Initiatives

About the Advance Illinois Educator Advisory Council

Advance Illinois was launched to bring together people—at every level and from every community across our state—who are interested in ensuring for each Illinois student a successful pathway to career and engaged citizenship.


As teachers and former teachers from across Illinois' cities, suburbs, and rural areas who work with children and young adults of all grade levels and abilities, we believe that the policies that Advance Illinois has promoted during the last two years—including new professional teacher and principal evaluations, a new preparation process for principals, and Senate Bill 7—will help establish the kind of high-quality work environments we need in Illinois to attract and keep the best and brightest in the teaching profession.

We appreciate working with Advance Illinois and hope for more avenues for educator engagement in the development, design, and implementation of policy. Together, we believe we can propel our students and Illinois's education system forward to meet the needs of this exciting, evolving world.

Read the EAC report "Transforming Teacher Work" here.


Educator Advisory Council Members

PEGGY ALLAN, Middle School, Greenville Jr. High, Greenville, IL

ANNICE M. BRAVE, English and journalism, Alton High School in Alton, IL

CARA BUCCIARELLI, Elementary Spanish, Lasalle II, Chicago, IL

ROBERT CANADA, Fifth Grade, Columbus Elementary, Edwardsville, IL

TERRI GOGGIN, Social Studies & History, Greenville Jr. High, Greenville, IL

JACOB GOURLEY, Government & U.S. History, Thornton Fractional South Lansing, IL

JONNIA JACKSON, Early Childhood, National Teachers Academy Chicago, IL

PAUL KELLY, Principal, Elk Grove H.S., Elk Grove Village, IL

CRAIG LINDVAHL, CEO / Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship, Effingham County, IL

ANN MCKENNA, Second Grade Bilingual Two-Way Immersion, Dewey Elementary, Evanston, IL

MELISSA MORRISSEY, Special Education, Four Rivers Special Education District, Jacksonville, IL

NATALIE NERIS, Director of Academic Accountability, Chicago International Charter School , Chicago, IL

ELIZA RAMIREZ, Eighth Grade Reading, Writing, and Social Studies, Zapata Academy, Chicago, IL

KEVIN RUTTER, Economics, Carl Schurz H.S., Chicago, IL

TIM SCHNOEKER, Technical/Vocational, Coulterville H.S., Coulterville, IL

ASTRID SCHULER, Bilingual Kindergarten, Liberty Elementary, Cicero, IL

MIKE SEMENTA, Science & Technology, Geneva Middle School North, Geneva, IL

LINDA SMERGE, Second Grade, Lincoln Elementary, Cicero, IL

CHERYL WATKINS, Instructional Support Leader, Network 11, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, IL

 REBECCA WATTLEWORTH, Math and Science, Warrensburg-Latham H.S., Warrensburg, IL

More about the Education Advisory Council Members

Peggy Allan, Middle School, Greenville Jr. High, Greenville, IL

Dr. Peggy Allan is the 1989 Illinois State Teacher of the Year, she is a Milken Educator (1988) and was recognized by Learning Magazine with their Professional Best Award. A dedicated teacher of English/Language, Social Studies, Gifted Grade(s): 7-8 for many years, Peggy is now working to support teachers through coaching and mentoring in multiple districts, including East St. Louis.

Peggy is active on the Board of Directors of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) organization’s effort to pilot career continuums for teachers, which has been endorsed by AFT, NEA and USDOE. These levels (i.e., apprentice, professional, mentor, master teacher) would define teacher roles, responsibilities, and expectations based on effectiveness and skill, rather than on the number of years of teaching.  She recently co-authored NNSTOY's white paper entitled "Re-Imagining Teaching:  Five Structures to Transform the Profession". Peggy is a strong advocate for distributed leadership and professionalizing teaching careers.

Annice M. Brave, English and journalism, Alton High School in Alton, IL

Annice M. Brave, 2011 Illinois Teacher of the Year and finalist for National Teacher of the Year, is a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) and teaches English and journalism at Alton High School in Alton, Illinois.  She currently serves on the Illinois State Educator Preparation and Licensure Board, the Board of Examiners for NCATE (CAEP), the Board of Directors of the Illinois Education Association/NEA, the NEA Common Core Working Group, and the Educator Leader Cadre for PARCC. 

