Advisory Councils

Margaret-Byrne

Margaret Byrne

Northwest Middle School

Margaret Byrne is the principal of Northwest Middle School and is serving on the PAC to learn about district policies and collaborate with colleagues.

Growing up, Margaret spent time with her parents in the schools they worked in, and she saw the impact they had on families and communities and the pride they took in their careers. Once Margaret decided to work in education, she knew she wanted to be an administrator, and has spent her career working in neighborhood schools in Chicago’s Hermosa Park and Belmont Cragin—first as a sixth-grade teacher, and now as a principal. Margaret is currently pursuing her doctorate in urban education from the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

As principal, Margaret prioritizes relationships and restorative practices because she knows these efforts support instructional changes and student growth—especially for middle school students. Under Margaret’s leadership, Northwest staff has been focused on small group instruction across all content areas in sixth through eighth grades. Northwest emphasizes adult learning and positive classroom environments in order to promote academic growth and strengthen relationships in the school community.


Nora Cadenas

Nora Cadenas

Seward Communication Arts Academy

For eight years, Nora Cadenas has served as principal of Seward Communication Arts Academy in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. She is extremely honored to be a part of the Principal Advisory Council and looks forward to supporting her colleagues and learning from their experience.

A graduate of CPS schools, Nora’s passion for education started when her brother was placed in a program for students with diverse learning needs. She wanted to make sure that children like her brother would be given the tools necessary to reach their full potential. Serving as a principal has given Nora the opportunity to support all students as they work toward their academic, social, and emotional goals.

Nora and the Seward team are focused on ensuring that all students are prepared to succeed in a global, 21st-Century economy. She prioritizes developing teachers who put children first and who are persistent in growing their capacity to help students and colleagues grow.


Fatima Cooke

Fatima Cooke

Sumner Math and Science Community Academy

After two years as assistant principal, Fatima Cooke is serving in her third year as principal of Sumner Math and Science Community Academy. As a member of the Principal Advisory Council, Fatima seeks to tackle concerns and new initiatives on behalf of principals, teachers, and students.

A proud graduate of CPS, Fatima values the teachers and staff who guided her educational journey. She spent most of her 15 years in urban education teaching primary grades and pursued the role of principal to expand her impact.

While at Sumner, Fatima has increased the school’s partnerships to make literacy in the primary grades a focus, and she is working to reinforce her staff’s instructional pedagogy. She is committed to making sure that students in her school are exposed to a wide range of experiences that will allow them to envision who they could become in the future.


Mary Dixon

Mary Dixon

Dawes Elementary School

Mary Dixon is the principal of Dawes Elementary School located in the Ashburn community on the Southwest Side of Chicago. As a lead principal in Network 10, Mary serves on the PAC to keep her colleagues informed and share their suggestions and concerns to the CPS leadership team.

Mary comes from a family of CPS educators—her mom was an elementary school teacher, her sister was a teacher and a school psychologist, and her younger brother and her daughter are currently high school teachers. Mary joined CPS in 1985, and she worked in several schools across the city prior to joining Dawes as a fifth-grade teacher in 1993. Mary became an assistant principal in 2000 and continues to learn with and coach her staff members. She loves watching her teachers and students grow and succeed. 

Mary believes in fostering a positive and collaborative school culture. Additionally, she is committed to supporting teacher learning and success because she knows happy and prepared staff members result in happy and prepared students and families.


Leonard-Harris

Dr. Leonard Harris

Nancy B. Jefferson School

Dr. Leonard Harris is in his third year serving as principal of Nancy B. Jefferson School, which exclusively serves detained youth. Jefferson students have identifiable needs that must be met for graduation, and by targeting these needs, Leonard has improved student outcomes significantly. These needs are universal, and Leonard joined the PAC to share knowledge and learn new strategies to help all CPS students succeed. 

Leonard was inspired to become an educator as a second career. He came to CPS as a firm believer that all students embody a variety of gifts, talents, and abilities, and can learn no matter their socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and environment—a belief that has guided his leadership.

Leonard is passionate about participative leadership, and the intersection of leadership and improved student outcomes is what excites him most about his tenure as principal at Jefferson. As he evolves as a leader and facilitates the leadership journey of all members of his school community, Jefferson student outcomes continue to improve.


Shannae Jackson

Shannae Jackson

Brooks College Prep High School

Shannae Jackson is the principal of Brooks College Prep High School. She joined the Principal Advisory Council to learn more about policies and programs that impact students, schools, staff, and stakeholders. In addition, she wants to be a collaborative contributor and voice in the district’s success.

Shannae is a graduate of CPS and became an educator to advocate for equitable opportunities for students, just as the educators in her life did for her. She is passionate about setting high expectations for students while giving all children individualized supports to meet their unique needs, interests, and goals.

Shannae believes that collaboration and shared leadership are the keys to student and staff success. She relies on her talented team to provide students with high-quality educational experiences while she works to design and implement structures that impact student growth.


Alberto Juarez

Alberto Juarez

Joseph E. Gary Elementary School

Alberto Juarez is the proud principal of Joseph E. Gary Elementary School in the Little Village neighborhood on Chicago’s Southwest Side. Alberto joined the PAC so he could represent fellow Network 7 schools in discussions on district-wide policies and initiatives.

