This is Us

Making the hard things easy isn’t just a mission, it’s a promise.

We’re driven by the idea that every child deserves a safe and nurturing environment to thrive and reach their greatest potential.


Matt Baruch
Customer Product Advisor- NorthEast

Iris Garcia
Customer Product Advisor- Texas

Deb Simpson
Customer Product Advisor- SouthEast

Jim Simpson
Customer Product Advisor- SouthEast


Carol Baldwin
Educational Coach

In 2017, Carol found her great passion – working for EMPOWER! She started her teaching career after receiving her BA in Secondary Education with an emphasis in mathematics. She worked for the Coolidge School district for one year and then transferred to the Chandler School District where she taught for twenty-five years.She has taught everything from seventh grade general math to IB/AP Calculus and Statistics. Carol also has had extensive training in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) courses. Carol decided to further her education by attending Northern Arizona University where she earned her MA in Educational Leadership.Carol has served on many curricula writing and mapping committees for a variety of school districts, the North Central Accreditation committee for Chandler school district and as an AIMS committee member. She is certified in Structured English Immersion, K-12 and has vast experience as a mentor and coach to new and struggling teachers.She has received several awards for achievement in education such as the Intel Innovations in Teaching Grant, Arizona Department of Education Certificate of Achievement.

Phyllis Burks
Educational Coach

Phyllis has been an educator, trainer, coach, and consultant for over 25 years. As a K-5 Math Specialist and trainer, she has worked with teachers, principals, and district personnel to foster change and build math capacity to meet defined achievement goals. As a consultant and coach she aims to build trusted relationships, provide timely feedback, and model effective instructional strategies. She received her BA in math and philosophy from the University of Rochester, an MA in Linguistics from UC Berkeley, K-8 teacher certification from California State University at Sacramento, a Masters in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University and certification to teach English as a second language from Cambridge University. She has her administrative credential and is fully endorsed for ESL, Middle School Math, and Early Childhood Education.

Jennifer French Crone
Educational Coach

Jen has been an educational consultant for 9 years and knows how to work with students, teachers, and administration to improve instruction and student achievement. She figured out that this is done by working side by side with teachers and admin to develop and execute a coaching plan unique to their needs. In her work across the nation, she has helped schools raise their state grade levels by delivering dynamic professional development along with classroom modeling and coaching to help teachers become more successful and confident. Jen has been in education for more than 20 years. She has a master’s degree in education with ELL and early childhood endorsements and a specialization in Spanish. When Jen is not working in schools, she is a mom of 4 crazy adolescents, a wife, avid hiker, reader and aspiring gardener.

Cathryn Forney
Educational Coach

Cathryn has been working for Empower since 2015 and thoroughly enjoys the opportunities to support administrators, teachers, Instructional Coaches, and students.She holds a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University, a Reading Endorsement from Northern Arizona University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education.Prior to beginning her consulting, Cathryn was in the classroom as a teacher in grades Kindergarten through sixth grade.Her passion for quality, effective instruction and igniting a love of learning in students motivates her to continue to be a part of public education.When not teaching, she enjoys spending time with her husband and three children hiking, doing sports, reading, and traveling.

Susette Gonzalez
Educational Coach

Susette is considered a “master teacher” with expertise in literacy, mathematics, bilingual education, and administration. She has been a classroom teacher, a curriculum specialist, reading specialist, a teacher trainer under the Bill and Melinda Gates School Improvement Initiative, and is a recipient of many teacher recognition awards. Her classroom management practices, her bilingual skills, her expertise, and her knowledge of “best practices” make her an excellent asset as a consultant.

Vaneza Gonzalez
Educational Coach

Vaneza has been labeled by her administrators as a “master teacher”. Her teaching experience has taken her across many grade levels, making her a great resource for elementary and secondary teachers. Vaneza has served as a reading coach, reading specialist, a teacher trainer, and has traveled across the country with the Bill and Melinda Gates School Improvement initiative. She is a recipient of many teacher recognition awards. Her bilingual skills, her classroom management practices, her knowledge of “best practices”, and expertise make her a great asset to the consulting field.

