Coming from a family of educators, Stephanie Benson’s biggest rebellion in life was the 9 months she thought she would major in something other than education. Luckily the rebellion was short lived. Stephanie came to her senses quickly by deciding to become a special educator, a field of education unique to her family that she finds personally and professionally rewarding. Stephanie spent the first six years of her career teaching 5th – 8th grade special education students. By the time they reach middle school, this student population has typically already faced a deep frustration level in reading, and behavior issues often begin to manifest themselves as a way of coping with the academic frustration. Stephanie, like many teachers, took on the mantra of Miss Malarkey in “Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind”. Find the book that can hook a student and branch out the curriculum from there. Often her students could be found listening to audiobooks. She and her classroom assistants would be found throughout the classroom reading aloud to different groups of students. JK Rowling, Andrew Clements, Lemony Snicket and Mildred Taylor were the rock stars in her classroom. For the last ten years with the implementation of Response to Intervention, Stephanie has been tasked with providing professional development, mentoring, and problem-solving support to her peers within the 10 districts of Grundy County. She meets with colleagues to find the best curriculums, supports and strategies to help students’ learning grow and thrive with the classrooms.
With a B.S. from Southern Illinois University, Katie Russell began her teaching career in Elementary Education teaching fourth grade at Carruthers Elementary School in Murphysboro, Illinois. She has always had a deep love for reading and discovered, during her first year teaching, that her desire was to help struggling readers. Shortly after, she returned to Southern Illinois University to obtain her Master’s Degree in Reading and Language Studies. Taking advantage of openings in other grade levels, Katie gained experience with readers at all levels while teaching in third and first grade. Katie now works as the Reading Specialist for third through fifth grades. She serves as the AIMSweb Benchmarking Team Coordinator and RTI Team Leader for her building. Katie actively encourages literacy in her district by organizing author visits and helping to plan family reading nights. With the ELA Professional Learning Community, Katie is coordinating the implementation of Literacy Work Stations in the K-2 classrooms. To promote literacy education in her community, Katie serves as the President of the Southern Illinois Reading Council, where she has planned workshops and summer conferences. She is currently serving on the executive planning committee for the SIU Literacy Exchange Conference to offer professional development to educators across Southern Illinois. On the state level, Katie has presented at the Illinois Reading Conference on topics such as, family reading night and Literacy Work Stations. She has helped on several IRC committees and presented at the Leadership Retreat for several years. In 2018, she became the Regional Director for Region 9. She is also a member of the steering committee for the Illinois State Monarch Award List.The mission of the Illinois Reading Council is to provide support and leadership to all who promote and teach lifelong literacy.
Priscilla Dwyer has been an educator for 15 years. She earned her BA in Elementary Education from Governors State University and her MSE in Elementary Reading and Literacy from Walden University. Priscilla Dwyer has taught K-8 Music, second grade and fifth grade. She currently teaches in Kankakee School District where she has served on the curriculum council, the PERA teacher evaluation team, the district MTSS committee and she is the head union representative for her building. Priscilla created and has run a successful Mentor Program and a Parent Involvement Committee at her school for the past ten years. In 2014, Priscilla was initiated in Delta Kappa Gamma, Upsilon Chapter, and works locally to promote the professional and personal growth of female educators through educational workshops and collaboration. She has worked hard to support literacy education in her Kankakee County community through work with Two Rivers Reading Council, both as a member and a board member. On the state level, Priscilla has presented at various conferences throughout the state including the Illinois Reading Conference on topics such as: helping parents and community members get involved in literacy education, using data to drive students goal setting and the Illinois Reads Statewide Book Club. She has worked one on one with school districts such as Dalton School District 148, helping them to implement The Daily Five and Daily Café literacy management program. Priscilla serves as an Illinois Certified Mentor to new teachers in her district, helping them to navigate the CCSS and the demands of the new teacher evaluation and PARCC. She currently serves Illinois Reading Council as the Regional Director for Region 5 and is an active member of IRC, helping whenever and wherever she is asked to serve. Priscilla especially loves volunteering at the yearly IRC Conference and getting to know IRC members throughout the state. She is a member of the International Literacy Association and hopes to serve them further in the future. Her love of literacy is evident through her daily participation in education, conversations and activities revolving around reading.
