Keynote Speakers

TEACH 2023 Keynote Speakers


Coming soon
Sponsored by WJCT Public Media


Sonia Manzano
“Maria” on Sesame Street & Author

Sponsored by WJCT Public Media

For over 40 years, Sonia Manzano inspired, educated, and delighted children and families as "Maria" on Sesame Street. Named among the “25 Greatest Latino Role Models Ever” by Latina Magazine, Manzano broke ground as one of the first Hispanic characters on national television. Throughout her career, she has continued to contribute to enriching diversity on television, on the stage, and in the educational realm. A first generation Puerto Rican born on the mainland, Manzano’s tale is one of perseverance and courage as she overcame countless obstacles to become one of the most influential Latinas in television.

Manzano was raised in the South Bronx, where her involvement in the arts was inspired by teachers who encouraged her to audition for the High School of Performing Arts. She was accepted there and began her career as an actress. A scholarship took her to Carnegie Mellon Univerisity in Pittsburgh, and in her junior year, she came to New York to star in the original production of the off-Broadway show Godspell. Within a year, Manzano joined the production of Sesame Street, where she eventually began writing scripts for the series.

After forty-four years she decided to retire from Sesame Street and author books. Her book titles include a The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano and a memoir, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx (Scholastic). Becoming Maria was praised by Kirkus Reviews for its “lyrical and unflinching account of her tough Nuyorican upbringing in the South Bronx,” and calls it a “touching memoir.” “Manzano lovingly details life-changing moments,” with a “stark and heartbreaking contrast to her Sesame Street character.”

She's penned three picture books with Simon and Schuster. Her latest book, A World Together (National Geographic), aims to promote unity by celebrating cultural and generational diversity.

Recently, Scholastic and Manzano partnered to launch two middle-grade novels and two picture books. Coming Up Cuban: Rising Past Castro's Cuba, was release in August 2022 and is set in 1959 following the lives of four children who each represent different intersections of race and class in Cuba.

Ms. Manzano has created and developed, with Fred Rogers Productions, an animated children's program for PBS. Alma's Way, which premiered in Oct 2021.

Sonia Manzano knows a thing or two about determination. Now a twice nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series, Manzano didn’t have a lot of resources as a child growing up in the South Bronx. Immensely talented, Sonia never gave up.



  • Talithia Williams
  • Ron Clark


  • Wes Moore
  • Hamish Brewer


  • Pedro Noguera
  • George Couros


  • Mary Ehrenworth
  • Drew Dudley


  • Marcia Tate
  • Kim Bearden


  • Barnett Berry
  • Ron Clark


  • Lucy Calkins
  • Brad Cohen