Peggy Gregory
Educational Coach

After two retirements, Peggy joined the Empower team three years ago to continue helping teachers with classroom management and various strategies. Originally a high school journalism and English teacher with a BA in Journalism and an MA in Secondary Education, she was trained by the New Teacher Center to mentor first, second, and third-year teachers which she did for 10 years in Glendale Union High School District where that mentor team provided extensive staff development sessions on classroom management and teaching strategies for new teachers district-wide. After that retirement, Peggy worked as the Language Arts Specialist in another district providing staff development for K-12 teachers in areas such as close reading, literary analysis, argumentative writing, DOK, questioning strategies and more. Additionally, she led teams to create comprehensive curriculum for each grade level for the district curriculum tool and worked with teacher leaders to unwrap Common Core Standards. But after 40+ full-time years in education, Peggy just had to have that classroom connection not only working for Empower but also mentoring new publications advisers as part of the national Journalism Education Association mentoring committee. In her “other life,” she loves to travel in the U.S. and abroad, spend time with her family including four terrific grandsons, and stay up on the news!

Alicia Holt
Educational Coach

Alicia loves learning!She takes great pleasure in her current role as an Empower coach, because she works with many different teachers in a variety of settings which keeps her passion alive!For the past six years as a full time Empower Consultant she has worked in elementary, middle and high school settings in Arizona, New Mexico, Virginia and Mississippi.Prior to this she served as a literacy coach, math coach, and special education teacher in the Phoenix and Chicago areas. She earned a Master’s Degree from Northwestern University and holds Reading Specialist, Structured English Immersion and Early Childhood endorsements and has been in education for 19 years and counting.In her free time, she loves to hike, read, play games, travel and spend time with her son and husband.

Julie Jones
Educational Coach

Julie’s motto is “Work smarter not harder!” Understanding the many challenges in education today, she works with educators to focus on their strengths, establish effective educational routines, and on how educators can collaborate with colleagues. As an educator for over 35 years, she has been able to work with educators in New Mexico and Arizona. Julie has served as an Instructional Coach, ELL Coordinator, Technology Coordinator, PLC staff developer and a high school Biology teacher. She earned a Degree from Northern Arizona University, and completed graduate work at Arizona State University and University of Phoenix. She holds Structured English Immersion and High School Biology endorsements. Julie enjoys spending time with her husband of 35 years at their family cabin, hiking, reading and doing an endless list of projects. Her 2 adult daughters and their families bring her joy and her grandchildren keep her running!

Donnell Knight
Mind & Body Coach

Heather Lenon
Mind & Body Coach

Heather is a fitness expert turned educational consultant! After having 3 beautiful children of her own and watching them grow into school-age humans, she knew she had a new, ‘higher’ calling in life….taking all the expertise she had shared with adults in the gym and fitness world to the classroom! Heather is passionate about making sure every child knows their own strength…physical, emotional, and mental.She takes the practices from Growth Mindset and puts them into action every day through her fitness workouts for kids. Being the lead Empower Mind & Body Consultant has been one of the highlights of Heather’s career.If Heather is not on a campus helping children and athletes become stronger and healthier, you can find her working out in the gym, hanging out with her husband and children, eating cheese curd in her home state of Wisconsin, or hiking in the beautiful mountains of Arizona.

Vicki Meyn
Educational Coach

Vicki received her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, with minors in reading and Biology. She began teaching kindergarten in 1998 in inner-city Philadelphia before deciding to head out west. Vicki has been with Chandler school district for the last 15 years and has taught kindergarten, first, second, third, and fifth grades. Vicki’s goal has been to help students discover their passion for learning through interactive and challenging experiences where they can explore their true potential at their own pace and level.

Laura Moore
Educational Coach

Laura is a veteran from the classroom and the instructional coaching field with her strength in Elementary and MS Math. Her experiences and leadership roles in Backwards Design Planning, AZ Math Standards Review Committee, and District Curriculum Map Planning, as well as being a Lieutenant in the US ARMY complement her as an EMPOWER Consultant. Laura delivers positive feedback and instructional support to every teacher she works with. Laura hikes, vacations, and believes she could still be a professional golfer; however, her husband tries to convince her otherwise!

Jessica Nelson
Educational Coach

Melissa Nordquist
Educational Coach

Melissa is a veteran Empower Consultant who shows her passion for education through supporting district personnel, administrators, teachers, and students to be the best they can every day. Melissa is well versed in all elementary academic areas, but particularly loves literacy at all levels. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Language and Literacy from Arizona State University. Melissa has spent time teaching many different elementary grade levels, as an elementary literacy coach, and as a junior college adjunct instructor for teacher education. In her free time, she likes to spend time with her husband and three children, horseback ride, spoil her dogs, read, and go on adventures.