Joyce Jennings began her teaching career at Liberty Elementary School, in Liberty, South Carolina, in a cross-age Special Education classroom. While at Liberty, Joyce began graduate studies at Clemson University in Reading and became involved in the National Reading Conference. Upon completing her Master’s Degree in Reading, Joyce’s family relocated to Atlanta, Georgia and she became the Reading Specialist at Flat Shoals School, in DeKalb County Public Schools. After her first child was born in 1976, Joyce shifted to part-time positions, including community college instruction in developmental reading and writing and preschool teaching to maintain her connection to literacy learning. She also volunteered in area schools throughout this time. When her younger child entered school, Joyce began to pursue a doctoral degree in Reading and Literacy at National-Louis University, with a minor in Writing Instruction. During this time, she also taught a transitional kindergarten class and pursued research in early literacy. She requested and received approval to complete her minor work in Writing Instruction through two Summer Institutes at the University of New Hampshire. While pursuing her doctoral degree, Joyce was awarded the Student Research Award by the National Reading Conference. She was also invited to participate in a collaborative professional development project between National-Louis University and Northeastern Illinois University with Chicago Public Schools. Thus began her interaction with Chicago Public Schools and her relationship with Northeastern Illinois University. As she neared the end of her doctoral studies, Joyce joined the Department of Reading at NEIU. She has taught Reading Education and developmental reading classes as well as directing the university’s Literacy Center, a diagnostic and instructional setting for struggling readers and writers. In addition, Joyce has served as Chair of the Departments of Literacy Education and Teacher Education. She is also first author of Reading Problems: Assessment and Teaching Strategies, with JoAnne Caldwell and Janet Lerner, now in its seventh edition. Throughout her career at NEIU, Joyce engaged in professional development projects and participated in IRC Conferences as well as conferences in national and international literacy organizations.
Nancy Oesterreich began her career with classroom teaching experiences in several school districts. After a break from teaching to raise her children, Nancy pursued her Reading Specialist master’s degree from Olivet Nazarene University in 2005. After accepting a position as a reading teacher in the Joliet Public School District in 2006, she held that position for 3 years. Nancy next accepted a position as a high school reading teacher at Crete Monee High School where she not only taught reading to students, but also actively provided professional development regarding content area reading strategies. During this time, Nancy completed her Master’s degree in educational administration at Governors State University. Upon receiving her administrative degree, Nancy became the Reading Director in the Elmwood Park Community Unit School district from 2011-2013. Here she was responsible for the Title I grant, coordinating the work of the interventionists, and presenting professional development to the staff, grades K-12. In 2013 Nancy began work as a Principal Consultant for ISBE in the Title Grants division. In this capacity, Nancy worked with over 100 school districts across the state designing Title Programs, interventions, and utilizing Title Grant funds (Titles I, IIA, and IV). Nancy also assisted with writing the Illinois State ESSA plan and designing and presenting professional development at conferences across the state. In 2014, Nancy became actively involved in the Illinois Title I Association and has assumed many leadership positions in that local council of IRC, as well as becoming the ISBE liaison and Advocacy Chair for the Illinois Reading Council. While disappointed to resign as the ISBE liaison, Nancy was eager to accept the position as the Director of School Improvement, Accountability and Reading and Language Arts position with the Cicero School District in 2017. Having found the perfect career, Nancy is able to utilize her love of reading and knowledge of Title Grants and School Improvement to impact all of the students in the Cicero School District.
My name is Christy Ziller and I live in Wilmington, Illinois. My husband, Tom, and I have one daughter, Shelby. We will be welcoming into our family a son-in-law on October 31st, 2015. We have two granddogs, Izabella and Oakley. I am currently a 7th grade Language Arts teacher at Wilmington Middle School. I have been in education for 17 years. I have a B.A. in Elementary Education and a M.S. in Reading from the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois. I joined the Illinois Reading Council and Will County in 2002. While a member of the Will County Reading Council, I have served as many different roles. This year, I will serve as President. As a member of IRC, I have presented, attended and volunteered in many capacities. I am excited to be a part of the Executive board of the IRC as Membership Director and begin paying forward all of the fruits I have been given through this wonderful organization.
With a degree in elementary education, April Flood has always had a passion for reading. Her original goal was to become an elementary teacher, preferably 2nd grade. Even as an undergraduate, she began collecting numerous books for my future classroom. With an endorsement in mathematics, April was quickly hired as a junior high math teacher even after applying for the elementary position at the school. Even while teaching math, she believed in bringing literature and hands-on activities into the classroom. Textbooks are a wonderful resource but should be used in conjunction with other materials. Knowing this, she furthered her education, getting a Master in Elementary Education, and took advantage of the opportunities to personalize assignments that allowed me to integrate literacy and math. When she first began teaching at Eastern Illinois University, she taught Child Development and supervised practicum students in early childhood. Striving to be the best she could be, April searched for trade books that could be integrated in the lower elementary grades. Also, being a parent of young girls, she always looked for books that her own children would be interested in. As she began doing presentations at conferences, April found that she loved introducing new books, fiction and non-fiction, to audiences along with activities complementing the books. She spent numerous hours searching websites to keep up on the current literature. An unexpected bonus occurred while attending conferences, April discovered more books that her own children would love to read. This made her extremely happy since one daughter prefers informational books. She has continued doing presentations on trade books at conferences nationwide. One of her favorite presentations was with two undergraduate students at a Kappa Delta Pi Conference. They used books to address the math standards in the middle school. She has also co-presented with a local middle school teacher on the Middle Ages, using books and language arts activities. April is also presenting at the Kappa Delta Pi Convocation in Dallas, Texas with a teacher candidate and the co-counselor. Currently, April shares her love of reading on a regular basis with her middle level content area reading class. She shares trade books with the students on a weekly basis, facilitate literature circles, and teach reading strategies useful across the curriculum.