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2022 Summer Conference

Reconnect, Renew, Re-Commit

Location Details & Map

Location: Metro State University, St. Paul Campus; New Main’s Great Hall (403 Maria Avenue, Saint Paul, MN  55106).  

Don’t forget we will provide you with a voucher for the event(s) at check in! 

Please plan to park in the Parking Ramp (400 Maria Avenue, Saint Paul, MN  55106)

If you are heading to Metro State University's Dayton's Bluff campus from I-94 East, you will need to take an alternate route as the exit ramp to Mounds Blvd. is expected to be closed until August 27, 2022 

Alternative Route

Heading East on I-94

Take exit 242C toward 7th St.

Use the left lane to merge onto Wall St.

Turn left onto E. 7th St./Fort Rd./Hiawatha Pioneer Trl./Yellowstone Trl.

The university will be on the right in approximately .8 miles

Keynote Speaker

Dr. Keith Mayes is an Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota; former chair of the Department of African American & African Studies; and the Horace T. Morse Alumni Distinguished Teaching Professor. Dr. Mayes earned his Ph.D. in History from

Princeton University. His teaching and research interests include the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements; education policy and history; black holiday traditions; racial equity and critical ethnic studies pedagogy; the history of African Americans; race and social justice. Dr. Mayes has published Kwanzaa: Black Power and the Making of the African American Holiday Tradition. His next book entitled, The Unteachables: Disability Rights and the Invention of Black Special Education, will be published in December.

Dr. Mayes provides consultant, professional development, and training services in the areas of DEI; curriculum development; and social studies. Some of his current and former clients include the Omaha Public Schools; Minneapolis Public Schools; St. Paul Public Schools; District 196-Apple Valley, Eagan, Rosemount Public Schools; Independent School; District 194 (Lakeville, MN); District 833-South Washington County Schools; Anoka-Hennepin Schools; Stillwater Area High School; Mankato Area Public Schools; National Geographic; the History Channel; the Minnesota Humanities Center; and the Minnesota Department of Education. Dr. Mayes has lectured widely throughout the Twin Cities Metro area in K-12 schools, churches, municipal governments and corporations. He has appeared on various media outlets, such as MSNBC, CBS, KMOJ, KARE-11 News, WCCO Channel 4, KSTP, Minnesota Public Radio, Radio Minnesota, KFAI, and National Public Radio.

Teacher of the Year Panelists

Abdul Wright is an Assistant Principal at a middle school in North Minneapolis. Prior to his current role, he taught Language Arts for ten years, and served a term as the Board Chair of Mastery Charter School in North Minneaoplis. Mr. Wright earned his Bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts and Literature from Concordia University (2011), and later graduated from Hamline University with a Master’s degree in Education (2016). Mr. Wright received the Minneapolis PeaceMaker award from the City of Minneapolis (2015), along with the ‘You’ve Made a Difference’ award from Cristo Rey Jesuit High School (2015 and 2016). He completed an African American Leadership program (2016) and was the recipient of the 2016 Minnesota Teacher of the Year award, where he was recognized as the first black male to receive the honor, the youngest, and the first teacher from a charter school. Mr. Wright was also identified as a Minnesota African American Heritage Award Honoree in 2018.

A native to Minnesota and daughter of educators, Jess Davis grew up in St. Joseph, MN and graduated from St. Cloud Apollo in the 90s. Davis holds a Bachelors of Science from Minnesota State University Mankato, and a mathematics teaching license and Master’s in Teaching from Hamline University. Davis served as a mathematics teacher in the Twin Cities metro from 2006 - 2020, and was a founding advisor of the Black Pride Organization at South Saint Paul Secondary. She possesses an educational philosophy deeply rooted in student agency, and believes student-voice is an essential cornerstone often missing in the revolution of our educational system.  


In May of 2019, Davis was selected as Minnesota’s Teacher of the Year to represent the state’s 86,000-member statewide educators union, and joined the Racial Equity team at St. Louis Park Schools as a Instructional Coach in 2020.  Davis continues in the classroom as an adjunct instructor for St. Scholastica College's degree completion program where she guides pre-service educators through a course on critical teaching for equity.

Dr. Lee-Ann Stephens, Minnesota Teacher of the Year 2006, has been an educator for 32 years with K-12 teaching and leadership experience. She currently serves as a teacher on special assignment with the St. Louis Park Schools in Minnesota as the education pathways instructor and the advisor for Students Organized for Anti- Racism. She is a former supporting advisor to Integrated Schools, serves on the board of Lutheran Social Services, and she has been appointed by Governor Walz to the Education Commission of the States, a partner with education policy leaders to address issues by sharing resources and expertise. She has served on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. 


