Educational Neuroscience Symposium

This 2022 February 19 Educational Neuroscience Symposium will have a strong focus and delivery on the application of the social, affective, and relational neurosciences that have contributed to the Applied Educational Neuroscience framework and the pillars of Educator Nervous System, Co-regulation, Touch Points, and Teaching our Students, Staff, and our Community about our Neuroanatomy using the language of the sciences.  This framework supports and informs adversity and trauma responsive schools, districts, and communities as we explore how our educational, parenting, and community practices, environments, and developing relationships, can lead to post traumatic growth as we embrace the neuroscience of our cultures and embodied experiences carried into our communities, schools, and classrooms. This conference is led by educators who are in schools and classrooms along with community frameworks that have been created and are currently integrating the social and relational neurosciences. supporting a variety of programs, recovery centers, law enforcement, judicial systems, among many other community sectors.

We will begin the day with Mr. Mathew Portell a nationally recognized speaker, school principal and podcast host followed by a new introduction provided by Dr. Lori Desautels and educator Kathryn Parthun sharing how the Polyvagal Theory can inform educators, students, parents, and communities in deeply understanding the states of our autonomic nervous systems generating practices for educators, parents, and students.  We will then provide a variety of break-out sessions led by administrators, teachers, and community advocates from New Jersey as we delve into the practices, mindsets, and leadership that are creating equitable, brain-aligned, and trauma responsive climates, cultures, and connections within our communities across the nation.

The Symposium will be offered in person and virtually via Zoom. Link to come later after registration.  The cost for the Symposium is $125 for both in person and virtual attendance.

Paradigm Shift:  It is a Journey, Not a Destination

Hear how one school’s journey took them from shifting their paradigm from compliance to connection as they transformed their school culture and community into a fully integrated trauma-informed school.  Grounded in applied neuroscience, Portell and his team have gone from theory to action by acting upon current research and science to ensure proactive approaches are used to teach students skills needed to meet their fullest potential.  Portell continues to remind educators that trauma-informed education is a journey and not a destination.

Mathew Portell has dedicated a decade and a half to education in his role as a teacher, instructional coach, teacher mentor, and school administrator in all three tiers of elementary, middle, and high school. In his seventh year as principal of Fall-Hamilton Elementary, he is an internationally recognized innovative model school for trauma-informed practices in Metro Nashville Public Schools. The school’s work has been featured on National Public Radio, PBS, the documentary “#Enough,” and the Edutopia website, with over 7 million views. Principal Portell has had the honor of presenting Fall-Hamilton’s work to state and national legislators and has spoken to some of the nation’s most influential educators who serve on the National Commission of Social, Emotional, and Academic Development.

In 2018, his work was featured in a monthly blog in Education Week titled “Learning is Social and Emotional,” where he documented the journey of sustaining a trauma-informed school. He is the founder of the Trauma Informed Educators Network, with an active Facebook group and a podcast where educators and practitioners from around the globe share their own trauma-informed journeys, including some of the world’s top experts, including Dr. Bruce Perry, Dr. Ross Greene, Dr. Mona Delahooke and many more.

Mr. Portell has appeared at national and international conferences, acting as a featured speaker, expert panelist, keynote speaker, and facilitator. The highlight of his speaking opportunities occurred in February 2020 when he was a featured speaker at the National Education Foundation Association’s Teacher Gala in Washington, D.C, an event designed to honor and inspire the country’s top educators. Just this year, he was named the Nashville Public School’s Elementary Principal of the Year! Portell’s work extends past his educational experience.

In 2008, he combined his passions for literacy and cycling. He founded the national non-profit “Ride for Reading,” which promotes literacy and healthy living by distributing books via bicycle to underserved children, and has now donated over a half million books throughout the nation.  Mr. Portell holds a B.S. in elementary education and an M.Ed in curriculum from Tennessee State University, and completed his administration requirements at Trevecca Nazarene University.

Polyvagal Theory Presentation

We are so excited to share the Polyvagal Theory with educators during this symposium. We will explore the variety of modules introducing the science of the polyvagal theory and how the application of this theory in our classrooms and schools will support social and emotional well-being as we look beneath behaviors understanding how our nervous systems drive everything in the world of education and in life. To attend to the mental and cognitive tasks, we need to feel safe and connected recognizing when our nervous systems are struggling.  Education requires state regulation.
Kathryn Parthun is the current Director of Social and Emotional Learning at Lafayette School Corporation. Hired initially to execute the Resilient Youth Initiative grant awarded by North Central Health Services for her corporation, Kathryn has begun integrating the tenants of applied educational neuroscience in her work to foster sustainable SEL and trauma-informed practices for her staff and students. Kathryn attended Butler’s Applied Educational Neuroscience Symposium in the fall of 2019 and was inspired by Dr. Porge’s keynote address on the role of polyvagal theory in creating safe spaces to cultivate more connected classrooms and learning spaces and was inspired to then complete Butler’s Applied Educational Neuroscience certificate program. Her excitement to see how science was supporting why relationships and safety were the key to learning lead her to work alongside Dr. Desautels to share this work with other educators.


Lori Desautels, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at Butler University, where she teaches both undergraduate and graduate programs in the College of Education. Dr. Desautels was also an Assistant Professor at Marian University in Indianapolis for 8 years where she founded the Educational Neuroscience Symposium, now in its 8th year and currently sponsored by Butler University College of Education. Through these conferences and symposiums, educators, parents and the community learn to implement the tools to help our students be successful, feel a sense of purpose and connection as they walk into our classrooms. Because of her work, Dr. Desautels has been able to attract the foremost experts in the field of educational neuroscience, trauma and adversity significantly growing the conference each year.  She has created a nine-hour graduate certification at Butler University in Applied Educational Neuroscience/Brain and Trauma. This certification has grown from six graduates in its pilot year in 2016, to 70 graduate students in its third cohort. The certification is open to students around the world as it has transformed into a distance learning / hybrid format.  The Applied Educational Neuroscience Certificate, created by Dr. Desautels in 2016, is specifically designed to meet the needs of educators, counselors, and administrators who work beside children and adolescents who have, and are, experiencing adversity and trauma.

You can find Dr. Desautels work, presentation videos, and latest research at Her first book, How May I Serve You? Revelations in Education was published in March of 2012. Her second book, co-authored with educator Mr. Michael McKnight, entitled Unwritten, The Story of a Living System had been shared and used as a foundation to create curriculum across the country. Dr. Desautels third book, Eyes Are Never Quiet was published in January of 2018 and a new book, Rewiring Our Perception of Discipline will be coming in January 2021.

ACE-ing Resilient Communities
Let’s talk about a different kind of ACE – Advocacy, Community Collaborations, and Education!

 Learn how one coalition is building a resilient community, one sector at a time! What started as a substance misuse prevention initiative has turned into a community-wide shift in philosophy. The New Jersey based Cape May County Healthy Community Coalition (HCC) has expanded its traditional Risk and Protective Factors model for youth substance misuse prevention to include a more comprehensive approach that uses the four pillars of Applied Educational Neuroscience – brain science, adult brain state, touchpoints, and co-regulation.Building resilient and healthy communities takes multiple sectors coming together and advocating for youth. This advocacy is dependent upon strong collaborative partnerships and community education – all of which the HCC has been fostering for over 20 years. Understanding of the ACEs research and emerging brain science has enabled the coalition to broaden its prevention practices and focus on creating a trauma responsive community by utilizing the following three methods:

  • Bring awareness of neuroscience to multiple sectors of the community and inspire them to utilize this knowledge to make their interactions with youth more meaningful and more brain aligned.
  • Have the coalition members look at strategies for community change through a trauma informed lens.
  • Inspire seemingly disconnected sectors of community to collaborate more and weave a thicker community net where children and adolescents can find safety and support.

As a result, a more aware and conscientious community is emerging where hope, healing, and growth become possible.

Katie Faldetta is the Executive Director and the driving force behind Cape Assist’s leadership team, a role she has held since 2016. Katie leads the promotion and communication efforts to spread Cape Assist’s mission far and wide, resulting in greater visibility throughout the community, significantly increasing the number of staff at Cape Assist, and doubling outreach efforts.  Katie is well-respected among the community, peers, and her staff. But that respect goes both ways. She prides herself on building relationships with those in the community and working with an incredible team filled with caring, supportive, and wise people who truly want to help.  Katie joined the Cape Assist team in 2003 as the Operations Director, a role she held for four years before moving into the Associate Director position. Prior to Cape Assist, Katie was the Program Coordinator for the New Jersey Prevention Network (NJPN), a statewide non-profit that focuses on substance misuse prevention. Her work there helped develop her knowledge about community needs and finding ways to address them.

Natalia Leusner  joined Cape Assist in 2015 as an educator. She instructed middle school students in the Botvin LifeSkills substance abuse and violence prevention program. Natalia also provided TIPS training to teach businesses about responsible alcohol sales and service, led both the Strengthening Families Program and Achieving Personal Balance classes, and participated in agency-wide presentations.   In her current role as Cape May County Healthy Community Coalition Coordinator, Natalia helps connect various local stakeholders. All share a common goal of building a healthier Cape May County by creating trauma-informed environments and reducing substance use through outreach and community partner engagement.  She also organizes the annual Peer Leadership Conference for middle school and high school students in Cape May County, as well as spearheads a county-wide contest for student-created public service announcements about substance use. Natalia enjoys seeing youth engaged, curious, sharing their talents, and building connections.  In fact, Natalia identifies creating human connection as one of her passions. She embraces the opportunity to make that happen throughout the community because of her work with Cape Assist.

