Keynote Speakers

February 5-7, 2019

  • Debra Hopkins

    Debra Hopkins, M.Ed.

    Keynote speaker on Tuesday, February 5, 2019

    Debra Hopkins is a mission-driven educator who is devoted to
    accelerating high levels of language and literacy achievement for all students. Born into a family of educators, Debra completed her M.Ed. in Reading/ESL at Texas Woman’s University and began her career as a third-grade classroom teacher in the Dallas ISD. She dove into the challenges with great enthusiasm and, in her second year as a teacher, Debra was named district-wide ESL “Teacher of the Year”. Because her students, all English learners, demonstrated high levels of success on the state’s high-stakes assessment, she was soon invited to join the district’s cadre of teacher trainers, where she became a mentor for new and aspiring teachers and was invited to deliver workshops at the district, regional, and state level.

    After several years as an enthusiastic classroom teacher in Texas and in Barcelona, Spain, Debra was engaged as a curriculum consultant in the world of educational publishing, through which she was invited to deliver well-received keynotes, interactive
    workshops, and hands-on trainings in 35+ states and 8 countries, and at national conferences such as NABE, TESOL, and ILA.

    Before joining Imagine Learning as Senior Curriculum Consultant, Debra was deeply engaged with urban school districts nationwide,
    coordinating projects designed to raise expectations and
    instructional rigor, improve instructional materials, and launch a professional learning tool designed to build capacity for teaching at higher levels of rigor. She also worked in the EL Office of Metro Nashville Public Schools, where she served as EL Coordinator of Professional Learning and instructional coach in two large urban high schools.

    • Essa

      Huda Essa

      Keynote speaker on Wednesday, February 6, 2019

      Huda Essa

      Author, Consultant, Founder of Culture Links, LLC

      Huda Essa has positively influenced countless communities through her engaging and thought-provoking learning opportunities.  She is a TEDx Speaker and Consultant who provides captivating speaking engagements and excellently reviewed interactive workshops.  Her focus on building empathy and deepening connections has supported organizations around the nation in successfully and authentically meeting their diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.  Huda is also an author of culturally relevant texts and is the producer of a series of short films focused on matters of social justice.

    • Westerlund

      Ruslana Westerlund, Ed.D.

      Keynote speaker on Thursday, February 7, 2019.

      Ruslana Westerlund, Ed.D. is a multilingual, multicultural academic born and raised in Ukraine whose youth revolved around the potato season until beginning college in 1990.  She received her Master’s in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from Bohdan Khmelnitsky Cherkassy National University in Cherkassy, Ukraine in 1995, and Doctorate in Education from Bethel University, St. Paul, Minnesota in 2014.  She is now an associate researcher at WIDA, in the Research and Development Division. Her responsibilities include research and development of the English Language Development (ELD) Standards Framework and collaboration with other departments in the design of workshops for teachers in the WIDA Consortium states. Her current research focuses on the intersection of Systemic Functional Linguistics and critical pedagogy in the education of culturally and linguistically minoritized students, specifically, ELs’ student access to disciplinary literacies.

      Before coming to WCER, Ruslana worked as an ESL Teacher and later as an ELL and refugee student specialist at the Minnesota Department of Education. In that role, she managed Title III, Title I as well as Office of Refugee Resettlement grants and collaborated with various state departments to provide wrap-around services to refugee children.  In her spare time, she authors the Reclaiming the Language for Social Justice blog. She is also an assistant adjunct professor at Bethel University preparing in-service and pre-service teachers to provide equitable opportunities for ELs.  She resides in Cross Plains, Wisconsin with a wonderful husband, two amazing boys, and two loving dogs.

      Ruslana’s passion for language as a tool for social justice is rooted from her own story which you can read here.