On the Road to Literacy
Opening Session Speaker
Ben Greer III | Illinois Community College Board
Ben is the Associate Director for Adult Education and Literacy - Program Support Specialist for the Illinois Community College Board. He had more than 35 years of experience in Adult Education and Literacy working with programs in correctional, community based, and community college settings. Ben Greer III holds a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership.
Closing Session Keynote Speaker
Honorable Byron Sigcho-Lopez, Alderman, 25th Ward
Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez was sworn in to serve on the Chicago City Council in May 2019 as Alderman of Chicago's 25th Ward which includes, among others, the communities of Pilsen, Chinatown, Little Italy (including the UIC campus), West Loop, South Loop, McKinely Park and Heart of Chicago. He was reelected to another 4-year term on February 28th. As an immigrant who came to the US alone as a teeenager, Byron found care in every day teachers, coaches, and community members who gave him shelter, guidance, taught him the English language and gave him a path to a good education. Ten years ago, Byron settled in Pilsen and worked as an adult education teacher, founding the bilingual adult education program at UIC. He became politically active after former Mayor Rahm Emmanuel listed a neighborhood public school for closure where Byron volunteered as a soccer coach and lead communtiy efforts to keep the school open which were ultimately successful. Later he served as the Director of the Pilsen Alliance where he was a leader in the struggle against gentrification and dispalcement, co-founding the campaign to Lift the Ban on rent control in Illinois. Byron holds a bachelors in Mathematics and Business Administration from Cumberland University and a Masters in Economics from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is currently a PhD candidate in the field of Urban Education Policy.
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Susan Chestnut | Literacy Works
Susan Chestnut has 2 master’s degrees in Education and Clinical Psychology. She earned her TEFL Certification from Language Institute Chiang Mai University (LICMU) in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Susan has experience teaching ESL to young children through older adults and from beginner level through college courses. She developed and taught LICMU’s first ESL classes for special needs students. She also created and taught U.S. citizenship classes for beginner level ESL students. Susan has worked in 4 countries and has experienced the challenges and anxiety of learning a new language as an adult. The foundation of Susan’s work is to develop a genuine, caring, supportive relationship with her learners. And to create a learning environment in which each learner feels valued, accepted and safe. Beginning ESL is her favorite level to teach. Susan currently works at Literacy Works as an ESL tutor trainer.
Tara Driver | Women Employed
As the Senior Career Pathways Manager at Women Employed, Tara Driver is charged with developing and expanding Women Employed’s Career Pathways Programs, which are designed to build equity in the advancement of the workplace and combat the education barriers that Black and Latina/x women face to obtain economic sustainability. Her years of combined experience in Adult Education, Counseling & Human Services, and Workforce Services gives her a unique perspective on how to combat the systemic and personal obstacles that adult learners face. She holds a B.S. in Psychology, M.A. in Education, Counseling & Human Services, a Professional Educators License (PEL) in School Counseling through ISBE, and a Chicago College and Career Advising Credential through the Chicago Jobs Council. She has presented at several adult education conferences, The NAWDP conference, and volunteered on Illinois Counseling Association's conference proposal selection committees. She is a member of the American and Illinois Counseling Associations and National Career Development Association.
Karen Fredrickson | Literacy Chicago
Karen Fredrickson was born in a small town in Minnesota, and came to the big city after graduation for a job opportunity as an engineer for the City of Chicago. After retiring, Karendecided to become a volunteer tutor at Literacy Chicago. Little did she know that five years later she would become a VIP in the organization. Within a couple of years, she went from tutoring and teaching to becoming a Master Tutor Trainer. Along with Joanne, she continues to teach the tutor training, in addition to teaching an Adult Literacy Class and ediiting the association's yearly publication of student writings, "Words on The Page." In 2019, she received the Spotlight on Service Award from Jessie White, Secretary of State of Illinois, for her outstanding work, her devotion to Literacy Chicago as well as her positive and uplifting attitude to every endeavor she takes on.
