Barbara Blackburn, Ph.D



Ranked in the Top 30 Global Gurus in Education, Barbara has dedicated her life to raising the level of rigor and motivation for professional educators and students alike. What differentiates Barbara’s over 25 books are her easily executable concrete examples based on decades of experience as a teacher, professor, and consultant. Barbara’s dedication to education was inspired in her early years by her parents, Bob and Rose. Her father’s doctorate and lifetime career as a professor taught her the importance of professional training. Her mother’s career as school secretary shaped Barbara’s appreciation of the effort all staff play in the education of every child.


Barbara has taught early childhood, elementary, middle, and high school students and has served as an educational consultant for three publishing companies. She holds a master’s degree in school administration and was certified as both a teacher and a school principal in North Carolina. She received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Teaching from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In 2006, she received the award for Outstanding Junior Professor at Winthrop University. She left her position at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to write and speak full-time.


In addition to speaking at state, national, and international conferences, she also regularly presents virtual and on-site workshops for teachers and administrators in elementary, middle, and high schools. Her workshops are lively and engaging and filled with practical information. Her most popular topics include:


  • Rigor is NOT a Four Letter Word
  • Rigorous Schools and Classrooms: Leading the Way
  • Rigorous Assessments
  • Rigor and Differentiation in the Classroom
  • Rigor for Students with Special Needs
  • Motivation + Engagement + Rigor = Student Success
  • Research-Based Engaging Instruction Leads to Higher Achievement
  • High Expectations and Increased Support Lead to Success

"I have to share with you that in my 8 years with Merrimack School District- you were BY FAR the BEST presenter we have ever had! Everyone I spoke to about the day had NOTHING but positive comments. You were so engaging and gave us a lot to think about...but you also made so many of us feel great because we are already doing a lot of the things/ideas you mentioned. It truly was a very motivational day- so thank you!"

---Rebecca VandenBerg


“Dr. Barbara Blackburn is an amazing presenter who engages her participants, while reinforcing the importance of rigor in our daily lessons. Through the integration of multiple activities, Dr. Blackburn both models and teaches rigor. She is an outstanding teacher, presenter, and Keynote Speaker. A ‘must see’ for those interested committed to student learning and improving student performance.”

Cathy Keegan, Co-President, PA Learning Forward



Dr. Blackburn’s work with my middle school principals around rigor has sharpened their skills to evaluate student and teacher documents and how to response to the data as an instructional leader-all in a context of fun and fully engaging activities that stimulate a principals creative thoughts and critical thinking skills. Barbara has a unique ability in working with teachers.  She is able to break rigor down in a way so teachers feel comfortable reflecting on their teaching. Teachers leave her PDs feeling that adding rigor is something they can and want to do.

Trey Duke, Response to Intervention & Instructional Technology Coordinator

Rutherford County Schools


Barbara is an excellent resource for staff development on the topic of rigor. She not only helps teachers clearly define rigor, but also provides numerous examples of instructional strategies that can be implemented in classrooms across multiple content areas and grade levels. Teachers walk away with strategies they can immediately use to raise the level of rigor while supporting students of varying ability levels.

Michelle Walker-Glenn, Ph.D., School Improvement Consultant High Schools That Work SouthWest Ohio


Dr. Blackburn’s workshop on rigor is both scholarly and practical, accessible for any teacher and applicable to everyday concerns in the classroom. Our teachers found the workshop engaging and fun, and left with strategies they could put to use right away. Working with Dr. Blackburn has helped us develop an improved understanding of what rigor is, and an improved level of confidence that we have what it takes to make rigor the norm every day in our classrooms! We highly recommend Dr. Blackburn!


David Dominguez, Principal, Ellison High School, Killeen, TX

Dr. Blackburn's Curriculum Vitae (Short Version)
short vitae 2019.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [252.2 KB]


Let's look at the rest of her team: Ronald Williamson, Abbigail Armstrong and Melissa Miles.