Speakers & Presenters

Find 2023 conference presenters and speakers below, alphabetically by last name.

This page will be updated as new presenters and sessions are confirmed.

Mahalia Baldini

Mahalia Baldini
AEL State Director
Texas Workforce Commission

Opening Speaker – Tuesday, August 1:
“The State of the State in Adult Education”

Breakout session title pending

Mahalia Baldini was named the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Adult Education and Literacy (AEL) State Director in September 2020 after serving as the program’s supervisor for over six years. She earned her B.A in Journalism from the University of Kentucky and her Master’s in Education from Texas State University. 

Mrs. Baldini has spent the last fifteen years integrating workforce and economic development with educational solutions that center on outcomes for low and middle skill workers. She believes in and values a system that supports equitable education and learning opportunities that focus on an individual’s academic preparedness and advancement as well as the social and emotional intelligence needed to contribute to a positive work culture aligned to employer needs.

Cumings Smith, Felicia

Felicia Cumings Smith, Ed.D.
President & CEO
National Center for Families Learning (NCFL)

Keynote Speaker – Tuesday, August 1

Breakout session title pending

A lifelong educator and national thought leader for teaching and learning, Dr. Felicia C. Smith brings decades of valuable experience to advance NCFL’s mission of working to eradicate poverty through education solutions for families. Having served in a variety of leadership roles in P-12, higher education, nonprofit, and philanthropy, her career has allowed her to experience leading systems and develop a unique vantage point of a learner’s educational trajectory from preschool to adulthood. 

Smith holds an Ed.D. in education leadership and administration from the University of Kentucky, and an M.A. in elementary education with an emphasis on K-12 literacy development and B.S. in elementary education from the University of Louisville.

Follow Dr. Felicia C. Smith on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Echelberger, Andrea

Andrea Echelberger
Low Literacy Specialist

Special Guest Breakout Session Presenter

Talk Amongst Yourselves: Building Up to Student-Facilitated Conversation
Let’s Start at the Very Beginning: Instruction for Literacy Level Adult Learners
This is Your Brain On Accents: Accent Bias and Discrimination in the U.S.
The View From the Other Side of the Desk

Andrea Echelberger is a literacy instructor at the Robbinsdale Adult Academic Program. She has worked in the field of adult education as a teacher and trainer for over 18 years, specializing in literacy level instruction, pronunciation, and learner-centered instruction.

Previously, Andrea worked as the ESL Training Coordinator for Literacy Minnesota, where she developed professional development workshops and instructional materials for English language teachers and volunteers. Andrea served as an EL Fellow and EL Specialist with the US State Department in SE Asia, and has developed materials and delivered presentations for TESOL and COABE, as well as a wide variety of state and national conferences.

She is currently serving as Past President on the international board of LESLLA, an organization that focuses on adult emergent readers. Andrea holds a M.A. in Teaching ESL from Hamline University and a MN ABE Teaching License from the University of Minnesota.

Pennington, Crystal

Crystal Pennington
Marketing Director
Refugee Language Project

Special Guest Breakout Session Presenter

Community Collaboration Case Study
Community Partnership Best Practices
Collaboration Panel

Crystal Pennington (she/her) is the Marketing Director for Refugee Language Project. She and her husband, Dr. Ryan Pennington, spent nearly a decade in Papua New Guinea with SIL International doing linguistic analysis and alphabet development with the Ma Manda language group. In 2017 they started Refugee Language Project, a non-profit in Amarillo, Texas that exists to see refugees flourish by removing language barriers, building leaders, and cultivating community.

She holds a B.A. in Biblical Studies from Dallas Baptist University and a Certificate in Applied Linguistics from Dallas International University. She currently lives in Amarillo with her husband and three children.

Rivas-Jones, Kristina

Kristina Rivas-Jones
Education and Career Coordinator, 100 Families

Special Guest Breakout Session Presenter

Community Collaboration Case Study
Community Partnership Best Practices
Collaboration Panel

Kristina Rivas-Jones’s career includes two decades of experience in higher education, marketing, and healthcare, as well as success as a small business owner. The Texarkana native is finishing up a master’s degree in human sciences with a focus on human development and family studies at Stephen F. Austin University. For her thesis, she is researching the sustainability of the 100 Families program that helps families move from crisis to career. She will use this research to inform her practice as the coordinator of the 100 Families Alliance in both Bowie and Miller Counties.

Kristina holds a bachelor’s degree in nuclear medicine from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She graduated from Texas High School and is married to Parker who is also an educator. They have three children, and the Jones family lives in Texarkana.

Walker, Jenny

Jenny Walker
Executive Director,
Literacy Council of Bowie and Miller Counties

Special Guest Breakout Session Presenter

Community Collaboration Case Study
Community Partnership Best Practices
Collaboration Panel

Jenny Walker has worked in education for more than 20 years in all levels including elementary, secondary, and adult/higher education. She will graduate in May with a doctorate in education leadership from Texas A&M University – Texarkana, where she focuses her research on emancipatory leadership, functional literacy, and collective impact.

Walker specializes in the education of adult learners from low-socioeconomic families. She holds a master’s degree in education administration from A&M and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas.

Get Texas literacy updates

Make sure you’re on our mailing list so you don’t miss any news:

  • Conference updates
  • Regional symposia
  • Online training
  • Advocacy 
  • …more!