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Conference Speakers:

Keynote Speaker

Emilie Buchwald - Poet, Writer, Publisher

Emilie Buchwald is the publisher emeritus and cofounder of Milkweed Editions (editing or coediting 200 books), a poet and fiction writer, and author of award-winning children’s novels Gildaen and Floramel and Esteban (Harcourt Brace, reissued by Milkweed Editions), and under her maiden name, Daisy Bix, Buddy Unchained and At the Dog Park. Awards include: The Lyric Poetry Award, McKnight Distinguished Artist of the Year Award, the Kay Sexton Award, the National Book Critic’s Circle Lifetime Achievement Award, and the A. P. Anderson Award. Buchwald founded The Gryphon Press ( in 2006 to publish high-quality children’s picture books about animal issues. Degrees: Barnard College, B.A; Columbia University, M.A; University of Minnesota, Ph.D. in English Literature, honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

When: Thursday, April 20th, 8:52 - 9:10 a.m.

Speaker Bios

Mags Baker, Love Farm

Mags Baker is a prolific creative, serial entrepreneur, and lifelong humane educator. A former 5th grade teacher, Mags then spent a decade running humane education programs at various animal shelters throughout California (San Diego Humane Society, East Bay SPCA, San Francisco SPCA). With a dream of creating impact outside the schools and animal shelters, Mags left the SF SPCA to launch her own business(es) that would eventually turn into her life long dream of having a farmed animal sanctuary and unschool. She started Love Farm near Austin, TX in January 2022 and has already rescued 2 donkeys, 7 cats, and 9 chickens.

When: Friday, April 21st, 1:15 - 2:00 p.m.

Doin' It All For The 'GRAM.

Sandi Comunale, Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh

Sandi is currently a Sr. Humane & Wildlife Education Specialist at Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh. She has a B.S. in Biology, with an M.S. in Environmental Science and Management. She has spent several years working in the field of informal education in various settings (such as a zoo, park, and museum). Her passion lies in empowering people to care about animals and the environment and in making humane and wildlife education enjoyable and accessible to all facets of the community.

Katie Campbell, Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh

Katie is a Sr. Humane & Wildlife Education Specialist at Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh. She previously worked at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium as a Conservation Education Specialist and YMCA Camp Soles as their Lead Nature Counselor.

When: Friday, April 21st, 3:10 - 4:10 p.m.

Programming for the Planet

Kim Ferris-Church, Lollypop Farm - Humane Society of Greater Rochester

Kim Ferris-Church is a Certified Humane Education Specialist with over fifteen years of experience in educational services for nonprofits. As the Humane Education Manager for Lollypop Farm, Kim develops programs and curricula, camps, events, and activities that engage people in learning about compassion for animals. She is the author of the first-ever curriculum on building a humane education camp program, an online course offered through the Academy of Prosocial Learning. She formerly served on the board of directors for the Association of Professional Humane Educators and helped publish the newest edition of the APHE Camp Manual.

Nick Kohner, Lollypop Farm - Humane Society of Greater Rochester

Originally from Texas, Nick Kohner moved to Rochester, NY in 2021. With experience in animal care and wildlife rehabilitation, he currently works as the humane education coordinator for Lollypop Farm. There, he works to develop, implement, and run programs that instill empathy for all creatures in adults and children of all ages. Nick loves bringing his passion for science, animals, and education to everything he does.

When: Friday, April 21st, 11:00 - 11:45 a.m.

Feathers, Fur, and Sunscreen - Creating a Fun & Safe Camp for Everyone

Heather Franco, East Bay SPCA

Heather Franco is a Bay Area native who grew up in San Francisco and now lives and works in the East Bay. The first 12 years of her career were with the Richmond Neighborhood Center where she developed and delivered Out of School Time programming, including elementary and middle school after school programs, youth workforce development, leadership, and identity based programs. In 2019 she made a career shift and joined the East Bay SPCA, where she is now the Humane Education Manager. Her passions outside of work include hiking, camping, kayaking, and her AmStaff, Lola.

When: Friday, April 21st, 1:15 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Bark: Giving Youth and Canines a Voice

Caroline Griffin, Show Your Soft Side

Caroline Griffin graduated from Loyola University of Maryland and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. Ms. Griffin was appointed Chair of the Mayor’s Anti-Animal Abuse Advisory Task Force in Baltimore, following the brutal burning death of a dog. She is the co-founder of the non-profit Show Your Soft Side, an anti-cruelty campaign that works with 250 professional athletes and celebrities nationwide to stop animal cruelty perpetrated by youth. She is the vice-chair of the Board of Directors at the Animal Welfare Institute, a non-profit based in Washington D.C., and also chairs the Maryland Spay/Neuter Advisory Board.

When: Friday, April 21st, 2:10 - 2:55 p.m.

