We’re very excited to have such a great group of speakers and presenters!
Hi, I’m John Spencer. I’m a former middle school teacher and current college professor on a quest to transform schools into bastions of creativity and wonder. I want to see teachers unleash the creative potential in all of their students so that kids can be makers, designers, artists, and engineers. I explore research, interview educators, deconstruct systems, and study real-world examples of design thinking in action. I share what I’m learning in books, blog posts, journal articles, free resources, animated videos, and podcasts.
I have a crazy belief that all people are naturally creative. Too many people have believed the lie that there are certain “creative types” who are the exception to the rule. But we are all creative. Every one of us. And we can tap into this natural creativity when we embrace a maker mindset.
Every day, I ask my kids, “What did you make in school today?” Too often, they can’t give me an answer. But on the days that they do, their eyes light up and they passionately describe their projects. It’s in those moments that I am reminded that making is magic and that teachers are the ones making this magic happen.
In my second year of teaching, we used design thinking for our student-centered documentary project. Everything changed. I spent the next decade on a journey to empower my students to become creative thinkers and problem-solvers. This meant mural projects, service learning projects, STEM camps, and coding projects. But it also meant mistakes. Tons of them. It meant lessons that tanked and projects that failed. But each failure was another iteration on the road to innovation.
Founding Partner, Zinovo
Distad moved to Big Sky from Minneapolis with his family in the spring, and began operating a technology business called Zinovo in Bozeman. He acquired a Bozeman co-work space in January, before moving to Montana, renamed it Big Sky CoWork and recently opened a space here in Big Sky.
Jonathan, A lifelong tech consultant, recently left a large consulting firm as the leader of their Salesforce practice to start Salesforce Managed Services.
Deanna Horsens is a classroom teacher, Google for Education Certified Trainer, and G Suite Admin at Florence-Carlton K-12 Schools. She serves on the district technology committee and enthusiastically leads the GAfE program. Mrs. Horsens has developed numerous interactive lessons, engaging activities, collaborative projects, and electronic assessments. She is a featured educational technology presenter for conferences across the state of Montana and provides on-site professional development. Mrs. Horsens strives to motivate, empower, and encourage fellow teachers. She is thrilled to share entertaining stories of success, some epic fails, and her teacher-created materials with you.
“It’s Time for Something Different” . . . a slogan powerful enough to coax a girl away from an 18-year career. Formerly a teacher and tech integration specialist for Billings Schools, Ann is a Game Developer and Community Manager for Breakout EDU, the immersive learning games platform that encourages teachers and learners to literally think outside the box!
Teacher Ambassador, MontanaPBS
Nikki Vradenburg is from the great state of Montana and is proud to be raising her two children, Jessica, 8 and Riley, 3 here! Nikki is the Teacher Ambassador and Technology Integration Specialist for MontanaPBS. She works with teachers in rural schools to successfully integrate technology in their classrooms. An educator since 2001, Nikki has taught K-5 students in a rural school for most of her classroom teaching career. Her favorite moments in the classroom involved lessons where students used technology to create and share about their learning. Nikki is a National Board Certified teacher with a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership. She is a 2014 PBS Digital Innovator, a BrainPOP Certified Educator, holds Level 1 Google Certification and is a Microsoft Innovative Educator. She is honored to have been a finalist for Montana Teacher of the Year in 2017. Nikki happily delivers professional development to teachers all over the state of Montana and has presented at many national conferences as well. Nikki is also currently working on her Ed.D in Curriculum and Instruction at Montana State University.
Once the 4th-grade lead guide at Big Sky School District since 2000, I have moved into MS/HS Design Thinking/Technology. I embrace the new challenge of learning alongside these young minds. I am a Google Certified Educator as well as an avid learner of all things tech and outdoors. I love getting our learners outdoors and helping them to see the world differently. When not in the classroom, I lead an outdoor summer camp, untangle my son’s fishing line, and guide my wife Kristin down various regional waterways.
Dr. Kate Eisele
MS/HS Science Teacher at Big Sky School District
My name is Kate Eisele. This is my 3rd year as a teacher in the Big Sky School District. I have been involved in working in upper elementary, middle and high school classrooms for more than ten years in a variety of different contexts. I am a highly motivated, teacher and scientist who is committed to teaching and to the conservation of natural resources. It is my belief that the greatest responsibility of scientists is to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for their “science” with as many people as possible. Doing this means making learning fun, safe, and “hands-on”.
As a teacher, I have experience working in traditional classrooms as well as being an outdoor educator, leading trips, designing OE curriculum, and also playing a supporting role as a teacher on outdoor adventures. Further, I come from a long line of educators. My father taught English and my mother, Biology. My grandmother was a former English teacher and an avid gardener, whose interest in plants helped spawn my own. They taught me to value the pursuit of knowledge in all its ways, shapes, and forms. Finally, I am broadly trained as an ecologist and have research experience in population, conservation, community, ecosystems, and global change biology.