Blue Ribbon Academy can play a key role in your staff development and training program, providing you with outstanding training content.
Our team of faculty includes some of the most respected thought leaders in the education field. They come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds, but each one is passionate about equipping administrators and teachers for greatness.
Becky Johnson is a 20-year veteran teacher who has served in a variety of positions ranging from K-5 computer instructor to fifth grade teacher. For the past four years, she has worked as an elementary school librarian. Becky has always had a passion for books, rereading novels over and over again as a child, and weaving that love into a career has been a dream come true.
With a master's degree in teacher leadership from Roosevelt University and an endorsement in library science, Becky is a well-rounded and passionate teacher. After presenting for several years at multiple conferences, she realized she has a passion for training and inspiring other educators.
Catherine M. Freericks
Dr. Cathy Freericks has lived in Arizona since 1981. She graduated from the University of Oregon where she majored in music education, specializing in piano and French horn performance. During her first years of teaching, Cathy earned her master's degree in educational leadership and policy studies from the University of Arizona. She later became a K-8 Assistant Principal in the Pendergast School District, where she was instrumental in winning a major grant for her school under the Drug-Free Schools Initiative.
After being recognized for her efforts in the fight against drugs, Cathy was asked to serve Arizona governor Rose Mofford in the newly formed Governor’s Office of Substance Abuse. She worked for the governor for 18 months but decided politics wasn't for her. Returning to the world of education, Cathy accepted a position at Arizona State University’s College of Education. In this capacity she supervised student teachers, taught classes for both undergraduate and graduate students, and was responsible for developing the DELTA Doctoral Program for working administrators.
Cathy currently works as a consultant assisting schools with a variety of needs. She has been married to the same man for 34 years and enjoys spending time with him and her two children. This past year, she went skydiving with her daughter Alex, age 22, and white water rafting with her son Carter, age 23.
Crystal Scillitani is a lifelong learner, educator, and leader. Her career in education began as an elementary teacher prior to transitioning into school administration where she has served at the elementary, middle, and high school levels as an Assistant Principal and Principal. An interest in teacher training and coaching took her to the university level where she was part of the founding team for the Department of Elementary Education at North Carolina State University.
While there she established partnerships with local schools to provide high quality field experiences for teacher candidates in the first STEM focused undergraduate program in the southeast. Scillitani prides herself in being an advocate for students, families, and teachers by recognizing that strong relationships are key to effective schools. She is a proud veteran of the United States Air Force and currently resides in North Carolina with her family. In her free time she enjoys running, reading, traveling, and volunteer work.
Dr. David Franklin is an award winning school administrator, education professor, curriculum designer, and presenter. He earned a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from California State University, East Bay, a Master’s Degree in Education Technology from National University, and holds a B.A. in Music from the University of California, San Diego.
In addition to served as an adjunct faculty member at universities around the country such as Temple University and Colorado State University, he also serves as a Senior Faculty member of the Global Schools Leadership Alliance. Through his work at GSLA, Dr. Franklin mentors teacher leaders, aspiring administrators, current school principals, and district leadership. Dr. Franklin has presented at national and international education conferences and is a sough after presenter in the areas of academic intervention, school leadership, creating a shared vision, creating common assessments, and data analysis.
Davina Mann is the Instructional Technology and Math Coach for Owens Cross Roads Elementary School, a Blue Ribbon School located in rural Madison County, Alabama. She has served as an instructional coach for seven years after serving as a 21st Century Learning Grant Coordinator for three years. This followed a distinguished teaching career of twelve years in the classroom.
Davina has served on a variety of curriculum development teams, including the creation of professional development programs in the area of technology integration for the Alabama Department of Education’s Alabama Learning Exchange (ALEX). In 2005, she was named Elementary Teacher of the Year for her District. In 2012, Davina was awarded the Chiquita Marbury Technology Innovation Award for Elementary School Teachers by the Alabama State Department of Education. This award is presented to the leading technology innovator across the state. Davina has also been recognized by the University of Alabama’s Office of Research in Teaching for Excellence in Teaching in the Disciplines.
