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

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I’ve been with A+ from almost the very beginning, joining in August 1991. In 1999, we 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).

I’m a real learning nerd and love nothing more than to learn more about things that matter. I’m also quite a lover of all types of music! Personally, I’m married to Rick Gassenheimer and together we have three children and three grandchildren. You can connect with me 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-johnsonI do not think I can remember a time when I have not been involved in education: I have been in school, teaching school, managing a school or consulting with schools. My career began in kindergarten in North Carolina, then to Florida, and now in Alabama. I taught multiple grade levels and content areas from kindergarten to college. In addition, I have had the opportunity to visit classrooms in Kenya, Bolivia, and Honduras. I never dreamed I would leave the classroom. From the classroom, I worked as Teacher-In-Residence with the University of Alabama and began to realize the importance of administrative leadership. I spent the last years in public education in administration.

My goal is to always be a learner—in education and in life. I believe that no matter the age or stage in life there is always something new to learn.

Away from the work of education, my husband and I enjoy traveling, involvement in mission outreach through our church, and gardening.

Beth McDavid - Consultant

AL Best Practices Center
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bethmcdavidI started my career in education thirty-nine 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 I served as assistant principal and then in central office as an administrator. My responsibilities have included staff development, curriculum, technology, English as a Second Language, accreditation, and Federal Programs.

Since retiring last year I have been with the Alabama Best Practice Center (ABPC) working with Alabama educators in supporting the ABPC’s work with Key Leader Network (KLN), Powerful Conversation Network (PCN), and Instructional Partners Network (IPN).

It has been a pleasure and very rewarding to continue my work with teachers and leaders as we all learn together to further learning and success for Alabama children. I enjoy yoga, reading, and cooking new and interesting foods. My family includes my husband, Bill McDavid, four children, and eight grandchildren.

John Norton - Communications Consultant

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

A Clemson graduate, I attended "small-town" public schools while growing up near Myrtle Beach. My wife, Janice and I 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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I am a connected educator, lifelong learner, and proud millennial. My full-time position is as the Technology Integration Coordinator for Pike Road Schools. I am a member of the Powerful Conversations Network, Key Leaders Network, and for the past six years I've served part-time as the Technology Integration Consultant for Alabama Best Practices Center.

I am passionate about all things future-ready, leading. and learning. I have been fortunate to partner 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 my work with ABPC involves the online professional-learning community I've created and manage 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 my work at my page, connect with me on Twitter @MsSandersEdu, and with ABPC at #ALPartners.

Emily Strickland - Program Coordinator


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Being the newest member of the Alabama Best Practices Center has been a whirlwind of a learning experience so far. I came on board in July and have not stopped growing and building relationships in this short time - and I know it's only the beginning. A native of Montgomery, I attended Saint James School from kindergarten through graduation and still talk to my best friends from ​primary school everyday. In 2012​,​ I graduated from Auburn University with a degree in English. I've worked with nonprofits since graduation, but am new to this side of the education world and loving it.

In my spare time I enjoy snuggling with our 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 my dogs are on Instagram/twitter ebs0010​/@Emily_Strick​.

Jackie Walsh - Primary Consultant

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Since 2008, I have served as senior consultant to the ABPC with primary responsibilities for design and facilitation of professional learning. Previously, I collaborated with A+ in my role as consultant to the Governor’s Commission on Quality Teaching. I began my career as a high school social studies teacher and, over the years, have worked 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! I should be really tired!

My passion is classroom questioning. I have 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. I partner with teachers in schools and districts across the country to improve questioning practices.

A native of Georgia, I 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 my spare time, I enjoy time with my adult children, two granddaughters, and two grand-dogs. I also travel whenever a good opportunity arises, read recreationally (as well as professionally), and am a huge college basketball and football fan.