Dr. Yojanna Cuenca-Carlino was recently appointed as the chair of the Department of Special Education (SED) at Illinois State University, beginning July 1. Cuenca-Carlino currently serves as the assistant vice president for faculty development, diversity, and learning at Illinois State.

“Dr. Cuenca-Carlino is a first-rate teacher, researcher, administrator, and leader with many years of experience at Illinois State,” said former College of Education Dean James Wolfinger. “I am thrilled that she has answered the call to come back home to the leading special education program in the Midwest. We are lucky to have her, and I know the department will soar under her leadership.”

Cuenca-Carlino has dedicated nearly 25 years in education to teaching students with special needs and preparing special education teachers. She began her career as a special education teacher in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and then moved to Washington D.C., where she worked at the National Dissemination Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities. In 2010, she joined the Department of Special Education at ISU, where she most recently served as associate chair. In her research, Cuenca-Carlino studies the development of writing skills and how students with disabilities can use persuasion to advocate for their needs. She also studies strategy instruction in relation to writing and reading interventions for students who are English learners/bilingual and has collaborated in studies on special education teacher preparation programs.

For the past three years, Cuenca-Carlino had many accomplishments as she supported faculty success across campus. She led the development of the Framework for Inclusive Teaching Excellence which serves as the signature pedagogy for the University and considers all the different aspects that are important to inclusive and equitable teaching. The framework was the guide in the development of the GROWTH Change Teams and faculty professional development, which she leads.

Cuenca-Carlino’s biggest focus was on enhancing professional development opportunities for faculty which evolved into the development of the Center for Integrated Professional Development. The new Center, formerly known as the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology includes two units: Scholarly Teaching and Online Education. She started plans to create additional professional development that supports other aspects of academic life such as mentoring and scholarship.

“This holistic approach to teaching and learning will be greatly beneficial to our students as they learn with faculty, staff, and teaching assistants who implement best practices in teaching and learning,” said Cuenca-Carlino. “These projects were exciting to lead for the University, and I look forward to bringing this experience to SED.”

In her new role as chair, she is looking forward to rejoining SED, diving back into curriculum development, and continuing to work on solutions to address the severe shortage of special education teachers.

“I’m excited to go back home to SED, to continue to work alongside my SED colleagues, and to have a more direct role working with students,” said Cuenca-Carlino. “Our special education teacher graduates are known nationally for their excellent teaching, and it is an honor to lead the department as we move forward and build innovative programs that prepare even more special education teachers.”

Cuenca-Carlino earned a bachelor’s in special education at the University of Puerto Rico and a master’s in curriculum and instruction and a Ph.D. in special education both from George Mason University.