Dena Giacometti | Skills for Chicagoland's Future
Dena Giacometti brings more than twelve years of experience in adult education and career pathways to her current role as Director of Workforce and Career Pathways at Skills for Chicagoland’s Future. Beginning her career as an ESL adult educator at Heartland Alliance - Chicago, World Relief – Chicago, in Mexico City and Haiti. Before joining Skills, Dena served as the Dean of Adult Education at Richard J. Daley College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. In this role she managed a 3.7-million-dollar budget, oversaw a department of close to 100 staff and instructors and nearly 4,000 students annually in ESL, HSE and career pathways programming. Prior to joining Daley College, Dena held roles as the Program Director at Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition and the Adult Education Department Director at Centro Romero. She currently serves as the Finance Chair and Senior Chair of Curriculum and Instruction for ESL on the board of the Illinois Association of Continuing and Adult Educators (IACEA) Association. She is an advisory board member for the UIC Center for Literacy and Friends of Carl Von Linne. From 2015 – 2019 was elected leadership for the Area Planning Council #508 of the Illinois Community College Board. Dena was named CCLC’s Beyond Books Adult Education Provider of the Year in 2016. Dena has a Master of Education from DePaul University in Bilingual/Bicultural Education with a focus on Teaching and Learning and a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is currently obtaining a macro credential from DePaul in Value Creating Education for Global Citizenship from the Institute for Daisaku Ikeda Studies.
Margaret Goldstein | Literacy Chicago
Margaret Goldstein has been tutoring ESL students in Chicago for about 10 years. For several years she has also assisted Literacy Chicago as a volunteer both for ESL and in their training sessions for new ESL and adult literacy tutors. She taught ESL in Japan full time for two years. She is recently retired from her own business in technology training and IT systems project management.
Radhika Sharma Gordon | Apna Ghar
For more than 30 years, Radhika Sharma Gordon has been facilitating dialogues and educational sessions on violence, the needs of immigrants and refugees, the roots of abuse, and how we can work together to prevent abuse at all levels, from the personal to policy and systems advocacy. Radhika manages Outreach and Education at Apna Ghar, Inc., an organization established by Asian American women leaders in Chicago in 1989 to address the unique challenges of immigrant and refugee survivors of gender-based violence. Additionally, she has consulted for Northeastern Illinois University’s efforts to address substance abuse through classroom curricular infusion. She has led informational sessions on the curricular infusion approach for community college instructors at Wright College. Radhika received her Masters in Public Health from the University of Michigan in 1989 and has worked in a variety of local and statewide nonprofits and public health agencies over the past 33 years. Her favorite skill is bringing together various siloed sectors and marginalized populations to address abuse, health and gender disparities, and various other family issues. Radhika is also an Adjunct Instructor in Community
Health Sciences at Northeastern Illinois University.
Janise Hurtig | Howard Area Community Center
Janise Hurtig has been teaching and learning with adults for over 30 years. Currently she is a GED instructor at the Howard Area Community Center, coordinator of the Community Writing Project, and part-time faculty in the DePaul University School for Continuing and Professional Studies.
Yolaine Jean | City Colleges of Chicago
Yolaine Jean is the District Director of Adult Education Transitions for the City Colleges of Chicago, a position she assumed in November 2021. Prior to joining the City Colleges, Yolaine worked at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she served in numerous capacities including Career Transitions Coordinator, Lead Trainer and HSE/GED Instructor. Earlier in her career she served as a Tutor Facilitator for the City Colleges of Chicago and was an Educational Tutor at the Southwest Youth Collaborative. Yolaine has a BA in English, Anthropology from Union College (Schenectady, NY) and a Master of Arts in Educational Policy from DePaul University.
Laura M Johnson | Glenbard East High School
Laura M Johnson is a Literacy Specialist at Glenbard East High School. She has been teaching since 2000. Her Teaching Experience includes Middle School Social Studies, Middle School ELA (Core, Accelerated, EL, and Co-taught), Middle School Reading Specialist, High School Speech, and High School Literacy Specialist. Laura is a member of Everyone Reading Illinois and has been involved with their Legislative Team on HB 1124 requiring the use of Early Literacy and Dyslexia Screeners.
Michael Matos | ScaleLIT
Michael Matos is the Education Technology Director for scaleLIT managing the Digital Learning Lab Project, Chicago Connected (digital literacy) and more. He is also on the IACEA Board (The Voice of Adult Education in Illinois) as the Senior Director for Region 1 and Legislative Committee member. Michael is the COABE Region 3 Representatives and Technology Chair. His combined experience in education and training includes 7 years with Chicago Public Schools as a high school teacher and an additional 25+ years as an adullt education teacher and administrator. Michael is a certified ABE/ASE Adult Education Standards Specialist in Mathematics and certified English as a Second Language Standards Proficient Instructor. He has been presenting at conferences nationally since 2007. His activity ideas for teaching math, financial literacy, job readiness, science, technology and social studies for adult learners are in use by many instructors.