It's Cool to Be Kind

De Daltorio, Heather Grogan, Kylie Wiest Charleston Animal Society

With a combined 30 years of experience in the field, the education department at Charleston Animal Society is nothing short of magic!  Each team member hailing from a different Harry Potter house may be a small part of the recipe that makes this team capable of offering a robust variety of programs.  However, they attribute their success to a shared love of animals and a drive to make the world just a little bit kinder. 

De, Heather, and Kylie teach over 22,000 compassion lessons each year in schools, at the shelter, and community events.  With a diverse skill set, this team is constantly re-evaluating, restructuring, and evolving their lessons and program offerings to maximize impact.  This is also accomplished due to their fantastic ambassador animals, Tom Selleck, RBG (Ruthie Buns), and Lucky Lefty Louie, being at the heart of their programming.

In addition to their passion for teaching youth, they are dedicated to helping others maximize their ability to nurture compassion within their communities.  This dedication has empowered them to create an apprenticeship for humane educators nationwide and to contribute to furthering the mission of APHE. 

When: Wednesday, April 19th, 12:30-2:00 p.m.

Get Off the Struggle Bus: Work Smarter, Not Harder

Jessie Hitt, Humane Society of Huron Valley

Jessie was planning to pursue a master’s degree in library science when she happened to attend an information session on the newly formed Humane Education department at HSHV. During that info session she learned about the existence of the master’s degree program in Humane Education from the Institute for Humane Education. She knew right away that was what she wanted to do! Jessie has worked at HSHV for 10 years, the last 6 in the Humane Education department. She enjoys talking to people of all ages about the interconnectedness of animal welfare, humanitarianism and environmental protection.

Jen Barrett, Humane Society of Huron Valley

After graduating with degrees in Psychology and Applied Animal Behavior & Animal Welfare, Jen was searching for a way to combine her passion for animal welfare with her love of positive youth development. Humane education turned out to be that perfect combination! Jen is now the Lead Humane Educator at HSHV and loves facilitating meaningful connections between youth, animals, and the earth. Prior to arriving at HSHV, Jen worked in school-age childcare and summer camp settings. She also enjoys reading animal cognition research, exploring nature, crafting, and spending time with her two cats!

When: Thursday, April 20th, 11:00 - 11:45 a.m.

DEI in Action: Providing Programming for All

Kelsey Joseph, Barvecue

Kelsey earned a bachelor's in integrated strategic communication from the University of Kentucky and a masters of design from Columbus College of Art & Design. Kelsey currently works for Barvecue, a plant-based meat brand, that built and operates the world's largest plant-based smokehouse. Previously, she worked in humane education, getting her start at Charleston Animal Society and then as a senior regional field organizer for The Humane League. She volunteers with her local county shelter and sits on the boards of Changing Hearts Farm Sanctuary and APHE. Kelsey is passionate about creating a more just world through our food system.

Shawna Weaver, College of St. Scholastica

Shawna earned a Master's in school counseling from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and a PhD in sustainability education from Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona. She teaches at the College of St. Scholastica and leads programming for an environmental justice nonprofit. Shawna started her career in humane education doing research at animal sanctuaries around the world, then led the education department at Animal Allies Humane Society in Duluth, MN. She has written about humane education, environmental justice, and the human-animal connection for several publications. Her book, Climate Grief: From Coping to Resilience and Action, will be out this summer.

When: Friday, April 21st, 10:00 - 10:45 a.m.

Compassionate Food Choices in the Classroom and Beyond

Caroline Kelley, Peaceful Child Education

After bringing mindfulness and meditation to the early childhood classroom, I noticed an immediate decrease in challenging behaviors. During the lockdown, I realized that there will be many children with gaps in social/emotional development and I wanted to find a way to help minimize that gap. Upon research, my partner and I came across humane education and realized that we had been implementing portions of this into our program. I learned that there were no humane education programs that focused on the early childhood years and I wanted to change that. This is how Peaceful Child Education was born.

When: Thursday, April 20th, 11:30 - 12:15 p.m.

Nurturing a Seedling - Teaching Humane Education in Early Childhood

Cathie Myers, Best Friends Animal Society

Cathie Myers is a senior manager of learning advancement for Best Friends Animal Society. She joined the organization in 2002 and spent the first five years in the humane education department, first as assistant manager and then a year later, as manager. During that time, she oversaw the internship program, visiting groups at the Sanctuary and helped design and manage onsite workshops. In 2008, Cathie coordinated the re-launch and began managing the Best Friends National Conference. By 2020, her educational events team was responsible for not only the conference, but also regional summits, sanctuary workshops, and All Staff Week.

In July of 2020, Cathie accepted her current role with the learning advancement team at Best Friends. She designs and facilitates certification courses in partnership with Southern Utah University which are geared to helping animal welfare professionals gain the knowledge and skills needed to enter, advance in the field and make positive changes for animals.

Cathie spent 7 years on the APHE board in various roles including membership chair and vice president. She is currently a senior advisor on the APHE advisory council. Cathie is also on the board of directors for Fences For Fido, a non-profit that improves the quality of life for dogs living outdoors on chains, tethers and in small enclosures by building free fences as well as providing insulated dog houses, spay/neuter services and emergency vet care when needed.

