Keynote Speakers

Tamiko BrownTamiko Brown has 20 years’ experience in education and has spent 15 years as a school librarian. In 2016 she was named Campus Teacher of the Year at Ed White E-STEM Magnet School, and she is SLJ‘s 2017 School Librarian of the Year. She was the first librarian in her district, Clear Creek Independent School District, to open a makerspace for students three years ago. She is a grant writer, blogger, social media enthusiast, Robotics sponsor, TCEA Presenter, TLA Presenter, Maker Club Sponsor, book club sponsor, and book promoter. For more information go to or (Twitter) @booksforkiddos.
Turtles All the Way DownJohn GreenJohn Green is the award-winning, #1 bestselling author of Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with David Levithan), and The Fault in Our Stars. On October 10th his latest book Turtles All the Way Down will be released. His many accolades include the Printz Medal, a Printz Honor, and the Edgar Award. He has twice been a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize. John was selected by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. With his brother, Hank, John is one half of the Vlogbrothers, one of the most popular online video projects in the world.
Alvin IrbyAlvin Irby is nationally-recognized educator, comedian, and entrepreneur. As Founder and Chief Reading Inspirer at Barbershop Books, winner of the National Book Foundation’s 2017 Innovations in Reading Prize, Irby has inspired a national movement to promote early literacy in barbershops. In 2016, he published his debut children’s book Gross Greg, a laugh-out-loud story about a boy who eats his boogers despite the protest of everyone he encounters. Irby holds an MS in Education from Bank Street College of Education and an MPA from New York University.
Alan MillerAlan C. Miller is the founder and CEO of the News Literacy Project. A former investigative reporter at the Los Angeles Times and the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2003, Alan founded NLP in 2008, two years after he spoke to his daughter’s sixth-grade class about his work as a journalist and began thinking about the impact that many journalists could have if they shared their expertise with the nation’s students.
He is a graduate of Wesleyan University and has a master’s degree in political science from the University of Hawaii.


