Engage - Connect - Inspire
Dwayne D. Williams

Dwayne D. Williams


Dwayne D. Williams has become the most sought after educational consultant within the education community on the topic of culturally responsive problem solving. He is most known for his work as a school psychologist and interventionist, in which he helps teachers, administrators, and state departments create educational models and instructional strategies that increase performance among culturally diverse learners.

Dwayne has trained hundreds of teachers on how to create culturally relevant response-to-intervention (RTI), multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS), and social emotional learning (SEL) programs. He has coached thousands of students on SEL skills and currently uses his curriculum, Like Music to My Ears: A Hip-Hop Approach to Social Emotional Learning to integrate hip hop elements—including dance, rap, and poetry—with SEL activities. Dwayne is an author with Corwin Press, has published 7 books, and speaks nationally on culturally responsive problem solving models.

Dwayne has studied culture within the context of education for over 10 years. He became interested in the role culture plays in education during his graduate school years, in which he conducted a quantitative study on The Effect of Culture on Academic Engagement, with over 300 students, in the Midwest U.S.A. Following Dwayne’s study, he continued his work on culture and academic engagement and began teaching teachers and administrators how to pair instruction with the cultural values of students to boost engagement.

In 2008, Dwayne wrote a rebuttal article of Ruby Payne’s highly acclaimed work, A Framework for Understanding Poverty. His rebuttal article—A Closer Look at Ruby Payne’s Culture of Poverty Theory—is published with Trainer’s Forum, which is a peer refereed, school psychology journal. His article has challenged the thinking of many educators and psychologists who work closely with students who come from impoverished backgrounds. Dwayne’s article has also challenged the thinking and practices of professors within school psychology training programs.

Book Dwayne today to learn how to use culture as a tool to increase engagement among culturally diverse learners!

Eric Hilgers

Eric Hilgers

Tier 2 and 3 SEL Group Interventionist

Eric has gifts, talents, and abilities that the majority of our youth admire. He is a rapper; he is masterful at using literary concepts including rhythm, literal and figurative meaning, similes, metaphors, antecedents, and alliteration to engage students in the reading, writing, and speaking process. Eric says, “One of the most effective ways to engage students is music. Long gone are the days where students will sit and listen to someone lecture at them, especially students within the K-12 school system. They value music, beats, technology, and entertainment. If we do not give them what they want—entertainment, love, encourage, respect, support—we will lose them!” Eric explained that the music we listen to, the words we speak, and the stories we tell, shape our perceptions in life, and that we must give students the opportunity to tell their stories through spoken word and rhyme.

Eric was born and raised in Aurora, Illinois. Like so many others, he did not have the most positive experience in school. He struggled with peer pressure and surrounded himself with peers who used drugs. His story is one of success. Today, at the age of 24, he is an inspiring rapper. He recently released his first album, titled Ignite, and is in the process of working on his second. He has touched the lives of many youth as he travels the country to tell his story through spoken word and rhyme. His music is in stark contrast to “contemporary rap.” He speaks words of affirmation and motivation, and encourages others to strive to develop their thinking and emotions.
Eric is half German and Italian and comes from a cultural background that is consistent with characteristics that are valued within the African-American community—bonding, sharing, dancing, and storytelling. His passion is to help students who come from urban settings identify their purpose in life and to help them find pathways that lead to success.

Eric has worked as a servant leader in the community as he coached youth basketball, baseball, and football. He is currently employed at East Aurora High School. He explained, “My three favorite words are: transparent, relatable, and relationship.” From working with students in the school system, he believes it is clear that students desire teachers who are transparent, teachers who are able to relate to, or at least respect their [student’s] experiences, and teachers who will go the extra mile to create and maintain sold, lasting relationships.

Eric contracts with school districts to speak with students and to use music to engage them socially, academically, and cognitively. He uses his knowledge of music and mixing beats to create social emotional learning (SEL) music themes. He brings his experiences as a music artist to Tier 1 Educational Coaching and Consulting Services, and works—one student at a time—to close the achievement gap that leaves so many students behind.

Davide Zavala

Davide Zavala

Tier 2 and 3 SEL Group Interventionist

ike most students who struggled in the school system, but managed to graduate, David has a powerful story. David was born in Mexico City, Mexico. He came to the U.S. and entered the school system with limited English. As a student who came from a starkly different culture, David was challenged with having to learn both the school culture—rules, norms, policies—and academic content—reading, writing and arithmetic. Though David tried to connect with the school culture, he found it difficult to become bicultural at the rate his teachers expected. Eventually, David began to dislike school, disengage from the schooling process, and connect with students who were also disengaged and disconnected. He began to surround himself with youth and young adults who used drugs and demonstrated antisocial and oppositional behaviors. David was kicked out of his high school and sent to Ombudsman, which is an alternative placement for students who are removed from school due to oppositional and defiant behaviors; it is also an alternative option for students who have dropped out of high school.

