IWP’s teacher-leaders are seasoned and highly skilled professional developers and consultants. All are experienced public school teachers, have been trained in IWP leadership institutes and internships, and are able to offer programs carrying Northeastern Illinois University graduate credit. Along with leading professional development programs, the leadership team also guides the policies, planning, conferences, and events of the Project.
Many other outstanding educators not listed here have been trained in leadership by the IWP and continue to take major roles in their schools and districts.
The Leadership Team
Comfort Agboola teaches 6th grade at Poe Classical Elementary School in Chicago. She also hosts the “Lit and Love” web-based program that provides engaging weekly writing activities for young people at www.litandlove.com .
Linda Bailey (Emerita Team Member)- A retired Chicago elementary teacher, writing program leader, area reading coach and non-profit program director, Linda also worked with the National-Louis U. Center for City Schools, facilitating professional development with teachers in classrooms and leading the monthly mini-conferences.
Jan Booth – Jan Booth has been a teacher leader with IWP for over 25 years, and currently serves as co-director for the Summer Leadership Institute. She retired from the classroom with experience in special, elementary, and gifted education. She now serves as adjunct faculty in Concordia University’s literacy department. Jan and her husband are active members of the Stage Coach Players theatre in her home town, DeKalb. They also enjoy agility training with their four dogs.
Pat Braun – Pat retired from public school teaching and is now Assistant Professor of Education at Benedictine University at Springfield. She is IWP Co-Director for events, along with Debra Gurvitz. She and her husband live on Lake Springfield where they boat, fish, and bird watch. She enjoys the Springfield area rich with history, art, and outdoor activities and where she encourages elementary education majors to take advantage of the local resources. She is Past President of the Illinois Reading Council and begin a term as Treasurer in 2015.
Rebecca D’Angelo – Rebecca is retired from her position as a fifth grade teacher at Edison Elementary School in Elmhurst Il. While she has spent the majority of her teaching career at the fifth grade level, she has had experience with levels kindergarten through eighth grade. She earned a Masters Degree in Teacher Leadership and is a member of district curriculum development teams in the area of writing and E/LA content development. She conducts workshops at professional conferences on the local, state, and national level on the subject of writing and disciplinary literacy. She has co-authored a book entitled Literacy and History in Action published by Teachers College Press. She is IWP Co-Director/ Secretary.
Marianne Flanagan – Marianne’s education career spans 40 years, including 26 as an elementary teacher. She began leading professional development with the Center for City Schools at National-Louis U. She then became a facilitator for the School Teams Achieving Results for Students (STARS) program in Chicago Public Schools. She now leads IWP workshops on classroom writing workshop and literature circles, and mentors Michigan State U. pre-service teachers in their internships at CPS.
Adelfio Garcia is an advocate of students learning two or more languages. His experiences in education range from Bilingual Teacher, Bilingual Special Education Teacher, District Facilitator in Special Education and Refugee/Newcomers, Assistant Principal, and K-8 Principal within the Chicago Public Schools and Suburban School Districts.He recently retired from his role as literacy coach at Gary School in Chicago. Along with providing professional development with the Illinois Writing Project, he works with English Language Learners and their families, as founder of Biliteracy Solutions, an agency that advocates and assists Bilingual and Dual Language educators.
Debra Gurvitz – Speaking at many conferences, Debra focuses on urban education, diversity among learners, and school-based professional learning. She taught kindergarten, first, and multi-age groups, mentored classroom teachers as a reading coach and served as a K-‐8 district reading specialist. After completing a doctorate from National Louis University, she served as an Associate Professor in Reading and Language, taught graduate clinical reading specialist courses, and continues to direct the Urban Summer Reading Program. Deb is IWP Co-Director for events, along with Pat Braun. Publications include Complete Guide to Tutoring Struggling Readers: Mapping Interventions to Purpose and CCSS (Fisher, Bates, Gurvitz, 2014) and a chapter in Partnering for Content Reading (Ogle, 2010).
Laurie Hendrickson – Prior to retirement, Laurie was a curriculum specialist at Roosevelt Middle School in River Forest where she helped teachers and other education professionals develop strategies along with practical tools to improve classroom practices. Previously, she was a 6th grade teacher leader at Roosevelt with a focus on language arts and Humanities. Her specialties include project-based learning, gifted education, and technology-driven curriculum.
