For Immediate Release
Thursday, February 14, 2019

State Board of Education names leaders to increase teacher diversity and engage students’ cultures in the classroom

​Diverse and Learner Ready Teacher Network will help meet the needs of Illinois' increasingly diverse students

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) today announced 22 leaders from across the state selected to provide recommendations on increasing teacher diversity and promoting culturally responsive teaching. The Diverse and Learner Ready Teacher (DLRT) Network includes students and representatives from higher education, K-12 classrooms and administration, and policy and advocacy groups.

Having teachers of different races and ethnicities benefits all students as they prepare to enter a global society. “Research demonstrates that students' exposure to people who are different from themselves, and the ideas and challenges that such exposure brings, leads to improved cognitive skills, including critical thinking and problem solving," according to A Vision and Guidance for a Diverse and Learner-Ready Teacher Workforce from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Only 15 percent of teachers in Illinois' public schools are teachers of color, compared to 52 percent of students.

"This effort is about capitalizing on the tremendous expertise we possess as a state," said Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Jason Helfer, Ph.D. “Using the insights and experiences of students, educators, and advocates in this work will build upon the excellent teaching already occurring in Illinois schools. Creating the space in which students and educators can develop rich connections can lead to safer schools and stronger student outcomes."

The DLRT Network first will focus on developing culturally responsive teaching standards for educator preparation programs, so every teacher enters the classroom ready to engage and connect with diverse learners on day one. Culturally responsive teaching ensures educators of all backgrounds recognize the importance of culture to learning and incorporate students' individual cultures in instructional strategies and content.

CCSSO selected Illinois as one of 10 states to lead the national Diverse and Learner Ready Teacher initiative. The initiative supports the results of ISBE's Teach Illinois: Strong Teachers, Strong Classrooms project, which proposed solutions to ensure Illinois has a highly qualified and diverse teaching corps across its K-12 classrooms.

The Illinois DLRT Network members are:

  • Amy Butler - Adjunct Literacy Professor, Northeastern Illinois University
  • Ann-Katherine Kimble - American Literature Teacher, Muchin College Prep
  • Carter Shockey - 11th-Grade Student, Freeport High School
  • David Negron - Superintendent, Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview School District 89
  • Dylan Hu - 11th-Grade Student, Adlai E. Stevenson High School
  • Elissa Rabin - Multicultural Literature Teacher, Rauner College Prep
  • Ivette Dubiel - Director of Educational Equity, Indian Prairie School District 204
  • Janelle Scharon - STEAM Director, Aqsa School
  • Jason Dones - Director & 2CM Leadership Coach, Teach for America: Chicago-Northwest Indiana
  • Jennifer Cassell - Board Member, District 200 Board of Education
  • Jennifer Hernandez - Assistant Professor, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
  • Joshua Kaufmann - Senior Executive Director, Teach Plus Illinois
  • Keisha Rembert - ELA/History Teacher, Crone Middle School
  • Kimberly Garrett - Assistant Professor/Alternative Licensure Program Coordinator, Dominican University
  • Lynnette Mawhinney - Department Chair and Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Matthew Zediker - Chief Human Resources Officer, Rockford Public Schools
  • Maurice McDavid - Dean of Students/Social Justice Trainer, DeKalb High School
  • Noemi Cortes - Social Emotional Learning Team—Race and Diversity Lead, Goethe Elementary School
  • Rebecca Vonderlack-Navarro - Manager of Education Policy and Research, Latino Policy Forum
  • Tierionna Pinkston - Dean of Instruction, Johnson College Prep
  • Tracy Spesia - Field Experience Coordinator/Partnership Liaison, University of St. Francis
  • Violeta Cerna-Prado - Multicultural Studies Reading Teacher, UIC College Prep

Find photos and biographical information of DLRT Network members at