Our Team

Top 20 Authors


Top 20 Training was founded by Paul Bernabei, Tom Cody, Mary Cole, Michael Cole, and Willow Sweeney in 2001. During that time, they have trained over 40,000 teachers, parents, coaches, professionals and 10,000 students. They have also co-authored three books: Top 20 Teens: The Best-kept Thinking, Learning and Communicating Secrets of Successful Teenagers; Top 20 Parents: Raising Happy, Responsible and Emotionally Healthy Children; and Top 20 Teachers: The Revolution in American Education.

Paul Bernabei directs Top 20 Training and has been leading the initiative to transform American education and bring Top 20 to schools around the world. Paul travels the U.S. presenting Top 20 Training seminars. He has been an educator in Twin Cities schools for over 30 years, has conducted hundreds of retreats for youth and adults. A graduate of St. John’s University and the University of St. Thomas, Paul and his wife Paula, a retired kindergarten teacher, have four daughters and eleven grandchildren. They live in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Tom Cody, a co-founder of Top 20 seminars, shares his unique witticisms, insights and wisdom gathered from 40 years in the classroom. His professional life has been committed to education, serving as a grade school and high school math teacher and character ed teacher from 1974 until his retirement from teaching in 2014.  Tom now devotes his professional life to Top 20 Training.  He has been instrumental in developing innovative curricular programs and processes at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St Paul, Minnesota. He has coached several successful boys and girls athletic teams and was a newspaper sports columnist for over 20 years. A graduate of Colorado State University, Tom is a crossword puzzle fanatic and a deeply committed baseball fan. He and his wife Judy, also a teacher, have three sons; one is a high school math teacher.

Michael Cole has been a seminar educator for 30 years. For 20 years he has been co-founder and president of Salon Development Corporation, an international company specializing in business training. He is a world-renowned recipient of numerous awards for his contribution in helping thousands of professionals transform their lives. In addition to co-authoring three Top 20 books, Michael has also authored three books and training materials on personal and professional development.

Mary Cole is the co-founder and vice-president of Salon Development Corporation. For the 20 years she has developed materials, programs and products provided by her company. She facilitates training sessions with Michael, her husband and business partner. The Coles have two children and two grandchildren. They reside in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Willow Sweeney is co-founder of Top 20 Training that provides training and materials to empower leaders, teachers, parents and students to develop their potential. She and her Top 20 team have trained over 350,000 leaders throughout the United States. Her work with schools and businesses focuses on developing more effective workplace teams and cultures.

Willow has co-authored Top 20 Teachers: The Revolution in American Education, Top 20 Parents: Raising Happy, Responsible and Emotionally Healthy Children and Top 20 Teens: Discovering the Best-kept Thinking, Learning and Communicating Secrets of Successful Teenagers.

Willow’s career has included high school teaching, coaching and she has been a national speaker and trainer since 2002. She and her husband, Brian, have two sons and live in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Kevin Brennan has been in the world of education for 16 years, nine of which were as a classroom English teacher and soccer coach at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, Minnesota. Kevin has been applying the Top 20 principles as an educator, and both personally and professionally, for well over a decade.

As a Top 20 Trainer, Kevin has worked with many different audiences including students, faculty, staff, administrators, communities, businesses, and parents. He also co-authored the new book Why Students Disengage in American School and What We Can Do About It with Paul Bernabei.

Kevin received his Bachelor’s Degree in English Education from North Dakota State University. He also earned his Graduate Degree in Education, as well as a Graduate Certificate in Gifted & Talented Education, from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota.

Kevin lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with his wife, Gina, and their four children. In addition to training for Top 20, Kevin is also a small business owner.

Mike Nead supports the marketing efforts and business development for Top 20 Training. He has spent the past 23 years working in sales, marketing, video production and training. After producing Top 20’s first marketing video, Mike was inspired to spread the word and help other people develop their potential. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and received his Master of Business Communication from the University of St. Thomas. Mike, his wife Stephanie and their two children live in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Sharon Kaniess and Elaine Rilley are co-authors of Top 20 Parents. Sharon has taught in St. Paul’s Early Childhood Family Education Program for 16 years. She has a Masters of Education and is an Early Childhood and School-Age Trainers Association Credentialed Trainer. She and her husband, Daniel, live in St. Paul, with a daughter and son. Elaine has been a parent educator in St. Paul’s ECFE Program for 23 years. She also taught junior and senior high students and holds a Parent Educator License. Elaine and her husband, Jim, live in White Bear, Minnesota. They have two adult children and two grandchildren.