Supporting Excellent Science Teaching for Georgia

2020 Conference Featured Speakers

State & National Speakers Bring the Latest Ideas in Science & Teaching

February 13-14, 2020, Columbus, GA Convention and Conference Center

Featured Speakers & Presenters

National & State Science Education Experts and Policy Makers

Kiana Willis

Kick-off Speaker, 8:00 am Thursday, February 13

Kiana Willis is an advocate, innovator and true believer in the “Power of Possibility”. Ms. Willis earned her bachelor’s degree from Spelman College in Early Childhood Development, her master’s degree from Georgia State University in Reading, Language, and Literacy and her Specialist degree in Educational Leadership from Columbus State University. Additionally, she has both a Gifted and Science Endorsement. She prides herself on being a culturally responsive constructivist whose ultimate goal is to create lifelong learners and real-world problem solvers who think critically, exhibit perseverance and seek to innovate the world around them. Ms. Willis believes that when students are nurtured in a caring, accountable environment they seek to meet and exceed expectations and naturally cultivate a culture of achievement. She has taught grades Prek through 5 and all subjects, however, her favorite subject to teach is S.T.E.A.M. In her S.T.E.A.M classes she focuses on activism through the use of academic content and encourages her students to use their collective knowledge and acumen to create change in their communities. Ms. Willis serves as a teacher leader and is extremely involved in her school community. Ms. Willis was Fulton County Teacher of the Year during the 2018-2019 school year and was named one of the Top 10 teachers in the state of Georgia as a Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalist. She leads professional developments both inside and outside of her building. She is a prolific speaker, mentor, collaborator, coach and much more. Ms. Willis sees education as more than a career. She sees it as an act of advocacy. 

Dr. Samuel García Jr.

Keynote Speaker, 11:00 am Thursday, February 13

Dr. Samuel García Jr. serves as an Educator Professional Development Specialist at Kennedy Space Center and Assistant Professor of Practice for the LBJ Institute for Education and Research at Texas State University. Prior to his position at Kennedy Space Center, Dr. García worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. As an education specialist, Dr. García works to help develop STEM educational mindsets, tools, and resources for teachers to implement in their classrooms that respond to diverse student needs and increase diversity in STEM fields. He also works with faculty serving in Minority Serving Institutions (MSI’s) in developing STEM educational tools and resources for teachers to implement in their classrooms. Prior to working in higher education, Dr. García served as secondary school educator in Rio Grande Valley in Texas for seven years. Dr. García’s research agenda is geared towards community and educational change by creating healthy, equitable, and culturally responsive STEM learning experiences for traditionally underserved populations.  Dr. García earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Texas Río Grande Valley, formerly University of Texas Pan American and holds a doctorate degree in School Improvement from Texas State University. 

Dr. Garcia is committed to working with educators, schools, and communities to figure out ways to enhance the educational opportunities and experiences for underserved and underrepresented learners. 

Dr. Garcia facilitates professional development for K-16 STEM educators and students with a specific focus on Culturally Responsive Teaching in the STEM classroom.

Superintendent Richard Woods

State School Superintendent: Georgia Education Policy, 8:00 am, Friday, February 14

Richard Woods was born in Pensacola, Florida and while growing up in a military family, lived in California, Hawaii and Virginia before moving to Georgia. He graduated from Fitzgerald High School, and went on to receive a Bachelor’s Degree from Kennesaw State University and a Master’s Degree from Valdosta State University.

Woods has over 22 years of pre-k through 12th grade experience in public education.  Woods was a high school teacher for 14 years, serving as department chair and teacher mentor. During his tenure, he was also selected as Teacher of the Year. For eight years Woods served in various administrative roles such as assistant principal, principal, curriculum director, testing coordinator, pre-k director, and alternative school director.

Woods also brings a business background to the superintendent's position, having been a purchasing agent for a national/multi-national laser company and a former small business owner.

He and his wife Lisha, a retired 30-year educator, are long-time residents of Tifton and have been married for over 25 years.


Dennis Schatz

Keynote Speaker, 11:00 am Friday, February 14

Dennis Schatz is Senior Advisor at Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington, and President of NSTA for 2019-2020. He was Founding Field Editor of the journal, Connected Science Learning, which highlights links between in-school and out-of-school STEM learning. 

He has served as Principal Investigator for a number of National Science Foundation (NSF) projects and co-directed Washington State LASER (Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform), a program to implement a quality K-12 science program in all 295 school districts in Washington State.

He has received numerous honors.  Most recently, Asteroid 25232 was renamed Asteroid Schatz by the International Astronomical Union IAU) in recognition of his leadership in astronomy and science education.  He received NSTA's 2005 Distinguished Service to Science Education Award, and its 1996 Distinguished Informal Science Educator Award. 

He is the author of 26 science books for children, including When the Sun Goes Dark, and Uncover A T.rex. He is also co-author/editor of several curriculum resources for teachers, including his most recent book, Solar Science - published by NSTA. 

Dr. Patricia Morgan

Keynote Speaker, Equity Lunch and Learn, 12:00 pm Friday, February 14

Dr. Patricia Morgan is an innovative and passionate educator with a heart for equity and access. She’s conducted numerous studies and presentations on Culturally Relevant Pedagogy, Critical Race Issues in Education, and STEM/STEAM curriculum at local, national, and international conferences including Griffin and Metro RESA, NSTA, AERA, and International Conference on Mathematics, Science, and Technology. Her latest publications includeDecoding Careers in DNA: Genetic Coding Lesson Brings Computational Biology and STEM Careers to Lifein NSTA’s The Science Teacher, and Negotiating White Science in a Racially and Ethnically Diverse United States in Educational Review. In her spare time, Dr. Morgan serves as a board member for several educational organizations, binge watches romantic comedies, and is on a mission to see 50 countries and 50 states in 5 years (currently on 48 and 43 respectively).   

Dr. Morgan will lead a follow up session at 2:00 pm: Implementing Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) Practices to Improve Access in Science - A CRT Crash Course.

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