Leadership in Education Conference
Creating a Collaborative Culture

Monday, October 14 | 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Northwestern College, Orange City IA
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Cost: $90 | Group rate: $75 (6 or more) | lunch included 
Credit available: 1 License Renewal credit $50 | 1 Graduate credit $150    

Teacher leaders of today continually face new challenges in education. The theme of this year’s conference, Creating a Collaborative Culture for Teaching & Learning, engages attendees to explore how their role can cultivate a transformative learning environment.  

Leadership teams, instructional coaches, teacher leaders, building and district-level administrators, curriculum directors and aspiring education leaders will all discover innovative strategies for Building Relationships, Leading Teams, and supporting the Social Emotional, Behavior and Mental Health of students and staff.

Network with like-minded current and aspiring leaders in education and leave both inspired and empowered with practical strategies to create a collaborative culture in your district.

Register online    

The registration deadline is October 9th.  
Please contact  online@nwciowa.edu or 712-707-7388 with any questions about registration. 

Group discount
Bring your team of 6 or more for the discounted group rate of $75 for each attendee. Email online@nwciowa.edu for instructions.

Conference Partnership  

Northwest AEA

The Leadership in Education Conference is offered by Northwestern College Graduate School & Adult Learning in partnership with the Northwest AEA. 



8:00 a.m. Check-in 
8:30 a.m. Opening keynote - Building Capacity in Teams
Jimmy Casas
10:10 - 10:55 a.m.  Morning breakout session 1 
11:05 p.m. - 11:50 a.m. Morning breakout session 2 
11:50 am Lunch (catered)
12:45 - 1:30 p.m. Afternoon breakout session 1 
1:40 - 2:25 p.m. Afternoon breakout session 2  
2:35 - 3:05 p.m. Developing an Awareness and Strategies for Dealing with Trauma
Jeff Herzberg
3:15 - 4:00 p.m. Closing keynote - Teacher Leadership - A Systemic Approach to Strengthening Education in Iowa
Dr. Ryan Wise
4:00 - 4:30 p.m. Closing panel discussion

Conference Information

8:00 - 8:30 a.m. Check-in
8:30 a.m. Opening Keynote 

Building Capacity in Teams
Jimmy Casas

Every staff member has the capacity to lead and shape successful and sustainable reform. Jimmy draws from his expertise as an award-winning principal to identify strategies for developing and growing your teachers. Learn how to build teacher leaders across your organization. Jimmy shares how to set the vision and give the support and training it takes to make build your team!

10:10 - 10:55 a.m.  Morning breakout 1
Breakout session options   

Making Effective Connections: Fostering a Coaching Culture
Rachel Langenhorst   

The benefits of instructional coaching are vast and significant. After seven years of using instructional coaches to foster learning, hear how Rock Valley has built an innovative teacher leadership program that nurtures young teachers while building capacity in our seasoned professionals. Learn the various innovative ways in which instructional coaching can provide constant support, regular feedback, and opportunities for change through a 5-Phase Coaching Cycle. Through collaboration and reflection, honesty and trust, build an environment of engaged and energized educators focused on student achievement.

Cultivating Personalized Learning Teams and Helping them Thrive
Carla Diede 

You have heard it said, “Two brains are better than one,” and this applies tenfold in education. Our teams help support our teachers as they work to empower our learners to take charge of their own learning. In this session, learn how we work to help support these teams of teachers as they implement personalized learning. Take away ideas on how to transform mindsets, to recognize each other's strengths and areas of growth, and to teach teachers to both give/take from their team.

Behavior Supports and Infrastructure
Jennifer Collins 

In order to meet the social, emotional, behavioral, mental health needs of students, schools must build efficient systems to support evidence-based practices and use data to monitor fidelity and student outcomes. Team implementation is one of the most powerful drivers for change in this process. In this session, a comprehensive behavior model, aligned to a multi-tiered system of supports, will be shared, blending Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports (PBIS) and an Interconnected Systems Framework (ISF).  In addition, a research-supported team protocol, Team Initiated Problem Solving (TIPS), will be introduced to attendees, highlighting the elements of efficient and effective systems. Free templates and tools for team implementation and resources for integrating school-based mental health will be shared with participants. 

