Keynote Speakers

Opening Keynote

Jackie Miller

Principal, Chief Academic Officer at Bennett Day School

Jackie has over a decade of educational leadership experience in Chicago independent schools. At Bennett Day School, Jackie served as the Director of Intermediate School while designing the Middle School program for two years before becoming Principal. Prior to Bennett Day, she served as Principal of the 4th-8th Grade campus at the Frances Xavier Warde School (FXW) before becoming the school’s Director of Curriculum and Instruction for their K-8th Grade program.

Jackie is a S.E.E.D. (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) facilitator and has presented at conferences on fostering collaborative communities, shifting mathematical mindsets, and competency-based grading. She started her career as a fourth-grade teacher and is passionate about collaborating with faculty and families to enhance the learning experience for every student. Jackie is a graduate of Indiana University where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. She also holds an M.Ed. from Loyola University.

Bennett Day School Keynote Panel

Andy Rodgers

Middle School Teacher at Bennett Day School

Andy has over six years of experience teaching science, engineering, and technology to middle school students. He is originally from Singapore but his family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where he went to high school. For his undergraduate education, Andy attended Carleton College and completed a double major in biology and philosophy. Then, he moved to Baltimore and earned his Master’s in Secondary Education from Johns Hopkins University while teaching in the local school district. It was during his time teaching in Baltimore that he developed a passion for project-based teaching and learning. Andy has experience using a variety of STEM educational technologies with students such as 3-D printers, virtual reality headsets, drones, 360 cameras, and more.

Emily Fields

Upper School Teacher and Internship Coordinator at Bennett Day School

Emily Fields, a native Evanstonian, is a graduate of New York University with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and a Master’s in Mathematics Education. Prior to joining Bennett’s Upper School, Emily was the STEAM Creative Director at The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria – an all-girls public school in New York City where she taught math and computer science for 9 years. She is a proud National Center for Women & Information Technology Educator Award Winner and former Processing Foundation Fellow and Math for America Master Teacher. As an educator, Emily is dedicated to finding creative opportunities for students to learn and explore their passions and believes deeply in the power of self-directed learning.

Lisa Kennedy

Director of Lower School at Bennett Day School.

Lisa has two decades of educational experience in both elementary and intermediate grades in a variety of school settings. Lisa believes in using positive reinforcement teaching techniques to encourage student engagement and growth. She has taught in Chicago Public Schools, abroad at the Walworth Barbour American International School in Israel, Oak Park District #97, and most recently at The Frances Xavier Warde School (FXW) in Chicago where she served as a reading specialist and the English Language Arts Department Chair for grades K–3. In addition, Lisa has provided professional development for the East Aurora School District #131 and with the Greenly Center for Catholic Education at Loyola University in Chicago. Lisa received a B.S. in Business Management from Hampton University, an M.S. in Elementary Education from Chicago State University, an M.S. in Reading, and an M.S. in Principal Leadership from Loyola University.

Molly Simmons

Pre-Kindergarten Teacher at Bennett Day School

Originally from the Finger Lakes of NY, Molly found her love for Reggio-inspired education while attending Syracuse University, where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders. Following graduation, Molly helped pilot one of the nation’s first voter-funded preschool programs in San Antonio, Texas, deepening her love for quality, responsive education. Molly has been sharing her passion for nature-focused and play-based learning at Bennett for six years and recently earned a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Erikson Institute with a focus in Leadership and Advocacy.

Zak Thompson

Middle School TESLab Teacher and PBL Co-Teacher at Bennett Day School

After receiving a B.A. in Political Science from Illinois Wesleyan University and an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Zak spent 6 years teaching for Chicago Public Schools, both as a fourth and fifth-grade teacher as well as running the school’s technology lab. Since 2017, Zak has been in the TESLab (Tinkering and Engineering Sciences Lab) at Bennett, helping students navigate these hands-on experiences as they develop the skills, passions, and mindset to be innovators in school and beyond. In the TESLab, we use modern tools to solve authentic problems because there is nothing more powerful than bringing something new into the world.

Closing Keynote

Heather Kirkorian

Dr. Kirkorian is a Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She holds the Laura M. Secord Chair in Early Childhood Development, and she has faculty affiliate appointments in the Psychology Department and Educational Psychology Department. Dr. Kirkorian is a developmental psychologist who studies the ecology of media use and cognitive development in infants and young children. Specifically, Dr. Kirkorian studies how media use affects and is affected by children’s cognitive skills (e.g., attention, memory, learning), parents’ mental health, and parent-child interactions. She uses a combination of behavioral, observational, and psychophysiological methods in her research. Dr. Kirkorian’s research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, and Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development. Her published work includes a chapter in theHandbook of Child Psychology and Developmental Science and empirical research papers in journals such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Psychological Science, Pediatrics, and Child Development. Dr. Kirkorian has also collaborated with media creators to strengthen educational opportunities for children.