Judy Johnstone (Emerita Team Member)- After 34 years as a classroom teacher and department chair at Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, Judy shifted to full time language arts consulting. While this mainly focuses on her 25 year relationship with the IWP, working with schools throughout the Chicagoland area, she has also aided numerous schools on improving student achievement. Currently, she is working with a CPS school to develop professional coaching teams.
Ben Kuhlman – Ben is a middle school Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts teacher at Holmes Middle School in Wheeling, Illinois. He is also an adjunct writing instructor, tutor, and reading specialist. Ben is IWP Co-Director foer Marketing, is active on Twitter, and is the cofounder of the #TeachWriting chat. He is also part of the group of teachers that helps organize EdCamp Chicago. Most of all, he is interested in how writing helps teachers and students make useful connections across disciplines and genres.
Sandra Laszkiewicz – Sandra teaches fourth grade at Jackson Elementary School in Elmhurst.
Pam Moriarty – Pam has retired from second grade at Lincoln School in River Forest and serves as secretary/ co-director of the Illinois Writing Project. She became involved with the IWP since taking the 30 Hour Summer Workshop, followed the next summer by the Summer Leadership Institute. Summer Kids Writing Camps hold a special place in her heart.
Stacie Noisey – Stacie Noisey is Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment for Grant Community High School in Island Lake, Illinois. Previously she has served as a literacy coach and reading specialist, taught literature, and special education. As a state and regional presenter, Stacie specializes in literacy and ELL topics.
Mindi Rench – taught 7th grade English/Language Arts for 18 years, served as a middle school Literacy Coach for 4 years, and is currently a third grade teacher in Northbrook School District 28. She is the Co-Director of Marketing for the Illinois Writing Project, along with Amy Vujlaklija. Mindi earned a Master of Science – Instruction in Secondary Language Arts from Northeastern Illinois University, an Ed.S. in Administration and Supervision from National Louis University, and trained as a Literacy Coach at the Illinois Reading Recovery Center at National Louis University. Mindi has served as a Literacy Lab Teacher and curriculum writer at Northbrook School District 28 and has presented at numerous state and national literacy conferences. In her free time, she enjoys reading, knitting, and traveling.
Deborah Shefren – Deborah Shefren is an educational consultant with more than 35 years of experience as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, literacy coach, and adjunct faculty member at National Louis University where she teaches graduate courses in reading and supervises student teachers. Deborah received her MA in Curriculum and Instruction from National Louis University. Deborah has presented on numerous occasions at the International Reading Association and Illinois Reading Council conferences. She has provided professional development on writing, comprehension, assessment, balanced literacy, inquiry based instruction, word study, differentiation, and classroom management.
Katy Smith – A longtime high-school English teacher and expert in curriculum integration and interdisciplinary teaching, Katy now teaches at Northeastern Illinois University and serves as IWP Director along with Steve Zemelman. She has authored journal articles: “Becoming an ‘honors student’: The interplay of identities, literacies in an interdisciplinary classroom” and “Becoming the guide on the side.” She is a co-author, with Steve Zemelman and Tonya Perry, of Teaching for Racial Equity: Becoming Interrupters. Katy has led many IWP workshops on writing and leadership.
Amy Vujaklija – Amy Vujaklija received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Louisville in Kentucky. She teaches and advises pre-service teacher candidates in secondary English education methods and instructs freshman composition writing studies courses at Governors State University. Serving as one of the Student Education Association (SEA) faculty advisors, she helps in event planning and grant writing with future educators. Amy is also a Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) advisory board member where she assists with the planning of cross-disciplinary writing and research activities and workshops.
Steve Zemelman – As Founding Director of IWP Steve has worked on writing instruction and school reform for many years in Chicago and across the country. Among many activities, he helped found an innovative high school in Chicago, and served on the Steering Committee of the Consortium on Chicago School Research. His most recent book, Teaching for Racial Equity: Becoming Interrupters, was written with partners Tonya Perry (Director of the Red Mountain Writing Project in Birmingham) and Katy Smith. he’s promoting active student through this book and on his blog, Civic Action in Schools. For a selection of published books and articles by IWP leaders, click here.