Davina holds a Master’s in Education from the University of Alabama and has served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Alabama Huntsville. She is an active presenter at local, state, regional, and national conferences including multiple presentations at the Blue Ribbon Schools National Conference (2010, 2011 & 2013), the Alabama Educational Technology Conference, the Georgia Educational Technology Conference and the Alabama Department of Education’s MEGA Conference.
Davina is an active user and presenter for Nearpod, Plickers, and a variety of other EdTEch related products and services. She can be found on Twitter at @LittleTechCoach.
Donna Thompson received her BS from Furman University with a major in Computer Science/Math. In 2011 she completed her Masters of Science from Wilkes University in Instructional Media. She has been in computer support and training for over 25 years. Donna is currently an Education Technology Instructor for SCETV and travels across South Carolina showing teachers the exciting free resources SCETV has to offer for K-12 and ways to integrate technology into the classroom.
Dr. Jerome Ward is the Instructional Partner and AP English Literature instructor at Hartselle High School in Hartselle, Alabama. Ward works closely with school leaders to design and deliver professional development opportunities for teachers within his school and district. In 2014, Ward was instrumental in designing and implementing the Hartselle Educators' Academy for Redefining Teaching (HEART), a professional learning community with a focus on improving literacy instruction in all disciplines and grade levels.
Additionally, Dr. Ward has worked with A+ College Ready as an AP English instructor and consultant. In 2014, Ward was named the Secondary Teacher of the Year within the Hartselle City School District. He greatly enjoys teaching and learning, and he's quick to note that working closely with teachers is the best way to improve his own instructional practices.
Dr. Jesús Celaya is a native of Tucson, Arizona and is the principal at Drachman K-8 Montessori Magnet School, in the Tucson Unified School District, that was Named a Magnet School of Excellence by the Magnet Schools of America Organization, and a National Blue Ribbon School by the US Department of Education in 2015.
Dr. Celaya has been principal at Drachman K-8 Montessori Magnet School since 2006, and he has the second longest tenure at a site of any administrative staff in his district. His previous experiences in education include adjunct assistant professorships at The University of Arizona and with Northern Arizona University, and 20 years of teaching and/or serving as an administrator in K-8 urban public school settings. Dr. Celaya obtained his Ph.D. (2003) and Bachelor’s (1997) from the University of Arizona and his Master’s (1998) from Northern Arizona University. He enjoys writing poetry, children’s literature, and raising his three children in Tucson.
Jodi’s professional career has been centered around the field of Education where she’s spent the last 24 years working with children, parents, teachers and volunteers. Her experiences include teaching, coaching, consulting, professional development and administration. She strives to make the most of each and every day and enjoys using her facilitation skills, enthusiasm and passion for learning in all that she does. Jodi believes that we never stop learning and Blue Ribbon Schools is a place for learners to come together and achieve more than they ever imagined. Her goal is to provide learners with hands on material that they can use within their classroom the very next day. Jodi wants to inspire learners and help them ignite their passion in education.
Eastern Illinois University - Bachelor of Science in Education
National Louis University - Masters of Education, Elementary Education and Teaching
Northern Illinois University - Masters of Science, Education Administration Type 75 Certificate
Keith George is an Educational Specialist for the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) of the Alabama State Department of Education. Keith has been a part of the AMSTI since March of 2016. Prior to that, he was part of the Alabama Department of Education’s award-winning Alabama Learning Exchange, or ALEX, web portal. He joined the Alabama Department of Education after enjoying thirteen years of teaching in middle and secondary classrooms across the state.
Keith’s dedication to improving education is displayed by his continuous efforts to share his knowledge. He has been a regular presenter at the Alabama Educational Technology Conference since 2001. He has also presented at several regional conferences across the Southeast, including the Georgia Educational Technology Conference and the Tennessee Educational Technology Conference. Each year, he leads or assists with an average of twenty professional learning presentations reaching hundreds of Alabama teachers.