Despite many obstacles, David graduated from high school in 2007. At the young age of twenty-four, he is currently the owner of a highly successful barbershop in Aurora, IL. David explains, “My life changed in 2010 when I accepted Jesus Christ in my heart. The old, negative behaviors I used to demonstrate, no longer characterize me; I do not have the desire or passion for the things I used to do.” David has dedicated his life to helping others and mentoring youth around the city. He is a mentor to students who struggle academically and shares his story with struggling students to let them know that, if they find hope, they can chart their own future. He contracts with districts as a motivational speaker and has a heart for helping Latino students navigate through the schooling process.

David became involved in youth ministry at Calvary Church, in Naperville, Illinois, and eventually started his own ministry called Ignite. David explains, “My goal is to see change in our community. I believe impacting young people is the way to realize this goal.” David’s latter days are definitely greater than his former. His story speaks to the impact of developing social emotional learning skills and he is a key player at integrating SEL skills with contemporary youth culture.

Marcus Brooks

Marcus Brooks

Singer / Song Writer

Marcus, or “Brooks,” is from Bellwood, Illinois, a Western suburb of Chicago, Illinois. He brings a valuable knowledge base to Tier 1 organization, as he introduces musical themes used to create social emotional learning and writing programs. He has been described as a gifted singer. He has participated in a variety of talent showcases, including, but not limited to the Chicago Music Opportunity Project (CMOP), American Idol, and Voice. He has had the opportunity to perform in countless places, both locally and abroad.

Brooks is also a prolific songwriter. His writing is a blend of eclectic soul, fused with pop and hip hop. His passion is coaching youth on how to improve their musical writing skills. He is currently promoting his singles, Like I Never Knew (L.I.N.K.) and Dear Father. He will release his highly anticipated EP, The Book of Brooks (scheduled to release the summer of 2014).

Because of Brooks’ knowledge surrounding music, including pop and hip hop, Tier 1 remains current with contemporary music and instrumental themes educators could use to engage students in the process of social emotional learning and writing programs. Brooks is trained infacilitating hip hop social emotional learning groups and has engaged students from Tier 1 through Tier 3 using music. He has also had a profound impact on students who receive specialized services in the school system due to learning disabilities and emotional disturbances. He says, “We must meet students where students are. Since students value music, the question is, how do we integrate music with instruction to engage them in the classroom and to provide the most effective social emotional support throughout the day?” Brooks provides his knowledge to assist with creating music themes surrounding SEL and writing programs based on the latter question.

Jonpaul Figuera

Jonpaul Figuera

School Psychologist

Jonpaul Figueroa is a school psychologist and educational consultant. Raised in Puerto Rico and born from Puertorican parents, Jonpaul employs his multicultural experience in his practices as he works with children of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. He has worked in a variety of capacities, including private and public sectors. JonPaul graduated from the University of South Carolina Aiken with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Psychology. He earned a Master’s degree in School Psychology and a Masters in Educational Leadership, from National Louis University.

Jonpaul has worked in the capacity of individual and family therapy with Streamwood Behavioral Health Center. His experiences working with families and children of diverse backgrounds have been instrumental in molding his philosophy of practice. Jonpaul’s experiences as a therapist have helped develop an appreciation for working with children with Autism, Anxiety Disorders, School Refusal, Eating Disorders, Mood Disorders and other conditions. As a school psychologist Jonpaul employs his experience as a behavioral analyst at Streamwood Behavioral Health Center to develop better evidenced and research based behavioral interventions for struggling students.

As a Bilingual school psychologist and consultant, Jonpaul has helped manage problem solving teams; he has a wealth of experience with evaluating students from culturally diverse backgrounds and needs. He consults with teachers on providing support for students who struggle academically and linguistically. He ensures that the interventions that are recommended are culturally and educationally sound.

Dr. Velda Wright

Dr. Velda Wright


Dr. Velda Wright is an associate professor with Lewis University Department of Education Leadership. She has served as both assistant principal (Calumet City, Illinois—School District 149) and principal (Country Club Hills, Illinois—School District 160) within the public education system. Prior to serving in leadership roles, Dr. Wright developed evaluation and assessment tools for teachers. Additionally, she assisted in writing and analyzing curriculum for teacher preparation programs. Dr. Wright was voted teacher of the year (school district 149) during her tenure as a teacher and spearheaded mentoring programs for students who were identified as at-risk.

Dr. Wright has presented at over 50 conferences and has provided educational coaching and consulting services for over 15 years. Her research specialty is in the area of Cognitive Neuroscience. Dr. Wright brings valuable knowledge to Tier 1 Educational Coaching and Consulting Services in which she specializes in creating effective learning environments throughout the RTI process. Dr. Wright says, “We must continue to advocate for culturally relevant instructional practices that focus on developing the ‘whole’ child through rigorous curricula. The infusion of cognitive neuroscience with culturally relevant instructional practices will enhance the teaching and learning outcomes throughout the RTI framework.”

Book Dwayne D. Williams

Book Dwayne D. Williams for your next training, and learn what you must do to boost engagement among all students!



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