Empowering
Educators of Color
for Student Success
Amplify is an annual convening supported by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation since 2017. The Kauffman Foundation is dedicated to racial equity and a vision of inclusive prosperity for our nation. This convening was developed because of an identified need in the Kansas City community, to create a space for educators of color to come together, celebrate, and support one another. This community continues to grow and thrive because of its members' dedication to students and each other, making our schools and community more inclusive and equitable.
Nearly half of our nation’s students are not white, yet less than a quarter of teachers are people of color, according to the American Community Survey.
Research continues to show that when a teacher’s race/ethnicity match their students, that academic success and outcomes improve. Until our education workforce has a balance of representation that reflects the students they serve, we will continue to host this important convening. Educators of color who are teachers, school leaders, academic coaches, education non-profit staff, and/or district administrators are invited to register for Amplify.
amplify through the years
2017
A small team at Kauffman was inspired by KC educators of color and decided to create a safe space to bring the first Amplify community together.
2018
The Amplify community continued to expand, reaching educators of color from all corners of the Kansas City bi-state region, and national leaders like Chris Emdin.
2019
With an emphasis on cultivating prospective educators, the Amplify community embraced Literacy Lab Leading Men Fellows and City Year corps members, investing in our future.
2020
Connecting with other communities, the committee of educators invited representatives from Portland, OR, Rochester, NY and Indianapolis, IN to share with the KC Amplify community.
Steering Committee
Amplify is a community-driven event stewarded by our Steering Committee who is responsible for advancing Amplify's mission.
Committee Member

Charles King is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Kansas City Teacher Residency, an urban teacher preparation and development program that seeks to increase the number of quality teachers that are teaching in schools across Kansas City, Missouri. The Kansas City Teacher Residency has more than 160 Residents, Graduates and Alumni that are transforming the lives of students where they are serving in classrooms. Charles’ commitment to ensuring that all students are able to make transformative outcomes in the classrooms was evident in his time as Principal at KIPP Spirit College Preparatory, a public charter school that is a part of the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) national network of schools, in Houston, Texas. Charles has an unyielding commitment to seeing our schools in the urban context succeed and knows that it has to start one classroom at a time, with one teacher at a time. Charles earned an M.Ed. in education administration from Houston Baptist University and a B.A. in political science from Morehouse College. He is currently pursuing his doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Kansas. He is on the board for KIPP Kansas City, and is active in the Morehouse College Alumni Chapter in Kansas City. He is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated. He lives in the Kansas City area with his wife and four children.
Founding Committee Member

Cornell Ellis is a native to Kansas City and is a product of a diverse Kansas City public and private education. After graduating from Rockhurst High School he played football at the University of Missouri-Columbia for two seasons. While in college, Cornell began his passion for education and justice. He became the Director at Boys and Girls Club Teen Center in Columbia, MO, while also managing curriculum for trauma informed English Language Arts practices at Roosevelt University in Chicago, IL. Cornell received his Bachelor’s of Arts in history from Avila University with a specialization in ancient world studies. After graduating, Cornell taught, managed, instructionally coached and worked in administrative duties for 8 years. Through his teaching success he was able to participate in and lead advanced professional development opportunities like the National Academy of Advanced Teacher Education (NAATE) and Better Lessons Master Teacher program. Through Cornell’s passion and vision, he helped found AMPLIFY! Teachers of Color Conference and Brothers Liberating Our Communities (BLOC), which both exist to sustain and increase teachers of color in education. Cornell uses his educational and professional experience to provide a strong understanding of equitable and justice-centered surroundings for schools and leaders through public speaking and consultation with his LLC -- Eggshells, Inc. It has been Cornell’s goal in his career to create safe spaces for difficult conversations around race and equity. By curating liberatory curricula, creating anti racist professional development, and providing school systems with supplemental tools for teacher evaluation, Cornell aims to make schools places where all teachers can thrive and all students can achieve.
Committee Member

Edgar J. Palacios is the Founder and CEO of the Latinx Education Collaborative (LEC), an organization that dutifully works to connect Latinx education professionals, provide networking opportunities and professional development, and address representation issues in education. Edgar also owns a nonprofit consultancy (EJPKC, LLC) and has had the privilege of working with organizations such as Community Builders of Kansas City, Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City, El Centro, Inc., Show Me KC Schools, and The Kauffman Foundation.
Founding Committee Member

Elise Kwenin is a product of Kansas City public schools and has been working in Kansas City schools for 10 years. During her time in education she has served as a 4th grade teacher, 5th grade math teacher and last year added to her math experience as an Algebra 1 teacher. Her greatest passions in education are community building and outreach. Kwenin has served as the grade team lead, a mentor teacher in her building, a mentor for Kansas City Teacher Residency, and plans and coordinates 3-4 major school events each year. Kwenin has been married for 8 years and they recently welcomed their first baby girl. During her free time she enjoys travelling, reading and spending time with family. As a member of the Amplify planning committee for the past 5 years, she is inspired and rejuvenated each year by this community.
Committee Member

