2023 Educator Summit Keynote Speakers

Matthew Bernstein Headshot

Matthew Bernstein

9th Grade Humanities Social Studies Teacher & 2023 Teacher of the Year
Bernstein’s pedagogy is centered around student voices and student activism. He believes that the purpose of education is to help students find their way of contributing to a more equitable world. Bernstein is also passionate about creating opportunities for students to experience joy and belonging at school daily and, to that end, he believes in cultivating meaningful relationships with students, often through his work as a 9th-grade crew advisor, that is grounded in deep listening and holistic support.

Bernstein has served as a team leader and crew team leader and is currently a professional learning community coach, where he facilitates ongoing professional learning with his colleagues. He is also a member of the Portland Public Schools Social Studies Vertical Content Team, collaborating with teachers across the district and local experts to develop the Wabanaki Studies curriculum.

Bernstein also embraces opportunities to deepen his knowledge and practice. He was recently named a 2022 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Scholar, participating in a seminar entitled “Teaching the Holocaust through Visual Culture.” While not teaching, Bernstein is playing or coaching soccer and basketball, reading a book, or trying to determine where to find Portland’s best slice of pizza


Pender Makin Headshot

Pender Makin

Maine Department of Education Commissioner

Across her more than 20-year career, Makin has devoted herself to the mission of public education.

From 1997 to 2003, she served as a classroom teacher at Fred C. Wescott Junior High School in Westbrook. She became principal at The REAL (Regional Education Alternative Learning) School on Mackworth Island in Falmouth, a position she held for over a decade from 2003 to 2015. As principal at The REAL School – an alternative and service-based high school for students who have struggled in traditional school settings – Makin and her team supported high risk students from 28 sending school districts through innovative academic and experiential programming. Since 2015, Makin has served as the Assistant Superintendent of the Brunswick School Department.

Makin has served on Maine's Juvenile Justice Advisory Group since 2014. She is also a co-founder of Collaborative for Perpetual Innovation, a professional development, technical assistance, and consulting company for educators, school and district leaders, and counselors.

Makin has served on several legislative work groups and committees seeking to improve educational opportunities for Maine's students and to promote the work of Maine public schools. She also provides training for educators and mental health professionals and speaks at state and national conferences on restorative justice, cognitive neuroscience, dropout prevention, organizational culture, and climate.

Makin was named the 2013-2014 Maine Principal of the Year by the Maine Principal’s Association and has also received the Milken Educator Award, a national distinction bestowed upon educators for exceptional educational talent, exemplary educational accomplishments, and an engaging and inspiring presence that motivates and impacts students. Makin has also won the MTV Local Hero Award.

Makin is charged with leading the state agency that administers both state education subsidy and state and federal grant programs; coordinates the authoring of the rules for Maine State education statutes passed by the Maine State Legislature; provides professional development, information, supports, and resources, as well as a system for educator credentialing; and leads many collaborative opportunities and partnerships in support of local schools and districts.


Shanna Peeples Headshot

Shanna L. Peeples, Ed.L.D.

Dr. Peeples joined the College of Education and Social Sciences in 2020. She received her B.A. in English in 1997 from WTAMU, her M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction with an emphasis in literacy in 2013 from the University of Texas at Arlington, and her doctorate in educational leadership in 2020 from Harvard University. Prior to her arrival at WT, Dr. Peeples’ s career includes more than twenty years in exclusively Title I Texas public schools serving a range of students that comprised students as diverse as those in gifted and talented/advanced placement, refugees and immigrants, and students transitioning out of incarceration. Her public-school tenure includes six years in middle school as an English Language Arts teacher, eight years as a high school English teacher, and one year in district administration as a director of secondary ELA curriculum and instruction. In 2015, Dr. Peeples was selected as the Region 16, Texas, and U.S. National Teacher of the Year. She is a Global Learning Fellow of the National Education Association Foundation and was the inaugural Educator in Residence for TED-ED in New York, and the first Robert Kegan Fellow at Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is featured as an expert panelist in all episodes of the PBS Series “The Great American Read.”

Dr. Peeples is the author of the book, Think Like Socrates: Using Questions to Invite Wonder & Empathy Into the Classroom (Corwin, 2018), and numerous publications, including those for the Journal of Family Strengths, the Albert Shanker Institute, Literacy Today, Chalkbeat, the Washington Post, the Observer (New York), and Medium. She also is the project lead on the Route 66 Wayfinders team in collaboration with National Geographic Education, which looks at the southwestern leg of the famous highway through past, present, and future lenses of mobility, race, economics, and climate.

Dr. Peeples’ research focuses primarily on issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion, sense of belonging, adaptive leadership, and adult development as they relate to public school, higher education, and nonprofit leadership.

Dr. Peeples is a member of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE).