Featured Speakers

Diana Laufenberg, Executive Director and Lead Teacher, Inquiry Schools

A farm kid from Alma Center, Wisconsin, Diana Laufenberg has taught all grade levels from 7-12 in Social Studies. For the past two decades Diana has been a secondary social studies teacher in Wisconsin, Kansas, Arizona and Pennsylvania. She most recently taught at the Science Leadership Academy (SLA) in Philadelphia, an inquiry-driven, project-based high school focused on modern learning. Her practice has deep roots in experiential education, taking students from the classroom to the real world and back again. Prior to her work in Philadelphia, she was an active member of the teaching community in Flagstaff, AZ where she was named Technology Teacher of the Year for Arizona and a member of the Governor’s Master Teacher Corps. Diana was featured on TED.com for her “How to Learn? From Mistakes” and recognized for earning National Board Certification. To learn more about her work:  New York Times Learning blog, Inquiry Based Classrooms, Covid School Transitions, Change Management and School Change and Sustaining Momentum for School Change.

In 2013, Laufenberg partnered with Chris Lehmann to start Inquiry Schools, a non-profit working to create and support learning environments that are inquiry-driven and project-based and which utilize modern technology. She currently serves as the Executive Director and Lead Teacher for Inquiry Schools.

Chris Rush HeadshotChris Rush, Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Innovation, Director of Educational Technology, U.S. Department of Education

Chris currently serves in the U.S Department of Education as Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Innovation & Director of Educational Technology with a critical focus on the future of learning. He also co-founded New Classrooms Innovation Partners, a nonprofit focused on new instructional models including the School of One personalized learning program, named one of Time Magazine’s Top 50 Inventions of the Year. There he has served as Chief Program Officer overseeing model design, build and nationwide school implementation as well as de facto COO/President overseeing strategic and day to day organizational activities. Most notably, Chris previously worked in the Office of Accountability at the NYC Department of Education to co-lead and salvage the troubled design and development of NYC’s $95MM+ Achievement Reporting and Innovation System; Launched an ed-tech consulting services practice at Amplify Education; Specialized in financial management & IT development services at IBM; Launched a pair of tech startups during the dotcom bubble; & taught earth sciences for the Upper Dublin (PA) School District at Robbins Park Environmental Center.

Chris is a Pahara Fellow alum of the Aspen Institute, a recipient of the Robin Hood Heroes award, and holds a M.S. in Information Technology & B.S in Management Science and Information Systems. He is a recurring university guest lecturer at Stanford & Harvard Business Schools and sits on a number of boards of national social impact organizations.


Jason Bailey, Director of Innovation and Design, SETDA

Before joining SETDA, Dr. Jason Bailey was the Senior eLearning Strategist for the Indiana Department of Education. His work provided leadership and support in digital innovation to Indiana classrooms. A former teacher, technology specialist, and district administrator, Jason’s work at the district level included leading a talented team of eLearning Coaches and Technology Specialists in integrating a wealth of technology, including 1:1 computing for more than 14,000 students in 2009. At the state level, Jason developed the Summer of eLearning conference series, designed and published the Indiana Tech Plan Survey, and authored Indiana’s educational cybersecurity initiative.

Derek E. Baird, Author, The Gen Z Frequency

Derek E. Baird, M.A is a leading kidtech expert & author who helps brands, educators & parents connect to kids & teens through culture, social media & technology. He is the author of The Gen Z Frequency (Kogan-Page, 2018), which was translated into Chinese, Vietnamese, Ukrainian, and German editions. He has worked on social media, edtech, cultural strategy, and emerging technology projects for Yahoo! Southeast Asia, Facebook, HBO, The Walt Disney Company (TWDC), Disney Yellow Shoes, Yahoo!, and The Museum of Tolerance and published in numerous international peer-reviewed education technology journals. Derek has also worked as an adjunct instructor in education technology at Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology (GSEP) and was the recipient of a Disney Inventor Award for a patent focused on child privacy technology. Derek can be found online at https://www.derekebaird.com/.