Alberto chose to pursue a career in education so he could teach and inspire students learning mathematics. Twelve years ago, Alberto decided to move into a leadership role as principal in order to have a greater impact on student achievement by coaching fellow educators and implementing school-wide actions.

At Gary Elementary, Alberto’s work focuses on creating Multi-Tiered Systems of Support, ensuring high-quality curriculum, and encouraging a culture of learning.


Manda Lukic

Manda M. Lukic

Daniel Beard Elementary School

Manda Lukic has served as the principal at Daniel Beard Elementary School for over eight years. As an intervention school promoting successful early childhood outcomes, Beard provides immediate support services to two distinctly different groups of students: preschoolers and kindergarten through third-grade students with diverse learning needs. Manda believes that all students can learn, regardless of their disability or age.

Manda has over 25 years of experience with CPS as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal. Manda was a member of the first cohort of the Chicago Principal’s Fellowship Executive Education program at Northwestern University, and she also partnered with the Chicago Public Education Fund to facilitate a diverse learner PLC with other principals in 2016. Her experience as an educator has taught her that sharing best practices with colleagues is critical to student success. She continues to advocate for student learning and works diligently with her staff to develop new strategies that will ensure diverse learner success and create opportunities for parental engagement.

At Beard, Manda works with diverse learner teachers and paraprofessionals to develop a multi-sensory teaching approach in order to achieve successful student outcomes. Beard is also home to the full-day preschool program that has earned the state’s ExceleRate Gold Circle of Quality Award. Beard has been awarded the “Exemplary” Supportive Schools certification in social-emotional learning supports for all students, the “Excelling” rating in Fine Arts, all four badges for CPS Healthy Schools, and the “Bronze” Healthy School designation with the National Alliance for Healthy Schools.


LaToya Lyons

Latoya Lyons

William H. Brown STEM Magnet School

Latoya Lyons is a twenty-year CPS educator and the proud principal of William H. Brown STEM Magnet School in the Near West community on the West Side of Chicago. Latoya joined the PAC because she believes in the district’s vision and wants to be an active contributor to positive change.

Latoya knew that her purpose in life was to become an educator when she discovered as a kindergartner that she loved learning and helping others learn by tutoring her younger siblings and classmates. Latoya has served many roles within CPS, including teacher, framework specialist, school and network instructional coach, assistant principal, and principal. She believes firmly in the power of visionary leadership and strong adult role models, and she attributes her desire to become a principal to the countless teachers, coaches, and mentors that helped her understand that education can truly change a child’s trajectory no matter their circumstances.

At WBrown, Latoya focuses on improving school culture by prioritizing social and emotional learning for students and adult community members, fostering collaborative practices to support staff in implementing high-quality instruction, and meeting the needs of all students. She and her team are passionate about preparing WBrown students for their futures by providing a high-quality STEM education that builds students’ collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity skills.


Raul Magdaleno

Raul Magdaleno

Thomas Kelly High School

Raul Magdaleno is in his second year serving as principal of Thomas Kelly High School in Chicago’s Brighton Park Community. As a former CPS student, teacher, and current CPS parent, Raul brings the voices of all stakeholders to his role on the Principal Advisory Council.

From a young age, Raul learned the value of an education from his parents, who emigrated to the U.S. from Jalisco, Mexico. They stressed that education is the key to any future success, and Raul applied this belief as he worked to overcome the challenges of being an English learner. This experience has propelled him to champion equitable access to education for all students.

As the principal of Kelly High School, Raul’s focus is to ensure that all students are prepared for success in college, career, and community. His goals include breaking down systemic barriers, expanding college-level classes, and working with all stakeholders to best prepare students for life beyond the walls of Kelly High School.


Emily Mason Muchin

Emily Mason

Muchin College Prep

Emily Mason is the proud principal of Muchin College Prep (Go Mountain Lions!), and serves on the PAC to bring a charter school perspective to district policy discussions and actions. Emily is also focused on bringing what she learns from the PAC back to her own network.

Emily was drawn primarily to the field of education because both of her parents are retired public school educators. As a school leader, Emily is passionate about using her privilege to provide life-altering education to her scholars, create greater opportunity for Muchin students to get their seat at the decision-making table, and tell scholars of color that their lives and education matters.

This year at Muchin, Emily is prioritizing encouraging staff engagement, improving teacher retention, and driving equitable discipline and academic outcomes for African-American scholars.


Emily Mason Muchin

Lydia Menzer

Chicago Academy High School

Lydia Menzer is the proud principal of Chicago Academy High School. She is honored to join the Principal Advisory Council to serve as a liaison between the principals in her network and Central Office. Lydia is also eager to have a voice in conversations about how to continue the tremendous growth being achieved in CPS high schools.

As a high school English teacher in CPS, Lydia led hear students to significant academic growth. She knew she could replicate that same success at the school-level and decided to pursue a pathway to school leadership.

