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IRC Region 5

Session Descriptions

Sonya Whitaker "Creating a Culture of Achievement during the Era of Common Core State Standards" 

Keynote Address - Dr. Sonya Whitaker

Pressure has been put on educators to produce more results than ever before in the history of public education. At the same time, demographic shifts are bringing a more diverse population of students to schools. Educators are striving to respond but many lack the cultural proficiency needed to address the needs of a diverse student population (Nelson and Guerra 2007). During Sonya Whitaker's inspiring keynote presentation, educators and administrators will develop the cultural proficiencies needed to dramatically improve student achievement. She will provide participants with practical instructional and assessment strategies that will prove beneficial in significantly increasing the achievement levels of all students, but more specifically, students from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Dr. Sonya L. Whitaker currently serves as Superintendent in Lockport, Illinois. In her role she is responsible for establishing and maintaining the fiscal health of the school district, increasing the academic achievement levels of the students, making policy recommendations to the Board of Education, and appropriately allocating financial, technological and human resources to achieve the goal of "Ensuring High Levels of Learning for All."

Prior to her appointment to the position of Superintendent she served as a central office administrator for the largest elementary school district in the state of Illinois. At the district level, she held the titles of Director for Academic Improvement and Director of Literacy. In those positions she was responsible for coordinating curriculum, instruction, assessment and implementing research-based professional development opportunities for literacy coaches, reading specialists, principals and classroom teachers. Her responsibilities also included monitoring, analyzing and interpreting state and district data for continuous improvement of student achievement in the area of literacy.

Dr. Whitaker is a national speaker and she has provided consultation in the form of keynote presentations and town hall think-tank discussions to educators, politicians, community and faith based organizations in Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, Milwaukee, Kentwood and Benton Harbor, Michigan, San Diego, Los Angeles and Palm Springs, California.

Technology of Today and Tomorrow's Future

This session will offer ways educators can incorporate technology into their 21st century classrooms.

Tracy Tarasiuk is a reading specialist for 5th through 8th grades at Park Campus School in Grayslake District 46. She is also a doctoral candidate at Northern Illinois University where she teaches graduate classes for the literacy department. Her dissertation involves the creation and validation of a self-efficacy scale for adolescent literacy. Her hope is that such a scale will be useful as a data collection tool that will add to teachers' knowledge of students and their engagement in traditional literacy practices and in information and communication technologies. She won IRA's Technology and Reading Award in 2009. She has written articles for the Journal of Adult and Adolescent Literacy and In the Middle, both describing the integration of technology in reading instruction. She chairs the Illinois Reading Council's Technology Committee and serves as co-president for the Lake Area Reading Council.

Five Keys to Unlocking Deep Learning

This session will present research on the brain's "information input process" to last beyond a weekly quiz and prepare students for future learning experiences. Common Core College Readiness Standards Strand.

Gail Huizinga has been an enthusiastic K-12 educator for more than 30 years. In her most recent position as curriculum coordinator for Homewood School District 153, she was able to use her broad experience to work with all district staff in incorporating reading strategies, instructional best practice and implementation of the Common Core Standards. Since retiring from that position, she has embarked upon a career as an educational consultant supporting school districts and working as a consultant for the Development Studies Center, a California nonprofit organization. A current and active member of the Illinois Reading Council, she presents throughout Illinois on various educational topics supporting educators and literacy.

IRC International Projects and Education

This session will discuss the A to Z Literacy Movement and the ambitious goals for the coming year, extending the scope and level of commitment. The importance of teaching of reading and writing, modeling best practice and professional development regarding second language acquisition is much needed and has been well-received by schools in the Third World country of Zambia. Find out how you can be motivated and energized to help continue to increase the love of literacy locally and globally.

Mal Keenan is a literacy coach at Bernotas Middle School in Crystal Lake, Ill. Before that she was a learning specialist, working with students in language arts, with an emphasis on reading instruction. She received a bachelor of science degree in special education from Northern Illinois University and a master of education in literacy from Judson University. She serves on the A to Z Literacy Movement board as president and on the committees of fundraising, administration and marketing.

