2023-2024 Annual Conference

Keynote Speakers

Keynote Speakers

Principal Kafele

Thursday, November 2, 2023
Opening Keynote

Just One Counselor Can Completely Alter the Trajectory of a Child

So many children arriving to school every morning are coming from home and neighborhood environments that present challenges that are so overwhelming that the children simply cannot make the correlation between effort in school today and success in their lives later on. There is a desperate need then for positive relationships with key adults in the building that are so powerful that the student concludes that success will be his / her reality. In this keynote address, Principal Kafele will make the case to school counselors that they are amongst those individuals who can nurture powerful relationships with students that completely alter their trajectories toward attaining success.

Principal Baruti Kafele, a highly regarded urban educator in New Jersey for more than 20 years, has distinguished himself as a master teacher and a transformational school leader. As an elementary school teacher in East Orange, NJ, in addition to being named the East Orange School District and Essex County Public Schools Teacher of the Year, Principal Kafele was a finalist for New Jersey State Teacher of the Year and a recipient of the New Jersey Education Association Award of Excellence.

As a middle and high school principal, Principal Kafele led the turnaround of four New Jersey urban schools, including “The Mighty” Newark Tech—which went from a low-performing school in need of improvement to national recognition, and which was recognized three times by U.S. News and World Report as one of America’s best high schools.

Principal Kafele is one of the most sought-after school leadership and classroom equity presenters in America. He has delivered over 2500 conference and program keynotes, professional development workshops, parenting seminars and student assemblies over his 35 years of public speaking. In addition to writing several professional articles for popular education journals, he has authored twelve books, including seven ASCD best sellers. His next book, The Assistant Principal Identity will be released in May, 2023.

Principal Kafele is the creator and host of the popular Virtual Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, streamed live every Saturday morning. He is the recipient of over 150 educational, professional and community awards which include the prestigious Milken Educator Award, the National Alliance of Black School Educators Hall of Fame Award, the East Orange, NJ Hall of Fame, recognition as one of the World’s Top 30 Education Professionals for 2020, 2021, 2022 & 2023 by Global Gurus Top 30 and the City of Dickinson, Texas proclaiming February 8, 1998 as Baruti Kafele Day.

Dr. Mylien Duong

Friday, November 3, 2023
Closing Keynote

The Psychology of Polarization: Strategies for Addressing Political Polarization through Social-Emotional Learning

Our nation is grappling with deep divisions. As school counselors, we have a unique role to play in fostering a more harmonious and inclusive society. One powerful tool in our toolkit is social emotional learning (SEL), which can bridge the divide and promote understanding and empathy among individuals with differing political ideologies.

This keynote will begin by exploring the development of moral reasoning in children and adults, and how this development is shaped by factors such as our shared evolutionary heritage, cultural upbringing, and unique life experiences. By understanding the foundations of moral reasoning, we can better comprehend how individuals form their beliefs and values, and how these beliefs may differ based on their background and experiences. This awareness can help us approach conversations about politics with empathy and an open mind, recognizing that individuals may hold different perspectives for valid reasons.

Furthermore, we will delve into how these differences in moral reasoning often align with political ideology. We will examine how individuals with different political beliefs may prioritize different moral values, and how these differences can lead to polarization. We will then explore how various factors such as evolution, cognitive biases, the media environment, and political structures contribute to political polarization. These influences shape individuals’ perceptions and beliefs, often leading to a sense of “us” versus “them” mentality, where individuals may identify strongly with their political tribe and view those with differing opinions as adversaries rather than fellow citizens. Understanding these forces can provide us with a deeper understanding of the complexities involved in political polarization and help us approach conversations about politics with empathy, recognizing that individuals may be influenced by these factors in forming their opinions and beliefs.

Finally, we will discuss how SEL can serve as a foundation for addressing political polarization. SEL encompasses essential skills such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. By cultivating these skills, we can empower individuals to navigate differing perspectives with empathy, respect, and open-mindedness. We will provide concrete tools and strategies for promoting SEL, such as facilitating empathy-building activities, teaching effective communication skills, and fostering respectful dialogue in schools and communities.

Dr. Mylien Duong is the Senior Director of Research at the Constructive Dialogue Institute (CDI), a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to equipping the next generation of Americans with the mindset and skill set to engage in dialogue across differences.

Trained as a clinical psychologist, Dr. Duong has spent the last 12 years developing psychology-based tools for educational spaces, with an emphasis on tools that are evidence-based, easy to implement, and feasible for real-world settings. She began her career as an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington in the Department of Psychiatry. There, she led federally funded research projects to develop and evaluate evidence-based psychological interventions for children and adolescents in educational settings. She then became a senior research scientist at the Committee for Children, a leading provider of social emotional learning curricula for K-12 and out of school settings.

She has a deep passion for translating psychological research into effective education materials that can be used in everyday life. She’s developed programs to prevent student depression, substance abuse, and delinquency, and to foster student growth mindset, belonging, and emotion management. She also has worked extensively with the adults who provide care for youth, including teachers, case workers, and school mental health providers, to attend to their own well-being, develop awareness of their implicit biases, and build effective classroom communities.

She has received over $20 million in grant funding and published over 50 scientific articles and book chapters, and her educational tools have been used by over 100,000 educators across the United States.

She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband and her dog, Luke.