At Alton High School, she teaches dual credit courses for Lewis and Clark Community College and sponsors the school newspaper, television and radio stations, Quill & Scroll Honor Society for high school journalists, and Calliope student fine arts magazine.  Annice is a frequent speaker and presenter on education topics, and has received numerous awards for her teaching and civil rights work, including the NEA Foundation Award for Teaching Excellence and the Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellowship.

Cara Bucciarelli, Elementary Spanish, Lasalle II, Chicago, IL

Cara Bucciarelli teaches K-8 Spanish at LaSalle II Magnet School, where was was a founding member of the school team. During her time at LaSalle II, she has focused on creating integrated curriculum units that utilize both world language and other disciplines. Cara has earned grants from the Kids in Need Foundation, the Oppenheimer Family Foundation, Fund for Teachers and the Chicago Foundation for Education (CFE), and was recently named CFE’s 2013 Teacher of the Year.  Cara earned her initial certification through the Chicago Teaching Fellows program and is a Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellowship alumna. She has a B.A. in Spanish from Oberlin College, an M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and an M.A.T. from Dominican University.

Rob Canada, Fifth Grade, Columbus Elementary, Edwardsville, IL

Rob teaches fifth grade in Edwardsville. He is both an Illinois Teacher of the Year Finalist and a Peabody Logos Leader in Education.  Rob continues to empower his students as leaders of their 5th grade classroom.  Rob’s students demonstrate mastery of material using prezis, wikis, and wix.  Last year’s projects included solar power experiments and a “battery garden.”  His 5th graders have successfully modified power wheel cars to run on solar power and have launched a weather balloon into space. Rob also teaches graduate and undergraduate education classes at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. 

Terri Goggin, Social Studies & History, Greenville Jr. High, Greenville, IL

Terri teaches 6th grade social studies and 8th grade American History at Greenville Junior High School.  She is Nationally Board Certified in Early Adolescence/Social Studies-History.  She received the Those Who Excel Education Award Program/Illinois Teacher of the Year:  Award of Merit 2009-2010.  She is a Mentor Teacher and works with first and second year teachers in her district to offer assistance and guidance to allow for a smooth transition in to teaching for the novice teacher.  Terri also serves on the Greenville College School of Education P-12 Advisory Council.  The Council’s role is to review Teacher Education Program elements and revisions, review the conceptual Framework, examine assessment data, and advise whether modifications need to be made in the college’s Teacher Education Program.

Jacob Gourley, Government & U.S. History, Thornton Fractional South Lansing, IL

Jake Gourley is the Social Studies Division Leader at Thornton Fractional South High School in Lansing, Illinois. He is a 2010 recipient of the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching and is the second individual to win the award after being mentored and prepared for a career in teaching as a Golden Apple Scholar. He currently serves as President of Thornton Fractional Federation of Teachers, IFT/AFT Local #683, which has worked cooperatively with District 215 to develop a teacher evaluation instrument based upon the Charlotte Danielson model.  He has presented the collaborative model before ISBE and at the Four Rivers Special Education District in Jacksonville.

 Jake completed a sabbatical at Northwestern University in 2011 as part of his fellowship award, taking courses on the History of Chicago, the Art of Storytelling, the U.S. Supreme Court, Education Reform, and Organizational Leadership. As part of his Supreme Court class, he traveled to Washington D.C. to hear the Court in oral argument, met in a small group session with Justice Sotomayor, and later with officials from the National School Boards Association to discuss their role in shaping policy at the national level.

 Jake spends his summers co-directing Golden Apple's Summer Institute at St. Xavier University, leading a group of pre-service teachers in a reflective journey as they intern in Chicago and South Suburban Public Schools, visiting them on-site, and coaching them to become the kind of resilient teachers who are part of a group that boasts a near 90% retention rate in our highest-need schools.

Jonnia Jackson, Early Childhood, National Teachers Academy Chicago, IL

Jonnia is a lead Head Start-Early Childhood teacher at National Teachers’ Academy in Chicago.  She has also served as an instructor of early childhood teaching candidates at University of Illinois-Chicago.

Paul Kelly, Principal, Elk Grove H.S., Elk Grove Village, IL

Paul Kelly is currently the Principal of Elk Grove High School in Township High School District 214.  Before becoming the leader of this diverse and dynamic professional learning community, he was the Division Head of Social Science/World Languages at John Hersey High School.  Paul received the Milken National Education Award as a History and Social Science teacher at Hinsdale South High School.  In addition to teaching all levels of History and Social Science courses, Paul has conducted dozens of professional development workshops for teachers and administrators in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Ohio. 