She holds a B.A. in International Studies, B.S. in Elementary Education, M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction and a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership. She has been featured on national podcasts, authored several articles for Education Post, has facilitated conversations on race, and cultural competence with various school districts. Her greatest joy comes from empowering high school students to be catalysts for change.

Qorsho Hassan is an educator, researcher and community organizer. She has served as a classroom teacher for 10 years and in 2020, was named the Minnesota Teacher of the Year. Qorsho is the artist and co-author behind the exhibit and book “Urur Dhex-Dhexaad Ah: Community In-Between,” which presents color portraits, first-person video stories, and written narratives of Somalis living in Columbus, Ohio. She is a strong advocate for educational equity and amplifying student voice and agency. Qorsho serves on the board of 826 MSP, a creative writing and tutoring nonprofit in Twin Cities and serves as a lead consultant for Thrive-Ed, a nonprofit that is designing the first student-led school in Minnesota. 

Sarah Lancaster is a 1st Grade Teacher at Onamia School District #480 in Onamia, Minnesota.  Having been born and raised in Onamia, she has always felt a strong sense of community pride and dedication to her hometown.  Lancaster has taken every opportunity to give back to her community including coaching over twenty seasons of both athletics and arts programs, directing three of the annual high school musicals, and volunteering with local youth groups as well as through her church.  Leadership is a natural role she finds herself in and she currently serves as President of the Onamia Area Civic Association.  Lancaster believes in the power of relationships and the importance of building connections with all people in the community. Her teaching philosophy is student centered through communication, consistency, and transparency.  Teaching in a rural area has taught her the importance of culture, tradition, and recognizing a student’s individuality and identity.  She makes every effort to connect not only with her students but their families as well.  Lancaster landed her dream job and began her teaching career with Onamia Public Schools in 3rd grade.  She is currently completing her ninth year of teaching with the last seven spent teaching 1st graders at Onamia Elementary.  Lancaster earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Education through Saint Cloud State University in 2013.  In 2020, she completed her Masters in Curriculum Instruction and Design from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.  

Breakout Sessions

Supporting Teachers of Color Through Affinity Groups

There has been a recent push to hire more Teachers of Color (TOC). Yet, these efforts need to be accompanied by support for TOC. Affinity groups can support and retain TOC. This session will explore the importance of affinity groups and how to facilitate affinity groups in school districts.

Presenter:  Emily Dech, Hamline University

Emily Dech is a second grade teacher in St. Paul, a Teacher of Color, and a graduate student at Hamline University. I am half-Chinese and never saw myself in my education growing up. I did not have any Teachers of Color and was not represented in my school’s curriculum. I don’t want any of my students to experience that. Instead of mulling over how I didn’t fit into my education, I wondered how to create a space for fellow Teachers of Color and me. This project on affinity groups is the result of this curiosity.

How to Racially and Ethnically Diversify the Educator Workforce: Local Guidance for Minnesota Schools

This session will provide educators with an understanding of why the educator workforce needs to be racially and ethnically diversified, a theory of action for how to diversify the educator workforce, and practical insights on how to implement various diversification strategies based on interviews with fellow Minnesota educators.

Presenters:  Coy Carter, University of Minnesota and Alyssa Parr, University of Minnesota

Coy Carter, Jr. is a doctoral candidate in Education Policy and Leadership at the University of Minnesota advised by Dr. Muhammad Khalifa. His primary research examines school choice policies, race, and space. He also works with Dr. Katie Pekel and the Wisconsin Minnesota Comprehensive Center providing technical assistance to the Minnesota Department of Education on racially and ethnically diversifying the educator workforce.

Alyssa Parr is a research associate at the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI) at the University of Minnesota. She leads CAREI’s research and outreach with the Minnesota Statewide Longitudinal Education Data System (SLEDS) and works on various evaluation and technical assistance projects focused on racial and ethnic diversification of the educator workforce and supporting postsecondary students with a demonstrated financial need.

Calling on the Collective “We” to Create Something Better than the MTLE

What can we do about the MTLEs? To answer this question, come learn about the recommendations of the PELSB Assessment and Accountability workgroup and learn ways to support policy change in an effort to increase the percentage of TOCAIT on Tier 3/4 licenses in Minnesota schools!

