International Literacy Association (ILA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). Her primary professional learning focus is developing effective reading interventions for an increasingly diverse student population.  In her spare time, Sarah enjoys playing golf, traveling, and reading.

Terri Johnson, in addition to being a partner in Creative 3, LLC, the Quirkles’ and Fuddlebrook development company, is also developer/owner of Fiction, Facts, and Fun, LLC, an enrichment program for children, Pre-kindergarten through upper elementary in Springfield, Missouri. Terri has 25 years of experience in education. She earned her Master’s degree and Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Missouri State University. Active in her community, Terri is involved in many volunteer organizations related to education and children. “Ms. Terri,” as she is called by her students, is synonymous with science in the area. She conducts programs, workshops, and serves as the Quirkles’ spokesperson for a science segment featured on a local television news program.

Terri Johnson

Tracy Kerth has been teaching for thirty-two years, and is in her tenth year of being a Title One Math Coach.  She holds Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas.  Her professional experience includes teaching grades 1-4 in the Kansas City, Kansas School District; Auburn-Washburn School District in Topeka, Kansas; and in Blue Valley School District in Overland Park.   As a Title One math coach, her primary job is to support teachers and students in Kindergarten-5th grade in the area of math.  From parent/family math nights to developing resources and materials for facilitating and coaching teachers, her love of math is contagious to both students and parents.  She has enjoyed presenting at district-level professional learning opportunities both inside and outside of the school setting.   When she’s not coaching, she enjoys tutoring students after hours—it’s her way of staying connected with kids and getting her “kid fix.”  She has been happily married for twenty-six years to her husband, Chris, and is blessed with two sons—Tyler (23) and Connor (19).

ClauDean Kizart is a native of Chicago, and has worked with low-income and first-generation college students for over 20 years.  She is an alumna of Harris-Stowe State University, St. Louis University, and Lindenwood University.  As a former TRIO participant, her research focuses on college readiness and retention strategies related to first-generation and first-year college students.  Her social media platforms–DocKizartInc. on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram–provide strategies on improving literacy engagement in the home.  As a Trainer with the Missouri Reading Initiative, Dr. Kizart facilitates professional development for schools across Missouri focused on balanced/comprehensive literacy.  Additionally, she conducts student and faculty engagement workshops that motivate, as well as addressing the unique needs of first-generation college students through her business DocKizartInc.  She is the mother of two “wiz kids” who also loves gardening, knitting, and reading.

ClauDean Kizart 2

Shelli Lee

Shelli Lee is from Lafayette County C-I School District in Higginsville, Missouri, where she has taught for the last 25 years as a special education teacher, including teaching students with learning disabilities as well as early childhood and early childhood special ed. She currently teaches early childhood, serving children of all capabilities, ages 3-6.  As well, she works for Project Construct, training teachers in constructivist practices.  Shelli is passionate about literacy and sharing quality children’s literature with her co-workers, students, and families.  In the 2007-2008 school year Shelli was a finalist for Missouri State Teacher of the Year–but most importantly, received the World’s Greatest Teacher award from her students and their families.

Jessica Leonard is an assistant professor in the School of Education at Saint Louis University.  She has been working in the field of education for approximately 18 years.  She received her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education and her Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction focusing on tablet technology in early childhood.   Prior to joining as a full-time faculty member at Saint Louis University, she was a first grade teacher at two private schools in the Saint Louis region and a preschool teacher at a private early childhood center.

Jessica Leonard

Kayla McBride

Kayla McBride has been helping adults become certified teachers in the elementary and K-12 content areas through the Master’s programs at Hannibal-LaGrange University for the past several years. She graduated from Hannibal-LaGrange University with a Bachelor of Science degree and then went on to attend Missouri Baptist University and earned a Master of Science in Education degree. Kayla is married and has 2 children, ages 2 (daughter) and 7 (son).

Claudia McVicker, or “Dr. McV,” as her students call her, taught Kindergarten through second grade for fifteen years before becoming a professor.  Most of that time was for the Garden City, Kansas schools in western Kansas.  The last three years, she taught a multi-age PreK-2 classroom in a two-room schoolhouse west of Jetmore, Kansas, near her husband’s wheat farm.  She has taught at K-State, Ball State, and Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville.  Normally, Claudia teaches undergraduate and graduate literacy education courses for elementary and secondary pre-service teachers.  Her current position is at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, where she is completing an investigation of “Plugged and Unplugged” reading with elementary school students in the Kansas City Metropolitan area.  She is also finishing up a comparative study of U.S. and British literacy practices with a school near Liverpool, England, where she took her students for summer study abroad.  This past year, she has been collaborating with the William Jewell College Biology and Botany professors to integrate early literacy with the Aquaponics Lab they set up in KCMO school district’s Primativa Garcia Elementary School.

Claudia McVickers

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

Tamara Rhomberg has been in education for more than 31 years, working as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, district administrator, Title I Director, and adjunct professor.  In 2012, she received the Missouri State IRA Council Literacy Award.  She is an active member of local, state, and national literacy organizations and has presented locally and nationally on a variety of literacy topics.