Geoff Belleau headshotGeoff Belleau, Education Program Consultant, California Department of Education

Geoff Belleau is an education program consultant at the California Department of Education. He has 25 years of experience as a highschool, middle-school, and elementary-school educator. Before joining the Department of Education, he was a county office administrator, serving as program manager for instructional technology. In this role, he coordinated instructional technology projects along with district IT administrators and worked with schools and districts on technology integration and professional development. He has presented at several state and national education technology conferences. In his current role he supports schools in CA and the broadband grant as well as facilitating several special construction grants bringing broadband to under/unconnected schools.

Charlene Blohm, President and CEO, C. Blohm & Associates, Inc.

Charlene Blohm, President and CEO of C. Blohm & Associates, Inc. (CB&A) developed a passion for children and education early in her career. Charlene has spent more than 25 years in the communications and marketing fields promoting education and special needs, and is now one of the “go-to” people in the industry. Charlene’s biggest strength is her understanding of the bottom-line value in developing and implementing an integrated approach, yielding the highest return for marketing and public relations investments.

Ed Campos, Educational Consultant, Kings County Office of Education

Ed currently works as a part-time educational consultant with Kings County Office of Education and a part time Professional Learning Manager for the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA). He taught high school Math and CS for 15+ years and has a passion for hip hop, charcuterie, chalk art and gnarly looking succulents.

Doug Casey BoardDoug Casey, Executive Director, Connecticut State Commission for Educational Technology

Doug Casey serves as the Executive Director for the Connecticut State Commission for Educational Technology (CET). In that role, he designs and manages strategic plans that help ensure the successful integration of technology in Connecticut’s schools, libraries, universities, and towns. The CET has direct oversight of statewide programs including the Connecticut Education Network (CEN, the state’s research and education network), its digital library (researchIT, formerly iCONN), and other initiatives.

Prior to joining the CET, Doug served for nearly 10 years as the Director of Technology for the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) in Hartford. There he oversaw and implemented significant improvements in business processes, digital security, and information management for the agency’s 25 schools, 36 districts in the Hartford area, and schools statewide.

Photo Cynthia CurryCynthia Curry, Director, National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (AEM Center) at CAST

Cynthia works with stakeholders across early learning, K-12, higher ed, workforce development, families and EdTech developers to increase the availability and use of accessible materials and technologies for individuals with disabilities. Cynthia brings diverse career experiences to her role, including positions as an engineer, science teacher, statewide technology integration mentor for the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, OSEP project director and lecturer at the University of Southern Maine, and instructional designer and disability services coordinator at the University of New England.

Julia Fallon, Executive Director, SETDA

Julia Fallon is the Executive Director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), where she works with U.S. state and territorial digital learning leaders to empower the education community to leverage technology for learning, teaching, and school operations.

Involved with learning technologies since 1989, her professional interest lies in making the case for public school systems wherein educators are able to optimize technology-rich learning environments to equitably engage the learners who fill their classrooms.

Prior to joining SETDA as the executive director in 2021, Julia worked for Washington’s K-12 education agency, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) as the Title II, Part A Program Lead, where she provided operational leadership and oversight of the federal program designed to improve the quality of instruction and administration.

Melinda Fiscus, Digital Access Coordinator, Learning Technology Center of Illinois

Melinda Fiscus is the Digital Access Coordinator for the Learning Technology Center of Illinois. In this role she provides networking opportunities, consulting services, professional development for school districts, and advocates for the advancement of educational technology across Illinois. She serves as one of the Illinois representatives to the State Education Technology Directors Association (SETDA) and also serves as a governing board member. She is one of the Illinois State E-rate Coordinators (SECA), and is a founding member of the Classroom Connectivity Project. Melinda is in her 21st year working in IL educational technology, and is currently excited about IL broadband opportunities and is passionate about creating immersive learning experiences for staff and students.

