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Teachers Network Leadership Institute: Affiliates: Affiliates: MetLife Fellows: Chicago, IL: Bios

2009-10 Fellow Bios

Teachers Network Leadership Institute (TNLI)
Chicago Fellows 2009-10

Ann Boor became a teacher in Chicago Public Schools in 2008 after receiving a master’s in education from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Prior to working for Chicago Public Schools, Ann was an environmental educator working with children, teens, and adults in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. She also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in environmental studies and geography from the University of Colorado. 

Ann is currently in her second year of teaching second grade at Andrew Jackson Language Academy on Chicago’s near-west side. She has also won grants that have benefited her classroom and students from the Chicago Foundation for Education, The Rochelle Lee Fund (now Boundless Readers), and the Target Corporation. She enjoys teaching an after school math program and coordinating an Environmental Club for middle school students at her school.     

Xinjie Ding, a National Board Certified Teacher in Library Media, is the library media specialist at a K-8 school in the Chicago Public Schools. He serves as the Instructional Technology Coordinator and technology coach for new and experienced teachers as well as the leader of the web-based literacy programs. Xinjie is especially involved with the aspects of the curriculum that incorporates learning technologies. He has extensive training and experience in the use of instructional technology and has a deep knowledge of computer infrastructure installation. He has implemented varieties of Web 2.0 technology in his own library curriculum. As a Fund for Teachers Fellow in 2008, Xinjie researched the effect of Chinese migration on Tibetan language and culture.

Xinjie received his undergraduate degree in China and his graduate degree in the U.S. After teaching at a Chinese university for six years, Xinjie received a scholarship in 1993 and came to the United States as a graduate student at the University of Illinois. While at the university, he also worked at the university’s Division of Academic Outreach assisting in the production of online and other distance learning courses.

He has been with the Chicago Public Schools for almost ten years. 

Clair Durkes became a teacher in Chicago Public Schools in 2003 through Teach for America after graduating from Northwestern University with a B.A. in Political Science. In 2005, she graduated from National-Louis University with a M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction. She has taught both kindergarten and second grade in public schools on Chicago’s South and West sides.

Clair has won several grants that have helped her develop as a teacher and better meet the needs of her students. In the summer of 2008, Clair traveled to Costa Rica after receiving a Fund for Teachers grant to study sustainable living and ecological preservation. This resulted in the creation of a year-long environmental education curriculum that she uses in her classroom. She has also received Donor’s Choose grants for various classroom materials and the Boundless Reader Classroom Library grant twice for books.

Clair is also a National Board Certified teacher in literacy and has worked as an advisor for new teachers through the Chicago Teaching Fellow program. She is a teacher-consultant with the Chicago Area Writing Project. Currently, Clair teaches second grade at Roque de Duprey Elementary in Humboldt Park where she is helping her school implement an effective guided reading curriculum.

Meg Espinoza earned her bachelor’s degree in art history and elementary education and has earned a Master’s of Arts degree in reading education. She has been a primary grade literacy teacher at Hawthorne Scholastic Academy for the past three years. Prior to working as a reading teacher, Meg spent four years as a second grade teacher at a charter school in Chicago.

Meg enjoys helping students find a love for reading and helping them develop as writers. She has facilitated weekly writing meetings for teachers at her school and she has participated in a Rochelle Lee Fund study group focused on fostering students’ reading independence for three years.

Jerome Holland earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Chicago. Prior to becoming a teacher, he was a registered investment advisor with UBS/ PaineWebber (now UBS). He became a teacher in the Chicago Public Schools six years ago by attending the alternative certification program of the Golden Apple Foundation.
Jerome is finishing his master’ in education from the Educational Organization and Leadership program at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Currently, Jerome teaches in a seventh grade self-contained inclusion classroom at Disney Magnet School. He has teamed with another Disney teacher, Melissa Sweazy, to identify better data-based interventions for dealing with discipline related issues at his school.  

Shajaira Larrier received her B.A. in elementary Education in 2006, and immediately after, she became a middle school language arts teacher at Inter-American Magnet School. Originally from Panama, she received dual language instruction somewhat similar to the program at Inter-American. Being an English language learner herself and understanding the challenges of teaching a second language, she pursued an M.S. in Bilingual/Bicultural Education and graduated in 2008. Besides being a teacher, she is also an officer in the U.S. Army Reserves in the field of Healthcare Administration.