Jeanine Ntihirageza PhD | Northeastern Illinois University
Dr. Jeanine Ntihirageza is a Professor at Northeastern Illinois University, and coordinator of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) department. She has developed some k-20 ESL curriculum for various institutions including the Illinois Institute of Technology. She is actively involved in the fight for human rights with focus on immigrants’ issues and is a consultant for a number of organizations that serve immigrants. Since 2017 she serves as co-lead of the Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative (Chicago CHEC) outreach core. In 2019, she initiated a garden scientist project for high school immigrant and refugee students. She has presented at conferences on various issues immigrants and refugees are faced with including language, education, cultural adjustment and health. Dr. Ntihirageza holds a PhD in Linguistics
from the University of Chicago, with a specialization in Bantu languages and an MA in Applied Linguistics from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. She received her BA in English Language and Literature from the University of Burundi where she taught TEFL and EFL classes.
Becky Raymond | ScaleLIT
As executive director of scaleLIT (formerly known as Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition (CCLC)), Becky Raymond leads the organization providing resources, technical assistance and professional development to more than 30 Chicagoland adult education providers. A seasoned non-profit adult education and non-profit executive, she is dedicated to improving the lives of adults through training and education.
Susan Reynolds PhD | World Relief Chicagoland
Sue Reynolds has worked with refugees and immigrants for 35 years. She has taught many different levels of ESL, but her specialty, and passion, is working with adults who had no formal education in their native language and are learning literacy for the first time in English.
Tricia Rush | Interactive Literacy Programs and Presentations
Tricia Rush has worked with various community organizations designing and incorporating workshops geared toward music/rhythm, conflict resolution skills, creative expression, and language arts.The last several years before Covid, she was a middle school substitute teacher in Elgin School District U-46. She draws upon 20+ years of experience in classroom teaching, as well as facilitating instructional presentations and educational programming with an emphasis on Experiential Education. Tricia Rush holds a degree in Education, and certifications in Library Science, Team-building, Youth Management Techniques, and Music Education. In addition to teaching and stockpiling curriculum, she enjoys photography, painting barn quilts and playing violin.
Efrata Sasahulih | Women Employed
Efrata Sasahulih is the Program and Research Coordinator on the Policy, Programs, and Research team at Women Employed. She supports both the Career Pathways programs and the Research program. Efrata has an M.A. in Applied Social Psychology, and bachelor’s degrees in African Studies and Psychology from Loyola University Chicago. Efrata has a background in project management, research, and evaluation. She is passionate about pursuing workplace equity and educational opportunities for women, especially for immigrants, first-generation students, and women of color.
Joanne Telser-Frere | Literacy Chicago
Born in Chicago, Joanne Telser-Frere has always been an adventurer. She has lived and worked in France, Pakistan, Egypt, and Qatar. Joanne is fluent in French and can get by in Arabic. She is Program Development Manager at Literacy Chicago in charge of the Volunteer Tutor Program where she is passionate about her work! In the last year she has become a part of the Chicago Storytelling community and can often be heard telling stories at The Moth or other places around town.
Keighty Ward | Literacy Works
Keighty Ward (they/them) began their work as an educational ASL interpreter and quickly became interested in the teaching they were interpreting. They taught English as a Second Language for three years, while pursuing their M.A in Applied Linguistics. Their thesis focused on d/Deaf adult English learners, which led them to become interested in adult education specifically. They have presented at conferences on a variety of topics including Universal Design in the educational setting, Trauma-Informed Practice, and Reflective Teaching. Through their work they hope to help make education accessible and equitable for all who seek it. In their spare time, Keighty loves to grow vegetables, practice art making, or watch their cats run around in the yard.
Janee Powell | The Anixter Center
Janee Powell, Literacy Program Coordinator at Anixter Center, oversees the day to day operations of their literacy program for disabled adult learners. The student in her program must have a double diagnosis to qualify for the program. Anixter’s literacy program is serving disabled adult populations who need literacy services that are not available at other literacy programs, institutions, or locations. She partners with other Anixter services within the agency, collects and compiles data for reports, oversees the purchase of supplies, matches the learners to volunteer tutors, writes Instructional lessons for the tutors, acts as instructional coach for volunteer tutors, and coordinates the tutoring session schedule. Janee is a certified adult TESOL teacher, and Dyslexia tutor with the Children's Dyslexia Center of Metropolitan Chicago. She is in an ASL program to ensure her proficiency in sign language as a tutor, and to acquire her teacher of the deaf credentials.
LVI began by working with just four LVA programs, and today provides an array of resources and services to staff, tutors, and students in some 100 adult literacy programs statewide.
Literacy Volunteers of Illinois
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