Rick Gaisford, Educational Technology Specialist, Utah State Board of Education

Rick Gaisford has 32 years in education and has been involved with educational technology for over 29 years at the classroom, school, district and state levels. He has been an elementary school teacher, school technology specialist, district technology specialist and trainer, state Internet specialist and state education technology specialist. In his current state responsibilities he works with districts and schools on how to effectively integrate technology tools and resources into teaching and learning. He helps oversee the Digital Teaching and Learning program implemented by the Utah State Legislature in 2016. This legislation has provided $45 million to implement a comprehensive program to effectively bring technology into all classrooms in the state.

Ray Girdler, Director of Data Use and Privacy, Arkansas Department of Education

Ray Girdler currently serves as the Director of Data Use & Privacy for the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE). Over the years, he has served in multiple roles at the school and district levels. At ADE, Mr. Girdler’s team provides direct support for K-12 schools and districts in utilizing data, maintaining data privacy & security, and other technology initiatives.

Melissa Greene, Director, Strategic Partnerships, SETDA

Melissa is SETDA’s Director of Strategic Partnerships and brings over 20 years of experience in education, including eight years of experience working as a sales consultant and representative in educational publishing. While at both Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Teacher Created Materials, Inc., Melissa was known for her excellent customer service and relationship building skills, as well as her creative and customized marketing strategies for all of the New York school districts that she served. Ms. Greene’s career has focused on increasing the quality of education for all students as an educator, in the private sector and most recently via New York’s state education agency. Prior to joining SETDA, Melissa was a project coordinator in the Higher Education Office of Teacher and Leader Effectiveness at the New York State Education Department. From 2013 through 2015, Melissa coordinated grants, teacher and leadership events and meetings, professional development projects, created presentations for the Board of Regents meetings, and participated in policy-making groups and conferences in order to improve teacher and leader quality in New York State.

Eric Hileman, Executive Director of IT Services, Oklahoma City Public Schools, SETDA Chair

Eric is the Executive Director of IT Services for Oklahoma City Public Schools, Oklahoma’s largest and most diverse school district with approximately 45 thousand students and 4700 teachers. Prior to joining OKCPS, Eric served as the Director of Instructional Technology for the Oklahoma State Department of Education where he held that post for 14 years. Additionally, he conducts a church choir for an Episcopal parish in Oklahoma City. Eric holds a Bachelor of Music Education from Oklahoma City University, Master of Education in Instructional Psychology and Technology from the University of Oklahoma, and currently pursuing a Doctorate in Educational Leadership for Teaching and Learning.

Kristina Ishmael HeadshotKristina Ishmael, Educational Consultant

Kristina Ishmael is an educator, learner, advocate, and agent of change. Kristina has been part of the SETDA family since she was at the Nebraska Dept of Education, followed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Ed Tech. After her contributions to the Biden-Harris Transition Team earlier this year, she joined SETDA’s team working on special projects.

Victor Karkar, Cofounder and CEO, Scrible

Victor Karkar is Cofounder and CEO of Scrible, an ed tech firm tackling the massive research and writing skills crisis among America’s students. He started Scrible to address his own frustrations working with online information in school. Victor has presented on the challenges and best practices of the research and writing process at state and national education conferences (e.g. AASL, IATE, NJASL). He’s led and grown Scrible from concept to be the most advanced research and writing platform ever built. It’s used by thousands of educators and their students and received recognition at ISTE, SXSW EDU, FETC and elsewhere.

Julia Legg, Coordinator, Office of Data Analysis & Research, West Virginia Department of Education

As an outspoken advocate and State E-rate Coordinator for 16 years, Mrs. Legg serves as a member of the WV Broadband Enhancement Council Education Committee and is the Chair of the State Action Committee within the State Education Technology Directors Association (SETDA), a leadership member of the E-rate Collaborative group, as well as holding membership in the State E-rate Coordinator Alliance (SECA). Julia holds graduate degrees in both Educational Leadership and Educational Technology Leadership.