This year, Lydia’s focus is to ensure that all students are receiving common social-emotional learning approaches and individualized tiered supports as necessary. Lydia has implemented instructional and behavioral strategies that have decreased discipline referrals and increased student attendance and on-track rates at every


Ali Mohammed

Ali N. Muhammad

Corliss Early College STEM High School

Ali Muhammad is the proud principal of his alma mater, Corliss Early College STEM High School. Ali is serving on the PAC to champion the vision of excellent senior leadership in CPS and to be an integral part of the district’s growth as we strive to provide equitable education to students across the city.

Even though Ali initially planned to attend law school, he ended up student teaching in an elementary school while completing a minor in education. After Ali experienced his students’ reaction to his enthusiasm and high energy level—and considered having summers off—Ali embarked on his career as an educator. As someone who always seeks a challenge, Ali was then motivated to move into administration.

Ali’s goal is to help Corliss become neighborhood students’ top school choice by improving academic culture, instructional rigor, and students’ preparedness for post-secondary options. Ali and his staff are also focused on increasing the number of extracurricular programs and activities available for Corliss students and ultimately creating a school that serves the needs of his students’ generation.


Joseph Powers, Ph.D.

Joseph Powers, Ph.D.

Jones College Prep

Joseph Powers joined CPS in 2008 as principal of Jones College Prep and serves on the PAC to provide district leadership with a perspective informed by more than 45 years in the field of education.

After many years working as a teacher in both public and private schools, Joseph was inspired to become a principal by a desire to broaden his ability to serve the needs of all students. As principal, he aims to provide his entire school community with the leadership, resources, and support needed to help students reach their full potential.

Joseph aims to develop students who are intellectually competent, socially skilled and mature, compassionate, socially just and responsible, and well-rounded. The school’s “2020 Vision” emphasizes ensuring equitable access and support for every member of Jones’ diverse student community.


Anthony Rodriguez

Anthony Rodriguez

Carl Schurz High School

Anthony Rodriguez is the principal of Carl Schurz High School in Chicago’s Old Irving Park neighborhood. He is proud to serve on the Principal Advisory Council and hopes to represent the voices of his fellow neighborhood high school principals.

With more than 16 years in public education, Anthony’s work as principal is fueled by his desire to ensure students have opportunities to lead healthy, happy, and impactful lives. His current focus areas include developing and supporting teacher leadership, as well as building capacity within grade level teams to provide advanced levels of social, emotional, and academic interventions for all students.


Lydia Menzer

Lydia Ryan

Chicago Academy High School

Lydia Ryan is the proud principal of Chicago Academy High School (CAHS), and joined the PAC to serve as a liaison between principals in her network and Central Office, as well as to participate in conversations about how to continue the tremendous growth in the district’s high schools.

As a CPS high school English teacher, Lydia built lasting relationships with students and helped her students make significant academic growth. Lydia knew she could replicate that same success at a school-wide level, so she pursued a pathway to school leadership.

Under Lydia’s leadership, CAHS has made significant changes to school culture, resulting in record-high on-track, graduation, and attendance rates. This year, CAHS is focused on encouraging educators to learn from one another by providing feedback on unit plans and summative assessments, visiting each other’s classrooms, and analyzing assessment data in order to adjust instruction and meet the needs of all students. Lydia hopes that these strategic efforts will result in above-average student growth on the PSAT and SAT.


Fareeda Shabazz

Fareeda Shabazz

Richard T. Crane Medical Preparatory High School

Fareeda Shabazz is the founding principal of Richard T. Crane Medical Preparatory High School, Chicago’s premier health science high school. As principal, Fareeda is responsible for directing Crane’s marketing and branding efforts, establishing viable and sustainable partnerships within the Illinois Medical District, developing a student-focused college-preparatory curriculum, and recruiting dedicated teachers. Fareeda joined the PAC in order to serve her fellow educators and to share her perspective on developing and sustaining new schools in the district. 

As a child, Fareeda aspired to become a medical doctor, but then found herself drawn to the field of education after a college internship with the National Institute of Health showed her the importance of educational equity, particularly for African American men. Prior to becoming a principal, Fareeda taught secondary-level English and coached fellow educators as an instructional leader. 

Fareeda’s mission is to develop competent and resilient leaders in order to tackle educational issues, such as the achievement gap, teacher retention, school reform, and distributive leadership. Fareeda is committed to creating sustainable, academically-rigorous and competitive centers of learning for minority children.


Femi-Skanes

Dr. Femi Skanes

Morgan Park High School

Dr. Femi Skanes is in her eighth year serving as the proud principal of Morgan Park High School. She is passionate about using a Multi-Tiered System of Supports framework to propel student success. Femi joined the PAC to use her expertise as a seasoned CPS administrator to promote success and provide feedback on various district initiatives. She deeply believes in the CPS mission and is honored to serve on the PAC for a second year.

After graduating with a degree in business information systems, Femi began her career as a business executive. It did not take long before she realized that education was her true calling. After just a few months of teaching, Femi’s principal encouraged her to explore the possibility of becoming a principal, and so Femi continued to hone her skills as an educator. Femi considers serving as a principal her dream job because she loves serving students, supporting teachers, collaborating with parents, and partnering with the community.

While there are many great things happening in her school community, Femi and her staff are primarily focused on ensuring that educational equity is a reality for every single Morgan Park student.