11:05 - 11:50 a.m.  Morning breakout 2
Breakout session options   

Giving and Receiving Feedback  
Mandy Berg and Stefanie Gross     

The process of giving and receiving feedback can be overwhelming, intimidating, and oftentimes ineffective.  This session will offer suggestions on how to remove emotion, stick to the facts, and focus on a common goal when engaging in the feedback process.  We will emphasize how to use grace, truth, and forgiveness in order to create a necessary and positive outcome, instead of an overwhelming and intimidating one.

Culture of Excellence
Jimmy Casas  

In this session, school leaders will gain practical application strategies to build a school community where everyone has the opportunity to leave their legacy. Hear first-hand and learn by example how establishing meaningful relationships with all members of the school community is an essential component to making a positive impact on the culture of a school and creating an environment where all students and staff can be a part of something great!

Youth Mental Health First Aid: A Training Overview 
Erin Vander Velde

This session will expose attendees to the growing mental health needs of young people in our schools, as well as the basic tenets of YMHFA.  One will walk away with a better understanding of the YMHFA curriculum and its mission to equip Youth Mental Health First Aiders with the necessary skills to intervene on behalf of a student or young person in need - both in crisis and non-crisis situations.  Attendees can determine if a full training session would benefit some or all of their staff and will learn about training opportunities that exist within NWAEA.

11:50 am - 12:45 p.m.  Lunch
12:45 - 1:30 p.m.  Afternoon breakout 1
Breakout session options

Leading Teams in Implementing an Instructional Framework
Erika Van Cleave     

In this session, learn about the Instructional Framework that AHSTW has implemented in their district. Our Instructional Framework revolves around how to plan for instruction, preparing students for learning, engaging and transforming their learning, and reflecting on how they learn best. We will be discussing how we implemented the framework with small teacher groups and then leading up to the whole staff.

Leading Staff to Standards-Based Grading
Cindy Barwick and Jason Groendyke

This session will walk you through some of the steps, the challenges, and the rewards of leading a school as it considers and implements standards-based grading. Real life examples will be provided to help you in your own transition with suggestions along the way on how to avoid pitfalls you may encounter. 

1 on 1 Coaching Relationships  
Cindy Prewitt and Stephanie Pritts

The Journey of two instructional coaches:  Let us take you on a walk through the processes and protocols that helped to refine our roles as Instructional Coaches.  Along with how we developed and utilized our model teachers and improved student achievement in our district. Hang on tight for a fun-filled session with lots of valuable information and resources that you can use or tweak to fit your needs!  

1:40 - 2:25 p.m  Afternoon breakout 
Breakout session options

Building  Relationships to Strengthen Teams  
Katy Evenson    

Effective teams are created through positive, meaningful relationships. Developing a culture to nurture teamwork takes time and intentional planning.  During this session, participants will take an active part in learning about effective teams and strategies to strengthen relationships and teamwork.  A synthesis of many authors and resources will be part of our learning, as will a plan to take action back in the workplace.

Building a Collaborative Team and a Relationship Culture for Student Success
in Middle School  
Scot Aden and Linda Ducommun

Cherokee Middle School has been working the past two years on building a collaborative team focused on student success. Focused areas included making staff apart of the decision-making process, collaborating with community resources and putting more focus on building positive relationships with students. Through these efforts, Cherokee Middle School and High School have seen a positive increase in attendance and academic successes. Learn the findings in this session.

Building a Collaborative Team and a Relationship Culture for Student Success
in High School  
Wade Riley and Natalie Barkley

Cherokee High School has been working the past two years on building a collaborative team focused on student success. Focused areas included making staff apart of the decision-making process, collaborating with community resources and putting more focus on building positive relationships with students. Through these efforts, Cherokee Middle School and High School have seen a positive increase in attendance and academic successes. Learn the findings in this session.

2:35 - 3:05 p.m.
Developing Awareness and Strategies for Dealing with Trauma 
Jeff Herzberg

The impact of trauma is creating havoc for children and the educators that serve them.  In this session, we’ll take a look at some of the research around trauma and also how to try to mitigate toxic stress.  The goal is for our children and educators to thrive and understanding trauma, its impact and helpful strategies will help us create caring classrooms, schools and districts

3:15 - 4:00 p.m.
Closing Keynote  

Teacher Leadership - A Systemic Approach to Strengthening Education in Iowa
Dr. Ryan Wise

The Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) system goals are to attract and retain effective teachers, promote collaboration, reward professional growth, and improve student achievement by strengthening instruction.  Improving student learning requires improving the instruction they receive each day.  There is no better way to do this than to empower our best teachers to lead the effort. Reports show that the TLC system has been effective in strengthening the teaching profession and improving student learning.    

