As we get closer and closer to the 2020 Teaching Learning Coaching Conference, we continue to explore the work of our amazing lineup of presenters and keynoters! Today, we’ll be focusing on the topic of equity, one of the most important goals of a Better Leader and a common theme among many of this year’s presenters.


One TLC presenter we are particularly excited about is Natasha L. Robinson, whom Dr. Jim Knight interviewed this past May in his Coaching Conversations. Here are our favorite parts of the illuminating conversation.

Natasha Robinson, TLC presenter

Natasha L. Robinson has over 20 years of experience in leadership in military, federal government, church, seminary, and nonprofit sectors. She is an international speaker, leadership consultant, diversity and mentoring coach, and founder of Leadership Links Inc. which is a non-profit that aims to raise up the next generation of leaders, intentionally starting with young women of color. As the President of T3 Leadership Solutions Inc. Natasha creates leadership development programs that are tailored to individuals and organizations including coaching, mentoring, and consulting. We are thrilled that she will be joining is this year as a presenter at TLC!


Natasha’s Story

We were lucky enough to hear Natasha share her own story, as she details in her book A Sojourner’s Truth: Choosing Freedom and Courage in a Divided World. She spoke with us about the importance of where she grew up, and what that has meant for her own identity. “Growing up a Black girl in the small town of Orangeburg, South Carolina, that has a rich history of segregation, the civil rights movement, the Orangeburg massacre in 1968… and the uniqueness of the town and the fact that there were two HBCUs in the town, and that culture of Black excellence and education shaped me.”

Her family also instilled in her the history and importance of civil rights, and she carried that with her into adulthood and into her work.


History, Artifacts, and Stories

One of the more powerful themes Natasha spoke about was that of history, artifacts, and stories and how learning how they can shape our lives is “a first step to take before starting on responding to the call of justice.” Natasha believes educators need to learn these things for themselves as it will impact not only one’s own teaching, but also the life of the children being taught.

“If we don’t understand the history, if we don’t understand the artifacts, and we don’t understand the stories and the narratives that impact and shape the ways that we interact with each other as humans, then we are never going to be able to correct it.”
—Natasha L. Robinson


Cultural Competency

Natasha described what cultural competence means to her as, “an awareness and an understanding of not only how people see the world, but how the world sees or perceives them.” She says this also requires more than just empathy, as students and fellow educators will need to not only see empathy, but action in the direction of doing what is right, and correcting any wrongs.

Natasha related the interconnectedness of what we teach ourselves as educators about cultural competence, to her time in the Marine corps. She explained that she was told early in her training that she could not be a great Marine if she compartmentalized and focused solely on the job she had as a financial manager, but instead she needed to be a good Marine. She needed to pass physical testing, know how to lead her junior Marines, and respect her superiors, because without that she would not have been promoted in her work. That same interconnectedness is important to think about with teachers who have a diverse student body. A teacher cannot focus only on the job of instruction, but must also incorporate culturally competent learning in their practice.

“If you are teaching diverse kids, you cannot be a great teacher if you are not culturally competent.”
—Natasha L. Robinson


The First Person We Must Lead is Our Self

Finally, Natasha believes that self-leadership is critically important. Tied up in all of the work of becoming more culturally competent is learning about oneself, and learning about your own values.

She does not believe one can be coached strictly to become more culturally competent, but rather a coach can help someone learn more about their own values and whether their actions align with who they say they are and what they say they value. Coaches have a unique opportunity to partner with educators to assess how they see themselves, how they feel they are seen by others based on feedback they are receiving, and then to outline some goals.

Ultimately, Natasha notes that most educators view learning as an important value, and that can often be a good place for a coach to start with an educator. A coach can encourage educators to continue learning and read more broadly, and be more intentional in learning and professional development, which in turn can create more understanding and action towards creating a more equitable classroom.

Watch the whole conversation above.


Don’t miss Natasha’s session’s at this year’s TLC:

Panel 2: Equity & Coaching

Leading Conversations About Racism & Equity

Some questions offer solutions to issues we do not understand. Asking the wrong questions and following a single narrative can lead us down a mistaken path. Other questions draw us into deeper awareness. We need to ask questions, both personal and systemic, that help us increase our knowledge about racism. Beyond understanding, educators have the critical role of leading the challenge of our imaginations (how we see ourselves, each other, and the world) and building for a more equitable future. Expounding upon her “Coaching for Cross-Cultural Competency” conversation with Jim Knight, Natasha L. Robinson will explore this responsibility while challenging and equipping attendees to learn from themselves, their peers, and their students.




