Kantis Simmons, Motivational STEM Education Speaker
Former NASA Scientist, Renown Speaker and Author, Kantis Simmons is on a mission. As the nation’s leading school success strategist he’s aiming to put an end to the academic failure epidemic, teacher turnover rate, and trillion dollars student loan debt crisis sweeping across America’s schools and colleges.
• 7,000 students drop out every single school day
• 1.3 million students fail to graduate from high school every year
• 33% of college freshmen graduate (in 5 years or less) and find a job in their field
• 46% of new teachers quit within the first five years,
• The United States has dropped to #17 after once being #3 in STEM careers.
In spite of these disturbing numbers, Kantis is winning and helping others due the same. The schools that go through his “Play Your ‘A’ Game” Academic Success program are seeing a 15% - 23% improvement in student performance and test scores. More and more students and families are equipped to go to college because of his “Pay For College” funding strategies. Educators are more fired up today, and schools are retaining more teachers due to his “Educate To Elevate” teacher motivation program.
With a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Norfolk State University (Norfolk, VA), a Master of Science degree in Polymer Science & Engineering from Lehigh University (Bethlehem, PA), and a Master of Science degree in Textile and Fiber Engineering from Georgia Tech (Atlanta, GA), he's passioante about science and education. Kantis’ career includes developing new products for Mobil Chemical Company (Covington, GA), creating new contact lens products for CIBA Vision (Johns Creek, GA), and improving aircrafts, space shuttles and military jets for NASA Langley Research Center (Langley, VA).
After more than a decade of working in the lab solving scientific problems for the government and corporate industries, today he travels the world solving the problems of students, parents, educators, schools, and colleges by delivering speeches, creating courses, and writing books.
Growing up with a birth defect and all the mental discomfort that comes with that, audiences readily respond when Kantis shares his humorous and proven 7.25 Finger Secrets on academic success, college readiness, teacher motivation and STEM education.
Marina La Grave, Founder and Executive Director of CLACE (Latin-American Center for Arts, Science and Education)
Marina has been PI and Project Manager for NASA ESTEEM (Earth Systems, Technology and Energy Education for MUREP Minority University Research and Education Program) NTD (Nuestra Tierra Dinámica) program. She is currently an education team member of NASA’s MAVEN mission, Multicultural and Media consultant for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Discover Health/Decubre tu Salud program directed by the Space Science Institute (SSI.), Research Associate for NSF SciGirls national program, Multicultural Consultant for the City of Boulder, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Wings Museum over the Rockies and Coordinator of the Spanish as a World Language program for Boulder Valley School District (BVSD). She teaches students K-5.
Her background derives from being a Multicultural Education expert and UN certified Language Specialist (Interpreter and Translator) and Intercultural Consultant with over 25 years of experience. She has been responsible for translating thousands of pages for science journals, reports, books/authors, presentations, Spanish voice over for Fiske Planetarium shows, websites for NASA, National Labs, scientists, IPCC and most recently, the Third National Climate Change Assessment Report -NCA3).
Marina is also producer of “Tu Educación”, a weekly segment of local TV Latino station, Telemundo.As a Multicultural Consultant she supports STEM and environmental agencies and stakeholders develop and integrate scientifically and pedagogically sound culturally relevant dimensions to their work for them to be able to meet the demands and needs of local and national Latino students -and communities. She also provides professional development workshops for educators through presentations that encompass the topics of cultural competence, nontraditional students challenges, student retention and achievement, self-efficacy, cultural responsiveness and sheltered English instruction strategies.
Her long term position as Multicultural Education and Outreach Coordinator and Chief Translator for the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR/UCAR) and 4 year tenure at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) as committee member of the Public Information Committee -were she was instrumental in helping the union bring its first joint assembly abroad (Mexico)- prove her expertise in reaching Latino audiences both in the US and in Latin America.
Because of her team results-oriented expertise, important governmental agencies as AGU, NASA, NCAR, NIH, NSF, the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the Space Science Institute (SSI), INSTAAR, BVSD, SVVSD, CDE, the City of Boulder, Boulder County, Telemundo Colorado, Boulder Housing Partners -just to name a few- have entrusted, and continue to entrust her to develop and support timely programming and translation services to help bring unique information and educational experiences to Latino audiences.
Marina has been a Victim Advocate for the Boulder Police Department since 2003; in this role, she is honored to serve Boulder County Victims and received the “Chief Commendation Award” in 2016 for her community service.
Marina is also an executive board member for the Boulder Area STEM Education Coalition (BASEC), Thorne Nature Experience, and Defense Awareness Responsive Training (DART).
She has been National Keynote Speaker for Universidad Estatal de Sonora (UES) (Sonora, México. Sep. 2016), Green Schools National Conference (Palm Beach, Florida. Feb. 2013) and COSA (Colorado Open Space Alliance. Sep. 2013) and NOAA (Sept. 2012.)