In her role with the WV Department of Education, she has also been directly involved in researching and aggregating resources for districts to offer students and staff in both urban and rural remote areas with home access. WV has a student information system that was utilized to determine district need for home access and will be able to identify down to the student level their access to devices, broadband Internet access and its quality within a Digital Equity data collection.

More recently, to address digital inequity during the Covid-19 Pandemic, she assisted in the Connected Kids program, which offers Wi-Fi hotspots at every school in WV, along with libraries, state parks and National Guard armories leveraging local area networks for students to connect when their schools shut down and has also been involved in the continued, successful deployment of fiber to all schools in the state of WV and assisting in the continued procurement of monthly recurring services contracts.

reg leichty headshotReg Leichty, Founder and Partner, FLP Advisors

With over two decades of legal, policy, and lobbying experience, Reg advises education leaders, national associations, and other stakeholders about the federal laws, regulations, and programs that directly impact and support efforts to expand and improve educational opportunities. Among other laws, he counsels clients about the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and the Universal Service provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. His recent work has included a specific focus on federal requirements and programs related to education technology, early learning, accountability and assessment, data use, and educator professional development and preparation.

Kimberly Wilson Linson, Director of Credential Ecosystems, RANDA Solutions

Kimberly Wilson Linson is the Director of Credential Ecosystems at RANDA Solutions. She creates strategic partnerships to form comprehensive digital ecosystems to enable the exchange of verifiable credentials related to an individual’s achievements, skills, knowledge, and experience. Her work spans the education, employment, and technology domains to give individuals agency over the professional data they collect. Kimberly has been a leader in education for over 25 years impacting the lives of students, families, and educators. Her experience building diverse teams, driving product development, and establishing strategies to
achieve broad adoption uniquely positions her to translate cutting edge technology for credentials into real world solutions.

Kimberly joined RANDA Solutions in 2019 and oversees The Lifelong Learner Project which is a recipient of the American Council on Education (ACE) Blockchain Innovation Challenge. She culminated twenty years with Lindamood-Bell, a leading learning development company, as the Director of Learning Centers overseeing 1500 employees spanning 65 learning centers across the US, UK, Australia, and Canada. In 2017, Kimberly co-founded Leaderally, a professional learning company. She led the team as CEO creating an eLearning platform for classroom
educators that focused on the foundational leadership skills of communication, management, and strategy.

Joe McAllister, Education Esports Expert, CDW

Joe McAllister is a nerdthelete. His background in competitive sports and gaming drew him to esports. Joe’s passion for education led him to providing opportunities for students that were not previously available. Through his own experiences and those of others he works to bring the benefits of esports to educational institutions around the globe. Joe can help with understanding esports and how to start, and maintain, a program at your school.

Joe is a former high school teacher. During his time in the classroom he lead the varsity wrestling team, supported the gaming club and served on his school’s one to one device board. Joe fostered a passion for helping students develop soft skills that would impact their future. His involvement in the gaming club showed him the under-served population for traditional sport. With his own background in competitive gaming, Joe decided to bring structure and competition to students.

Interviews and conversations with more than forty esports coaches and directors lead to a formation around esports consultation. Joe discovered that there wasn’t a good place for developing programs to get an outside perspective on how to get started with a program. Each school that he talked with had their own unique challenges and misconceptions that CDW•G had to consider while supporting esports in education.

Sean McDonough, Corporate & Member Engagement Coordinator, NYSCATE

Sean McDonough is the Corporate & Member Engagement Coordinator for NYSCATE, New York’s premier educational technology member association and affiliate to SETDA.  Sean works with members and partners on ways to enhance technology’s role in supporting teaching and learning.  He has 30 years of educational technology leadership experience in the public and private sectors as a teacher, district, regional, and state technology administrator, and consultant.  Sean is an active leader in various educational technology organizations including ISTE and CoSN. He is the former Bureau Director of Educational Technology for PA Department of Education and served as a SETDA member while at PDE.  Sean holds a B.A. in Mass Communications and Government and a M.S. in Instructional Technology.