Alicia AbdulAlicia Abdul has worked as a high school librarian for the City School District of Albany since 2007. She reviews and contributes to several professional magazines, facilitates a book group for local librarians, presents individually and collaboratively on books and library programming, and sits on a national selection committee for graphic novels. She also writes for local and national book blogs while maintaining her own called Readers Be Advised on WordPress.
Jarred AmatoJarred Amato is a high school English teacher in Nashville, TN and the founder of Project LIT Community, a national, grassroots literacy organization. Jarred is passionate about bringing teachers, students, and communities together to read and discuss diverse books. Jarred has served in several teacher-leadership roles over the past nine years in the classroom, and was recently named the 2016–17 Teacher of the Year at Maplewood High School. Jarred received his B.A. in English and History from Vanderbilt University and his M.A.T. from Belmont University, and is currently pursuing his Ed.D. from Lipscomb University.
Emily ArrowEmily Arrow creates songs about…books! Formerly a K–6 music educator, Emily’s passion for books led her to create music that promotes literacy. Now based in Music City (Nashville, TN), Emily pioneers bringing today’s best picture books to life by collaborating with best-selling authors and illustrators. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, National Parenting Products Award and Parents’ Choice Gold Award. Her two albums, “Storytime Singalong, Volume 1 & 2” are available on iTunes and you can find her made-for-the-classroom music videos on YouTube. When Emily’s not creating new songs and videos, she’s performing around the country inspiring listeners to sing, read, and celebrate books. And of course, when she’s not doing all of the above: she’s reading.
Allison BarneyAllison Barney coordinates Nashville’s Limitless Libraries program, a partnership between Nashville Public Library and Metro Nashville Public Schools. She currently chairs the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation and formerly served on ALSC’s Notable Children’s Books committee.
Cece BellCece Bell is an author and illustrator of books for children. She lives in an old church and she works right next door in a new-ish barn. Her graphic novel memoir, El Deafo, which chronicles her childhood experiences with hearing loss, received a Newbery Honor and an Eisner Award in 2015. Cece’s other books include the Geisel Honor-winning “Rabbit & Robot” series, I Yam a Donkey, and Chuck and Woodchuck. She enjoys hanging out and discussing book ideas with her husband and frequent collaborator, author Tom Angleberger.
Dr. Bill ChapmanDr. Bill Chapman currently serves as the superintendent for the Jarrell Independent School District in Jarrell, TX. Prior to working in Jarrell, he was employed as a school administrator in Coldspring, Willis, and Huntsville. Before he became a school administrator he served as a teacher and coach in both Huntsville and Corpus Christi, TX. Dr. Chapman received the 2017 Distinguished Library Service Award for School Administrators by the Texas School Library Association. Dr. Chapman has a B.A. in History from the University of Texas at San Antonio, and a Master’s in Educational Administration and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Sam Houston State University.
Priscille DandoPriscille Dando is Coordinator of Library Information Services for Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, the 10th largest school division in the nation. Her 26-year career as a teacher and librarian has focused on best practices for student learning, school leadership, and advocacy. She was a 2015-16 Lilead Fellow and a member of the 2016-17 AASL Presidential Initiative Task Force producing School Librarians as Learning Leaders. Priscille received the 2017 Outstanding Nonschool-Based Leader award for Fairfax County Public Schools.
Dr. Monique FelderGrowing up in the culturally-rich community of Queens, NY, Dr. Monique Felder learned quickly that schools may have children of different backgrounds and cultures within them, but all children within those schools are not given an equal invitation, access, or opportunities to experience and engage in rigorous programs. After graduating from York College with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education, Dr. Felder went on to earn a Master’s Degree from Johns Hopkins University with a specialization in elementary science and mathematics and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Dr. Amy GoodloeDr. Amy Goodloe is the principal at Rocky Run MS, in Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia. Rocky Run MS is currently one of two middle schools in the FCPSOn Blended Learning pilot. An educator for over 20 years, Dr. Goodloe has served as a teacher and administrator at the elementary and secondary levels, and as an adjunct professor for the University of Virginia. Dr. Goodloe strives to cultivate a culture of positivity and innovation in the schools she serves.
Gareth HindsGareth Hinds is the creator of critically-acclaimed graphic novels based on literary classics, including Beowulf, King Lear, The Merchant of Venice, The Odyssey, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth. Gareth is a recipient of the Boston Public Library’s “Literary Lights for Children” award. His books can be found in bookstores and English classrooms across the country, and his illustrations have appeared in such diverse venues as the Society of Illustrators, the New York Historical Society, and over a dozen published video games.
Kate JeromeKate Jerome is a seasoned publishing executive and award-winning author who has written more than 200 educational children’s books including Who Was Amelia Earhart?, of the New York Times bestselling biography series. She recently completed a Fellowship at Stanford University’s Distinguished Careers Institute and is an expert in (and passionate proponent of) intergenerational communication as evidenced by her TEDx talk and her new “Read Together/Do Together™” series of children’s books.
Rae Anne LockeRae Anne Locke is a 2012 recipient of the New York Times/ALA/Carnegie I Love My Librarian Award. Over her 20+ year career as an elementary school librarian, she has been a champion of cultivating students’ love of reading and learning. After receiving a master’s degree in library science at Simmons College, she worked at the Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn before starting the “Secret Garden” Library at Saugatuck Elementary in Westport, CT where she currently works. She leads district ITL workshops as well as the robust author program, and serves on the educational advisory committee of public television WNET and the Westport Public Library’s fundraiser program. Rae Anne is the co-adviser for The Student Caring Council–cultivating students to make a difference in the world–and chairs the One Book, One School initiative; new and exciting this year, a Maker Space, genrefication, and new transitional library furniture for kinesthetic learning. She is also a passionate traveler, photographer, and foodie.
Gregory LumGregory Lum, Library Director at Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon, has been a classroom teacher or librarian for over thirty years. Gregory has served on multiple book award committees including Michael L. Printz, Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, and the Schneider Family Book Award. He was recently elected to serve on the 2019 John Newbery Medal committee. Besides reading YA, Gregory enjoys spending time with his wife and children, going to the beach, attending sporting events and plays, and working on his two-acre farm. You can contact Gregory on Twitter @lumgregory.
Megan MathesMegan Mathes has been a classroom teacher for over eighteen years, working in schools in Tampa, FL, Brooklyn, NY and, presently, teaching sophomore Honors English and AP English Literature at Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon. At Jesuit she serves on the Diversity and Unity Committees, is a member of the Campus Ministry Program, and volunteers as faculty advisor to the Gender Equality club. When she’s not grading papers, Megan enjoys reading, cooking, spending time with her family, and watching any BBC series she can get her hands on.

Paul DanowskiPaul Danowski, senior at Jesuit High School, is deeply involved in theatre and is a Drama Club officer. In addition to his role as a Lead Ambassador at Jesuit, Paul plays both recreational and competitive soccer, receiving his varsity letter sophomore year. An avid English lover, he is also fluent in both French and Spanish. Paul enjoys creative writing, art, singing, and playing guitar and piano in his spare time. Next year, Paul plans to study both Theatre and English in college.
Amanda FranceAmanda France, a senior at Jesuit High School, plays violin in the Portland Metropolitan Youth Symphony and studies Mandarin Chinese. She is also involved in her church’s liturgy band and Jesuit’s Asian American Club. Amanda plans to major in psychology and study abroad in college. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and learning about music history.
Sahana JayaramanSahana Jayaraman, senior at Jesuit High School, is involved in National Honor Society, French National Honor Society, cross country, and swimming. Sahana hopes to double major in journalism and business in college next fall. In her spare time, Sahana enjoys running, cooking and reading.
James PecoreJames Pecore, an honors student and enthused musician at Jesuit High School, has actively participated in choir, drama, Boy Scouts, Unity Club, and National Honor Society. James participated in Cornell University’s Summer College to study Genius and Madness in Literature for college credit. In his spare time, James enjoys writing music and reading stories.

