The Empower Learning Competency-Based Professional Development Team


Dr. Robert J. Marzano

Robert J. Marzano, PhD, is cofounder and chief academic officer of Marzano Research in Denver, Colorado. During his 50 years in the field of education, he has worked with educators as a speaker and trainer and has authored more than 50 books and 200 articles on topics such as instruction, assessment, writing and implementing standards, cognition, effective leadership, and school intervention.

His books include The New Art and Science of Teaching, Leaders of Learning, Making Classroom Assessments Reliable and Valid, The Classroom Strategies Series, Managing the Inner World of Teaching, Handbook for High Reliability Schools, Handbook for Personalized Competency-Based Education, and The Highly Engaged Classroom. 

 His practical translations of the most current research and theory into classroom strategies are known internationally and are widely practiced by both teachers and administrators.

He received a bachelor’s degree from Iona College in New York, a master’s degree from Seattle University, and a doctorate from the University of Washington.

Matthew Shea

Matthew Shea is the Executive Director of Client Services at Empower, and a former teacher, curriculum director, and district administrator in a proficiency-based district in Maine. He is experienced in leading the shift from a traditional system to a proficiency-based system as both a teacher and administrator, including developing and leading professional learning opportunities for educators. He has presented at numerous education conferences across the country and internationally and was Maine Curriculum Leader of the Year in 2018-2019. He is also the co-host of the nationally-recognized podcast Personalized Learning with Matt and Courtney. He brings his decade-plus of experience with Empower in the classroom and at the district level to help guide and support educators in their journey to a more equitable, inclusive,and just educational system.


Ali Kemp

Ali Kemp is a former K-8 educator with a passion for competency-based education and guiding systems change in schools. Her passion for CBE was born from a desire for more equitable, accurate, and skills-based data in her own classroom within a traditional school system. This led her to hand-develop grading and assessment practices that began with the standards and measured direct evidence of individual students’ abilities rather than point percentages. Though her systems at the time were rudimentary and handmade, she was able to personally witness the impact on her young learners’ achievement, confidence, and ownership of their growth.

Since leaving the classroom, Ali now dedicates her energy to supporting schools as they utilize CBE to maximize educator impact and learner outcomes.

She is thrilled to be part of the competency-based movement, providing the powerful tools and formal training that she would have loved as an educator. Her years of experience on internal school leadership teams has given her insight into what change implementation looks like on the inside. Due to a deep interest in the use of data to quantify student knowledge, she holds a specific interest in assessment practices, including the process of evaluating and fine-tuning classroom assessments to be as precise and accurate as possible. With Empower, Ali is proud to continue in her career-long mission to help provide high quality, equitable educational opportunities for learners.

Rebecca Martin

Rebecca is a 29-year veteran educator. She has served as an elementary classroom teacher, instructional coach, middle school principal, and most recently, as Director of Curriculum Personalization in Shelby County Public Schools. During this time, Rebecca developed her passion around transforming education in schools and systems to create a student-centered, personalized, competency-based learning experience for all students. She believes that students have passions and experiences that should be elevated in their learning journey. During her time as Director, she supported the design and implementation of the “Profile of a Graduate.” She led the work of designing performance outcomes and a defense structure to assess the Profile. In addition, she led the curriculum design and implementation of assessment practices needed to support deeper, competency-based education.


As a district leader, she supported the implementation of the Empower platform to support the implementation of instructional and assessment practices for grading and reporting inside of a standards-based environment working toward competency based implementation. Currently, she loves using her experiences in supporting school and district-level systemic changes.

Rebecca graduated with a B.S. in Elementary Education from Murray State University in 1992. She completed her Master of Arts in Education at Georgetown College in 1997, followed by a second Master of Arts in Education in Instructional Leadership from Eastern Kentucky University in 2007. She considers herself a lifelong learner and loves supporting others in their learning journey.


Kim Hanisch

Kim Hanisch, currently an educational PCBL consultant and Assistant Professor within University of Alaska Southeast’s Ed Leadership program, has been engaged in the journey of personalized competency based learning for the past 17 years. 

This journey has gained her experience within a variety of roles, including middle and high school teaching experience, serving as an Alaska Statewide New Teacher Mentor, she was involved as a professional development trainer, and served as principal with Bering Strait School District and Director of Services and Educational Specialist with Reinventing Schools Coalition (Marzano Research Corporation). Recently she was Director of Instruction and Learning with Kodiak Island Borough School District.