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Cathy Gassenheimer - A+ Executive Vice President of the Alabama Best Practices Center

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Cathy has been with A+ from almost the very beginning, joining in August 1991. In 1999, A+ launched the Alabama Best Practices Center, which works directly with educators through our four professional learning networks: the Superintendent Leaders Network, the Key Leaders Network (school and district leaders), the Powerful Conversations Network (school teams), and the Instructional Partners Network (school-based instructional coaches).

Cathy is a life-long learner and loves nothing more than to learn more about things that matter. She's also quite a lover of all types of music! Personally, she's married to Rick Gassenheimer and together they have three children and three grandchildren. You can connect with Cathy through this website, and also on Twitter (@cathygassenheim) and the ABPC Facebook page.

Pat Johnson - Consulant

AL Best Practices Center
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abpc_pat-johnsonPat cannot remember a time when she was not involved in education: she has been in school, teaching school, managing a school or consulting with schools for many years. Her career began in kindergarten in North Carolina, then to Florida, and now in Alabama. She taught multiple grade levels and content areas from kindergarten to college. In addition, she has had the opportunity to visit classrooms in Kenya, Bolivia, and Honduras.

Pat never dreamed she would leave the classroom, but when she began working as Teacher-In-Residence with the University of Alabama, she realized the importance of strong administrative leadership. As such, she spent the last years in public education in administration.

Pat's goal is to always be a learner—in education and in life. She believes that no matter the age or stage in life there is always something new to learn.

Away from the work of education, Pat and her husband enjoy traveling, involvement in mission outreach through their church, and gardening.

Beth McDavid - Consultant

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bethmcdavidBeth started her career in education over forty years ago as an art teacher with the Tarrant City School District and was honored to receive the National Elementary Art Educator of the Year award. After a number of years teaching, she served as assistant principal and then in central office as an administrator. Her responsibilities have included staff development, curriculum, technology, English as a Second Language, accreditation, and Federal Programs.

Since retiring, she joined the Alabama Best Practice Center (ABPC), working with Alabama educators in supporting the ABPC’s work with Key Leader Networks (KLN), Powerful Conversation Networks (PCN), and Instructional Partners Networks (IPN).

Beth has found it rewarding to continue her work with teachers and leaders, learning together to further learning and success for Alabama children. She enjoys yoga, reading, and cooking new and interesting foods. Her family includes her husband, Bill McDavid, four children, and eight grandchildren.

John Norton - Communications Consultant

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abpc_johnJohn made his first connection with A+ more than 20 years ago during a chance phone encounter with Cathy Gassenheimer, while he was vice president for information at the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB). As a communications consultant for the A+ Alabama Best Practices Center, John has spent a decade writing and editing the ABPC journal Working Toward Excellence and now serves as editor for the ABPC Blog. In his first career, he reported on education for newspapers in South Carolina. He was also the first executive director of the state-supported SC Center for Teacher Recruitment (now CERRA).

A Clemson graduate, John attended "small-town" public schools while growing up near Myrtle Beach. He and his wife, Janice, live in Little Switzerland, NC, but spend lots of time in Atlanta with grandson Wyatt and daughter Laurah, an English professor at Georgia State.

Beth Sanders - Technology Integration Consultant

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Beth is a connected educator, lifelong learner, and proud millennial. Her full-time position is as the Technology Integration Coordinator for Pike Road Schools. She is a member of the Powerful Conversations Network, Key Leaders Network, and for the past several years as served part-time as the Technology Integration Consultant for Alabama Best Practices Center.

Beth is passionate about all things future-ready, leading. and learning. She has partnered with APBC in a number of ways to provide support and access to connected and blended-learning experiences for educators, administrators, and instructional partners all across the state. One of the most exciting parts of her work with ABPC involves the online professional-learning community she's created and managed through Ning, which connects and empowers our Instructional Partners Network. Although our partners are in districts all over the state, the Ning connects them to each other and to resources whenever it is most convenient for them. It also keeps the learning going long beyond our face-to-face meetings. You can learn more about Beth's work at her page, connect with her on Twitter @MsSandersEdu, and with ABPC at #ALPartners.

Emily Strickland - Program Coordinator

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Emily joined the Alabama Best Practices Center in 2017 and has not stopped growing and building relationships since then. A native of Montgomery, she attended Saint James School from kindergarten through graduation and still talks to her best friends from ​primary school everyday. In 2012​,​ she graduated from Auburn University with a degree in English. She has worked with nonprofits since graduation, but is loving working on this side of the education world.

In her spare time, Emily enjoys snuggling with her 2.5 Golden Retrievers (one is half Golden​ / ​half Bassett Hound, and yes, she's as cute as she sounds), spending time with family and friends​,​ watching all genres of movies​,​ laughing at inappropriate jokes during Taco Tuesday, yelling at the TV during college football, reading with a glass of wine​,​ and most recently, traveling and visiting breweries that are popping up all over the southeast. You can check out how cute her dogs are on Instagram/twitter ebs0010​/@Emily_Strick​.


Jackie Walsh - Primary Consultant

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Since 2008, Jackie has served as senior consultant to the ABPC with primary responsibilities for design and facilitation of professional learning. Previously, she collaborated with A+ in her role as consultant to the Governor’s Commission on Quality Teaching.

Jackie began her career as a high school social studies teacher and, over the years, hasworked in multiple educational organizations, including universities, a state department of education, a regional educational laboratory, and as consultant to the USDOE, national professional organizations, multiple SDEs, regional agencies, and school districts across the country. Phew! She should be really tired!

Jackie's passion is classroom questioning. She has co-authored four books on this topic, most recently Quality Questioning, 2nd Edition (Corwin Press, 2017) and Questioning for Classroom Discussion (ASCD, 2015), numerous articles in national journals, and presented at many national conferences. She partners with teachers in schools and districts across the country to improve questioning practices.

A native of Georgia, Jackie received the A.B. from Duke University, M.A.T. from the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), and Ph.D. from the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa). In her spare time, she enjoys time with her adult children, two granddaughters, and two grand-dogs. She also travels whenever a good opportunity arises, reads recreationally (as well as professionally), and is a huge college basketball and football fan.