Featured Speaker - Sofia Gonzalez


Meet Our Spirit of Education Award Winner Sofia Gonzalez

Sofia Gonzalez is a high school AP English teacher for Morton East High School, College professor, and published author from Illinois. She has been in the field of education for over ten years and has a deep passion for students who are disadvantaged. She also educates and empowers future teachers in an online teacher preparation program where she believes teachers need as much empowerment as students. She was recently awarded Claes Nobel Teacher of the Year with National Society of High School Scholars 2019. She obtained two master’s degrees, one from the University of Phoenix in Secondary Education, and St. Xavier University in Reading instruction.

Mrs. Gonzalez has also traveled nationally and internationally as a public and sought-after speaker covering a plethora of inspirational topics to influence and empower students, educators, and communities.

In addition, in her tireless commitment to education, she started a non-profit called Project 214, which was inspired by her first classroom number. She began her career in a gang-infested, impoverished neighborhood in Chicago. Her first job consisted of students who were expelled or dropped out of the Chicago public school system. As a result, she was compelled to create a safe and inclusive classroom where all students felt as if they had a second chance, were valued, and their voices were heard. Establishing a trauma-informed classroom and beyond became her mission, and she became an avid proponent for social justice in education. She actively sought out opportunities and resources wherever she could find them.

What’s more, she saw great disparity and lack of resources for at-risk students. Many, unfortunately, died of gun violence. Her non-profit group, Project 214 promotes the power of education by providing basic resources to both teachers and students at a local and international level. Her organization has partnerships with schools and communities in Chicago, Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador, and Puerto Rico. She believes that ALL students matter, and the world is a global classroom. She’s an advocate and social activist for fair and equitable access to education.

Springfield WorkShop Presentations

Proactively Approaching and Supporting Students of Trauma and Beyond

Philip D. Chapman & Tamela Daniels - Fairmont School District 89 

Fairmont School District has an 18% mobility rate to go along with its 100% low income.  Additionally, 10% or more of the 350 students that attend Fairmont come from a foster care village located a mile from the school.  As a district, they have implemented a proactive approach to supporting students of trauma and beyond by implementing school-wide procedures, including Safe & Civil Schools’ CHAMPS and a hospitality room to support students needing to de-escalate and/or self-regulate.

Creating a Welcoming and Safe Learning Environment

Amy Czerniak  -  Valley View 365U School District 

In this session, attendees will learn about the philosophies, guiding principles, and role of a Learning Environment Coordinator within the elementary setting. Educators will learn different aspects of creating a true Peace Room in their schools and the many different ways it could be utilized to meet both student and staff needs. Through practicing interactive learning structures, participants will brainstorm and plan for ways they can incorporate ideas they’ve learned to create an environment of belonging, significance, and fun!  This session is ideal for Elementary students, but could easily be adapted for Middle and High School levels as well. 

Building Resilience: The Journey of a Trauma-Informed School District and Community

Dr. Meghan Meyer - School Psychologist

Carol Best - Assistant Principal

Kristine Turner -Special Education Teacher

Morton High School District 201

Participants will walk away from the workshop with a model for a collaborative approach to building a trauma-informed school district and community.  Presenters including a school psychologist, school administrator and classroom teacher will share their experience of partnering together to address mental health, trauma and wellness in this urban, immigrant school district and community surrounded by Chicago. The team will walk participants through steps they took to screen students for trauma and mental health, get buy-in of key stakeholders, address barriers, create and present professional development on trauma-informed schools and social emotional learning to school staff and community members, collaborate with community partners and obtain data to ultimately support their students with trauma-informed care. By helping school staff and community partners become more aware on how trauma impacts our youth and school staff, the culture of the school is starting to shift and positively impact the lives of our students. Participants will be actively engaged through interactive activities and small group discussions as well as provided opportunities for reflection to help them understand and grasp the trauma-informed work that is being done in this school district. The workshop will demonstrate how this collaborative approach has ignited a spark both in the school district and the community by creating a desire and willingness to become more trauma informed and bring attention to improving mental health for our students and school staff. Participants will walk away with research and information on trauma-informed schools as well as tangible and practical ideas for how they can help their classrooms and communities become trauma-informed. Participants will leave feeling inspired and challenged to consider how they can use their sphere of influence to bring about positive cultural change in their own school districts and communities.

We are all an ICEBERG! What is ACTUALLY Below the Surface!

Tim Karmik - School Social Worker 

Indian Prairie School District 204

All people carry stressors in life, especially the students and children that we support. Like an iceberg, we only show our very tip for people to see, yet the most important and unpredictable part of the iceberg is below the surface. For us to better support ourselves, our children and our students, we must look below the surface. Social-Emotional-Behavioral understanding is one of the keys in helping us better support ourselves and our kids! Join me for an exploration of what lies beneath our surface and how it challenges our behavior, and examine ways that we can find out what is below the surface of those that we support and make them feel like they belong. 

What's YOUR Trumpet? Developing a Positive School Climate for All

Sarah Schwartz, Missy Berg, Daren Dusenske, Anne Nemshick & Sue Smits

Prairie Ridge High School, CHSD 155 

During this lively presentation, attendees will review research tied to happiness and fun in the work place and will learn a variety of ways to incorporate findings at school.  When visible, a positive school culture can impact student learning and engagement in a major way.  Everyone needs a way to "blow off steam" and share joy with others, so what's YOUR trumpet? 

Safe Zones Book: Training Allies of LGBTQ Young Adults

 Kerry John Poynter, Director of Gender & Sexuality Student Services 

University of Illinois Springfield

Educators and administrators will be provided an overview of how to use the first comprehensive resource for developing Safe Zone programs to support LGBTQIA+ youth and young adults. These programs publicly identify supportive allies by hanging a “Safe Zone” sign and are trained to become better allies by attending workshop sessions. The book compiles real world tested training curricula intentionally designed in active learning pedagogy with activities designed for youth as well as adults. Curricula cover an expansive view of LGBTQIA+ topics including basic fundamentals such as terms and the coming out process plus advanced subjects about transgender, sexuality over the lifespan, bisexuality, safe dating, online safety, and the intersections of faith/religion and multiple identities. Participants will learn how this book is a one stop resource to implement, coordinate, train members, and assess safe zone type programs in their schools. 

Privileges, Oppressions, and Understanding Identity

 Jordan Mix - Education Coordinator

Iowa Safe Schools

In this session, participants will learn about what privilege is an its affects on classroom conversations and school climate and culture. This interactive session will provide participants with best practices in teaching privilege in the classroom from a professional development expert.. 


Workshop Sessions will include topics on fostering diversity & inclusion, engaging students & staff in school climate transformation, and developing a safe & supporting learning environment for all students! 



Would You Like to Be a Workshop Leader?

Are you an educator or administrator implementing a best practice for creating a positive school climate and culture? Are you implementing best practices for ensure the safety and wellness of students are supported? Do you engage your students in civil discourse and social justice? Are you doing great things to foster an appreciation for diversity and inclusion in your school? Then volunteer to contribute to this professional development opportunity!

We are now accepting workshop applications for the 2020 Springfield School Culture Advocacy Symposium on 3.16.2020.  Presenters will lead a 60-minute workshop session on a topic that addresses the work being done to develop a positive school climate and culture.

Workshop Application