Robin O'Bannon
Educational Coach

Robin served in the Air Force from 1987 to 2005, retiring as a decorated, disabled Gulf War Veteran. Her career fields included Dental Technician and Manager, Leadership Instructor/Trainer and Enlisted Accessions Recruiter. She has two Associates degrees and an Occupational Instructor Certification from Air University, a BBA in Training and Leadership, and an MBA in Training and Development. Robin is the chief curriculum writer of the Promissory Note Project, a self-education initiative focusing on the Reconstruction Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.She is the Director of Community Outreach of Healing Arizona Veterans, a charitable organization that funds healing and restoration of veterans with PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and other illness/injury from agents of war. Her favorite quote is “I believe we are each deliberately called to our individual missions at this time in history.We each have a powerful piece of the puzzle.”

Hector Ramirez
Educational Coach

After 25 years in the education system, Hector has learned that as the world transforms then the teachers must be transforming as well. As a Bi-Literacy Curriculum Specialist, he understands the challenges and the importance of delivering informed lessons driven by outcomes. When those that are learning experience productive struggle, they develop stamina. When students have agency then they accomplish more under the guidance of their teachers. Héctor travels around the world as a consultant but spends most of his time in Latin America and the Middle East. He always focuses on American Curriculum while helping teachers of every background embrace researched instructional practices and routines that motivate and engage students. He believes that all students have the ability but they need the opportunity.

Gabe Rogers
Mind & Body Coach

Gabe Rogers is a dynamic part of the Empower Mind & Body team.Prior to his involvement with education, Gabe played basketball for Northern Arizona University where he went on to lead the Big Sky Conference in scoring his senior year. He was drafted in the NBA D-League in 2012. Rogers started to play professionally overseas in 2014 with Marín Peixefresco in the Spanish LEB Plata. He promoted with the Galician team to LEB Oro on March 2016, finishing the league as the top scorer of the season and as a member of the All-LEB Plata Team.

Gabe is full of energy, drive and grit both on and off the court.He is an inspiration to all he meets.He shares his talents and love of the game by showering his educational teammates with kindness, a growth-mindset, and work ethic second to none.He is passionate about changing the way physical education and athletics look in our school systems …Gabe is the guy you want assisting you in all your dreams for the future!He currently lives in Gilbert, Arizona with his wife and can be found chillin’ with his friends, playing pickup basketball games with kids of all ages, or reading a great book.

Pat Scott
Educational Coach

Pat has taught high school and middle school Mathematics and English (6-8) for over 34 years. She received her Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education from Eastern Illinois University, a Masters of Arts in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University, and has an SEI Endorsement. Pat has worked at EMPOWER Educational Consulting for 2 years. She has served on numerous committees for the State of Arizona and Chandler School District and has received several teacher awards such as Teacher of the Year for Casa Grande Union High School District, Runner-up Teacher of the Year award for the Casa Grande Elementary School District, and AAA+ Teacher Awards for the Chandler Unified School District. Pat coached multiple sports, teacher interns, and student teachers for over 20 years and was a Math Department Chair at Perry High School in Chandler, Arizona. Her favorite quote is by Rita Pierson: “Every child deserves a champion- an adult who will NEVER give up on them, an adult who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best they can possibly be.”

Misi Tupe
Mind & Body Coach

Misi is full of life, light and passion for education.His background is extensive and diverse.He joined the Dixie State Football coaching staff in 2019, and serves as linebackers coach. Even with this extensive coaching career, his heart truly is in teaching.He shares his gift of team and relationship building, mentoring and social/emotional growth with others in a powerful and hands-on way. He is the first to jump into hard things with a smile, a song, grace and grit. He brings all this knowledge, experience, and energy to the Empower team!While coaching at Snow College, the Badgers posted a 26-5 record in Tupe’s three seasons on the sidelines and claimed victory in the 2017 El Toro Bowl. Tupe coached five All-WSFL honorees and two All-Americans, including the 2017 NJCAA Defensive Player of the Year. Prior to his time at Snow College, Tupe served as linebackers coach at as high school level as well. Before joining the coaching ranks, Tupe enjoyed an illustrious college football career. Tupe played his freshman and sophomore seasons at Dixie State in its final years as a junior college, earning first team All-WSFL and NJCAA All-Region honors. He earned a bachelor’s degree and played two seasons at Texas A&M, where he finished with impressive stats. Tupe earned Big XII Defensive Newcomer of the Year honors in 2006 and Team Defensive MVP honors in 2007. Misi and his wife, Whitnee, who currently serves as an assistant coach for DSU Volleyball, are the parents of four children: Pa’alo, Talimalie, Alai, and Satitoa.