Literature and Laughter Yoga ~ Breath In: Laugh Out

Learn how to combine yoga and literature by experiencing breathing techniques that directly relate to the content of the story. Relax and become energized all at the same time. Common Core College Readiness Standards Strand

Patricia Ann Braun's teaching career began in 1970 in a third-grade classroom where reading was the main area of instruction. Six years later, she earned a master's degree in reading and taught reading in the first through eighth grades in suburban, urban and rural communities. Programs and methods she taught included basals, phonics, class novels, readers' theater, oral interpretation of literature and reading workshop. After 15 years of classroom teaching, she started teaching reading methods to master's level and undergrad students. At this time, she began doing Illinois Writing Project workshops focused on reading and writing methods as well as on content-area reading. After 30 years of teaching, she earned a doctorate in reading.

Currently, she works with two teachers in a collaborative classroom dedicated to developing 21st century literacy skills. In a flexible open space, students read, research, write and share stories every day. In an effort to include oral interpretation in the reading curriculum, she started the annual West 40 Speech and Drama Festival, at which students recite and interpret poetry, plays, oratories and stories. Even before her formal education, neighbors would send their children to "The Club," where she would read aloud daily. Because reading aloud is a tradition in her classroom and her family life, she focused her doctoral studies on reading aloud in the content areas. She is president of the Illinois Reading Council.

Is There Anybody That Can Teach Me How To Read? Practical Strategies for Dramatically Improving Student Learning.

This session is equally beneficial to school leaders, reading/ language arts teachers as well as content area specialists. Participants will:

Dr. Sonya L. Whitaker is an educational consultant, keynote speaker and workshop presenter who maintains her dedication and commitment to schools by serving in the capacity of director of literacy/social studies/career education for the largest elementary school district in Illinois. In this position she is responsible for coordinating curriculum, instruction, assessment and implementing research-based professional development opportunities for administrators and teachers. Furthermore, her responsibilities include monitoring and communicating data in district literacy achievement as well as analyzing and interpreting state and district data for continuous improvement of student achievement in literacy and social studies.

Instructional Technology for Students with Disabilities: "No" Tech to High Tech

Instructional technology can help teachers differentiate, save time, conserve patience and keep students engaged. It can also be expensive and take time to learn. From "no" tech to low tech to high tech, gain information you can use in your classroom next week!

Margaret (Meg) Kelly Carroll, Ed.D., is a professor of education at Saint Xavier University, teaching courses in special education and instructional methods. A frequent conference and staff development presenter, she also acts as a consultant for several Chicago area public and private elementary, middle and high schools. She has published dozens of articles as well as monthly newsletters for the parents of a number of local schools and a number of books, most recently What Did You Do at School Today? A Guide to Schooling and School Success, available from amazon.com.

Using Culturally Relevant Literature to Engage All Learners

Explore a wide variety of culturally relevant literature and examine criteria for selecting excellent books that will help students see themselves and learn about others. Share your favorites, discover new titles and learn ways to critically evaluate the literature you include in your classroom. An extensive list and selection criteria will be provided along with tips for sharing literature with students.

Dr. Deborah Augsburger is an associate professor and department chair in the department of reading and literacy at Lewis University. She is treasurer of the Will County Reading Council and has served as recording secretary for the Illinois Reading Council, as well as president for the College Instructors of Reading Professionals and Will County Reading Councils. Her specializations in the field of literacy are children's literature, storytelling, technology and assessment. She co-authors a regular column on child and adolescent literature for the Illinois Reading Council Journal.

Specific Strategies for Differentiating Instruction

The idea behind differentiated instruction makes sense, but the implementation is less simple. Learn about cubing, RAFT, anchor activities, Think Dots and Think-Tac-Toe, and plan or make some learning materials.

Margaret (Meg) Kelly Carroll, Ed.D., is a professor of education at Saint Xavier University, teaching courses in special education and instructional methods. A frequent conference and staff development presenter, she also acts as a consultant for several Chicago area public and private elementary, middle and high schools. She has published dozens of articles as well as monthly newsletters for the parents of a number of local schools and a number of books, most recently What Did You Do at School Today? A Guide to Schooling and School Success, available from amazon.com.