Keynote Speakers

The ESSA conference provides workshops and keynote presentations sharing important strategies and resources on implementing programs and services with the transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), networking opportunities for school leaders and opportunities to highlight and celebrate effective practices and the children we serve.

Keynote Speakers

Jess Lawrence, Director at Cairn Guidance, is an enthusiastic, energetic, extroverted New Englander living in Eastern Kentucky by way of Portland, Oregon after 20 years. She started her career doing exactly what she wanted to do since her own high school experience—teaching 7th graders health education. In 2003, Jess was hired as the Health Education Curriculum Specialist for the Oregon Department of Education, where she provided assistance and professional development to health education teachers across Oregon. In 2006, Jess pursued a career as a national school health consultant, working with state departments of education and health, school districts and non-profits working to create healthier schools and communities for students and staff. She writes health education curriculum, facilitates and trains educators on school health issues and presents at conferences.

In 2015, Jess fell in love with someone and left her beloved Portland Oregon to be with him and his three children in Morehead KY! They have two dogs Ase and Hope and Jess enjoys cycling, international travel, cooking and watching soccer.


Stacey Gordon is a professional puppeteer and puppet builder from Phoenix, Arizona. She owns and operates Puppet Pie, a puppet building studio located in the downtown Phoenix arts district. Stacey has the honor of performing one of Sesame Street’s newest friends, Julia, a curious 4-year-old girl with autism.

Stacey began her journey with the autism community in 2001 as a habilitation specialist. In 2010, her son was diagnosed as autistic, and her journey continued. She uses her personal experiences as a habilitation specialist and mom to bring Julia to life in an authentic, respectful, and loving way.

In addition to her work on Sesame Street, Stacey teaches puppetry to a neurodiverse audience at Puppet Pie and at events across the country. She is an alumna of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Puppetry Conference and serves on the board of directors for the Puppeteers of America.