Shajaira was a 2009 Boundless Readers (former Rochelle Lee) awardee and a participant in the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project where she learned to teach reading with grace and rigor. She’s also a Big Read project facilitator where she organizes book discussion groups, promoting a love for reading among parents of Chicago Public School students.

Katie Lyons has been teaching elementary school for the past five years. She began her teaching career as a third grade teacher working in an urban District of Columbia public school where she was honored as the 2006-07 D.C. Public Schools Ward 5 “Outstanding Teacher of the Year.” Currently, Katie is teaching fifth grade for her second year at an urban Chicago public school and is conducting research in the area of literacy development as a Chicago Foundation for Education Teachers Network Leadership Institute MetLife Fellow.

Teaching was not Katie’s first professional career, however, and after receiving her BA in English at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, she worked with a non-profit organization, Friends of the Orphans. Through Katie’s personal and professional experiences, she has become devoted to providing effective and engaging educational opportunities for students in urban schools that are considered high needs. She received her masters in education from American University and her teaching certification as a member of the DC Teaching Fellows. In 2007-2008, Katie served as a mentor teacher for an urban teacher residency program through a partnership with George Washington University and the New Teacher Center in Santa Cruz. In the summer of 2008, Katie was able to fully realize the benefits of an advisory position in education as a Fellow Advisor for the DC Teaching Fellows 2008 cohort, a cohort of The New Teacher Project. Currently, Katie continues to devote her time and talents to placing highly effective teachers in the classrooms that need them the most by serving her second year as a mentor teacher for the Academy for Urban School Leadership.        

Kathleen Martin is a primary grade literacy teacher at Hawthorne Scholastic Academy, a Chicago public school. Kathleen has had a variety of teaching experiences as a classroom teacher for six years, eighteen years as a special education resource teacher, and five years in her current position teaching reading and writing.

Kathleen has a Masters of Education from DePaul University. She achieved National Board Certification in Literacy: Reading and Language Arts in 2007. Kathleen has always loved helping children to see themselves as readers. With the introduction of a new writing curriculum at Hawthorne, she has become especially interested in students’ writing development and the impact of the student-teacher conference on the writing process.

Kerry Mindeman became a teacher in the Chicago Public Schools nine years ago after beginning her teaching career with Teach for America.  She achieved her Masters in Education from National Louis University, and then achieved National Board Certification in 2008.  She also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Gender Studies from Knox College. 

Kerry is a science and writing teacher for fifth and sixth graders at Armour Elementary School in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood.  She has received grants from Rochelle Lee, Donors Choose, Chicago Foundation for Education, Openlands and has also worked with the RESTORE garden initiative. Currently, she leads the garden and science clubs at Armour and enjoys participating in inquiry-based learning with both her students and the professional learning community in her school. 

Emily Schwartz received her Bachelor of the Arts degree in history from Ohio Wesleyan University. She first became involved in education as a corps member in Teach for America, Chicago. After her second year of teaching she received her Masters of the Arts in Teaching from Dominican University. Emily spent her first year of teaching at a Chicago public school on the west side of the city. Following this she taught for three years at a charter school on the south side of the city. Emily was a 2008-2009 Chicago Foundation for Education small grant winner. She is currently an instructional team leader at Galapagos Charter School, where she teaches first grade.

Melissa Sweazy earned both her bachelor’s degree in psychology and her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  She recently completed her master’s degree in organization and leadership at Columbia University in New York City.  Melissa began her teaching career in fifth grade on Chicago’s northwest side, where she and a colleague developed and implemented a team-teaching program for English-language learners.  She also taught kindergarten for a couple years and is currently teaching third grade at Walt Disney Magnet School. 

This past school year, she successfully created and implemented a systematic discipline plan with a positive reinforcement component for 2nd through 4th grade.  Melissa continues to serve as the data driven instruction facilitator for her teaching team and will also be on the school’s discipline team this year as they implement the discipline plan for 1,500 students and over 100 teachers. 

Stephanie Tsakeris became a teacher in Chicago Public Schools four years ago after receiving her Masters of Arts in Teaching in secondary education from National-Louis University. She also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from The Ohio State University.  Currently, she teaches reading and writing workshop to seventh graders at Tarkington School of Excellence.  Prior to working at Tarkington, she taught seventh grade language arts for two years at Gary Elementary School. 

For the past four years, Stephanie has been awarded grants from The Rochelle Lee Fund.  This grant has allowed her to build a rich classroom library as well as to participate in a literacy study group at her school.  She also sponsors an after school girls club that empowers adolescent girls through the exploration and discussion of issues related to social and emotional development.


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