Keith holds an Ed.S. in Instructional Leadership and is currently writing his dissertation, which will examine the efficacy of technology coaches in K12 schools. He is a Google Certified Teacher, a Microsoft Certified Educator/Trainer, an Edmodo Certified Trainer and is a recognized ambassador/trainer for many other EdTech products and services including Participate Learning, Plickers, and Symbaloo. Keith blogs at www.bigtechcoach.com and is active on Twitter (@bigtechcoach). You can also hear Keith on the Today’s Tech Coach podcast available on iTunes.
Keith Trawick is the principal of Legacy Elementary School, a Blue Ribbon Lighthouse School, in Madison, AL. He earned his B.A. in Elementary Education from the University of Alabama, Huntsville and a M.A. in Educational Leadership from Samford University in Birmingham. Keith began his teaching career in 2006 with Athens City Schools. In 2008, he transferred to Madison County Schools to begin teaching fifth grade at Legacy Elementary. While at Legacy, Keith has served as a classroom teacher, assistant principal and now principal. This year marks the start of his fourth year in the principal’s office. During his tenure as an administrator at Legacy, the school has been recognized as the top elementary school in the nation for science education, being awarded the 2012 Intel School of Distinction.
Keith has been involved with Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence, Inc. since 2013. He has presented at the National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Conference and is a trained member of the BRS Assessment Team. Keith believes that building relationships is the key to success. He stresses this with his faculty and staff and works diligently to foster positive relationships within his school and community. Through his BRS Academy course, he will focus on developing the necessary partnerships with your stakeholders to create a culture that reflects a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. He is excited to be working with the Blue Ribbon Academy and looks forward to getting to know each of you!
Kerrie Bass has been a professional educator since 1998. Kerrie holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s degree in Instructional Leadership. She has served as an elementary teacher, curriculum specialist, middle school math coach, high school assistant principal, and is currently the principal of Mt. Carmel Elementary School, a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, in Huntsville, Alabama.
During her 18 years as an educator, she has worked in a variety of school settings from rural Alabama to inner city Richmond, Virginia. Kerrie also worked for 5 years in a suburban school, with a large ELL population, just outside of Washington, DC. With a passion for curriculum and instruction, she has worked with a variety of educators on curriculum pacing, planning, and implementation.
Kerrie continues to be one of the many educators “in the trenches” of public education working to overcome the odds to improve student achievement. Kerrie resides in Huntsville, Alabama with her husband and 11 year old son.
Kevin is a retired educator with over 30 years of experience in that field and is our instructor for the Organizational Culture course at Blue Ribbon. Kevin has held the position of teacher, school level administrator, board level administrator and superintendent of education mainly with the Trillium Lakelands District School Board in Ontario. Kevin has done considerable work in the areas of special education, safe schools, and equity. His work on bullying prevention and intervention has had impact at the school, board and provincial levels. Kevin has considerable experience in the development, implementation and review of policies, programs, and organizations.
Kevin is also presently a trainer/facilitator for The International Institute for Restorative Practices Canada and facilitates workplace restoration conferences for organizations and companies. As a trainer he has presented many sessions on the Restorative Practices Framework and using RP in schools, organizations and groups in order to enhance culture, improve communication, develop trust and allow people to move forward in a positive direction so that they work to do things “with” each other rather than “to” each other.
Kevin also holds the position of Educational Advisor for Edusight, an educational data management company and advises schools and school districts on how to best manage student data to strategically improve school culture, climate, instruction and assessment. Check out Kevin on Linked In.
Marianne Lucas Lescher
Dr. Marianne Lucas Lescher has a 34 year career in public education as a teacher, district office administrator and 17 years as a highly successful elementary school principal. Dr. Lescher led her school to national prominence in 2015 when Kyrene Traditional Academy (Chandler, AZ) received the National Blue Ribbon Schools Award, the first school in her district to receive this honor.