Born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas, Jennifer attended both private and public schools in the area, culminating in her graduation from Sumner Academy of Arts and Science. Coming from a family of educators, education has always played an integral role in Jennifer’s life, invigorating a passion for education and a belief that all children deserve access to a quality education as it has the power to unlock doors of experience, opportunities and access that would otherwise be closed. Each day she is amazed by the resilience, resourcefulness and genius of the children that she serves, and this motivates her to rise and engage in what she calls “legacy work”. Jennifer Collier has served as an educator in Kansas City Public Schools for 21 years. She's been a teacher, Assistant Principal, Principal, Director of Human Resources, Chief Human Resources Officer, Chief of Staff and now Deputy Superintendent of the Kansas City Public Schools. Jennifer earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas, Master’s of Arts in education from Avila University, Educational Specialist in educational leadership from UMKC, and Doctorate of education from UMKC. Jennifer also completed the National Institute of School Leaders (NISL) program and is a certified NISL trainer. In this role, she has provided training for educators and school leaders across the state of Missouri. As an advocate for public education, Jennifer has also been a part of the Education Policy Fellows program, where she continued her focus and growth in the intersecting areas of educational leadership and public policy. Jennifer is also PHR (Professional of Human Resources) certified as she led the very critical work of the Human Resources department in KCPS. In her role as Chief Human Resources Officer, she was dedicated to securing a workforce that had the capacity, will, and dedication to provide a quality educational experience for the children and families of Kansas City Public Schools. As Deputy Superintendent, she champions advancing student learning and growth through an equitable, culturally-responsive and robust educational experience. Jennifer is committed to advocacy and, more importantly, living out the ideals of equity, social justice and integrity in both her personal and professional life. She has served as the leader of Jewels Women’s ministry for 18 years and espouses that young girls and women have been uniquely equipped to serve and lead—and through faith, prayer and perseverance can achieve far more than they’ve ever imagined. She espouses that our past, our joys, our struggles, and our victories are all essential and can be leveraged to build and bless us, but more importantly to lift and bless others. Our lives are not just about us, but about all whom we may positively impact and have been called to serve. Dr. Collier is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Societas Docta Inc. and the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the LINKs. She is the wife of an esteemed pastor and mother of a beautiful, multi-talented daughter, who is the joy and pride of her life.
Founding Committee Member

Karis Parker is a school leader who is dedicated to creating excellent educational opportunities for all students and empowering teachers and students to unleash their full potential. She is currently the Principal at Crossroads Academy Central Street. Additionally, she is a TFA alumna, a Leading Educators alumna and a Fund for Teachers grant recipient. Karis has an unshakable commitment to transforming the educational system and a passion for critical conversation. When not in the classroom, Karis enjoys exploring the great outdoors and reading a good book.
Committee Member

Dr. Keith Jones is the Principal of Platte County High School. He has been an educator since 2007 and has held school leadership roles at the middle and high school levels since 2012. He most recently served as Principal at Billy Mills Middle School in Lawrence, Kansas. Previously he served as an Assistant Principal at Free State High School in Lawrence; Principal at Chase Middle School in Topeka; an Administrative Intern in Blue Valley schools. He also taught high school journalism and English at F. L. Schlagle High School and spent some time working as an adjunct professor for Baker University teaching Curriculum and Instruction courses for teachers aspiring to be administrators. He earned his bachelor's degree from Florida A&M University in Journalism and Public Relations, his master's degree in Educational Leadership at Pitt State University, and doctorate in Educational Leadership at Baker University. Dr. Jones is passionate about teaching to the whole child and helping students develop life skills and brings experience working in corporate America and community organizations, as well as advocating for college and career preparatory programs. Dr. Jones has two sons: Leonjay (19) attends Mid-America of Nazarene University on a football scholarship, and Keith Jr. (7) is in second grade.
Founding Committee Member

Nicole Goodman is the Superintendent at Scuola Vita Nuova Charter School. She graduated from Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa with a B.A. in elementary education and a minor in sports administration. Nicole also has a Master’s in administration from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri, a Master’s in reading and an ESL endorsement from Concordia University, Nebraska. Recently, she obtained an Ed.S. in educational leadership with a concentration in superintendence from the University of Central Missouri. She has experience teaching first, second, fifth and sixth grade, as well as serving in the administrative roles of Assistant Principal, Principal, and Superintendent. Nicole has served in an urban setting for all of her 24 years in education. She knows that education is the key to eliminating systemic barriers, which motivates her pursuit for equitable learning. She passionately advocates for a quality education for ALL students and a supportive network for their families.
Committee Member

Precious Washington is the Executive Assistant in Education for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Previously, she provided administrative support to the campus Vice President and Academic Dean of National American University. She also was the community relations coordinator for the Kansas City Royals, where she provided administrative support to the department and Royals charities. She is an active member of her church and the Calvary Community Outreach Network. Since her start here at the Foundation she has a newfound appreciation and understanding of the importance of quality education being provided to students, especially in the Urban community.
Committee Member