Jennifer Sutton

Jennifer Sutton

Friedrich Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center

Jennifer Sutton is in her twenty-first year as an educator and her second year as principal at Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center. Jennifer joined the PAC to support the district’s focus on equity, design solutions based on the CPS Five-Year Vision, and focus on providing schools with the resources they need to succeed.

As a proud CPS graduate, Jennifer was inspired to pursue teaching and to eventually become a principal out of appreciation for the education she received and her belief that education and culture are the foundation for a more peaceful society. Her experiences as a student, teacher, instructional coach, administrator, and parent have solidified her commitment to foster a humanistic approach in her work.

Jennifer hopes to continue the academic success of her school, expand early college opportunities, and create the most supportive learning environment so that students realize their full potential. She models reflection, authenticity, and compassion to ensure that progress is based on staff and student voice.


Melissa-Sweazy

Melissa Sweazy

Esmeralda Santiago Charter School - Acero

Melissa Sweazy is in her ninth year as the founding principal of Esmeralda Santiago Charter School - Acero. She is serving on the PAC for a second year because she believes deeply in CPS and wants to elevate the voices of principals, teachers, and students. Melissa actively seeks opportunities to work alongside her CPS colleagues and appreciates acting as a liaison between charter schools and traditional district schools.

Melissa grew up in a rural, impoverished community downstate and recalls nearly one third of her classmates dropping out because they felt like school wasn’t meant for them. While she loved teaching in the district, she wanted to make change on a grander scale and build a school that teaches every single student that they not only belong, but are needed.

Melissa and her team at Santiago continue to focus on developing an equitable school model through multi-age classrooms, competency-based instruction, student-led conferences, mentoring, a k–8 student interest-based elective block, and much more. She is most passionate about equipping students with the skills, confidence, and social-political consciousness necessary to disrupt the status quo and exercise their voice and choice in their school, community, and beyond.


Swenson Brigitte.jpg

Brigitte Swenson

Peace and Coalition High School

Brigitte Swenson has proudly dedicated twenty-two years to the Peace and Education Coalition High School (PECHS) as a founding teacher and principal. After leading PECHS for eleven years, she continues to focus on positively impacting the educational experiences of our district’s most vulnerable students. As a member of the PAC, Brigitte hopes to offer her perspective, experience, and support to the district as CPS continues its commitment to equity and excellence for all students.

Brigitte became a principal for the same reasons she was drawn to teaching—she believes that all young people deserve access to a high-quality education and caring, supportive adults to accompany them along the way. While her experience as an educator in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood has shaped her in numerous ways, the most crucial thing her school community has taught her is the importance of resiliency and hope.

At PECHS, Brigitte prioritizes educational opportunities that are often unavailable at alternative high schools, such as athletics and extracurricular activities, individualized post-secondary planning, earning college credits and early career credentials, and Advanced Placement courses.


Kelly Thigpen

Kelly Thigpen

Burnside Scholastic Academy

Kelly Thigpen is principal of Burnside Scholastic Academy on the South Side of Chicago, and serves on the PAC as a voice for her staff, students, and families. Over the past 20-plus years, Kelly has developed a big-picture perspective on the district through her experiences as a CPS student, parent, teacher, math coach, assistant principal, and currently, principal.

Kelly grew up knowing she wanted to be an educator—she was always the teacher when her family played school on their front step. Although Kelly ended up pursuing her bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, her heart always belonged to teaching, and she eventually went back to school to get her master’s degree in education. 

Under Kelly’s leadership, Burnside staff are focused on developing children with both character and confidence—students who are not only academically astute but also socially, emotionally, and mentally capable of success in life beyond school.


Jasmine Thurmond

Jasmine L. Thurmond

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Academy of Social Justice

Jasmine L. Thurmond is the principal of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Academy of Social Justice in the Englewood community on the South Side of Chicago. She joined the PAC because it is an opportunity to help the CPS vision come into fruition, and actively and positively contribute to refining district-wide policies and procedures to ultimately increase student achievement and success.

As a proud CPS alumnus, Jasmine was inspired to enter the field of education by a plethora of tireless, loving, and dedicated teachers. Her goal is to pay forward the culturally-responsive empowerment, compassion, and high expectations she received as a CPS student in order to help children and families interrupt and rewrite the narratives of their communities.

King Academy is a member of the Empowered Schools Cohort 2, and Jasmine is focused on implementing distributed leadership throughout the school in order to increase student achievement, family engagement, and teacher retention. In addition, King Academy is working to increase student achievement and attainment by incorporating writing across all content areas.


Amy Vondra Hamilton

Dr. Amy Vondra

Alexander Hamilton Elementary School

Dr. Amy Vondra is the principal of Alexander Hamilton Elementary School and serves on the PAC in order to support the district’s continuous improvement efforts to provide a high-quality education to all students.

Amy passionately believes that all children can learn and have the right to a high-quality, engaging education. As principal, Amy prioritizes building a positive, collaborative culture that focuses on school growth, and she strives to ensure all students are supported and challenged academically while developing a love of learning.