She lives in Boulder very close to her two children– who have proudly made her the “Mimi” of her 5 amazing grandchildren.
David Amidon, NOAA at Sea Teacher
David Amidon earned his BA in Biology from SUNY Geneseo and MSEd from SUNY Oswego. His family lives on Onondaga Hill and are avid Syracuse Basketball fans. In the classroom for almost 20 years, Mr. Amidon teaches Life Science 8 and Regents Living Environment at LaFayette Jr/Sr High School. He has been active as a leader in the school community as advisor for National Junior Honor Society, and Science Olympiad, Union Representative and Coach. He strives to connect the content in the classroom with his students’ everyday world, and has developed interdisciplinary projects focused on local issues, such as the rehabilitation of the Onondaga Lake Watershed. He received an EPA grant this year through Syracuse University for "The Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address as a pathway to stewardship education in the Onondaga Lake Watershed” in connection to this work.
David was chosen for the inaugural cohort of the New York State Master Teacher Program. He received the 2015 Outstanding Teacher Award from the Technology Alliance of Central NY and was invited to the White House as the recipient of a Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Education in 2016. Mr. Amidon attended the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy in 2013, and Green Boot Camp in 2014, both of which draw participants from around the world to enhance STEM Education and project-based learning. He was one of four alumni from around the globe asked to return to Space Academy in 2016 as an Ambassador.
David has worked with locally with Greening USA, an organization promoting Sustainability in the Syracuse area, the Onondaga Lake Conservation Corps to help rehabilitate recovered wetlands, and the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency to initiate a district-wide food scrap composting program in LaFayette. Professionally, he is a member of the Science Teachers Association of New York State, National Science Teachers Association and the National Association of Biology Teachers. He has worked with the National Center for Science Education through their Teacher Advisory Board and Scientist in the Classroom Program. He is also a member of the Solar System Ambassador program, sponsored by NASA through the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and received a grant for solar-powered charging stations through the NOAA Climate Steward program.
Most recently, Mr. Amidon participated in the NOAA Teacher @ Sea program, spending 12 days aboard the NOAA ship Reuben Lasker off the coast of California. The only teacher on board, he worked alongside the science crew on the Pelagic Juvenile Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Survey.
Find out more about NOAA Teacher at Sea.
Find out more about Solar System Ambassadors.
Find out more about The New York State Master Teacher Program.
Dr. Renée Cole, Associate Professor of Chemistry at the University of Iowa
Dr. Cole earned a B.A. in chemistry from Hendrix College, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in physical chemistry from the University of Oklahoma before completing a post-doctoral fellowship in chemistry education at the University of Wisconsin. She began her career at the University of Central Missouri, where she was active in both undergraduate education and teacher preparation, before moving to Iowa in 2011. She is also an associate editor for the Journal of Chemical Education and a member of the American Chemical Society’s Women Chemists Committee.
Renée’s research focuses on issues related to how students learn chemistry and how that can guide the design of instructional materials and teaching strategies as well on efforts related to faculty development and the connection between chemistry education research and the practice of teaching. She is involved as a PI in multiple interdisciplinary research projects, including the ELIPSS Project, which is developing resources for STEM instructors to assess transferable skills in the classroom as well as for a campus initiative to increase evidence-based instructional practices across campus. She was one of the PIs for the Increase the Impact Project, which developed resources for PIs to improve the propagation of their innovations.
Renée has been active in professional development from the beginning her career, beginning with the New Traditions project, facilitating workshops for both the New Traditions project itself, as well as for the Multi-Initiative Dissemination Project, and has continued to promote faculty professional development through the POGIL project, ELIPSS project, and Increase the Impact project. She has facilitated workshops across the United States as well as in Australia and New Zealand to support educators in engaging students in meaningful learning.
Joseph A. Gardella, Jr., John & Frances Larkin Professor of Chemistry at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York (aka UB)
He also serves as the Director of the UB/Buffalo Public Schools Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership. He has been on the faculty at UB since 1982. Joe was born and raised in Detroit Michigan, and completed a dual degree program in Chemistry (B.S.) and Philosophy (B.A.) from Oakland University in Rochester Michigan., a Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh and postdoctoral research in Physical Chemistry at the University of Utah. He served as a visiting scientist/program officer at the National Science Foundation Chemistry Division in 1989-90. From 1999-2005, he was Associate Dean for External Affairs in the College of Arts and Sciences and he was responsible for coordinating and leading the College's programs in working with industry, community, government and elementary and secondary schools. From 1996-2006, he was the Director of the UB Materials Research Instrumentation Facility, managing ca. $9M of shared research instrumentation. As a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth from 2005-2006, he pursued policy studies in regional science and environmental policy and public participation.