It’s imperative that we make the classroom experience and the coaching experience more equitable. Because of this, equity is one of our key themes at this year’s TLC, and many of this year’s keynotes and sessions will explore why and how we can enact real change within ourselves and within our schools.


Watch Jim’s recent Coaching Conversation interview with Zaretta here, and read their 2018 interview transcript here.

Zaretta Hammond is a national education consultant and author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students. She is a former high school and community college expository writing instructor. She has published articles in Educational Leadership, The Learning Professional, and Phi Delta Kappan.

She is passionate about the intersectionality of equity and culturally responsive teaching as a way to help educators close opportunity and learning gaps for under-served students. She has consulted widely with school districts, regional education service agencies, and coaching organizations across the country on ways to support students to accelerate their own learning through the science of learning. Ms. Hammond sits on the Board of Trustees for the Center for Collaborative Classrooms and is involved in a number of working groups committed to educational equity through improvement science and the science of learning.

Jim Knight has interviewed Zaretta twice in the past few years, and each interview has been challenging, inspiring, and incredibly worthwhile.

The title of Zaretta Hammond’s keynote is Getting Better Together and she will also be a part of Panel 2: Coaching & Equity.

Ibram X. Kendi, is the author of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America and the #1 New York Times Bestseller, How to Be an Antiracist, which was hailed by the New York Times as “the most courageous book to date on the problem of race in the Western mind.” Dr. Kendi also co-edited the upcoming book, 400 Souls: A Community History of African America 1619-2019, available in February 2021.

In 2019, Kendi was awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship and was honored on The Root 100, which listed him as the 15th most influential African American between the ages of 25 and 45 and the most influential college professor.

He is the founding director of The Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. A professor of history and international relations, Kendi is a contributing writer at The Atlantic.

Dr. Kendi’s keynote is titled:

How to Be an Antiracist

Ibram X. Kendi's profile image


John Krownapple specializes in professional and organizational learning and development in the areas of belonging, inclusion, and equity. He is an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University where his coursework focuses on organizational and pedagogical responses to the issues that emerge from diversity, and he has served as the coordinator of diversity, equity and inclusion in a school district of over 50,000 students.

John is also the co-author of Belonging Through a Culture of Dignity: The Keys to Successful Equity Implementation and Guiding Teams to Excellence with Equity: Culturally Proficient Facilitation.

John Krownapple will be a part of Panel 2: Coaching & Equity, and he and Floyd Cobb will be working together to present their TLC session, titled:

The Key’s to Equity Implementataion: Belonging and Dignity

Floyd Cobb has almost 20 years of experience spanning the P-20 educational continuum, holding roles as a teacher, school leader, district curriculum leader, and a statewide policy implementer. He holds a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver. There, he is an adjunct faculty member and teaches courses on social inequality through the lenses of race, class, and gender.

In 2017, Floyd was awarded the Ruth Murray Underhill Teaching Award for excellence in teaching, which is given to one adjunct faculty member at the university. He has published numerous articles and book chapters and is the co-author of the book Belonging Through a Culture of Dignity: The Keys to Successful Equity Implementation, which focuses on dignity as a key component of equity implementation.  He is also the author of Leading While Black, an autoethnography detailing his reflections on the Black experience in educational leadership.

Dr. Cobb will be a part of Panel 2: Coaching & Equity, and he and John Krownapple will be working together to present their TLC session, titled:

The Key’s to Equity Implementation: Belonging and Dignity

Floyd Cobb, TLC presenter

Rowena Shurn, TLC 2020 Presenter

Rowena Shurn is a Sr Policy Analyst with the National Education Association (NEA), focusing on systems-level and leadership development to include coaching and mentoring. She leads the work of accomplished teaching and National Board Certification and supports the work of the Teacher Leadership Institute. Currently, she is leading a team that will implement a national coaching institute for educators.

Before joining the NEA, she spent more than 13 years in public education in Prince George’s County, MD. She was a member at large of the Board of Directors for the Maryland State Education Association and co-chaired the associations’ Instructional and Professional Development Committee. In addition, she was one of the teacher leaders to provide guidance on developing policies for Maryland’s 21st Century Schools facilities.

At TLC, Rowena will be leading an interactive session to examine 21st-century coaching through the lens of diversity, equity, and cultural competency (DECC). Using this perspective, the session will learn how to create synergy in leadership and identify ways to coach and mentor teachers throughout the career continuum.

Rowena’s Shurn’s session is titled:

Leadership and Coaching

Rowena is also the featured speaker on this week’s Coaching Conversation, in which the topic will be Instructional & Professional Through a DECC Lens. Submit your questions for her by clicking this google forms link.


Check out our conference schedule to see the complete lineup of presenters! Hope to see you next month!