Keynote Speaker Biographies


Andrew Chen

Andrew Chen is the President of EduTron Corporation. Before founding EduTron he was a professor and a principal research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He frequently consults with education research institutions including the Institute for Education Science at the U.S. Dept.ment of Education, and Achieve, Inc. Dr. Chen is on the Common Core Standards Development Team in Mathematics. He is also a member of the Advisory Board of the National Council on Teacher Quality. Locally he is on the Mathematics and Science Advisory Council for the Massachusetts Board of Education. Dr. Chen provides high quality professional development in mathematics and science to teachers at all levels through Intensive Immersion Institutes. Chen also works with higher education institutions to develop rigorous and effective pre-service and in-service offerings in mathematics and science. He works with school districts and school administrators to increase their capacity to support excellent mathematics and science instruction. He was an Adviser for the Massachusetts 2008 Guidelines for the Mathematical Preparation of Elementary Teachers. Dr. Chen continues to teach and do research in physics. He received a PhD in physics from Columbia University.

Tommy Chang

In March 2015, the Boston School Committee voted to appoint Dr. Tommy Chang as superintendent of the Boston Public Schools effective July 1, 2015. In this role he will lead the nation's first school district, which serves more than 56,000 students in 125 schools, and will serve as a cabinet member to Mayor Martin J. Walsh. Previously, Dr. Chang served as the Local Instructional Superintendent, Intensive Support & Innovation Center (ISIC) at the Los Angeles Unified School District where he oversaw 135 schools and approximately 95,000 students. Dr. Chang also previously served as special assistant to the superintendent of LAUSD. He is a former teacher and principal. He holds an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Loyola Marymount University, a M.Ed. from the Principals Leadership Institute at UCLA, a M.Ed. from the Teachers Education Program at UCLA, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

Kate Gerson

Kate Gerson has driven the design and development of curriculum implementation and professional learning, trained transformational school leaders, and served as both a high school teacher and principal. As managing partner of programs, Kate sets the vision and oversees the design, delivery and quality of all programs. Kate was the senior fellow for educator engagement at the Regents Research Fund, where she oversaw the design and development of New York State’s groundbreaking curriculum, training and professional development resources related to higher educational standards on Previously, she was executive director with the national nonprofit New Leaders and trained aspiring school leaders. She also served as a principal at a turnaround high school for overaged, under-credited students in South Brooklyn, New York.

David Liben

David Liben is the Senior Content Specialist of the Literacy and English Language Arts team at Student Achievement Partners. David has taught elementary, middle school and high school students in public and private schools, as well as community college and teacher preparation courses, in New York City and Vermont. David still spends as much time as possible in schools with teachers and children. Together with Meredith Liben, David founded two innovative model schools in New York City - New York Prep, a junior high school in East Harlem, and in 1991, the Family Academy - where he served as Principal and lead curriculum designer. David holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in school administration from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Sonja Santelises

Sonja Santelises is the Vice President of K-12 Policy and Practice at The Education Trust. She  provides strategic direction for the organization’s K-12 research, practice, and policy work, which includes developing and implementing strategies to ensure that the Ed Trust’s K-12 efforts effectively focus national attention on inequities in public education and the actions necessary to close gaps in both opportunity and achievement.  Before joining The Education Trust, Sonja was the Chief academic officer for Baltimore City Public Schools, where she focused on setting academic priorities for City Schools to raise achievement of students across all schools. Sonja came to City Schools from Boston, where she was the assistant superintendent for pilot schools, a network of 23 schools with broad autonomy and a track record of successfully meeting students’ needs and improving the achievement of low-income students and students of color in particular. Prior to the pilot schools post, Sonja was assistant superintendent for teaching and learning/professional development in Boston. Before joining Boston Public Schools, Sonja lectured on urban education for two years at Harvard University and spent six years as a senior associate with Focus on Results Inc., where she worked with five major urban districts, coaching superintendents and training school leaders. Prior to that, Sonja served as executive director of the New York City Algebra Project, the local site of the acclaimed national math reform program, also present in City Schools. Sonja began her career in education as director of professional development and teacher placement with Teach for America, New York, followed by stint at a year-round school in Brooklyn where she was a founder, teacher, and curriculum specialist. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University, a master of arts in education administration from Columbia University, and a doctor of education in administration, planning, and social policy from Harvard.  She currently resides in Baltimore with her husband and three daughters.

Ryan Smith 

Ryan J. Smith is currently the Executive Director of The Education Trust – West, a research and advocacy organization focused on educational justice and the high academic achievement of all California students, particularly those of color and living in poverty. His previous roles include serving as the Director of Education Programs and Policy for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the Senior Director of Family and Community Engagement for Partnership for LA Schools, and coordinating Communities for Los Angeles Student Success (CLASS), a Los Angeles-based coalition of civil rights, education and community advocacy groups dedicated to closing the opportunity and achievement gaps for students-of-color and students living in poverty. Ryan is a current Annie E. Casey Foundation Children and Family Fellow and doctoral candidate in Education at UCLA. He has authored more than a dozen editorials and opinion pieces published in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, EdSource, and others.

Daniel Willingham

Daniel Willingham earned his B.A. from Duke University in 1983 and his Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from Harvard University in 1990. He is currently Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, where he has taught since 1992. Until about 2000, his research focused solely on the brain basis of learning and memory. Today, all of his research concerns the application of cognitive psychology to K-16 education. He writes the “Ask the Cognitive Scientist” column for American Educator magazine, and is the author of Why Don't Students Like School?, When Can You Trust the Experts?, and Raising Kids Who Read. His writing on education has appeared in fourteen languages.