TED Talks Education

Speaker Biographies

Air date: 05/07/2013

TED Talks Education 


Premieres Tuesday, May 7 at 7:00 p.m. on PBS (check local listings)


Speaker Biographies

Pearl Arredondo

Educator and advocate


Pearl Arredondo grew up in the impoverished East Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights. She was raised by a single-mother, a long time LAUSD office secretary, who saw firsthand the challenges facing students in public schools. To ensure that she got the best education in the district, Pearl was bussed to schools almost an hour away from home.


Although Pearl faced many challenges within the public school system, she was accepted and graduated from Pepperdine University, where she received both a Bachelor of Arts (Liberal Studies and Psychology) and a Master of Arts in Education and Instructional Leadership, becoming the first in her family to graduate from college.


Pearl is a product of the Los Angeles public school system, and her experiences led her to become a firm believer that all students need a fighting chance within the existing system. She began her teaching career at San Fernando Middle School (SFMS), the middle school she attended eight years prior.


At SFMS, she began with a mission to enhance the educational opportunities for   historically underserved students. To do so, she launched the school’s Multimedia Academy, which serviced 350 low-income students. After three successful years, the Multimedia Academy faculty decided it was time to make a full split and become a separate school.


In 2010, she helped lead an ambitious reform agenda, through a pilot reform model, that focused on strengthening families, improving outcomes for children, community engagement, data-driven planning, and technology development.  The team founded San Fernando Institute for Applied Media (SFiAM), the first pilot school established in the Los Angeles Unified School District at the middle school level.


Currently, Pearl is pursuing a Master of Science in Educational Administration and is a 2013 National Board Certified Teacher candidate. She is also part of the 2013 Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellowship. She serves as the Vice President of SFiAM’s Governing Council.


She is passionate about increasing student access to technology and closing the digital divide, and is a frequent speaker and panelist related to those key issues. She is featured in the short documentary film TEACHED Vol.1: “The Blame Game”. She is also a role model for young Latinas seeking to make a difference in their communities as she is a guest-speaker at Comisión Femenil’s Annual Adelante Mujer Career Conference.

Pearl is a tireless advocate for public education, technology based curriculum and reform models that prepare students to enter a global economy. Her goal is to make SFiAM a model of educational reform by preparing all students to be effective communicators in the 21st century.



Geoffrey Canada

Educator, social advocate and CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone


In his 20-plus years with Harlem Children’s Zone, Inc., Geoffrey Canada has become nationally recognized for his pioneering work helping children and families in Harlem and as a passionate advocate for education reform.


Since 1990, Mr. Canada has been the President and Chief Executive Officer for Harlem Children’s Zone, which The New York Times Magazine called “one of the most ambitious social experiments of our time.” In October 2005, Mr. Canada was named one of “America’s Best Leaders” by U.S. News and World Report.

In 1997, the agency launched the Harlem Children’s Zone Project, which targets a specific geographic area in Central Harlem with a comprehensive range of services. The Zone Project today covers 100 blocks and aims to serve over 10,000 children by 2011.


The New York Times Magazine said the Zone Project “combines educational, social and medical services. It starts at birth and follows children to college. It meshes those services into an interlocking web, and then it drops that web over an entire neighborhood…The objective is to create a safety net woven so tightly that children in the neighborhood just can’t slip through.”


The work of Mr. Canada and HCZ has become a national model and has been the subject of many profiles in the media. Their work has been featured on “60 Minutes,” “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” “Nightline,” “CBS This Morning,” “The Charlie Rose Show,” National Public Radio’s “On Point,” as well in articles in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, USA Today and Newsday.



Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania


Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth is an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Angela studies non-IQ competencies, including self-control and grit that predict success both academically and professionally. Her research populations have included West Point cadets, National Spelling Bee finalists, novice teachers, salespeople, and students. Angela received a BA in Neurobiology from Harvard in 1992 and, as a Marshall Scholar, a Masters in Neuroscience from Oxford. She completed her PhD in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to her career in research, Angela founded a non-profit summer school for low-income children which won the Better Government Award for the state of Massachusetts and was profiled as a Harvard Kennedy School case study. Angela has also been a McKinsey management consultant and, for five years, a math teacher in the public schools of San Francisco, Philadelphia, and New York City.



Bill Gates

Technologist and philanthropist


Bill Gates is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In 1975, Bill Gates founded Microsoft with Paul Allen, and led the company to become the worldwide leader in business and personal software and services. In 2008, Bill transitioned to Chairman to focus full-time on his foundation’s work to expand opportunity to the world’s most disadvantaged people. Along with co-chair Melinda Gates, he leads the foundation’s development of strategies to take on some of the world’s toughest challenges: extreme poverty and poor health in developing countries, and improving America’s education system. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is committed to ensuring that all students in the United States have the opportunity to receive a high-quality education. The main areas of focus in education for the foundation include the College-Ready Education program which aims to ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college and the Postsecondary Success program which works to increase the number of young people who obtain a postsecondary degree or certificate with labor-market value.



John Legend

Host, Musical performer and education advocate


Nine-time Grammy® Award winner, John Legend is a multi-talented artist known for his signature vocals and songwriting style which has earned him legions of worldwide fans along with a string of Top 10 platinum-selling albums. His albums Get Lifted (2004), Once Again (2006), and Evolver (2008) each reached #1 on the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop charts.   He has collaborated with some of the best in the business and has written for numerous artists on bestselling recordings by artists including Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, Jay-Z and Kanye West.


John’s debut album, Get Lifted, earned eight Grammy nominations; won Best New Artist, Best R&B album and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for Ordinary People while selling more than three million copies worldwide. His follow-up album, Once Again, earned an RIAA platinum certification and a Grammy award for “Heaven”, which also won Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. In 2008, John released Evolver, his third Top 10 album and embarked on an extensive world tour with his ten-piece band.


Most recently, John and the band The Roots released Wake Up! (2010), a compilation of music from the 60’s and 70’s all with an underlying theme of awareness, engagement and social consciousness which won two Grammy Awards for Best R&B Album and Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance. The album is highlighted with tracks like “Little Ghetto Boy” by Donny Hathaway and Baby Huey and the Babysitters’ “Hard Times.” Wake Up! also includes John’s original composition “Shine,” which won a Grammy award for Best R&B Song and is featured in Oscar award winner Davis Guggenheim’s domestic education reform documentary Waiting for ‘Superman.’


Throughout his career, John has worked to make a difference in the lives of others. In 2007, John Legend launched the Show Me Campaign, an organization that works to break the cycle of poverty through education.


John was awarded the 2010 BET Humanitarian of the Year award, the2009 CARE Humanitarian Award for Global Change, the 2009 Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award from Africare, and the 2012 Harvard Foundation Artist of the Year Award.


John sits on the Boards of Teach for America, Stand for Children and the Harlem Village Academies. He serves on the Advisory Council for Turnaround and is an “IRC Voice” for the International Rescue Committee. John is also the national spokesperson for Management Leadership for Tomorrow, a non-profit organization that assists the next generation of minority business leaders. In 2007, John was named spokesman for GQ Magazine’s “Gentlemen’s Fund”, an initiative to raise support and awareness for five cornerstones essential to men: opportunity, health, education, environment, and justice. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of PopTech, a unique innovation network with a mission to accelerate the positive impact of world changing people, projects and ideas.


John stars in The People Speak, a film about social change in the U.S. and is a frequent guest on political talk shows including Real Time with Bill Maher, Anderson Cooper 360º and MSNBC’s Morning Joe. He supported President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008 and 2012, premiering his song, “If You’re Out There,” at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.


John partners with Samsung to support education initiatives, with a special focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In response to devastation surrounding Hurricane Katrina, he worked with Tide laundry detergent to address the needs of families in hard-hit areas. John partners with Product (RED), which benefits the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria.


John was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people, and in his tribute to John, Quincy Jones explained: “He is a genius…we’ve seen only the tip of the iceberg. For all that he has already achieved in his career, it is going to be fun watching where he goes from here.”



Malcolm London

Poet, teacher and advocate


Malcolm London, called the Gil-Scott Heron of this generation by Cornel West, is a young Chicago poet, performer, activist and educator. Malcolm has recently shared stages with actor Matt Damon, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt and artist Lupe Fiasco as a part of the The People Speak, Live! cast. Malcolm appears on Season 2 of TVOne’s Verses and Flow.


Winner of Louder Than A Bomb Youth Poetry Festival 2011 taking first place as individual performer and with his team, Malcolm has performed on stages all across Chicago, including Chicago Jazz Festival, Du Sable Museum, The Vic Theater, The Metro, The Chicago Theatre, Steppenwolf Theater: where he was a member of their Young Adult Council, Victory Gardens Theater, and in venues across the country. Malcolm is a member of UCAN’s National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, a city-wide board. Malcolm is a passionate teaching artist on staff at Young Chicago Authors. He visits schools introducing their work to hundreds of students through writing workshops and performances.



