TEACHER TALKS: Learning | Educating | Delivering

There’s incredible power in sharing ideas and experiences. James Ford, a former CMS teacher and 2014 North Carolina Teacher of the Year, knew this when he proposed the idea of TED-like talks by and for CMS teachers.  Based on James’ idea and inspired by the world-renowned talks shared by TED, Teacher Talks provides CMS teachers with both a platform and forum to exchange ideas, share experiences and inspire each other as they nurture talent and cultivate the minds of tomorrow.


Experience Teacher Talks 2019

Watch talks from our 2019 event presented by TIAA

Click on the title of the talk to enlarge the video.

Expectations for All

James O’Neal

Students live up (or down) to our expectations of them. In this talk blending spoken word and story-telling, James O’Neal tells how one teacher’s expectation changed his life, and how that experience now impacts his students today. James teaches math at Piedmont IB Middle School in Charlotte, NC.

The Struggle is Real: Depression in the Classroom

Kari Rhoades

Nearly 7% of U.S. adults experience depression, and “the struggle is real” for educators managing major depressive disorder. In this talk, Kari Rhoades courageously discusses what it’s like teaching with depression and how others can be supportive of people who may be struggling. Kari teaches biology and biomedical sciences at Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte, NC.

Epigenetics and the Curious Journey into Education

Eli Davis

James Baldwin said “We carry our history with us.” Kendrick Lamar has rapped about the experiences inside his “DNA.” In this talk, Eli Davis connects their words and more to epigenetics and asks us to consider whether this field of science may be relevant to the classroom. Eli is a high school special education teacher at Lincoln Heights Academy in Charlotte, NC.

More Than My Curriculum

Justin Parmenter

Academics are important, but maybe our students need more from us. In this talk, Justin Parmenter shares what happened when he moved beyond the curriculum to help students learn something else: Kindness. Justin is a 7th grade English Language Arts teacher at Waddell Language Academy in Charlotte, NC.

“Non Scholae Sed Vitae Discimus”

Eboné Lockett

As a middle school student, Eboné Lockett was introduced to a phrase that would impact her for the rest of her life: “Non Scholae Sed Vitae Discimus,” translated as, “We learn not for school, but for life.” Now a high school language arts and composition teacher, she continues to live by that mantra and encourages others to never stop learning. Eboné teaches at Cato Middle College High School in Charlotte, NC.

Teacher Talks 2019 Live Event

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Back On Track

Kelsey Anselmi

Teaching in a school that didn’t have textbooks forced Kelsey Anselmi to learn new teaching strategies, and a product suggestion on Amazon changed the way she saw the education system. In this thought-provoking talk, Kelsey challenges school systems to rethink the traditional model of tracking and view every student as a high achiever. She teaches math at Crestdale Middle School in Matthews, NC.

Reinvent Your Routine

Kevin Brawley

After a career in music, Kevin Brawley decided to become a teacher. A few years in, he found himself growing comfortable in his teaching role and was disturbed by the predictability of his routine. A lesson learned from a legendary drummer forever changed the way he approached his work. Kevin now asks, “What if the routine never became routine?” and challenges us to never let good enough be good enough. Kevin teaches music at Torrence Creek Elementary in Huntersville, NC.

We C.A.N. be the Refuge

Alisha Escobar

For many students new to the U.S., not understanding English can make the journey toward the American dream feel like a nightmare. As a teacher of English language learners, Alisha Escobar understands the challenges facing these students as well as the educators who teach them. In this talk, Alisha reassures teachers that they C.A.N. be a refuge for their students, even when language may be a barrier. Alisha is a spoken word artist and teaches at Druid Hills Academy in Charlotte, NC.

Connecting with Nature: Learning in the Outdoor Classroom

Charlotte Fletcher

How often do we walk through nature without appreciating its power and all that it can teach us? In this talk, Charlotte Fletcher discusses the importance of connecting students to nature and explains how educators can use the outdoor classroom. Charlotte is the Experiential Science Curriculum Assistant at Park Road Montessori in Charlotte, NC.

Lessons I’ve Learned

Danny Jarrett

Students can be the greatest teachers. During his 18-year teaching career, former high school social studies teacher Danny Jarrett has learned important lessons from his students about the power of building caring relationships. In this gripping talk, Danny shares stories of students who helped him become a better teacher and explains how building relationships in the classroom can be life saving.


Grit: Passion and Perseverance

Katie Weed

When Katie Weed was 18, doctors discovered a lemon-sized tumor in her brain that would change the course of her life. Inspired by Angela Duckworth’s book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Katie explains the power of saying “Yes, I will try,” and encourages educators to nurture passion and perseverance in their students. Katie is now a Talent Development teacher at Park Road Montessori in Charlotte, NC.

Independent Learners in the Classroom

Mary Soliman

Teachers light the way, but they should not be the sole source of illumination in the classroom. Mary Soliman argues that teachers must help students become independent learners so that students can manage their own learning and be better prepared to respond to challenges. Mary is a mathematics teachers at South Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, NC.

Creating Active and Healthy Schools

Doug Smith

Physical activity not only supports a healthy body, it also stimulates the brain and has a positive impact on learning. Physical Education teacher Doug Smith challenges teachers to incorporate more physical activity into the classroom and to rethink the role of physical activity in education. Doug teaches at McKee Road Elementary in Charlotte, NC.

I Teach Screenagers

Melissa Ligh

Technology has become an integral part of everyday life and has changed the way students learn. In this talk, Melissa Ligh discusses the “screenager” and encourages teachers to embrace technology in the classroom. Melissa is an English teacher at North Mecklenburg High School in Huntersville, NC.

Finding Your Joy in Education

Peter Panico

For Peter Panico, building a strong support network helped him find joy in teaching. In this talk, Peter shares his experience of becoming a Discovery Educator and encourages others to find community in education. Peter is a fifth grade teacher at Rama Road Elementary in Charlotte, NC.

Light in the Heart

Jordan Todd

In education, doing the “head work” is important, but it’s the “heart work” that can really change lives. Jordan Todd explains why she teaches and what can happen when educators become a light in the hearts of their students. Jordan was named Teacher of the Year for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in 2016. She now teaches third grade at Idlewild Elementary in Charlotte, NC.