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Session Facilitators

Julie Ahern

Senior Director of Operations, Van Ryder Games

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With a masters degree in education from the College of William and Mary, Julie Ahern designed statewide-used educational board games and Role-Playing Games (RPGs) during her times as a third and fourth grade teacher in Newport News, Virginia. Her early career also included stage managing and scripting plays as well as writing short stories. One of the founding members of Greenbrier Games, she started as the content writer and game co-designer, and became the Vice President and COO. She is now at Van Ryder Games as their Senior Director of Operations.

In the board game industry, Julie has worked in the capacity as a project manager, designer, developer, writer, and editor. Her first game design was Zpocalypse and most recently she contributed one of the Final Girl movies for Van Ryder Games. In addition, Julie has contributed to GTM Magazine and Meeple Monthly, and co-hosts the show You’re Invited, a live program discussing the challenges of being a small business owner. Julie has served as Secretary on the Board of Directors for Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the board game trade association, and on the board of the Jack Vasal Memorial Fund. She is also a member of Women in Toys (WIT), and an Educational Advisor for Sovranti, the online board gaming platform.

Julie believes in the power of games in teaching and learning. “Play is an opportunity to learn through action. When we use games we engage the student on so many levels. There is the buy-in of fun, of course, but what that student may not even realize is how much information they are using–from rote memorization to synthesizing concepts across a multitude of subjects.”


Moreover, she explains that too often, “Games are presented as the end treat. ‘If you complete your work, you have free play time.’ When you make the games part of the learning process you have engaged learners who are invested in becoming better. So the question is: why not learn through play?”

John Meehan

English Teacher, Instructional Coach, and Professional Development Specialist, and Author

John Meehan (@MeehanEDU) is an English teacher, instructional coach, and professional development specialist from Washington, D.C. He is the author of EDrenaline Rush: Game-Changing Student Engagement Inspired by Theme Parks, Mud Runs, and Escape Rooms (2019) and the co-author of Fully Engaged: Playful Pedagogy for Real Results (2021) – co-authored with Wisconsin-based educator and classroom gamification pioneer Michael Matera. In July of 2020, Book Authority ranked EDrenaline Rush among the top 10 titles on their list of the “100 Best Teaching Books of All Time.” In March of 2021, John and Michael co-founded, an online members community that provides hundreds of gamified classroom resources to thousands of educators all around the world.

A nationally recognized speaker in the fields of student engagement and classroom gamification, John is a 2017 ASCD Emerging Leader and an alumnus of the 2016-2018 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council. In 2016, he was named one of Arlington, Virginia’s “40 Under 40” by the Leadership Center for Excellence. In March of 2019, he created the #EggDashChallenge – a classroom activity that became a viral video, racking up 75K+ views in less than one month’s time, and spawning hundreds of classroom videos in 40 US states, 6 Canadian provinces, and 8 countries.

During his sessions, John will share many of his innovative ideas to make every classroom as engaging as possible...while having students think critically and creatively. His easily implementable ideas will be sure to invigorate any classroom for students and teachers alike.

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