Her schools have been awarded the A+ School of Excellence Recognition from the Arizona Educational Foundation three times in the past 10 years and she has been recognized as a leader in Arizona as a Circle of Honor Principal (Arizona Department of Education 2010). Dr. Lescher has been Administrator of the Year in her district twice and works to mentor new principals through the Arizona Educational Foundation Principal Leadership Academy. Dr. Lescher received her M.Ed. from University of Massachusetts-Boston and her Ph.D. from Boston College.
Dr. Mark Minskey started his career in education in 1992. After graduating with his bachelors in Elementary Education from West Chester University, he taught both second and fifth grade students, as well as working as a special education teacher. He holds a Masters degree in School Administration and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. His administration background includes: high school assistant principal, elementary assistant principal, PreK-5 Principal, 6-8 Principal, PreK-8 Principal, and Prek-6 Principal. Dr. Minskey currently works as the Chief of Staff for the Madison County School System in Huntsville, AL
Matthew Chase is the executive director of Chase Educational Consulting, a company producing large scale STEAM projects for school systems. Throughout his career Matthew has operated a variety of companies and has been a licensed teacher in the US and abroad. He has many years experience in curriculum development, STEM project development, materials utilization and risk management. Matthew’s educational philosophy is student centered, student led, inquiry based, with teachers becoming facilitators of learning. Matthew enjoys lots of outdoor activities - diving, flying, inventing, creating, and hanging out with his wife and two daughters on the beach.
NATHALIE C. LILAVOIS
Dr. Nathalie C. Lilavois has been an educator for thirty years in a variety of teaching and administrative capacities. As a classroom teacher, she taught at the primary level for ten years. During that time, she also worked as a certified reading specialist, focusing on early literacy. Dr. Lilavois completed her undergraduate degree in elementary education and advanced study in the Teaching of Writing at Hofstra University. She holds a Masters degree in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University and a doctorate of education in Literacy Studies from her alma mater, Hofstra University.
Her most recent accomplishments include the "Friend of Education” Award from the Stony Brook University Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa in June 2016 for outstanding contributions to the field of education through leadership, research, and service as well as a nomination for the National Life Group, “Life Changer of the Year” award for 2016-17.
Nicole McRee is a middle school science teacher with 12 years of teaching experience. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and has a master’s degree in Educational Science Leadership from the University of Illinois. Nicole has presented in a variety of arenas including at the district level, county level, for Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence, and she presents several sessions at the National Science Teacher Conference yearly. She is involved in creating and supporting science curriculum throughout the country and is invested in enhancing science instruction for all learners.
Shirley Ann Smith
Shirley Ann Smith has been an educator for more than 35 years. She began her career as a elementary teacher, subsequently taught at the middle school and university levels before moving to the SCDOE, where she administered several federal and state programs. Currently, she is a consultant advising districts and schools on how to improve teaching and learning through brain-based research, improve literacy across all disciplines, and use technology effectively for student learning.
In her career, she has served as the technology integration consultant for a USC research team studying a 1:1 implementation in a SC Midlands school district and is a Fulbright Specialist awardee in the area of technology integration. She has also served as a technology specialist for the SC STEM Centers, distance learning director at Roper Mountain Science Center (RMSC), and as a NASA Digital Media Lab Fellow. Prior to the RMSC position, as the Director of Curriculum for SERC (Satellite Education Resource Center), a national consortium of public television stations and departments of education, she created and produced many technology based resources for teachers and students including online courses, teleconferences, video modules, and virtual field trips. She has a Ph.D. in Education from the University of South Carolina.
Stacy Barnette currently serves as a Teacher Leader and a first grade teacher in Middle Tennessee. The dual role allows Stacy to have an active role in active teaching and effective student engagement. During Stacy’s 18-year tenure in education, she has served as classroom teacher at many levels, Title I coordinator, RtI coordinator, and Teacher Leader. She has served on many advisory boards including; USDLA National Conference Review Panel, 3M Education Advisory Council, and the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Assessment Team.
Stacy graduated from Shorter College School of Education in 2000 and received her Masters degree from Jacksonville State University in 2005. She is currently pursuing her Ed.D from Nova Southeastern University. Stacy lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband Todd. Together, they have 5 children and 5 grandchildren.