Cathie and her husband, Clay have lived all over the country, including in Arizona, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington state. They currently make their home in Pennsylvania with two dogs and two cats as well as an on-going rotation of fosters.

Caitlin Gill, Best Friends Animal Society

Caitlin is a specialist in the Best Friends Learning Advancement department. Her work includes instructional design and course creation for certification programs run in collaboration with Southern Utah University. Caitlin's professional experience encompasses the fields of humane education, conservation, volunteer engagement and human-animal bond studies. She has led humane education programs in animal welfare and environmental education settings and received her Humane Education Practitioners Certification from the University of Denver's Institute for Human-Animal Connection.

When: Thursday, April 20th, 9:10 - 10:10 a.m.

Think Again - Humane Education for Adults

Emily Schmall, Animal Humane Society

Emily Schmall joined the Animal Humane Society (AHS) in Golden Valley, MN in 2022 as the Director of Community Programs. In her role she oversees adoptions, humane education, and behavior and training. She has spent the past 12 years working in the non-profit sector and has a strong passion for education, programming, and the visitor experience. Prior to AHS, Emily worked on program development and volunteer management at Girl Scouts River Valleys and YWCA - Minneapolis. Emily spent five years volunteering with a local dog rescue, which helped guide her to the field of animal welfare. She lives in St. Paul, MN and has one dog and one cat.

Michaela Baltasar-Feyen, Animal Humane Society

Michaela Baltasar-Feyen is Director of Community Solutions at Animal Humane Society in Minnesota. She oversees AHS’s partnerships with other Minnesota-based animal welfare groups, as well as the organization’s community outreach work, which focuses on connecting underserved populations with AHS resources to keep people and pets together. Prior to joining AHS, Michaela worked in the museum field, where she sought to make the gallery experience welcoming and approachable to people from all backgrounds. Michaela fosters neo-natal kittens, and her household currently includes two dogs, 10 resident cats, one long-term foster cat, and a very patient husband. (Don’t worry – they have a multi-animal permit!)

When: Friday, April 21st, 10:00-10:45 a.m.

Community Engagement & The Visitor Experience

Eliza Speece, SPCA Serving Erie County

This will be Eliza's 4th time at an APHE conference, and third time speaking. She/They have been in the animal welfare/shelter field for over 10 years doing transport, fostering, event support and animal husbandry. In 2016 following graduation, she started as a Humane Educator. She was at San Francisco SPCA for 3.5 years running their volunteer programs, camp, and introducing new programs. She started at SPCA Serving Erie County after moving to Buffalo, New York summer of 2022.

When: Thursday, April 20th, 11:30 - 12:15 p.m.

Safe Space Training - Gender Inclusion and Supporting Queer Students/Coworkers

Karen Verderame, Penn Vet Shelter Medicine and Community Engagement

As an outreach educator, Karen develops and provides educational opportunities at Penn Vet, focusing on humane education, STEAM outreach, and pipeline-type programming. Karen has a rich professional background working with and caring for various taxa of animals in zoo and museum settings, and developing a variety of programs, curricula, and engagement opportunities.

When: Friday, April 21st, 2:10 - 2:55 p.m.

So Happy Together: Bridging Accessibility and Empathy

Cindy Walden, APHE Board Member

Cindy's Animal Control career began over 25 years ago, where she worked as kennel staff, kennel lead, field officer, and volunteer coordinator in Sacramento County. In 2009 starting the Animal Services department for the City of Folsom, including doing education presentations at schools.

Cindy retired in 2016 but remains active and volunteers for disaster response, deploying with Code 3, North Valley Animal Disaster Group, and the National Field Response team of the ASPCA.

She previously served on the Board for NACA (National Animal Care & Control Assn), and currently for APHE, Code 3 Associates and co-founded Helping Paws and Claws.

When: Thursday, April 20th, 10:30 - 11:15 a.m.

Make the Connection, Change the Perception

Lesley Winton, BEM, Fostering Compassion

Lesley Winton has over 35 years experience in the Voluntary Sector in Scotland establishing two animal and child welfare charities. Her desire to develop an humane education project that helped prevent animal cruelty led her to establish Fostering Compassion which addresses the links between animal abuse and child abuse.

Bringing together children showing worrying behavior towards animals with rescued animals we help them to see animals as sentient beings encouraging nurturing behavior, helping reverse the cycle of abuse.

In 2022 Lesley was awarded the British Empire Medal by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for Services to Animal Welfare.

When: Thursday, April 20th, 10:30 - 11:15 a.m.

Sharing the Stories of Rescued Animals with Care Experienced Children to Foster Compassion and Help Reverse the Cycle of Abuse

2023 Conference:

Minnesota Motivates

April 19th-21st, 2023

2023 Conference Sponsors 

Visionary Level

Global Ambassador Level

Mentor Level

Teacher Level

Stacey Zeitlin

Best Friend Level

Supporter Level

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