Illinois State University is proud to both prepare and employ some of the most caring and dedicated educators around. Over the past year and half, we have heard countless stories of how our Redbird Educators are rising to the current challenges and excelling inside and outside the classroom. To celebrate the many accomplishments of Redbird alumni, faculty, staff, and friends, the College of Education would like to recognize just a few examples of this dedication to the field. We know there are so many more stories about tremendous educators who go above and beyond for their students and we’d love to hear them all.
COE College of Education
TCH School of Teaching and Learning
EAF Department of Educational Administration and Foundations
SED Department of Special Education
Dr. Christie Angleton and Dr. Xiaoying Zhao, assistant professors in TCH, piloted a children’s book club with a local Girl Scout troop focusing on children’s assumptions regarding race and gender within picture books. They are looking forward to expanding the study into schools after the pandemic.
Dr. Shamaine Bertrand, assistant professor in TCH, partnered with colleague Dr. Kisha Porcher to create the Black Gaze Podcast. The podcast brings together the perspectives of two women in academia and provides a space for educators, teacher educators, students, and community that centers Blackness, educates, heals, and liberates.
Dr. Janet Caldwell, ’77, M.S. Ed. ’82, M.S. ’93, Ed.D. ’11, is an academic advisor for SED, and went the extra mile in supporting students in the new Teach for Tomorrow program in Peoria. This new program helps working professionals and non-traditional students reach their goals of teaching in a special education setting.
Lizzy Carroll ’17 is a sixth- through eighth-grade special education teacher on the Southside of Chicago at Clara Barton Elementary School. She founded Lead with Love (leadwithlovechi.org) in 2020, a nonprofit organization that focuses on improving equity through its services to youth and families within disinvested neighborhoods. Carroll was recognized for her efforts as a finalist for WGN-TV’s Remarkable Woman Award.
Nadya Chiavola ’20 and Nicole Almodovar ’20 are both elementary education graduates and first year teachers at Joshua D. Kershaw Magnet School in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. Teaching remotely, they were creative in building relationships with their students through yoga videos, making up songs over TikTok beats, and using a variety of technology to keep students engaged.
The COE Tech Team and Laboratory School support staff went the extra mile to distribute technology and provide trainings on its use, ensuring resources for every student, faculty, and staff member in the college and laboratory schools.
Jamillah Gilbert ’94, M.S. ’05, is the assistant director of Curriculum Services in University College and a current student in the Leadership, Equity, and Inquiry doctoral program within EAF. She was creative in serving new Illinois State students through providing accommodations and developing flexible learning environments to increase access to all students.
Bess Johnson, principal consultant with the Illinois State Board of Education, was extremely helpful in assisting staff in the creation and approval of additional clinical opportunities and student teaching placements during the pandemic. During a time where in-person clinicals were no longer possible, she helped to ensure that our students were still able to get valuable experiences prior to student teaching.
Mark Jontry, M.S. ’01, is an EAF alumnus and serves as regional superintendent of schools for the Regional Office of Education No. 17. He worked with the McLean County Health Department to provide regular updates to school administration and nurses about the pandemic status, which was helpful in making informed decisions regarding safely reopening schools for in-person/blended learning. This cooperation was also helpful in delivering vaccines to all eligible educators in a timely fashion.
Dr. Grace Kang, assistant professor in TCH, cultivated a partnership with Champaign Unit 4 School District through the civic engagement cohort. Throughout the pandemic, teacher candidates were invaluable to their cooperating teachers in serving a diverse group of students through small group work, tutoring, and teaching the class in a virtual setting.
Lisa Kendall ’01, program coordinator for the Heart of Illinois Low Incidence Association (HILIA), worked with her team to continue providing service to students who are D/deaf and hard of hearing or have low vision and blindness. Using remote and blended learning models, faculty and staff spent countless hours collaborating with families, servicing equipment and providing innovative teaching practices.
Carly Kirkman ’20, like all new teachers, started off her career during very challenging times, but rose to the occasion to serve her students. As an itinerant teacher of the D/deaf and hard of hearing in Oswego, her students are unable to wear masks due to their disabilities. Every day, she dons full medical protective gear to keep herself and her students safe, and to continue their learning.
In her first year of teaching, Takira Mack ’17 noticed that students in her Chicago Public School, Herzl School of Excellence, lacked school supplies and the funds to purchase them. Wanting to ensure her students had everything they needed to learn, she began Back to School BBQs, which have doubled as fun community events and school supply donation centers. During the pandemic, collection items were expanded to PPE supplies for students and families.
Dr. Deborah MacPhee, director of the Mary and Jean Borg Center for Reading and Literacy and professor in TCH, worked with several faculty and staff to create the Redbird Educator Series. These one-hour, free, virtual professional development sessions shared research and evidence-based practices with pre-K-12 teachers on a variety of topics during a time when professional development became a major challenge.
Ana Pyper ’16 is the associate director for the Nettie Bailey Student Achievement Program in the East Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago. During the pandemic, she and her staff initiated a remote learning support program to serve children of essential workers in the community. K-8 students completed their remote classes in a safe environment around peers of their own age, with meals and recreation time provided.
Dr. Robyn Seglem, professor, and Dr. Anna Smith, assistant professor, both in TCH, created Connecting the DOTS, a website (experienceliteracy.wixsite.com/remotelearning) and speaker series to help teachers and families navigate the terrain of remote and hybrid learning during COVID-19. Seglem and Smith pulled this together with expert involvement from over 50 faculty, teachers, and administrators, many of whom are Illinois State alumni.
Dr. Natalie Shaheen, assistant professor in SED, initiated a project with the Children’s Discovery Museum in Uptown Normal, where students in her SED 357 class developed wayfinding tools for blind visitors. Students have completed one wayfinding text description thus far during the pandemic, and Shaheen looks forward to continued collaboration with the museum to eventually complete wayfinding for the entire museum.
Brandon Thornton ’11, M.S. SED ’16, along with his colleague Jen Brooks, are involved with Project S.E.E (Students Entering Education). This program helps young learners, especially students of color, to find out more about teaching as a career, and has matched teacher education majors of color at Illinois State with a group of second, third, and fourth graders. Thornton, an ISBE Illinois Regional Teacher of the Year, also works with Teach Plus to develop policies that help recruit, retain, and promote teachers of color.