4:00 - 4:30 p.m.
Closing Panel Discussion
Led by Gary Richardson

  Jimmy Casas, Leadership in Education speaker

Opening Keynote, Building Capacity in Teams

Jimmy Casas
Author, Speaker, Adjunct Professor, Drake University

Jimmy Casas served twenty-two years as a school leader, including fourteen years as Principal at Bettendorf High School. Under his leadership, Bettendorf was named one of the Best High Schools in the country three times by Newsweek and US News & World Report.
Jimmy was named the 2012 Iowa Secondary Principal of the Year and was selected as one of three finalists for NASSP 2013 National Secondary Principal of the Year. In 2014, Jimmy was invited to the White House to speak on the Future Ready Schools pledge. Jimmy is also the author of four books, “What Connected Educators Do Differently,” “Start. Right. Now. - Teach and Lead for Excellence,” the best-selling book “Culturize – Every Student. Every Day. Whatever it Takes,” and his latest release, “Stop. Right. Now. – The 39 Stops to Making Schools Better.”

Jimmy currently serves as an adjunct professor for Drake University, teaching courses in educational leadership. Finally, he is the owner and CEO of J Casas & Associates, an educational leadership company aimed at organizing and providing world-class professional learning services for educators across the country.

   Dr. Ryan Wise, Leadership in Education speaker

Closing Keynote, Teacher Leadership - A Systemic Approach to Strengthening Education in Iowa

Dr. Ryan Wise
Director, Iowa Department of Education

Dr. Ryan Wise was appointed Director of the Iowa Department of Education by Governor Terry Branstad in July 2015 and was reappointed by Governor Kim Reynolds in January 2019.  In September 2017 he was named Policy Leader of the Year by the National Association of State Boards of Educations.  He is a South Dakota native and has worked in education at the local, state, national and international levels. 

Wise began his career as a high school history teacher in Mississippi and Nebraska before moving to his home state of South Dakota to launch and lead Teach for America on the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations.  Wise also worked to eliminate educational inequity around the world as one of the founding staff members of Teach for All, a global network of education entrepreneurs.

Wise earned a doctorate in education leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and a bachelor’s degree in history from Creighton University.

   Cindy Barwick, Leadership in Education Conference speaker

Leading Staff to Standards Based Grading
Cindy Barwick and Jason Groendyke

Cindy Barwick

Middle School Principal, Sheldon Community School District

Cindy Barwick is the middle school principal in Sheldon, Iowa.  She completed her undergraduate work and graduate work at Iowa State University and her specialist degree at the University of South Dakota.  Prior to serving as principal in Sheldon, she worked at both the elementary and middle school in Decorah, Iowa. 

    Jason Groendyke, Leadership in Education Conference

Jason Groendyke
Elementary School Principal, Sheldon Community School District

Jason Groendyke is currently in his 6 th year as the elementary principal in Sheldon, Iowa. Prior to coming to Sheldon Jason taught middle school science, math and social studies for one year at Albert City Truesdale.  He then taught middle school science, math, and social studies for two years at Webster City.  The last 14 years he has been working for the Sheldon Community School District, eight years as a middle school science and social studies instructor and the last six years as the elementary principal. He completed his undergraduate degree in 2002 from Northwestern College and graduate degree in 2010 from the University of Sioux Falls.

  Mandy Berg, Leadership in Education speaker

Giving and Receiving Feedback
Mandy Berg and Stefanie Gross

Mandy Berg
Customized-Learning Teacher, Harrisburg High School

Mandy Berg began her professional career in the non-profit sector and served as a Youth Program Director at the Sioux Falls Family YMCA. She was very blessed by her time at the YMCA, but soon found her heart pushing her into Education. She then served as an educator for Columbus Public Schools in Nebraska, where she taught Reading, Speech, Theatre, and Dual-Credit English, as well as served as their Drama Director and Theatre Manager. She then accepted a position teaching English, Advanced Composition, and Theatre at a Project-Based Learning school in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, New Tech High. She then moved into a Customized-Learning teaching position at Harrisburg High School, where she taught Advanced English, and served as the Drama Director. Just 2 years after taking on that unique and challenging role, she was offered the position of Theatre Manager for the same district,
and in that role is where she continues to serve today.
She earned her undergrad degree in Business/Communications and Theatre from Augustana College, her MA in Education from the University of Sioux Falls, and her MA in English from Bowling Green State University.

   Stefanie Gross, Leadership in Education speaker

Stefanie Gross  
Instructional Coach, Harrisburg School District

Stefanie Gross began her career at Harrisburg High School as a teacher of English and has served the students and staff there for the past decade. She worked alongside a small group of teachers to launch the Modular-Customized Learning program in 2013 and taught in the program for the following four years. She also served as Department Chair for two years, leading the English Department in their mission to align curriculum to Common Core Standards while simultaneously increasing student investment in the learning process. In the fall of 2017, Mrs. Gross transitioned into a role as an Instructional Coach for Harrisburg’s two middle schools and one high school, and her emphasis centers around mentoring first and second-year teachers.
She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English Secondary Education at the University of Sioux Falls in 2007, and she is currently earning a Master’s
Degree in Teacher Leadership from Northwestern College.

    Jennifer Collins, Leadership in Education Conference speaker

Behavior Supports & Infrastructure

Jennifer Collins  
Mental Health Coordinator, Northwest Area Education Agency

Jennifer Collins has been with Northwest Area Education Agency for 16 years. Her background includes elementary education, school counseling, in-home family and individual therapy and school social work. Over the past 5 1/2 years, Jennifer has Coordinated the implementation of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) for school teams in NWAEA. This January, she started in the position of Mental Health Coordinator.  

  Carla Diede, Leadership in Education speaker

Cultivating Personalized Learning Teams and Helping them Thrive 

Carla Diede
Lead Teacher, Harrisburg School District

Carla Diede works to meet individual needs by creating optimal learning environments, by promoting creative thinking, and through the use of personalized learning. As Lead Teacher for Harrisburg School district, she helps develop and implement professional development for middle school teams implementing personalized learning along with supporting the teams throughout the year. Masters in Teaching, Learning and Leadership (2011); National Board Certified Teacher (2017); Milken Educator (2017)

  Katy Evensen, Leadership in Education speaker

Characteristics of Effective Teams

Katy Evensen 
Director of Educational Services, Media, and Technology
Northwest Area Education Agency

Katy Evenson currently serves as the Director of Educational Services, Media and Technology for Northwest Area Education Agency.  Her experiences include teaching business education courses, being the curriculum coordinator for a rural district, providing professional development and school support as an educational consultant, assisting three districts as an instructional coach, and fulfilling administrative responsibilities as an assistant director of educational services.  Every experience Katy has had has included work with teams in various forms.  Through this work, synergy has become one of Katy's favorite concepts. 

  Wade Riley, Leadership in Education speaker

Building a Collaborative Team and a Relationship Culture for Student Success
Cherokee Middle School and High School team

Wade Riley
9-12 Principal, Cherokee Community School District

Wade Riley has been the High School Principal at Cherokee Washington High School for the past 2 years. Mr. Riley had served as the High School Principal at River Valley CSD before joining the team at Cherokee CSD.

  Scot Aden, Leadership in Education Conference speaker

Scot Aden 
5-8 Principal, Cherokee Community School District

Scott Aden has been a school administrator for the past 10 years. The past four years have been at Cherokee Iowa. His first two years were at Washington High School and now the past two years he has been at the middle school.

  Natalie Barkley, Leadership in Education Conference Speaker

Natalie Barkley
Instructional Coach, Cherokee Washington High School

Natalie Barkley has been an educator for 15 years. Previously a choral director and Spanish teacher, she is now an Instructional Coach based at Cherokee’s Washington High School.

  Linda Ducommun, Leadership in Education Conference Speaker

Linda Ducommun
CCSD Technology Integrationist/CMS Instructional Coach, Cherokee Washington High School

Linda Ducommun has been in education for 23 years. Previously a visual arts educator, she is now an Instructional Coach/Tech Integrationist based at Cherokee Middle School. Outside of school, she loves spending time with her husband and two children.

   Jeff Herzberg, Leadership in Education Conference Speaker

Developing an Awareness and Strategies for Dealing with Trauma

Jeff Herzberg
Chief Administrator, Prairie Lakes AEA and Superintendent, Gilmore City-Bradgate CSD

After graduating from Northwestern College in 1988, Jeff Herzberg spent five years teaching and coaching and two years selling educational supplies before embarking on a 24 year career as an educational administrator. Jeff has been an assistant principal, principal, superintendent, and a chief administrator at one of the nine area education agencies within the state of Iowa. Jeff has been involved with state level work in the areas of STEM education, Competency Based Education, Childrens Mental Health State Board and Social Emotional Learning. He believes in supporting all students in the areas they need and this includes the impact of trauma.  He is currently serving as the Chief Administrator with the Prairie Lakes AEA and Superintendent with Gilmore City-Bradgate CSD

  Rachel Langenhorst, Leadership in Education Conference Speaker

Making Effective Connections: Fostering a Coaching Culture

Rachel Langenhorst
Instructional Coach and Technology Integrationist, Rock Valley Community Schools

Rachel Langenhorst is an Instructional Coach and Technology Integrationist for Rock Valley Community Schools and also serves as a Senior Education Specialist for Mayo Clinic and adjunct for both Northwestern College and the University of Sioux Falls in their graduate programs. By wearing many professional hats, Rachel is able to take her passion for infusing sound instructional strategies, cutting-edge techniques, and data-driven decisions to learners of all ages. She often shares her findings in publications and presentations across the country. Find her on Twitter  @rlangenhorst and on her blog at Tech From the Trenches.

   Stephanie Pritts, Leadership in Education Conference speaker

1 on 1 Coaching Relationships
Stephanie Pritts and Cindy Prewitt

Stephanie Pritts
K-12 Instructional Coach, Sheldon Community School District

Through purposeful planning, collaboration, communication, and relationship building Stephanie Pritts, a K-12 Instructional Coach for Sheldon Community School District, strives to keep these values at the forefront of her work in education with student success as the driving force. Stephanie brings 17 years of educational experience with 10 years teaching in a third grade classroom, 4 years teaching first grade, and 3 years of being a K-12 Instructional Coach with literacy being her emphasis. She graduated with a Master’s Degree in General Education from Briar Cliff University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Buena Vista University.

    Cindy Prewitt, Leadership in Education Conference speaker

Cindy Prewitt  
Instructional Coach, Sheldon Community School District

Cindy Prewitt is a teacher and instructional coach who has been in education for over twenty years.  Most of her years have been spent as a high school math teacher and she currently works as an Instructional Coach in the Sheldon Community School District.   Cindy is a collector of ideas and likes to think about how different ideas connect to each other.  She is especially interested in how we learn and teach math at all levels. She is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa and Wayne State University.

   Erika Van Cleave

Leading Teams in Implementing an Instructional Framework

Erika Van Cleave
Science Teacher, Instructional Coach, District CRISS Trainer, AHSTW, Avoca

Erika Van Cleave is a teacher and instructional coach at AHSTW in Avoca, Iowa. She has 8-years of experience as a science teacher. During the past 4 years, she has designated the majority of her time as the 9-12 Instructional Coach. She has experience teaching many science electives including chemistry, physics, Earth science, current issues in science, environmental science, psychology, and is currently teaching a dual-enrollment College Biology course as well as a General Biology course online through Iowa Central Community College. Erika is currently one of the District CRISS trainers and is completing her Educational Leadership + Principal Endorsement through Northwestern College.

    Erin Vander Veld, Leadership in Education Conference speaker

Youth Mental Health First Aid: A Training Overview

Erin Vander Velde
Data Analyst for School Improvement, Northwest Area Education Agency

Erin Vander Velde has been with Northwest Area Education Agency (NWAEA) for 19 years. She has a background in school social work and school psychology and currently serves as Data Analyst for School Improvement. Erin is a certified Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) trainer and serves on the Youth Mental Health First Aid training team through NWAEA.


Lodging is separate from the conference registration. Area hotels include Hampton Inn and Dutch Inn & Suites in Orange City and Holiday Inn Express in Sioux Center.