Professor Gardella’s research interests are in quantitative analysis and surface chemistry, broadly applied to the study of environmental effects at polymer surfaces and tissue engineering with synthetic biomaterials. Further, he has worked on the intersection of analytical chemistry, geographic information analysis and public participation in environmental chemistry, especially air and soil pollution. His work and that of his Ph.D. students has resulted in some 245 publications and a similar number of invited talks worldwide. His work is funded by the National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, the Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health and industry.
In the community, Joe currently serves as a volunteer or appointed advisor on a variety of community service projects, including the Buffalo Pest Management Board, he chairs the City of Buffalo Environmental Management Commission, serves on the Seneca Babcock Good Neighbor Committee and the Solid Waste Advisory Board of the City of Buffalo. He is a member of the Chemical Committee and Chair of the Steering Committee of the US Army Corp of Engineers Lake Ontario Ordnance Works Restoration Advisory Board (LOOW RAB). He is presently a member of the Executive Committee of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter Niagara Group, and serves the statewide Atlantic Chapter as Chair of the Toxics committee and Political Committee. He serves as a member of the Special Education Parent Advisory Committee (SEPAC) for the Buffalo Public Schools, completing eight years as Chair in 2009. He is Chair-Elect and a member of the Board of Directors of Parent Network of WNY, an organization founded to support parents of special needs children. He has been a member of the Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent’s Advisory Group, the Parent Forum organizational panel, the Buffalo Public School Board’s Program Committee, and the Ad-Hoc Environmental Advisory Council and is past President of School 84 Parents Teachers and Friends.
He has a real life besides this stuff, which includes his wife, Carol Kizis, his daughter, Claire Seung Hee, and son, Joseph Jee Yoon. They all enjoy traveling, reading, gardening and other important pursuits which do not involve academic politics. They reside in North Buffalo, where they enjoy the weather.
Rudo Kashiri, Education Programs Manager, NASA's Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC)
Kashiri is an Education Programs Manger for Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC). She supervises and provides direction to VSGC EducationProgram Coordinators and assistants engaged in the administration of education projects.She supervises three NASA state-wide programs from NASA Langley Research Center, the Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars (VASTS), the Virginia Earth System Science Scholars (VESSS) and from NASA WallopsFlight Facility, the Virginia Space Coast Scholars. Kashiri also supervises a NASA nationwide program from NASA Johnson Space Center, NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS). Kashiri's experience in coordination of K-12 STEM activities for in-service, pre-service, middle and high school programs makes her a leader in STEM professional development.
Before coming to VSGC she worked for NASA for ten years. She began her career at NASA Langley Research Center in 2004 as an Aerospace Education Specialist, serving the Center's education community by enhancing awareness and understanding of the scientific and technological advances growing out of NASA's missions of research, discovery, and exploration. Her duties were curriculum development, Designing State-based Programs, Customizing workshops and provided assistance and support to educators in updating science, mathematics, geography, and technology curricula.
She then transitioned be a Coordinator for NASA Explorer Schools (NES) Project in 2007, where she supported the NES project by providing educational activities designed to engage educators and students in NASA missions of research and discovery. Her primary responsibility was the development and delivery of professional development to train educators to use NASA educational resources to support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curriculum.
Kashiri is a National Board Certified Teacher in Early Adolescence Science and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Kent State University and a Master of Science degree in Education from Georgia State University. Prior to joining NASA, she taught physical science, Earth science and biology for ten years, and worked as a Physicist and Aerospace at a science center for thirteen years.
In 2007, Kashiri published an article on Professional Development Workshops in Science Education for Teacher Capacity Building in the Electronic Journal of Literacy through Science. She is also a Science Consultant, developing, evaluating and reviewing curriculum for Universities and private companies and also a Curriculum activity writer for a PBS program.
Betty Jones, Education Consultant
As a lead educator at the MOST (Milton J Rubenstein Museum for Science and Technology) Betty worked with the Syracuse City School District to provide relevant inclusive STEM experiences to the Syracuse urban cohort that includes learners for whom English is a second language, generational poverty is the norm and an achievement gap has been documented.
Working as a Nanotechnology Informal Science Education Partner for 10 years, Betty provided hands-on experiences to introduce the field Nanotechnology to a community underrepresented in the STEM fields, developed Traveling Science Shows and dramatic presentations to highlight concepts. Wrote and executed grants.
In response to a request and working with CNY Parent Connections and therapists, developed and delivered a Sensory Friendly Time at the MOST.
Background experiences include: Head Start Program in Cincinnati, Friends School in Detroit, Cazenovia College Math and Science Inquiry Instructor, Say Yes Science Program Development, NASA Best program and My Sky Tonight.
B.S. Heidelberg College, Tiffin Ohio
M.Ed. University of Cincinnati