Programs + Events

Inspiring Keynote Speakers and Presenters

Every year, convention attendees hear from exciting and powerful keynote speakers and special guests during the annual convention in each action-packed general meeting. And the 2017 Convention was no exception.

Keynote Speaker

Ryan J. Smith, The Education Trust-West Executive Director

ryansmithRyan J. Smith is currently the Executive Director of The Education Trust–West, a research and advocacy organization focused on educational justice and the high academic achievement of all California students, particularly those of color and living in poverty. Since taking the helm of Ed Trust–West, Ryan led the team’s development and production of 2015’s Black Minds Matter: Supporting the Educational Success of Black Children in California, a report championed by the California Legislative Black Caucus, and leveraged by state and local education leaders, students, and other advocates. Ryan also guides the organization’s strategic work to better serve communities fighting for change at the local level, leading to Ed Trust–West’s launch of the inaugural Community Data and Research Hub in Southern California.

“I grew up with a single mother who dedicated everything to ensure that I had access to a quality education. Because of her passion, at the age of fifteen I started community organizing in South LA for educational improvement efforts. I continue to commit to getting results for impoverished communities and communities-of-color by leveraging the intersection between research, advocacy, policy and community engagement.”

A previous Annie E. Casey Foundation Children and Family Fellow, Ryan holds a B.A. in Political Science from UCLA. Ryan has authored more than a dozen editorials and opinion pieces published in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, Education Week, US News and World Report, and others. He was named by Education Week as one of the “Ten Education Leaders to Watch” nationally and also received the Families in Schools’ “Parent Engagement Leader of the Year Award”.

  • Learn more about Ryan J. Smith and The Education Trust-West
  • Follow The Education Trust-West on Twitter.
  • Like The Education Trust-West on Facebook.

Special Guests

Megan Gross, California Teacher of the Year

megangrossGross has been a special-education teacher for nine years, the last three teaching an autism spectrum disorder special day class at Del Norte High School, where she leads a team of instructional assistants who collaborate to design and support unique learning opportunities and experiences for their students.

Her classroom is a place where students feel welcome and can access the resources needed to thrive academically and socially in general education settings. It serves as a home base for her students, providing security and comfort when needed, but also confidence for each student to grow with the rest of their classmates and participate in school-wide activities.

“Teaching is life-fulfilling work. I love the challenge of identifying the best instructional and support strategies for my new students each fall and delight in the rewards of each student’s “a-ha” moment that ultimately leads to growth and continued success.”

  • Learn more about Megan Gross and other California Teachers of the Year


Nathan R. Monell, CAE, National PTA Executive Director

nathanmonell-bioNathan R. Monell, CAE, joined National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) as Executive Director in May 2015. Throughout his entire career, Nathan has pushed to help improve the lives of individuals who are often marginalized by multiple life factors. At America’s oldest and largest volunteer child advocacy association, he is working side-by-side with parents, teachers and policymakers at every level to help ensure the educational success of our nation’s children.

Nathan is a Certified Association Executive with the American Society of Association Executive (ASAE). He earned a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Georgetown University, a Master of Arts in communication studies (organizational communications/behavior) from the University of Michigan, and a Bachelor of Arts in speech from Cornerstone University.


Justin Wolff, Yoobi Chief Giving Officer (aka The Kid Behind the Cause)

Served as Master of Ceremonies for the Reflections Art Program Celebration

As the Chief Giving Officer at Yoobi, an awesome school supply company that gives back to classrooms in need, Wolff oversees Yoobi’s buy one, give one program. He also works to develop Yoobi’s strategic partnerships in order to ensure that donated school supplies make their way to the kids that need them most, right here in the US.



Denton Garwood, Guest Speaker

Installation of the 2017-2019 California State PTA Board of Directors

Denton Garwood is a long-time PTA member and has served PTA at local and regional levels including serving as the Fourteenth District PTA Student Representative in 2007-2009. As a volunteer, he was able to be a recipient of the California State PTA Graduating High School Senior Scholarship. This was put to good use while attending Chico State University where he graduated with a B.A. in Liberal Studies with a minor in creative writing. Since graduation he has been a substitute teacher in Sonoma County and is currently attending law school. He credits his passion for the law due to the many discussions around the dinner table about policy and education.