Katie Ritter

Katie Ritter has been a first grade teacher for 12 years in the Warrensburg School District and an adjunct for the University of Central Missouri.  She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education from the University of Central Missouri, a Master’s degree in Literacy Education from the University of Central Missouri, and an Education Specialist degree in Reading from the University of Missouri-Columbia.  Katie combines her love of reading and positive reinforcement by working with students individually to develop a love of reading, so that no matter where they are in their reading journey, they leave first grade feeling like “a reader.”  Katie resides in Shawnee Mound with her husband and two children.  She enjoys living on the family farm, where she can share her animal’s shenanigans with her students, in particular her pet goats who grew up in her family’s kitchen!

Tamara Samek is an Instructor of Education at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO. She prepares pre-service students for their role in the early childhood and elementary classroom through courses on management, child development, and integrating the arts.  Her passion for integrating movement into the school day drives her current research as a doctoral candidate at Northcentral University.  She enjoys the outdoors and cheering for her collegiate and high school athlete children.

Tamera Samek

Marcy Schumacher

Marcy Schumacher graduated from Northwest Missouri State in Maryville, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and Minor in Spanish.  She went on to obtain her Master’s Degree in ESL from Kansas State University.  She began her teaching career as an ESL teacher in the Kansas City, Kansas school district, becoming the ESL facilitator her second year.  Marcy has worked for the Park Hill School District for the last 20 years. Last year, she was named Park Hill Teacher of the Year.  Marcy is involved in district ESL curriculum writing, co-facilitates the district ESL department, and serves on the district policy committee and building leadership team.  When she’s not teaching, Marcy is an avid reader and loves spending time with her two children and husband.

Kristine Shuey graduated from the University of Central Missouri-Warrensburg with a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education.  She went on to obtain a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from William Woods University and is currently working towards an Education Specialist Degree in Administration.  Kristine began teaching kindergarten in 2005. She has taught at Fort Osage, Raymore Peculiar, and currently teaches in the Park Hill School District.  Kristine is involved in science curriculum writing, the District Continuous Improvement Team, and the building leadership team.  When she’s not teaching, Kristine enjoys watching her kids participate in their own school and sports activities.

Colleen Shuler 2

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

Kerri Stith and Lindsey Mueller have a total of 19 years’ experience teaching second grade, third grade and Title One reading.  They have both completed their Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Missouri-Columbia.  This year, they decided to share their love of education by starting their own Facebook/Instagram page called Resource Queens. They are passionate about sharing resources and creating inspiration with other teachers.

Anna Van Delft

Anna Van Delft is a first grade teacher at Knox County R-1 School District in Edina, Missouri. She earned her Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Psychology in 2009 from Truman State University. She continued her education and in 2010, earned her Master’s of Arts in Education, again, from Truman State University. This is Anna’s 8th year of teaching and her second time presenting at the Missouri Early Learning Conference. Anna has been very enthusiastic about Knox County’s decision to make the schools’ 1:1 initiative a reality. This initiative has allowed every student at Knox County to have an Apple device. Because each student in her classroom has an iPad mini, she incorporates technology into her daily plans. It is Anna’s passion to meet the learning needs of her students, and she believes that the technology available to her has increased her ability to engage her students as well as promote student creativity.

Betty Porter Walls, a native St. Louisan, is a career educator with successful experience at all levels of education–elementary, secondary, undergraduate and graduate.  Now an associate professor in the College of Education at Harris-Stowe State University (HSSU), she believes that education is a civil right and that every student must have qualified and effective classroom teachers and school administrators to achieve at highest levels.  A noted consultant/presenter, she has presented at previous Early Learning and Write to Learn Conferences in Missouri, nationally for the International Literacy/Reading Association (ILA), National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and other organizations and consults with school districts nationally and in Missouri.  Dr. Walls has received numerous honors and awards, including “Outstanding University Educator” from the Governor of Missouri, “ Educator of the Year’ from HSSU and induction into its “Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame,” “Outstanding Literacy Instructor” by the Missouri State Council of the International Literacy/Reading Association, “High Flyer Award” from the University of Missouri – Columbia, “People Making a World of Difference” from B’Nai B’rith, and “Salute to Excellence in Education” from the Louis American Newspaper.

Betty Walls 2016

Andrea Young

Andrea Young is a proud graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who holds a Bachelor of Science in Education, Master of Arts in Education, and a Reading Specialist Endorsement. She has experience ranging from teaching Special Education K-6, Reading Specialist (K-5), and currently she is celebrating her twelfth year as a Elementary Literacy Coach.  Andrea has presented at many local, state, and national conferences and believes that as educators we must never stop learning!  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her three (very active) young boys.  She is very excited to explore with you the many engagement strategies that will benefit ALL of your students.


Adrianne Zielke is a reading specialist in the Blue Valley School District. She has previously taught kindergarten and third grade. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree in Curriculum & Instruction, both from the University of Kansas. Adrianne has served on her building leadership team and teacher’s assistance team. When she is not teaching or involved in after-hours activities with the school, Adrianne enjoys traveling and spending time with her husband and dog.

Adrianne Zielke