Janice Mertes, Assistant Director for Teaching and Learning, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Janice Mertes is the Assistant Director for Teaching and Learning -Digital Learning team at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Janice leads the statewide Future Ready and Wisconsin Digital Learning Plan programs in addition to the State Superintendent’s Digital Learning Advisory Council (DLAC) focused on policy, practice, funding, and research. Janice coordinates partnership programming with the Wisconsin Digital Learning Collaborative (WDLC) to support online and blended learning along with other partners to support personalized, innovative student learning opportunities. The digital learning team supports the Wisconsin standards for Information and Technology Literacy, Keeping Kids Safe Online Cybersafety, digital leadership development, Title IVA and ESSA program support, coding, and district planning. Janice is a CoSN Certified Educator Technology Leader (CETL) and helps to coordinate the statewide credentialing program with the Wisconsin Education Technology Leaders. Janice currently serves on the SETDA Board of Directors and is the board treasurer. She currently serves on the CoSN Driving Innovation workgroup. She was named as one of Ed Scoop’s Top 25 State Leaders in 2017.

Jason Morales, Business Strategy Leader for Data & AI, Microsoft

Jason Morales works for Microsoft on the Worldwide Education team as Business Strategy Leader for Data & AI, and he also teaches at Boise State University in the College of Business & Economics.  Jason has worked in the Higher Education industry for over 10 years, and has contributed as a Speaker/Panelist at EDUCAUSE, Association of Institutional Research (AIR) Conferences, Higher Education Data Warehouse (HEDW) Forum, Campus Connections Summit, IMS Global and several other related industry events.  He established the Microsoft Higher Education (MHE) Data Community, a private forum for Higher Ed professionals who use Microsoft technologies to explore data and derive insights. https://www.linkedin.com/in/jasonaeiou/

Brenda Morris, Former Director of Technology Integration and Support, West Virginia Department of Education (retired)

Brenda spent more than 30 years in education with roles including Classroom Teacher, Professional Learning Provider, and Director of Technology Integration and Support for the WV Department of Education. Throughout her career, regardless of her responsibilities, she always looked for ways to advocate for students and teachers.

She has a BS in Elementary Education from West Virginia University (Go Mountaineers) and an MS of Industrial and Employee Relations from Marshall University Graduate College. Somewhere along the way Brenda decided being an advocate for co-workers also mattered and while never making the leap to an Employee Relations career, she learned a lot and became a fierce advocate for her team.

Like many others, Brenda used the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to reassess and she determined that while a career in education had been fulfilling her real passion is service and advocacy. Since becoming semi-retired, she has focused her efforts on Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (and not just because it’s cool to be a JEDI).

Brenda is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and has a Black daughter who is, much to her disbelief, a teenager. As a family they are navigating what it is to be Black, what it is to be a transracial family, and what it is to be LGBTQ+. Brenda’s wife is also active in advocacy and their proudest moments as moms is when their daughter advocates for others.

Jeremiah Okal-Frink HeadshotJeremiah Okal-Frink, PhD, Education Strategist, Dell Technologies

Jeremiah is a veteran educator, leader, professional developer and technology integrator. He has led change in teaching and learning through the catalyst of technology in rural, suburban and urban districts. At Dell EMC, he is an Education Strategist at the forefront of embedding and researching learning initiatives regarding learning spaces, emerging technologies such as VR and AR, social media, online and blended learning, and increasing equitable access for students.

Luis Perez photo, male in black shirtLuis Pérez, Technical Assistance Specialist, National Center on Accessible Educational Materials for Learning (AEM Center) at CAST

Luis Pérez is a technical assistance specialist for the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials at CAST. He holds a doctorate in special education and a master’s degree in instructional technology from the University of South Florida. Luis is a Past-President of the Inclusive Learning Network of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), which named him its 2016 Outstanding Inclusive Educator. He was also recognized with an ISTE Making It Happen! Award in 2020.

