Featured SPEAKER - Dr. Ferial Pearson


Learn More About the Secret Kindness Agents

 Ferial Pearson was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. She is the oldest of four girls and the first in her immediate family to go to college. After graduating from Peponi School in 1997, she left Africa to attend Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota, where she earned her Bachelor's degree in 2001 in Communication Arts Literature Teaching, and where she met her husband, Daniel.

She was offered the opportunity to teach in Omaha at Omaha South High School, where she taught English and Reading for ten years. During her time there, she also served as the Gay Straight Alliance and Unity Club sponsor, and received national awards for her work with students and in the community. These included the National Education Association's Virginia Uribe Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights in 2012, the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network's Educator of the Year Respect Award in 2011, and she was the Nebraska representative and finalist for the National Council of Teachers of English Academic Freedom Award in 2012. Locally, she has been awarded the 2011 Omaha Education Association's Human Relations Award, the 2012 Promising Professional Award from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and RESPECT's 2011 Anti-Bullying Award and a TOYO (Ten Outstanding Young Omahans) Award in 2014. She also earned her Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a Graduate Certificate in Urban Instruction from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2009.

Ferial left Omaha South High School to work as a Talent Advisor for the Avenue Scholars Foundation and taught for them at Ralston High School for two years until 2013, during which time she created the Secret Kindness Agents project, which became the subject of a book, a TEDx Talk, and was the focus of her dissertation.

She currently is an Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in the Teacher Education Department.  In 2016, she was the recipient the Kennedy Center’s Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher award. In 2017, she earned her Ed. D. in Educational Leadership and in 2019, she was awarded the International Women’s Day Award from the Refugee Women Organization of Nebraska in 2019 as well as the Outstanding Community Leader Award from Senator Adam Morfeld and Civic Nebraska. She lives in Ralston, Nebraska with her husband Daniel, son Ilahi, and daughter Iman.

Featured Speaker - Jamie Honke


Meet Our Spirit of Education Award Winner!

 Ms. Honke has been working to make Spanish for Spanish Speakers more legitimate in the Ralston Community since she arrived there five years ago. Honke is the department chair for the World Language department and teaches upper-level Spanish classes. She singlehandedly worked to have the Seal of Biliteracy adopted in the school district to bring more attention to bilingualism, and she has given presentations about culturally responsive education and how to teach intersectionality in the classroom to provide multiple cultural lenses. 

Honke is the co-sponsor of the school's Gender Sexuality Alliance. Through her role as sponsor, she has been working with educators informally to understand the nuance of experiences with their gender non-binary, gender fluid, and trans youth with regards to pronouns and identity. She has submitted session proposals for the Nebraska Mental Health Educator Association Conference on the levels of coming out in LGBTQ adolescence and on the Cultural Iceberg model and its influence on positive school culture. 

 Always pushing herself to improve in her craft, Jamie achieved National Certification in 2018.   That same year, Jamie had the opportunity to participate on a panel for the MALT Colloquium at UNO about the preservation of world languages and community advocacy. In her classroom, she is committed to teaching about intersectionality and how our different subgroups are represented. Her vision is to have students from all walks of life see how they live within a cultural lens so they are not only seeing the world one way.

OMaha Workshop PResENTATIONS


SAFETY: It Doesn't Happen By Accident

Kari Dorn -  Retired Business/Technology Teacher - Battle Lake, MN 

Educators have one of the most difficult yet most important jobs in America. My passion for helping educators succeed through motivation, inspiration, and a common-sense approach to stress management allows me to provide teachers with research based, proven, practical techniques and strategies that they can start implementing immediately in their classrooms. I want to help educators eliminate 80-90% of the pesky low-level behavioral issues that occur every day all day long in classrooms across America. This will give educators more time to teach, improve classroom climate, and create a safe environment for their students to learn. 

The Importance of Social and Emotional Learning for English Learners

Pam Erixon - ELL District Support Specialist

Kara Hutton EdS - Coordinator of Special Programs

Amy Becker - ELL Teacher 

Millard Public Schools

 Integrating Social Emotional Learning with academic learning is becoming more prevalent and has many benefits such as higher graduation rates, fewer cases of bullying, and increased academic achievement. English Learners come to us from different cultures and backgrounds and often face unique challenges such as trauma and difficulty relating to peers.  This session will explore the needs of EL students and provide intentional strategies for embedding social-emotional learning in classroom instruction.

Creating an environment for success: How we are building a proactive, safe and engaged school

Ruben Cano -  South Omaha High Magnet School, Alesia Montgomery -  Training Consultant 

Since 2016 Omaha South High Magnet School has been implementing the Safe and Healthy Secondary Schools Model, a model that builds strong student-teacher relationships, partners with families to increase social and emotional safety and student engagement. This presentation will also elaborate on the process of implementing this multi-tiered system of support, including problem solving, correcting problem behavior, and de-escalating emotionally tense situations. We will then present on the importance of praise, defined as a positive interaction that acknowledge and reinforce student’s efforts and progress, the different types of praise, specific steps for effective praising, when to use praise and the benefits of constantly praising students and others in the school building.

Working with Challenging Students

Sandra Bender - Omaha Public Schools

Many students experience trauma that affects their being ready and able to learn at school. This session looks at what happens when student’s brains are under stress and how that affects their behaviors in the classroom. We will also look at strategies to use when working with students who have challenging behaviors that prevent them from learning at school. At the end of the session you will learn about Compassion Fatigue and the importance of self-care so that you are at your best every day. It only takes one person to change the trajectory of a student's life. Are you the one? 

Widening the Circle: Strategies for LGBTQ-Themed Literature in Language Arts Classrooms

Rachele Stoops - English Teacher

Bryan Community Focus Program  

This workshop will focus on research-back reasoning for including LGBTQ-themed literature in secondary language arts, and specific strategies that LA teachers can use to foster critical thinking and conversations in the classroom.  Participants will have the chance to read and discuss chapters of popular LGBTQ-themed novels, and practice using these strategies.  Educators will leave this workshop with a plan to include LGBTQ-themed books in their curriculum, and be more prepared to address concerns from administration and parents.

A Focus on the Classroom: Supporting Students Impacted by Trauma

Scott Eckman - Special Education Supervisor

Sarah Wright - MTSS-B Coach

Lincoln Public Schools
This session will focus on tier 1 effective classroom practices and how they support students impacted by trauma and the effects of trauma. Participants will learn how unresolved trauma may affect student behavior and understand the alignment of classroom practices and how they are trauma informed.  The workshop will include time for practical application and activities to further understand the connection. 

Developing Privilege Awareness to Increase Your Capacity to Build Authentic Relationships with Disen

Jacyln Gibbons - Instructional Facilitator

Omaha Public Schools
-Privilege is not something we have chosen, and rarely are we in charge of whether or not we possess it. If you are attending this conference, you have privilege. Privilege is multidimensional and impacts relationships with students on an unconscious and often damaging level.  In this session, understanding the impact privilege can have will be explored. However, we will develop a deeper understanding of our privilege and how this awareness can build authentic relationships with students who were not born into this. You will face your own reality, discover the realities of others, learn the impact this has on students, and explore and practice actions that you can walk into your school and do Monday!

How Your WHY Impacts Equity and Inclusion

Monica R. Dixon

University Of Kansas 

In this session, participants will reflect on their position of place and influence in the education food chain. They will strategize on how that place can result in opening the doors for educational opportunities for all students while closing the achievement gap. Participants will walk away with great resources to apply back to their classrooms immediately!