Rohan Pidaparti is a firm believer in the idea that it takes making meaningful connections across lines of difference to solve intractable societal problems. He believes that creating community among teachers of color helps support students and improve outcomes. He currently works for LEANLAB Education as Manager of Innovation Programs, recruiting education entrepreneurs to pilot solutions to pressing problems here in Kansas City. Prior to joining the LEANLAB, he taught 7th grade math at the Ewing Marion Kauffman School as a corps member with Teach for America. Rohan Pidaparti holds an A.B. in political science from Harvard College and a Master’s of Education from the University of Missouri at Saint Louis.
Committee Member

Selina Rios moved back to her hometown of Kansas City in July 2015 to serve with the City Year Kansas City startup team. After graduating from William Jewell in 2010 with a bachelor’s in International Relations, Selina moved to the Texas-Mexico border to help start a non-profit with the Mexican Consulate, serving as a Project Manager for a women’s shelter and a literacy coalition. Over her eight years with City Year, Selina has directly managed nearly 60 AmeriCorps Members and led six school partnerships with sites in Cleveland, Tulsa & Kansas City. In her current role, Selina leads AmeriCorps Member instructional training, manages the evaluation of school impact data and is a certified Racial Equity Strategist (Disruptive Equity Education Project) leading Diversity, Equity & Inclusion work at a site-level. Outside of her work with City Year, Selina is a Big with Big Brothers Big Sisters, sits on the Board of Governors for William Jewell College, the Board of Directors for Center School District’s Foundation for Education & Uncover KC and serves as the Board Chair for The Latinx Education Collaborative. Selina enjoys spending time with her rescue puppy, Benjamin Franklin III.
Founding Committee Member

Spencer Hardwick is the Chief of Staff at Teach For America Kansas City where he helps to recruit, train, and develop educators in the KC area. Prior to joining the non-profit, he was a fifth grade math teacher at the Ewing Marion Kauffman School. He also worked at Goldman Sachs as an institutional sales analyst in New York, NY. Spencer is a TFA alumnus and taught in Dallas through the Uplift Education charter school network during his corps years. He graduated from Harvard in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in Government and a citation in French.
Founding Committee Member

Tonya Guinn is a founding member of Amplify and senior program assistant in Education for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where she provides support for education-focused initiatives through program development, program management, research, and building relationships. As a Kansas City native, she was a student in the Kansas City Public Schools K-12 and this drives her passion in doing what she can to work in establishing an equitable, fair, and quality education for students in the urban core. As an adult, she realized the importance of higher education and its potential benefits and obtained her associate and bachelor’s degrees, both in business administration, and a master’s degree in management, all from Baker University. She is a 2020 BME Vanguard Fellow and Kauffman Fellow.
Committee Member

Dr. Trinity Davis is the President and Founder of Teachers Like Me, an organization dedicated to recruiting, developing, and retaining Black teachers in public education. Teachers Like Me is Dr. Davis’ response to the need for progressive and radical change in the ways we recruit and prepare educators, educate youth, and address systemic inequities in education. Teacher of the Year, Distinguished Alumni, an expert of curriculum design and quality instruction, and an advocate for Black students are phrases you would hear to describe Dr. Trinity Davis. Dr. Davis began her career as a student challenging the status quo and the elimination of culturally responsive pedagogy in her own education. Often hearing from teachers that her topics of interest were “not in the curriculum” challenged her to focus her career on curriculum design for urban school districts. Dr. Davis’ service as a classroom teacher, literacy coach, Associate Professor, and Assistant Superintendent allowed her to maneuver through systems and disrupt the inequalities in education. Knowing that a majority of classroom teachers were white and female, Dr. Davis founded the Urban Suburban Experience (USE) minor at the College of Education to expose white teachers from rural areas to large, urban districts and their students’ distinct needs. Most recently, Dr. Davis worked to recruit Black teachers and led the charge to bring students of color to the College of Education to learn the importance of their role as classroom teachers.
Founding Committee Member

Tysie McDowell was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in Elementary Education and a minor in African World Studies. Ms. McDowell taught in Des Moines, Iowa before moving to Kansas City. She taught in the Kansas City Public School District and Gordon Parks Charter School before earning her MA in School Administration from Baker University, founding Nia Educational Consulting and becoming an adjunct professor at UMKC. In 2012, Ms. McDowell co-founded Crossroads Academy of Kansas City, now Crossroads Charter Schools, a network of three tuition-free charter schools in downtown Kansas City, MO. Ms. McDowell loves working with the talented staff, motivated students, and dedicated parents and community stakeholders. In 2015, she earned the Urban Hero Award by the Downtown Council of Kansas City and in 2019 she received the National Charter School Leadership Award by the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools in Washington, D.C. Ms. McDowell is a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and the Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association. She serves on the board of GAME (Global Association for Multicultural Education) and served on the board of To The World, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of children here and abroad. Outside of school, Tysie enjoys traveling and spending time with her three wonderful teenagers- Michael, Lawrence, and Bettye.
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