Change Begins with Us: Our Administrators Journeys to AEN Implementation
Change truly begins with us.  As we returned to school this fall, there was a desire to return to our pre-pandemic routines and traditions especially with the prevalent messaging surrounding “learning loss.” Yet, by not acknowledging the shared collective trauma and adversity we have experienced and recognize how it has changed us,  we compromise our opportunity to heal. This session will provide an overview of how two school administrators have put the AEN framework into action within the practices, procedures and routines of their schools. Using their experience across the elementary and secondary levels, they will share both the “glows and grows” of the initial implementation journey they are on in making the four pillars the foundation of school culture to perpetually foster healing.

Dr. Dustin Springer has served the children and community in the Kansas City Metro area for over 23 years.  He has been a classroom teacher, instructional coach, and is presently the principal at Gray Hawk Elementary.  Dr. Springer holds a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction, MS degrees in Urban Education and Educational Leadership and certification in Community Schools.  He is proud to have earned his graduate certification in Applied Educational Neuroscience from Butler University.  Dr. Springer’s passion is supporting children and adults while encouraging everyone to see the beauty that exists within each of us. He shares experiences that bring us closer together and enable all to grow both personally and professionally.

Jodi Place enters her 24th year in public education. She served as a National Board Certified English teacher before becoming a high school administrator. For the past 3 years, she has served as the administrator for a grade 6 – 12 alternative education program in Virginia.  She is proud to hold her Butler University graduate certification in Applied Educational Neuroscience as part of cohort 5.   She is currently pursuing a double certification in SEL facilitation/leadership and yoga/mindfulness instruction.  She recently published a Quick Reference Guide with ASCD, Supporting Emotional Regulation in the Classroom.

Applied Educational Neuroscience in Our Classrooms and School
Harrison Hill Elementary

Principal Natalie Stewart and Assistant Principal Ti’Asha Logan-Oglesby and educators will share how they have and are creating “felt safety,” nervous system states for learning integrating this framework throughout the day!   State regulation is required for learning and Harrison Hill staff will share the practices and strategies that occur through their routines, procedures, and transitions.

Lori Kirkland is an Advisor Lead and 3rd grade teacher at Harrison Hill Elementary in Lawrence Township.  During her 28 years in education, she has taught in grades first through fourth. She has also been a Reading Specialist and Instructional Coach.

Ti’Asha Oglesby is the Assistant Principal for Harrison Hill Elementary.  Ti’Asha had the pleasure  of serving the Harrison Hill community for the past 10 years and 3 years of it as an administrator. She is passionate about meeting the needs of all learners in the most unique, creative, and effective ways to increase student achievement.


Racial & Social Equity in the AEN Framework
Dr. Deena Simmons, founder of LiberatED, says anything can be used as a weapon. This is true for programs, practices, policies, curriculum and even what is deemed as ‘best practices’ in educational spaces. Join us as we hope to inspire reflection and hard conversations as we explore applied educational neuroscience through a lens of racial, social equity and inclusion.

Angie Zara  is a borned and raised Washington, DC native who has focused her career on understanding and implementing trauma responsive, relationship centered practices in education in Washington, DC. She holds her Masters in Education from Trinity Washington University, and this past year completed her Certification in Applied Educational Neuroscience at Butler. Her educational philosophy is rooted in integrity, justice, and a deep passion for children. Angie Zara is currently in her 6th year of teaching at Capital City Public Charter School in 4th grade.

Pennie Gregory has over 20 years of experience as an educator. She began her career as a third grade teacher in Baltimore City Public Schools. She has previously served as a Lead Special Education Specialist for Indianapolis Public Schools and as the Coordinator of Exceptional Learners for Tindley Schools Charter Network. Ms. Gregory earned her undergraduate B.S. Degree from Ball State University and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Marian University. She is an executive member of the Indiana Council of Administrators of Special Education and the Capacity Events Director for MelanatED Leaders, an organization created to support educational leaders of color. Currently, she proudly serves as the Assistant Director of Special Services for MSD Wayne Township in Indianapolis, IN.

8:30-9:00 AM Registration
9:00-10:30 AM Keynote | Matthew Portell
10:30-10:45 AM Break
10:45-Noon Presentation | Kathryn Parthun and Lori Desautels
Noon-1:00 PM Lunch
1:00-2:00 PM Breakout Workshop 1
2:00-2:15 PM Break
2:15-3:15 PM Breakout Workshop 2
3:15-3:30 PM Closing | Lori Desautels