Amy leads Hamilton with the knowledge that students succeed when they are learning in an encouraging and supportive environment; connecting new information to their own experiences and knowledge; being creative and making choices about activities and assignments; having their parents involved in their education; and forming positive connections with adult role models.

Katherine Arbuckle

Katherine Arbuckle

Like many future educators, Katherine played school as a young child and never let anyone else be the teacher. She developed a passion for urban education while a student at Butler University and believes that every child is capable of success if given the equitable education they deserve.

Katherine currently serves as a first-grade teacher at Mitchell Elementary School. She is passionate about the importance of arts education, integrating music into her classroom, and directing the annual musical at her school.

During her time on the Teacher Advisory Council, Katherine hopes to develop her leadership skills and help influence positive change throughout the district. She is eager to learn from her colleagues and looks forward to tackling issues that can improve the experience of all children.


Nicole Clair

Nicole Clair

Nicole has been a teacher for the past 11 years, but it was not her first career. She started out in television news and was moved by the stories she covered involving CPS students. She made the decision to leave the news desk for the classroom with the goal of impacting, educating, and inspiring Chicago’s youth.

Nicole currently serves as a special education teacher at Burnham Math and Science Academy. She also serves as a member of the school’s Instructional Leadership Team and is the lead for restorative practices and the MTSS and Behavioral Health Team. Nicole believes passionately in the potential of her students and feels most rewarded when children master content and are excited about learning.

Nicole joined the Teacher Advisory Council to broaden her leadership skills and help launch critical initiatives that will improve the experience of CPS students and teachers. She hopes to grow into an administrator who specializes in supporting students with diverse learning needs.


Maggie Cramer

Maggie Cramer

Maggie’s desire to teach arose from her own love of learning. She never tires of finding meaning in poetry, narrative, and art, and she wants to share that joy every day with her students.

Maggie currently teaches 9th grade English at George Westinghouse College Prep in Garfield Park. She is inspired daily by Westinghouse’s cohesive school community and commitment to providing students with a rigorous and well-rounded education that is rooted in data.

Through her time at Westinghouse, Maggie has learned about the power of teacher leadership from the innovative and dedicated educators that surround her. She hopes to bring that energy to the Teacher Advisory Council, with the belief that real change springs from passionate individuals working together.


Cornell Davis

Cornell Davis

Master Sergeant Cornell Davis is a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Army who has a passion for working with youth and helping them find their personal identity. He values his time in front of students and sees his teaching as an opportunity to reflect, grow, and be a better resource for his students, colleagues, and community.

Cornell began his teaching career in 2008 and currently serves as a JROTC instructor at Steinmetz College Prep High School. He works to motivate his students to become better citizens and routinely collaborates with his colleagues in the CPS JROTC network to improve instruction and practice.

Cornell joined the Teacher Advisory Council to help ensure that district-wide plans and policies are data driven and include input from classroom teachers.


Joy Dickson

Joy Dickson

Joy has been an educator for more than 20 years, working in Chicago, Boston, Japan and China. She has served children as a classroom teacher, an instructional coach, and a department chair and enjoys training and inspiring people to achieve their career and educational goals.

Joy currently serves as a teacher in the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program at Simeon Career Academy. She has also served as a history teacher at Simeon and as a faculty member in the school’s Teaching Academy.

Joy’s teaching experiences and desire to advocate for students is what inspired her to join the Teacher Advisory Council.


Ernesto Garza

Ernesto Garza

Ernesto became a teacher because he knows that a quality education changes lives and believes that every student deserves teachers who are dedicated to high-quality instruction and growth.

Ernesto teaches 11th and 12th-grade English at the Noble Academy. A former participant in the Golden Apple Scholars Program, he is dedicated to increasing postsecondary success by growing student confidence, cultivating student voice, and creating a culture where students take ownership of their learning and achievements.

Ernesto joined the Teacher Advisory Council to collaborate with other teacher leaders in the hope of creating positive change.


Andrea Gordon

Andrea Gordon

From the time she was a child, Andrea knew she wanted to become a teacher. She wants all students to have a safe and supportive environment in which to learn, and she works to foster a love of learning that children can take with them when they leave her classroom.

Andrea has been a teacher for 20 years, six of them with CPS. She currently teaches 5th and 6th grade students at Edgebrook Elementary School, where she is also a case manager. Her leadership roles outside the classroom include serving as a member of Edgebrook’s Local School Council and as a founding member of the school’s Behavioral Health Team.

Andrea joined the Teacher Advisory Council to work with teachers across CPS and to influence change district-wide.


Ronald Hale

Ronald Hale

A proud graduate of CPS schools, Ronald views teaching as both a science and an art. He sees education as a holistic profession where all aspects of a student’s learning environment should be considered when helping them find their voice and place in the world.

Ronald currently serves as a teacher at Hayt Elementary School where he is focused on inquiry methods that boost critical thinking and creativity. He specializes in early STEM education and social learning. He is also working on evidence-based research projects to help design classrooms of the future and encourage children to use their natural curiosity as a vehicle for directing learning and establishing respect for all things and all people.

Ronald joined the Teacher Advisory Council to influence policies that will help students reach their full potential in environments that are safe and encourage risk-taking and the sharing of ideas.