Presenters:  Regina Seabrook, TOCAIT, PELSB Assessment and Accountability Workgroup and Jamie Utt-Schumacher, University of Minnesota, PELSB Assessment and Accountability Workgroup

Regina Seabrook, a member of the Coalition to Increase Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers Core Steering Committee and a 2010 Finalist for Minnesota Teacher of the Year, recently piloted a professional development series for HR professionals focused on the retention of Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers. She earned degrees in sociology from Hamline University and social studies education from the University of Minnesota, a Master’s Degree in Education from Hamline University and her principal and superintendent credentials from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. She is currently working on a doctorate at the University of Minnesota. Jamie Utt-Schumacher is a PhD candidate in Teaching, Learning, and Sociocultural Studies at the University of Arizona where he studies the impact of police presence on the learning and discipline outcomes for Students of Color. He is also the Accountability Analyst for the Office of Teacher Education at the University of Minnesota. He has been an activist for equity and justice in K-12 schooling for nearly two decades, and he has published widely on the subject with a particular emphasis on the role White educators can play in realizing more just and equitable schools.

Re-Imagining Education: An Interactive Workshop

We will focus on building community and engaging in solution-brainstorming to transform the current system of education. We’ll share our personal experiences, both within and outside of education systems, and discuss ways to re-imagine education. We will engage in conversation about action and implementation steps to realize our collective dreams.

Presenter:  Mariana Morgan-Sawyer

Mariana is a Saint Paul-based artist and educator. She works with a local non-profit organization called Irreducible Grace Foundation, which focuses on creating safe and healing spaces with young people of color by sharing mind-body medicine tools and information to regulate our nervous systems and heal from trauma. Mariana is a full-time employee for Roseville Area Schools Out of School Time and works in an elementary school. Her background is in Black Box Theater, organizing, music, and youth work. She is on the fast-track to parenthood, expecting her first child this summer, and is passionate about education and equity.

Continuing the Conversation on the Coalition's Legislation Work for the 2023 Legislative Session

Come take a look at the 2021/22 Increase Teachers of Color Act, and provide feedback about what the Coalition should advocate for in the 2023 legislative session depending or not depending on results of the November elections.

Presenter:  Paul Spies, Coalition Legislative Action Team Lead

Paul Spies has led the Coalition's legislative advocacy each year since 2016 legislative session, after joining with other educators, teacher educators and community leaders to found the Coalition. He is Dean of the School of Urban Education at Metro State University where he served as one of the original faculty members of the Urban Teacher Program from 2001-2021.


Kevin Yang is a Hmong American multidisciplinary artist from the Twin Cities, Minnesota with a focus on spoken word poetry and documentary filmmaking. He currently works at Twin Cities PBS as an education engagement specialist where he connects educators with media resources. He finds most of his artistic inspiration unraveling his Hmong American experience with others.  To contact email:

She/her. Dexieng (Day-Sing) "Dae" Yang is a Hmong American, playwright, actor and teaching artist located in the Twin Cities, MN area. She graduated from Augsburg University ‘21, majoring in Theater with concentrations in Playwriting, Dramaturgy and Directing. Dexieng has worked with Theater Mu in The Korean Drama Addict’s Guide To Losing Your Virginity, The Last Firefly, Man Of God and has been an active participant in Theatre Mu’s Training Institute. Her other works include Neighbors at History Theater, Shul at Six Points Theater, Sounds Inside at Red Eye Theater and she is currently a company member of Breaking Ice with Pillsbury House Theatre. To contact email:

Kalpulli Huitzillin de Minnesota is a community of dancers based in the Twin Cities committed to preserving our indigenous culture through aztec dance and song. Established in 2011, Huitzillin (the hummingbird) is an open dance group. All are welcomed, free to the public. Send us a message if you would like to dance with us at or follow our FB page at:

Lollipop Media MN - We are Natalie & Ricky, a husband and wife duo, capturing tender milestones, once-in-a-lifetime events, portraits and product photography and videography for brands, and so much more! We have been incredibly blessed with 4 children, and 2 cats, whom keep us on our toes. Fueled by equal parts sweet tea and passion, we spend our days capturing the kinds of imagery that make you stop, smile and ask time to please slow down.  Established in Minnesota but available worldwide.  Contact us at:  Linktree:;; or 612-991-3122

The People’s Sound provides audio and visual services to grassroots organizations striving for racial equality, environmental sustainability, and liberation of all oppressed people.  We amplify the voices for change in the streets.  We document the movement by recording high quality audio and video, ensuring its preservation for generations to come.  To contact email: or visit

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