Game Changer Sessions


Tuesday, June 19, 2018
8:30 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.
Ron Mirr

Ron Mirr holds a master’s degree in social work and has over 30 years of experience working with schools and social service agencies.  He founded the Iowa Parent Information Resource Center and has consulted with many US and international programs on engaging families in the learning process.  Ron has also worked as a mental health clinician, school administrator, staff developer, and executive consultant.  He is also the co-author of the Family Engagement Assessment— a tool used to measure a school’s capacity for developing effective family partnerships.  Ron Mirr is also Senior Vice President for Scholastic Education where he leads efforts around Learning Supports and Family and Community Engagement.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018
9:45 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.
Mark Weist

Mark D. Weist received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Virginia Tech in 1991 after completing his internship at Duke University, and is a Professor in Clinical-Community and School Psychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of South Carolina.  He was on the faculty of the University of Maryland for 19 years where he helped to found and direct the Center for School Mental Health (, providing leadership to the advancement of school mental health (SMH) policies and programs in the United States. He has edited ten books and has published and presented widely in SMH and in the areas of trauma, violence and youth, evidence-based practice, cognitive behavioral therapy, Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS), and on an Interconnected Systems Framework (ISF) for SMH and PBIS.  He is currently co-leading a regional conference on school behavioral health (reflecting integrated SMH and PBIS, see and leading a randomized controlled trial on the ISF.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018
1:15 p.m. - 2:15 p.m.
Michele Gay

Michele Gay is the Co-founder and Executive Director of Safe and Sound Schools. Following the tragic loss of her daughter, Josephine, in the Sandy Hook School tragedy, Michele joined fellow Sandy Hook mother Alissa Parker to establish Safe and Sound Schools as a national resource for school safety. Michele travels across the country sharing her message of inspiration, recovery, and school safety education and advocacy. She conducts school safety workshops and seminars, presenting Safe and Sound’s school safety model and resources, and facilitating school safety development in communities across the country.  Since launching the foundation, Michele has spoken before numerous national audiences, including the National Association of School Resource Officers, the Georgia Education Leadership Association, the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency’s School Safety Conference, and at the Great Lakes Homeland Security Conference. Recently, she was honored with the “Champion of Life” award by the BFG Community Foundation of Baltimore, Maryland, for her work as a school safety advocate with Safe and Sound and the “Shining Star” award by the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for establishing “Joey’s Fund” with her husband for families with autism.  Prior to founding Safe and Sound Schools, Michele taught in the Maryland and Virginia Public Schools, where she served as both a mentor teacher and a peer coach, and was awarded “Exemplary Teacher” recognition in the Fairfax County Public Schools. Michele holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Towson University and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from McDaniel College. Her education and professional and personal experiences have uniquely positioned her to advocate on the national level for safer schools.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018
2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Ryan Vancol

Ryan Vancol taught high school mathematics in Miami, Florida for the past 10 years.  He started teaching at the age of 22 and has taught almost every high school mathematics subject in a variety of schools.  Ryan makes a huge emphasis to include instructional technology with all of his classes.  He is a big advocate for blended learning using multiple apps, and hardware tools that make learning more efficient without sacrificing high-quality instruction.  When possible, Ryan prefers to teach using an inquiry approach over explicit instruction.  Ideally, he wants all of his students to share the excitement of conceptual understanding and mathematical fluency.  He promotes a comfortable learning environment, personal responsibility, and effective cutting-edge teaching practices.  Students entering Ryan’s class, regardless their initial ability level, should feel at least marginally empowered when moving on to the next level.