Laurie Roberts, EdTech Coach

Current EdTech coach, 25 year teacher of kids and teachers, anti-racist teacher in progress, Instagram enthusiast and t-shirt collector

Stan Silverman NYStan Silverman, Chair, NYS Teacher Center Technology Committee

Stan Silverman specializes in the application of instructional technologies to enhance teaching and learning in K–12 settings. He currently serves as the chair of the NYS Teacher Center Technology Committee, as a member of the NYS Board of Regents Technology Council, with the Professor Garfield Foundation, and is serving as a mentor in the Intel Education Accelerator. Silverman also runs the Technology Based Learning System Department that supports numerous grants and contracts supporting K–12 education throughout the United States, as well as coordinating the establishment of public/private partnerships in New York State. He received his degree in Physics from SUNY Stony Brook and his administrative degree from C.W. Post (LIU).

Barbara Soots, Open Educational Resources and Instructional Materials Program Manager, Washington OSPI

In her role as Instructional Materials and Open Educational Resources (OER) Program Manager at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) in Washington, Barbara Soots implements state legislation directing collection of K–12 OER resources aligned to state learning standards and promotion of OER awareness and adoption throughout the state.

Having facilitated educator review of open resources, managed grants supporting districts using OER, and led events about their importance in the changing educational landscape, she is a national leader in the discussion about effective implementation of OER in K–12.

Carla Wade HeadshotCarla Wade, Digital Innovations Lead, Office of Teaching, Learning and Assessment, Oregon Dept. of Education

Carla Wade is the Digital Innovations Lead in the Office of Teaching, Learning and Assessment at the Oregon Department of Education (ODE). During her 20+ years at ODE, she has provided leadership in technology for learning in Oregon and nationally working with federal grants, STEM, online learning, professional development and creating state technology standards and strategic plans. She also served as a technical advisor to the US Department of Education on digital learning, evaluation, data collection and analysis and Ed Facts reporting. Carla has been an active member of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) where she served on the Board of Directors from 2002-2007 and 2014-2020. She also served on the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Board of Directors 2006-08. Carla works collaboratively with partners in Oregon, nationally and internationally, to build and expand quality education environments where students have equitable access to tools, effective teachers and processes for learning that inspire them to develop college and career ready skills and a desire for life-long learning.

Syd Young, Education Specialist, Digital Teaching and Learning, Utah State Board of Education

In her current role as an Education Specialist at the Utah State Board of Education, Syd Young leads Digital Teaching and Learning (DTL) and Personalized Competency Based Learning (PCBL) initiatives within the agency and across the state of Utah. Her fervor for strategizing ideal local conditions, where individuals see themselves as change agents, dates back to her days in conservation biology and previous roles as a science teacher and school administrator. Syd is keenly motivated to help educators and administrators envision ways to more effectively translate aspirations into reality for K-12 public school systems. Her support for PCBL implementation helps empower local innovation, shifting the focus from teaching to learning and moving instruction beyond information dissemination to a focus on transferable skills necessary for success in the modern world.

Robert J. Zapotocky, Senior Principal Architect with AT&T Public Sector

Bob Zapotocky is a Senior Principal Architect with AT&T Public Sector.  Bob owns the “art of what is possible” in supporting innovation and technology strategy, currently with a focus on 5G and edge computing for public sector customers.  Bob is seen as a SME in his field and has been called upon to share his knowledge on industry trends, critical analysis and strategic insights for organizations such as the International Telecommunications Professional Exchange (IPTX), National Association of Counties (NACo), National Governors Association (NGA), National Association of State Technology Directors (NASTD), and multiple Digital Government Summit conferences.  He has also contributed to podcasts, whitepapers and articles published by various industry trade and media outlets.

Bob has 23 years of experience with AT&T in a variety of positions supporting enterprise and public sector clients in their efforts to innovate and deliver what is possible within their organizations.  He holds an MBA from Suffolk University and is an Alumnus of The Emerging Leaders Program with the Center for Collaborative Leadership at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

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