Ramsey Musallam

Educator and advocate


Ramsey Musallam is the a high school chemistry teacher at Sacred Heart Cathedral High School in downtown San Francisco and adjunct professor of education at Touro University. Upon receiving his Doctorate in Multimedia Learning from the University of San Francisco, Dr. Musallam’s research interests have shifted from a focus on technology in the classroom, to an emphasis on establishing learning environments grounded in inquiry, motivation and curiosity, using technology as a strategic classroom partner. In addition to the classroom, Dr. Musallam facilitates professional development experiences for teachers nationally and internationally, and is the host of the Infinite Thinking Machine, an internet TV show dedicated to spreading innovation and creativity to fellow educators.


Rita F. Pierson, Ed.D

Education and anti-poverty advocate


Rita F. Pierson, Ed.D. of Houston, Texas, has been a professional educator since 1972. As an educator, she has served in numerous roles, including elementary regular and special education teacher, junior high school teacher, counselor, assistant principal, director, testing coordinator, and consultant. In addition, she is a Licensed Professional Counselor. Dr. Pierson also developed and implemented a school/community involvement program for a large urban elementary school, as well as organized and trained an in-school crisis team for students in need of immediate intervention. For the past decade she has conducted professional development training and seminars for thousands of educators.


Selected workshops presented and products by Rita Pierson: Rita Pierson presents A Framework for Understanding Poverty, Under-Resourced Learners, Engage and Graduate Your Secondary Students: Preventing Dropouts, Research-Based Strategies, Evening Workshop with Parents, Reclaiming the Classroom: Discipline and Working with Parents, Hidden Rules of Class at Work, and What Every Church Member Should Know About Poverty.Rita Pierson is the author of “Teaching on Your Feet:10 lessons on being a master teacher” (Audio CD) and “Rita’s Stories” (DVD).



Sir Ken Robinson

Social activist, educator and most-watched TED Talk speaker on TED.com


Sir Ken Robinson, PhD is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources in education and in business.  He is also one of the world’s leading speakers on these topics, with a profound impact on audiences everywhere. The videos of his famous 2006 and 2010 talks to the prestigious TED Conference have been viewed more than 25 million times and seen by an estimated 250 million people in over 150 countries. His 2006 talk is the most viewed in TED’s history. In 2011 he was listed as “one of the world’s elite thinkers on creativity and innovation” by Fast Company magazine, and was ranked among the Thinkers50 list of the world’s top business thought leaders.


Sir Ken works with governments and educations systems in Europe, Asia and the USA, with international agencies, Fortune 500 companies and some of the world’s leading cultural organizations. In 1998, he led a national commission on creativity, education and the economy for the UK Government. All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education (The Robinson Report) was published to wide acclaim in 1999. He was the central figure in developing a strategy for creative and economic development as part of the Peace Process in Northern Ireland, working with the ministers for training, education enterprise and culture. The resulting blueprint for change, Unlocking Creativity, was adopted by politicians of all parties and by business, education and cultural leaders across the Province. He was one of four international advisors to the Singapore Government for its strategy to become the creative hub of South East Asia.


For twelve years, he was professor of education at the University of Warwick in the UK and is now professor emeritus. He has received honorary degrees from the Rhode Island School of Design, the Open University and the Central School of Speech and Drama; Birmingham City University, the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and Oklahoma State University. He was been honored with the Athena Award of the Rhode Island School of Design for services to the arts and education; the Peabody Medal for contributions to the arts and culture in the United States, the Arthur C. Clarke Imagination Award, the Gordon Parks Award for achievements in education and the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the Royal Society of Arts for outstanding contributions to cultural relations between the United Kingdom and the United States. In 2005, he was named as one of Time/Fortune/CNN’s ‘Principal Voices’. In 2003, he received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for his services to the arts.


His 2009 book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything is a New York Times best seller and has been translated into twenty-one languages. A 10th anniversary edition of his classic work on creativity and innovation, Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative was published in 2011. His latest book, Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life, will be published by Viking in May 2013.  Sir Ken was born in Liverpool, UK. He is married to Therese (Lady) Robinson. They have two children, James and Kate, and now live in Los Angeles, California.



John Legend, Host, Musical performer and education advocate.

Malcom London, Poet, teacher and advocate.

Pearl Arredondo, Educator and advocate.

Ramsey Musallam, Educator and advocate.

Rita F. Pierson, Education and anti-poverty advocate.

Bill Gates, Technologist and philanthropist.

Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania.

Geoffrey Canada, Educator, social advocate and CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone.