1. Presented at the American Montessori Society 2014 Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas March 28, 2014.

    Educators talk and write a lot about the importance of creating learning communities and of promoting collaboration among teachers, and yet both remain real challenges. This is in good part because conflict avoidance is a way of life for most school staffs. Collegial cooperation goes well when everyone sees eye-to-eye, but what happens when people see things differently? It’s an inevitable situation in any school community, and it doesn’t have to be polarizing.

    In this keynote, Dr. Rob Evans will outline ways teachers and school administrators can improve candor and create genuine collegiality. He will explain why the ability to deal directly and differ constructively with one another—about teaching and learning, performance and priorities—is vital to professional growth, and he will show how a more constructive approach to conflict improves a school’s ability to model and teach the habits, skills, and values it wants children to learn.

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  2. Presented at the American Montessori Society 2014 Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas March 28, 2014.

    At the age of 2, Temple Grandin had no speech and all the signs of severe autism. Fortunately, her mother defied the advice of doctors and kept her out of an institution. Many hours of therapy and intensive teaching enabled Temple to learn speech, and mentoring by her high school science teacher and an aunt on her ranch in Arizona helped her pursue a career as a scientist and livestock equipment designer. Today she is a professor, an internationally renowned lecturer, and a best-selling author. Her life was the subject of an HBO movie that won an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Peabody Award.

    In this keynote, Dr. Grandin will talk about how her mind works, sharing her ability to “think in pictures,” which helps her solve problems in ways that neurotypical brains might miss. She will make the case that the world needs all types of thinkers: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, and verbal thinkers, as well as all kinds of smart, geeky kids.

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  3. Presented at the American Montessori Society 2014 Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas March 29, 2014.

    Andrew Solomon drew on 40,000 pages of interview transcripts with more than 300 families to write his book Far From the Tree, which tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so. The ordinary parents Solomon interviewed faced extreme challenges: deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, or who are transgender. What he found is that it’s diversity that unites us all. The experience of difference within families is universal, as are the struggles toward compassion and the triumphs of love. As he listened to his subjects’ courageous and affirming stories, Solomon began a journey to accepting his own identity, which culminated in his midlife decision, influenced by this research, to become a parent.

    In this keynote, Solomon will share the fruits of his research into Far From the Tree, which was named one of the 10 best books of 2012 by The New York Times and also won the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award, among others. He will explain how he learned from parents of exceptional children that generosity, acceptance, and tolerance can prevail, that love can transcend every prejudice, and that by embracing the differences between us, we expand our definition of what it is to be human.

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  4. Presented at the American Montessori Society 2014 Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas March 30, 2014.

    Maria Montessori offered this wisdom about the learning environment: “Plainly, the environment must be a living one, directed by a higher intelligence, arranged by an adult who is prepared for his mission.” The World Peace Game, hailed by TED and Huffington Post as “the most influential idea of 2011,” embodies this concept by creating a rich practice field where children can lead, explore, collaborate, conflict, negotiate, and solve problems guided by the objectives and structure of the game. It’s the epitome of a learning environment that is well prepared—a place for students to engage in open inquiry that is purposeful, building competence in dealing with ambiguities, misinformation, conflicting ideas, and other elements of the unknown.

    In this keynote, John Hunter, a veteran teacher and the creator of the World Peace Game, will share the core principles of his game, explaining how open-ended, overwhelming, ambiguous and complex problems are good opportunities for students to learn to think critically, connectedly, and creatively. Hunter will show how the World Peace Game reinforces the idea that today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders and that exposing students to complex problem solving and complicated communication is good practice for the challenges and opportunities that await them as adults.

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Keynote addresses presented at the AMS 2014 Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas.

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