Speaker Bios

Ruha Benjamin

Ruha Benjamin, Professor of African American studies, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540, New book “Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want”.

Ruha Benjamin is a professor of African American studies at Princeton University and author of People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier(Stanford University Press). She has studied the social dimensions of science, technology, and medicine for over fifteen years and speaks widely on issues of innovation, equity, health, and justice in the U.S. and globally. She is also a Faculty Associate in the Center for Information Technology Policy; Program on History of Science; Center for Health and Wellbeing; Program on Gender and Sexuality Studies; Department of Sociology; and serves on the Executive Committees for the Program in Global Health and Health Policy and Center for Digital Humanities. Ruha is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the 2017 President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton.

Ruha received her PhD in Sociology from UC Berkeley, completed postdoctoral fellowships at UCLA’s Institute for Genetics and Society and Harvard University’s Science, Technology, and Society Program, and has received grants and fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study, American Council for Learned Societies, National Science Foundation, and California Institute for Regenerative Medicine among others.

Her work is published in numerous journals including Science, Technology, and Human ValuesPolicy & Society; Ethnicity & Health; and the Annals of the American Academy of Social and Political Science and reported on in national and international news outlets including The Guardian, National Geographic, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and Nature. Her forthcoming second book, Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code, examines the relationship between machine bias and systemic racism, analyzing specific cases of “discriminatory design” and offering tools for a socially-conscious approach to tech development.


Kathleen Budge

Kathleen Budge brings a blend of 26 years of practical experience as a teacher and administrator combined with more than a decade of work dedicated to bridging the gap between the university and the teaching profession. She is an associate professor of Educational Leadership and Chair of the Curriculum, Instruction, and Foundational Studies Department at Boise State University, where her research focus on poverty, rural education, school improvement, and leadership development. She is co-author (with William Parrett) of the award-winning book Turning High-Poverty Schools into High-Performing Schools, and the video series, Disrupting Poverty in Elementary and Secondary Classrooms. Bill and Kathleen’s newest book, Disrupting Poverty: Five Powerful Classroom Practices, was honored as an ASCD Member book and provided to over 50,000 educational leaders and classroom teachers worldwide as a part of its official release in January of 2018. Within six months of its release, it was recognized as a best seller by ASCD. Kathleen has conducted numerous presentations at international, national, and state conferences and served as guest speaker for webinars, podcasts, and symposiums related to the topic of poverty and the “whole child.” Her consultancies include state departments, boards of education, education associations, state and regional service providers; as well as schools in 15 states and 4 nations. She earned her doctorate from the University of Washington in 2005. She continues to maintain that her most important and significant work has been teaching first graders to read.


Nancy Hellen

Nancy started at the Agency of Education in 2016 as a Title I Educational Consultant for the Federal Programs Team with an emphasis on Parent and Family Engagement. This past September she joined the Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS) Team and continues to focus on Family Engagement as well as on trauma informed practice and resiliency.  She previously served in Vermont schools as an elementary teacher and toured Vermont as a puppeteer with Puppets in Education.


Jon Kidde

Jon Kidde has been exploring the concepts of restorative justice (RJ) for 20 years and has played a critical role in the conceptualization, application, and enhancement of restorative justice within different contexts—education, justice, and organizations in several states. Jon is an independent consultant living in Vermont focused on restorative justice, school climate, and juvenile justice reform.



Emma Louie, Ed.D.

As a Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS) Coordinator at the Vermont Agency of Education, Emma Louie focuses on a systemic and comprehensive framework that provides academic, behavioral, and social/emotional supports for all students. Emma promotes this systemic approach for understanding a culture of continuous improvement through effective decision making that ensures excellence and equity. She has served as a classroom teacher, school administrator, school district administrator and school district superintendent. Emma holds a Bachelor of Science degree, a Master of Arts degree, A Master of Divinity degree, an Educational Specialist degree and a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership.


David Melnick

Dave Melnick, LICSW is the Director of Outpatient Services at NFI, Vermont, a statewide mental health agency primarily serving children, adolescents and families. For the past thirty years, Dave has worked in a variety of settings including: outpatient, residential treatment, and in public and day treatment schools. During his twenty-year tenure at NFI, Vermont, Dave has held multiple positions, serving as the Director of Residential Treatment before becoming the Director of Outpatient Services (The Family Center). He started The Family Center in 2004, and with the help of a gifted clinical staff, has built the program into statewide and regional recognition. The work at the Family Center focuses on family therapy and trauma-recovery work, and people of all ages are served. In addition to direct clinical work, the staff also provides in-service training, and evaluative and consultative services around the state. The staff works closely with multiple systems including child welfare, education, mental health, law enforcement, courts and medical.

