2020 Keynote Speakers

 Bertie Simmons

 Bertie Simmons was born in Chatham, Louisiana and spent her early years in the deep south during the Jim Crow era. In her recent memoir, Whispers of Hope, the Story of My Life, she tells of her realization that to make a better life for herself and others, she must run away from the struggles of her young life and go headlong into a world about which she knows nothing. After graduating from Northwestern University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, she became a teacher in Kinder, Louisiana. Bertie finds her way to Houston where she serves in many leadership positions within a large urban school district and witnesses the painfully slow process of integration. For 58 years she was a dedicated educator in the Houston Independent School District. Her career included experiences as a teacher, elementary school principal, assistant superintendent, district superintendent, and high school principal. This highly sought public speaker has received many professional awards that include HEB’s Best High School Principal in Texas award and KHOU’s Spirit of Texas award.

Lynne Cherry 

 Lynne Cherry is the author and illustrator of over 30 award-winning children’s books including the rainforest classic The Great Kapok Tree and the environmental history A River Ran Wild. She is producer of the award-winning Young Voices for the Planet film series - success stories of diverse youth reducing the carbon footprint of their homes, schools and communities. Lynne has written widely about the importance of teaching through hope and solutions rather than gloom and doom. In a NY Times guest blog, Lynne wrote about ‘motivated avoidance”; In American Psychologist she writes about how the films model “self-efficacy”. Lynne received a BFA from Tyler School of Art, a BA from Temple and an MA in history from Yale. Her residencies include Princeton, Cornell and Smithsonian. She is currently Visiting Scholar at the Benjamin Center, SUNY, New Paltz. She received a Metcalf Fellowship, Brandwein Prize and the 2019 PA Council for the Social Studies President’s Award. 

Presentation Overview

As an environmental children’s book author/illustrator, Lynne Cherry realized the importance of teaching with hope rather than doom and gloom. Her award-winning Young Voices for the Planet films feature diverse youth reducing the carbon footprint of their homes, schools and communities. Lynne will demonstrate how to use these uplifting stories, and the YVFP Civic Engagement and Democracy Curriculum to give young people hope and tools to change minds, laws and the world! The curriculum’s A.C.T.I.O.N Plan will help them “Find Your Team! Find Your Passion! Find Your Power!” Lynne will share the psychology behind why these resources help students develop self-efficacy and challenge decision-makers to act responsibly.

Check back soon for updates on additional field expert guest speakers!