Dayna Heller

Dayna Heller

Dayna became a teacher to expand access and opportunity for Chicago’s most vulnerable children. She is inspired by the talent and resiliency of her students and feels lucky to be able to work with young people every day.

Dayna currently serves as a special education teacher at Sullivan High School and specializes in English and reading instruction. The compassion, humor, and curiosity of her students is what inspires Dayna to continue growing as a teacher.

Dayna joined the Teacher Advisory Council to collaborate with her colleagues and generate creative solutions that will improve outcomes for students. She also feels that the perspective of teachers is vital to the areas of policy and problem solving.


Kat Henry

Kat Henry

For Kat, school was always a place that celebrated individuals and provided enticement for what the world had to offer. She felt empowered as a student and became a teacher to bring that same sense of inclusivity and possibility to student populations who might not believe that they can succeed in school.

Kat currently serves as a special education teacher at Pulaski Elementary School. She works to provide instruction that cultivates students’ innate talents, honors their interests, and ultimately teaches them to be self-determined and self-actualized. She loves observing the gradual yet powerful shift of a student being a passive player in their own learning to becoming self-aware, self-regulating, and able to self-advocate.

Kat joined the Teacher Advisory Council to meet others who share her values but challenge her thinking, hoping that together they can advocate for the holistic needs of students. She welcomes the opportunity to work with divergently-thinking, solutions-orientated professionals who share her passion for education.


Sara Ivory

Sara Ivory

Sara was drawn to a career in education by her lifelong love of learning. She is incessantly curious and always eager for new challenges. She has been inspired by countless teachers, leaders, and researchers to challenge the status quo in an effort to enhance the experience of her students.

Sara is the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (IB PYP) Coordinator for the Ogden International School of Chicago. She was exposed to international schools during eight years living abroad and has since been committed to this inquiry-based, student-driven, globally-minded framework. She now works with teachers and students in all 35 of Ogden’s K-5 classrooms, spending her days co-planning, co-teaching, and coaching.

Sara joined the Teacher Advisory Council after actively supporting the consolidation of Ogden and Jenner Academy of the Arts. Her hope is to work with other education professionals to continue the discussion around equitable access to high-quality programming for all of Chicago’s students.


Ryan Jacobi

Ryan Jacobi

It was his love of reading that inspired Ryan to become a teacher. He spent two years volunteering with AmeriCorps and now teaches Kindergarten and 1st grade at Ravenswood Elementary School.

Ryan is passionate about early childhood education because he feels that this influential time can shape the trajectory of a student’s entire academic experience. He feels there is no greater joy than seeing the excitement of early readers after experiencing a new book together.

Ryan joined the Teacher Advisory Council to expand his thinking about public education and the challenges facing schools in all of Chicago’s neighborhoods, including issues of race and equity. He also hopes to discover how the educational philosophy at Ravenswood aligns with policies being created at the district level.


Rivanna Jihan

Rivanna Jihan

Rivanna didn’t choose teaching. It chose her. Throughout her youth, no matter what she was doing, Rivanna always seemed to be teaching others. That led to a college degree in History and a career in education, the last eight years of which have been spent at Simeon Career Academy.

Rivanna is happiest when she is teaching and enjoys working with teenagers. She also has a passion for discussing pedagogy, creating new curriculum, and reflecting on her own practice, which is what drove her to become a National Board Certified Teacher.

Rivanna joined the Teacher Advisory Council to help shape policy that impacts both teaching and workplace conditions. She is particularly interested in teacher retention, as she wants to find new ways of encouraging her colleagues to remain in this important field.


Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson

Andrew became a teacher because he believes that equitable access to education is the foundation of democracy. He enjoys having intellectual conversations with students and seeing them grow into thoughtful people who are willing to be challenged and who can challenge others intellectually.

Andrew teaches in the Social Science Department at Westinghouse College Prep. He also helps lead the college counseling program, as he believes that all teachers can play a positive role in shaping students’ postsecondary pathways.

Now entering the third decade of his teaching career, Andrew aspires to help transform the way CPS high schools prepare students and families for the transition to college. Andrew joined the Teacher Advisory Council to learn more about district-wide issues and help shape future policy considerations.


Carla Jones

Carla Jones

Carla has worked in the field of education for 17 years and draws her inspiration from seeing her students grow academically, socially, and emotionally.

Carla is a National Board Certified Teacher at Cook Elementary School. She believes that there is nothing better than seeing her students, and former students, grow and develop a sense of self.

Carla’s goals include widening her impact of influence in the field of education. She joined the Teacher Advisory Council to bring the voice of south side teachers to the forefront and share her experiences implementing district initiatives.


Katie Jones-Espinales

Katie Jones-Espinales

Katie became a teacher because she wanted a career where her day-to-day impact would improve the lives of others. She loves having the opportunity to help children find their talents and confidence. Katie works to expose them to new ideas and experiences while showing them the beauty and power of language.

Katie serves as an English teacher at Lincoln Park High School and is passionate about equity and culturally responsive teaching.

She joined the Teacher Advisory Council to connect with thoughtful and engaged teachers from across the district and to make a connection between district initiatives and her own work.