Along with his focus on Developmental Trauma, Dave has expertise in family therapy, adolescence and attachment. He is trained in EMDR, DDP (Dr. Hughe’s attachment model), and a variety of family systems models. In 2015, the ChildTrauma Academy (CTA) acknowledged that Dave had completed NMT Training Certification through the Phase II level, and in April 2017 he was selected as a Fellow at the CTA.

At this time, most of his work focuses on providing trauma evaluations for individual youth, in-service trainings, and consulting with child welfare, mental health and educational professionals. Dave and the Family Center staff are currently refining their Trauma-informed Schools Program; over the past seven years over 75 public and day treatment schools have participated in some form of training to improve educational practices for youth exposed to trauma.

Dave received his master’s in social welfare from UC Berkeley in 1988, and he has been an adjunct instructor at the University of Vermont. Dave is licensed in both the state of Vermont and New York as a clinical social worker. Dave teaches graduate classes for the Vermont Higher Education Collaboration and is a much in-demand presenter and consultant in Vermont and New York.

Jonathan Miller-Lane

Jonathan Miller-Lane, Ph.D. is Associate Professor & Director of the Education Studies Program at Middlebury College.  He teaches courses addressing the goals and purposes of education in a democratic republic, works with students who are earning VT teacher licensure, and is the lead faculty of the Sophomore Seminar in the Liberal Arts.  A former high school teacher he holds a Ph.D. in Democratic Education and is the founder of Blue Heron Aikido.


Annie O’Shaughnessy

Annie O’Shaughnessy has been an educator and circle keeper for over 23 years, bringing a fierce commitment to the work of creating schools and classrooms where everyone experiences belonging, safety, respect, and equal voice. Her work in restorative practices is informed by mindfulness, trauma-informed care, equity, and social neuroscience and is motivated by the desire to create more holistic approaches to school change. Currently, Annie is an independent consultant focusing on direct support of teachers and teacher/student teams through courses, trainings, and curriculum development.


Dr. Tony Sinanis

Tony Sinanis is currently the Assistant Superintendent for HR and Leadership Development in the Chappaqua Central School District Public in New York State. Previously, Tony served as a Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction, and building principal in New York. Prior to his formal leadership positions, Tony was an elementary classroom teacher in Grades 3, 4 & 5. Additionally, Tony received the 2014 New York State Elementary Principal of the Year Award. Tony has presented at both national and local conferences and is a published author, who has co-written three books, including the Amazon bestseller, Hacking Leadership.


Michael Swenson

Michael J. Swenson has been a client facilitator since 2001 and a contract consultant since 2011. He loves sharing content with clients that dramatically helps them in both their work and personal lives. He has taught over one thousand staff at Cornell University, and over one thousand other educators in FranklinCovey’s Leader in Meprocess. Before coming to FranklinCovey, he spent twenty-three years in leadership and management over a career spanning multiple industries, including six years in the United States Army Transportation Corps, seven years in telecommunications, and nine years working in higher education. Michael has a B.A. in education with an emphasis in computer science and math.

Tara Trainor

Tara Trainor is a rock-star teacher-leader who was selected for the original CAST cohort for educators in 2007 and has been a leader and trainer in UDL ever since. With twenty years of experience in both elementary and secondary education, Tara is one of the most creative, innovative educators today. With undergraduate degrees in special education and psychology and a graduate degree in reading and language from the University of Massachusetts, Tara has the unique perspective of practicing UDL as a special educator, a reading interventionist and a classroom teacher and can share on-the-ground strategies to support educators at all levels and in all subjects. Tara has collaborated and worked in conjunction with Katie Novak to design graduate courses and professional development since 2007.

Additionally, with a strong proven track record of raising student achievement, Trainor’s experience as a reading specialist, classroom teacher and literacy curriculum coordinator have provided her with extensive experience in supporting teams of teachers in analyzing data to plan and develop educational program recommendations and implementation of UDL strategies in all three tiers of literacy. Trainor excels at supporting teams to track and analyze data on teacher and student performance to uncover trends and act strategically and effectively to improve student achievement results. Partnering with her for professional development will increase the engagement and efficacy of all students.