Shawndra Reid
Educational Coach

Shawndra is a passionate educator with 17 years of school and district experience.She has been both an elementary and secondary classroom teacher, a Title I Reading Specialist, an instructional coach, a district ELA curriculum and professional development coordinator, and an adjunct faculty member supporting teacher preparation programs.Shawndra was an invited presenter at the Arizona Department of Education Leading Change Conference and was also invited to be aK-12 Reading Endorsementcourse writer for Rio Salado College.She was part of the ADE’s Literacy Leadership Team and had the opportunity to train hundreds of teachers and administrators across the state of Arizona on the implementation of the ELA standards.In 2017 she was nominated by her peers and recognized as Educational Mentor of the Year by the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce. She earned her master’s degree and reading endorsement at Arizona State University in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Language and Literacy.In her free time she enjoys traveling with her daughter, trying new recipes, and spending time with friends.

Shelly Peckins
Educational Coach

Shelly believes that teachers are the most important factor in helping students be successful! Job-embedded coaching and training is where she has focused her time, attention, and training opportunities. Shelly is an Empower Consultant who works with Grades K-12 teachers and administrators. In addition to teaching elementary, middle, and high school, she has built and managed district curriculum, assessment, and coaching programs. She has a Bachelor of Science in Business and a Masters in Education. In her free time, Shelly likes to spend time with her family and friends, read, camp, hike, and play games.

Nancy Updegraff
Educational Coach

Nancy I Updegraff Ph.D. has a career in education that spans over 30 years. Beginning a teaching career in the city of Detroit, Nancy taught both high school and elementary grades. After winning a Ford Foundation Grant, Nancy completed degrees in reading, special education, urban education and teacher training at the University of Chicago. After completing her doctorate, she worked in administration and curriculum in Chicago and Oak Lawn, Illinois. She completed additional graduate work in teaching English as a second language and special education. While working for a major publishing company, Nancy authored over 30 children’s books; co-authored 3 books on teaching reading and writing and an author editor on elementary reading programs.She was a consultant/contributor for social studies programs and a science program. Nancy has been a beloved keynote speaker at major educational conferences nationally and internationally.

Working as a coach and mentor with teachers and principals in cities like New York, Boston, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Flint, Racine, Des Moines, San Diego, New Orleans, Birmingham, Sarasota, and Chicago to name just a few has helped Nancy develop new techniques for working with students and teachers in urban and rural settings.
In addition to workshops, mentoring and coaching, Nancy has worked as a grant writer and curriculum specialist. While working for a major publisher she wrote and helped implement grants totally over $100,000,000.
Internationally, Nancy has worked with schools in South and Central America as well as China.In the Middle East, Nancy has presented at major conferences; worked with schools and met with the Ministries of Education in six countries in the Arab World.Nancy counts as her proudest moments being named a finalist for Illinois Teacher of the Year.

Jaimie Weinberger
Educational Coach

Jaimie has a heart and niche for reshaping challenging behaviors, relationship building with staff and students, distributive leadership, and developing a positive school culture while maintaining a clear focus on students and their learning. Her passion for inspiring others drives her work as an Empower Consultant, as she believes it is her calling to ignite an enthusiasm for learning in students through her work with teachers and administrators across the country. She is an educator with experience in K-12 education. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Arizona State University and her love of teaching and learning was fostered in early elementary where she began her career as a Kindergarten teacher. Her experience teaching across many grade levels gives her child development and instruction expertise that is currently used to build upon current teacher practice that acknowledges the whole child. Jaimie obtained her Masters Degree in Educational Administration from Grand Canyon University and served as both a Principal and Assistant Principal in two Valley schools. Aside from consulting and continued learning, Jaimie loves to dance, exercise and spend time with her husband, Cody, and their son, Axton.

Sue Yocum

Sue’s passion for education makes her a dynamic, powerful, and inspiring speaker. She began her career as a teacher, teaching for several years before accepting a job with a major publisher as a National Educational Consultant. In that position, she helped teachers all over the country and was mentored by the world’s most renowned educational researchers. Her mind now brimming with ideas, Sue used her knowledge to establish EEC. It’s her lifelong goal to help make every teacher a little better and to empower them with skills, strategies, and a desire to inspire their students.


Chris Fernandez
Distribution Assistant

Danielle Kesner
Lead Designer

Fred Lybbert

Jana Maughan
Editorial Team Lead

Tara Reading
Customization & Design Team Lead

Ron Shafer
Distribution Team Lead

Kelly Stevens
Customer Relations Team Lead

Randy Yocum
Customer Product Team Lead