Cynthia Juarez

Cynthia Juarez

Cynthia had a fifth grade teacher who believed that she, an English Learner, had the potential to become a strong reader who was successful in the classroom. That experience inspired Cynthia to become a teacher who provides all students with the supports they need to thrive.

A National Board Certified Teacher and reading specialist, Cynthia teaches kindergarten at Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz Classical and STEAM Elementary School. She is passionate about social-emotional learning and instills self-confidence and personal development by teaching students to understand their identity, accept others, and maintain a growth mindset.

Cynthia joined the Teacher Advisory Council to impact student learning and help develop policies that support the growth and development of social-emotional learning for both students and teachers. She also hopes to build her leadership capacity, as her professional aspiration is to become a school principal.


Shamika Keepers

Shamika Keepers

Shamika always knew that she would be an educator. She can recall every teacher she ever had, and their impact is what inspired her to make a difference in the lives of future generations.

Shamika is currently a kindergarten teacher at Bronzeville Classical School. She works to educate young learners so that they can become their best and brightest selves, and she strives to provide young children with the foundation they need to flourish academically, socially and emotionally.

Shamika joined the Teacher Advisory Council to affect change for Chicago’s youth beyond her own classroom. She is excited to bring her perspective to senior leadership and collaborate with teachers across the district.


Rita Leary

Rita Leary

Working as a student docent in the Geology Museum at the University of Wisconsin, Rita learned the value of inquiry and how it sparks the minds of young learners.

Rita is a science and social science teacher for middle school students at Ashburn Community Elementary School. The connections she has made with students, their families, and her colleagues have made her treasure her career as an educator.

Rita joined the teacher advisory council to learn more about leadership in CPS and to extend her influence beyond her classroom and school to the district at large. She hopes that all CPS teachers can feel proud and supported as they serve the students of Chicago.


Samantha Mann

Samantha Mann

Samantha’s was inspired by her mother, a special education teacher, to pursue a career in teaching. She works to ensure that all students have equal access to a quality high school education and that they are prepared for success in college and career.

For six years, Samantha has worked in schools that are designed to bridge the opportunity gap that remains for students of color, for children with disabilities, and for other diverse learners. She currently serves as a 12th-grade learning specialist at Muchin College Prep, and her favorite experiences are what she calls the “ah-ha” moments – times when her students grasp a concept and begin to build their confidence.

Samantha joined the Teacher Advisory Council to expand her work beyond the students she serves and impact her community on a broader scale.


Cathleen Martin

Cathleen Martin

Cathleen was inspired to enter the field of education by a combination of factors: her love for history, her experiences as an African American student, and her desire to close the achievement gap.

Cathleen is a history teacher at Jones College Prep. She sees history as a means of helping students gain a sense of self. She also believes that students will be able to better serve themselves in the future if they have strong command of the past. Cathleen is committed to being a leader in the area of global studies and hopes to publish her own high school curriculum in Middle Eastern Studies.

Cathleen joined the Teacher Advisory Council because she is passionate about the success of CPS students. She looks forward to contributing to solutions that will build on the district’s many successes.


Jaime McLaughlin

Jaime McLaughlin

Jaime was inspired to become an educator by his father, an administrator and National Hall of Fame wrestling coach. He observed the passion and dedication his father brought to his career and sought to follow in his footsteps.

Jaime is a 5th grade mathematics teacher at Chavez Multicultural Academic Center. In addition to helping his students make gains in the classroom, Jamie teaches his students how to be agents of change in their school communities, city, and beyond.

Jaime joined the Teacher Advisory Council to address the issue of equity while working alongside other like-minded teachers.


Dan Monaghan

Dan Monaghan

Dan did not have an easy time as a student, often resisting the teachers and authority figures who tried to unleash his potential. After attending a restorative practice conference with his high school principal, Dan was inspired to build relationships and connect with students who feel disconnected from their schools.

Dan is an English teacher, 12th grade dean, and spoken word poetry coach at the Noble Network’s DRW College Prep in Lawndale. Most recently, Dan has been focused on developing and implementing standards-based proficiency rubrics. He hopes to empower students with the skills needed to persist to and through college and career success.

Dan joined the Teacher Advisory Council to collaborate with teachers across Chicago to ensure educational equity for all students.


Megan Plante

Megan Plante

Megan became an educator seventeen years ago as a part of the Inner-City Teaching Corps. She wanted to provide students in the inner-city with the high quality education she received in the suburbs of Detroit.

Megan is a 3rd and 4th-grade mathematics teacher at Esmeralda Santiago Acero School. She strives to empower her students to be deep thinkers, good communicators, compassionate leaders, and problem solvers. She uses peer mediation and community circles to help foster community and leadership in the classroom. Watching her students grow as a team fuels her passion for elementary education.

Megan joined the Teacher Advisory Council because she is passionate about providing a high quality education to all students in Chicago. She wants to work with other passionate educators to help Chicago’s schools be everything the students deserve them to be.


Halle Quezada

Halle Quezada

Before becoming an educator, Halle majored in neuroscience and worked in labs studying the neural basis of both learning disabilities and bilingualism. She uses the research in this area, alongside Montessori’s philosophy, to inform her practice and provide a stimulating environment that instills a love of learning, a connection to culture, and a clear sense of purpose for every child.