Javaka SteptoeOnce a model and inspiration for his father, the late African American award-winning author/illustrator John Steptoe, Caldecott and Coretta Scott King award winning author/illustrator Javaka Steptoe has established himself as an outstanding talent in his field. He utilizes everyday objects from aluminum plates to pocket lint, and sometimes a jigsaw and paint, to deliver reflective and thoughtful collage creations filled with vitality, playful energy, and strength.
His life work and artistry is a reflection of his commitment to the cause of children’s education. He believes that art as a tool for education helps strengthen problem-solving skills, builds esteem, and fosters independent and innovative thought.
Dr. Thomas TuckerIn 2006, Dr. Thomas Tucker became the first and is the only African-American to hold an upper-level administrative post in the Hilliard City School District when he was named director of Secondary Curriculum, the first African-American to be named superintendent of Licking Heights Local School District, the first African-American superintendent in Licking County, the first African-American superintendent in the Worthington City School District and only the second African-American superintendent in Franklin County. In February of 2016, he was named National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA).
Kelli Van VelkinburghKelli Van Velkinburgh is an Instructional Technology Coach and a Google Certified Educator in the Educational Services Department at Colton Joint Unified School District. She as a M.A. in Education and is a credentialed Library Media Teacher with Subject Matter Authorizations in Information and Digital Literacy. Kelli also holds credentials in English and Health. She is a member of CUE, ISTE, CSLA, and CJUSD’s Forward Strategy Committee.
Jason WalshJason Walsh is the Coordinator of Performing Arts for Metro Nashville Public Schools. He provides support for the music, theatre, dance content areas, and STEAM implementation. Previously, Mr. Walsh served as a Dean of Students and World Percussion Teacher at John Overton High School. Prior to his appointment in Nashville, Mr. Walsh was Assistant Band Director at Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport, TN. Mr. Walsh received his Bachelor of Music Education from East Tennessee State University and a Master of Arts in Instructional Leadership from Cumberland University. In his spare time Mr. Walsh is an avid Titans fan, and loves to spend time with his nine year old son, Miles.
Gene Luen YangGene Luen Yang is the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. He has written and drawn many graphic novels, including American Born Chinese, which was a National Book Award finalist, as well as the winner of the Printz Award and an Eisner Award. His graphic novel set Boxers and Saints won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He is the author of the “Secret Coders” series, combining comics and computer programming, and he has also written for the hit comics Avatar: The Last Airbender and Superman. You can visit him online at

Unconference & Town Hall Facilitators

Michelle LuhtalaMichelle Luhtala is the Library Department Chair at New Canaan High School. She facilitates an online professional learning community at Michelle was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker in 2015, and is a contributing author to Growing Schools: Librarians as Professional Developers by Libraries Unlimited.
Elissa MalespinaElissa Malespina is a Teacher Librarian at Somerville Middle School in Somerville NJ. Elissa is also current President of the ISTE Librarians Network. You can contact her on Twitter @elissamalespina & on her website
Donna Sullivan-MacdonaldDonna Sullivan-Macdonald is the Library Media and Instructional Technology Specialist at Orchard School in South Burlington, Vermont. After 13 years of classroom teaching, Donna completed necessary coursework and became Orchard’s librarian in 1996. She earned a Master’s degree in information technology education in 2003 and was named South Burlington’s Outstanding Educator in 2010. Donna is a former president of ISTE’s Librarians Network and is the current president of the Vermont School Library Association. Donna co-coordinated Vermont’s statewide joint library/technology conference, Dynamic Landscapes for several years. Donna has organized a makerspace in Orchard School’s library, which you may see on the library website here: You may find her on Twitter @dsmacdonald.
Joyce ValenzaAfter completely 25 years of joyful practice as a teacher librarian in K12 education, Joyce Valenza joined the faculty of Rutgers University where she is an Assistant Professor in the Master of Information program. Joyce has worked in special, public, and school libraries. She writes the NeverendingSearch Blog for School Library Journal and contributes to several other library and edtech publications. Joyce is active in AASL, ALA, and ISTE and considers herself one of the godmothers of the #tlchat network.


Playground Facilitators

Kristina HolzweissKristina Holzweiss is the President of the nonprofit organization Long Island LEADS, a community effort to learn, educate, advocate, develop, and support the maker movement and STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, art, and math). Long Island LEADS is a founding member of the Nation of Makers. In 2015 she founded SLIME–Students of Long Island Maker Expo where schools, libraries, museums, nonprofit organizations, civic associations, and educational companies can celebrate creativity and innovation. She was named SLJ‘s School Librarian of the Year in 2015.
Doreen ShultzDoreen Shultz has worked in the library since her teenage years. After receiving her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, Doreen studied at Long Island University for her Master’s in Library Science. She worked as a public librarian for over 16 years before making a switch to the schools. She has been the librarian in Bay Shore Union Free School District in New York for the past 20 years, working with students in grades K–5. She continues to learn about integrating technology into the library and creating makerspace areas. Kristina Holzweiss, her colleague, has been her inspiration to develop a hands-on creative library for her students and teachers. “A librarian’s job is constantly evolving and it’s important that I keep learning and changing to meet the needs of our 21st century learners.”