A teacher at Suder Montessori Magnet School, Halle believes that a sincere conviction in the promise of children transforms the social duty of an educator into a mission. She sees herself as a consultant in each child’s journey of self-discovery and looks forward to following her students’ contributions to humanity.

Halle joined the Teacher Advisory Council in pursuit of her mission to better the world for children and equip them to better the world for future generations.


Sarah Reardon

Sarah Reardon

Sarah became an educator because teaching provides opportunities to build community, advocate for social justice, foster literacy, support students and families, and engage her curiosity about the world and people.

Sarah teaches 4th grade departmentalized literacy and social studies at Casals School of Excellence. She strives to integrate service learning into her classroom and create authentic opportunities for real-world application. Watching students take ownership of their learning is the most rewarding part of teaching for Sarah.

Sarah joined the Teacher Advisory Council to support and advocate for her school community. She is proud to join a citywide, collaborative, and problem-solving community that is committed to improving our schools.


John Roseboom

John Roseboom

John became a teacher to foster an environment where students of all backgrounds can find a place to learn, create, and perform music.

John is a veteran music educator and serves as Director of Bands at North-Grand High School. His ensembles regularly earn the highest ratings at adjudicated music competitions, and he hopes to become part of a district leadership or curriculum team to help other teachers and school leaders foster the arts.

John joined the Teacher Advisory Council to bring his sixteen years of teaching in rural, suburban, and urban school districts across the country to the table as the Council takes on challenges that face our students and communities every day.


Katie Styzek

Katie Styzek

Katie chose the field of education because she wanted to work in a career focused on serving others. She values the relationships she has formed with students and colleagues and is constantly impressed by the drive, passion, and kindness of her students.

Katie served as a middle school teacher for four years prior to becoming a school counselor. She currently works as a counselor at Alessandro Volta Elementary School, and her favorite part of her role is working with students to develop a path that will enable them to achieve their goals.

Katie joined the Teacher Advisory Council because she enjoys being inspired by and learning from other teachers in the district. She believes that schools have the power to transform communities and looks forward to collaborating with educators and district leaders to make a positive impact.


Jami Tillis

Jami Tillis

A proud graduate of CPS schools, Jami spent her young adult life wondering how she could better her city while helping children become the best versions of themselves. This dream, along with the CPS teachers who taught her the value of a good education, inspired Jamie to become a teacher.

Jami is a 6th-grade language arts teacher at Phillip Rogers Elementary School. She loves seeing her students grow academically and emotionally while in her classroom. Her future goal is to support teachers and students as an assistant principal in CPS.

Jami joined the Teacher Advisory Council to gain leadership experience while working with a team of teachers who are mutually invested in the success of the district. She is passionate about hiring and retaining excellent teachers and providing a quality public education for Chicago’s children.


Yvette Vazquez

Yvette Vazquez

Yvette was inspired to become an educator by her mother, whose own teachers instilled in her a belief in community and the knowledge that education is key to developing the future leaders of tomorrow.

Yvette currently serves as a world language Spanish teacher at DeVry University Advantage Academy High School. She enjoys learning alongside her students and is constantly inspired by the perspective they bring to the classroom.

Yvette joined the Teacher Advisory Council because she is passionate about supporting equity across Chicago and providing students with a holistic education that extends beyond the classroom.


Matt Vonderheide

Matt Vonderheide

Matt was inspired to become a teacher after a summer working as a zoo camp instructor opened his eyes to an undiscovered passion. He is inspired by the creativity of children.

Matt is a computer science teacher and the CTE department chair at Curie High School. As an educator, he enjoys finding new and innovative ways to engage students in learning, channel their creative strengths, and improve their problem solving skills.

Matt joined the Teacher Advisory Council to learn from his colleagues and address policy change on a broader scale.


Nicole Zumpano

Dustin Voss

During his sophomore year of college, at the urging of one of his professors, Dustin audited a high school English class in a CPS school. The teacher he observed inspired him to pursue a career in education. Ever since, Dustin has been committed to the field and believes that a strong public education is the foundation of a healthy democracy.

Dustin teaches at Fenger Academy High School. His favorite part of teaching is seeing children realize their potential, make their own choices, and bring their unique talents and perspective to their community.

Dustin joined the Teacher Advisory Council to share his perspective and provide feedback at a systemic level.


Abi Wilberding

Abi Wilberding

Before becoming a teacher, Abi worked at a non-profit where she empowered refugee girls through teaching responsive curriculum. Abi's experiences creating curriculum and running an after-school program abroad inspired her to become an educator and shaped her passion for making learning authentic.

Abi currently teaches English at Von Steuben Metropolitan High School. Deeply passionate about progressive models of education and responsive instruction, Abi is grateful for the moments when students gain autonomy and learning becomes real.

Abi joined the Teacher Advisory Council to connect with active leaders working to give students and teachers a voice in policy. She hopes to assist in developing programs and policies that support teachers and students around issues of equity.

Page Last Modified on Wednesday, June 03, 2020