Craig Lindvahl, CEO / Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship, Effingham County, IL

Craig teaches entrepreneurship to students throughout Effingham County in a unique partnership with local businesses and area high schools. He is a Milken National Educator and an Illinois Teacher of the Year Finalist.  Craig is busy transitioning his CEO Class to a new teacher this year, as he works to replicate CEO in 4 new sites in both Illinois and Indiana.  This involves a lot of travel and creative scheduling, but he is still teaching class every morning.  On the film front, Craig’s latest Major League Baseball film, The Perfect Place, recently made its debut at the Baseball Hall of Fam in Cooperstown, NY.  Craig is a member of the Advance Illinois Board of Directors.

Anne McKenna, Second Grade Bilingual Two-Way Immersion, Dewey Elementary, Evanston, IL

Anne recently began work on her Type 75 certification, after earning her National Board Certification in the December 2011, and continues to teach second grade in her bilingual twin immersion classroom at Dewey Elementary in Evanston. 

Melissa Morrissey, Special Education, Four Rivers Special Education District, Jacksonville, IL

Melissa Morrissey is an Illinois Teacher of the Year Finalist.  She recently accepted a position as a special education program supervisor at Four Rivers Special Education District in Jacksonville, IL.  Four Rivers is the third largest special education district in the state of Illinois, serving nineteen school districts in an approximately 3200 square mile area.  Melissa supervises several districts and coordinates in services for the cooperative.  She also teaches Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI) and provides other professional development.

Besides serving on the Educator Advisory Council of Advance Illinois, Melissa is also a member of the Illinois Educator Leadership Cadre of PARCC, where she was recently chose to complete a mini-communications bootcamp and was filmed for an upcoming video on teacher voice.  Melissa is a member of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, Illinois Alliance of Administrators of Special Education, and the Illinois and National State Teacher of the Year organizations.

Recently Melissa wrote two op-ed pieces appearing in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier and the State Journal-Register as well as an article for the “Core Connection” newsletter and a guest blog for Laying the Foundation.

Natalie C. Neris, Director of Academic Accountability, Chicago International Charter School, Chicago, IL

Natalie is a 2008 recipient of the Golden Apple Teaching Award.  She is currently the Director of Academic Accountability for the Chicago International Charter School. Previously she served as Assistant Principal at Pershing West Middle school, where she had earlier worked as a teacher. Her experience includes working as an Instructional Support Leader in Chicago Public Schools Fulton Network, which includes approximately 30 elementary and/or middle schools.  Natalie is very active in common core literacy implementation in her schools, especially the use of Understanding by Design, backward mapping, to connect learning goals and assessments.

Eliza Ramirez, Eighth Grade Reading, Writing, and Social Studies, Zapata Academy, Chicago, IL

Eliza Ramirez teaches 8th grade reading workshop, writing workshops, and social studies classes at CPS’s Zapata Academy where she focuses on developing units to invest Latino students in their reading and writing so they may find their voice, passion, and place in the world.  Eliza is also a member of her school’s Instructional Leadership Team, participates in Boundless Readers study group and book club, and co-leads a Teacher Writing Group. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago Urban Teacher Education Program and is excited to be a Clinical Instructor this year (she hopes to use what she learned hosting a student teacher from ISU to do the important work of preparing future teachers for schools of need). Last year, Eliza completed the Chicago Foundation for Education's Action Research Leadership Institute fellowship and shared her work in this year's CFE Workshop as well as Golden Apple's Teachers for Tomorrow Conference. Eliza also continues to be involved with the Golden Apple Foundation after her 2011 Award, through their Selection Committee. Although Eliza just finished her Teach Plus teaching policy fellowship this December, she will continue to find ways to reflect, develop her teacher voice, and share her practice.

Kevin Rutter, Economics, Carl Schurz H.S., Chicago, IL

Kevin leads the Academy of Finance at Carl Schurz High School in Chicago. Kevin was the 2010 Illinois Teacher of the Year.  Kevin’s work with the Carl Schurz Academy of Finance is featured in this Youtube video as an exemplar of programs preparing students to be college and career ready. 

Tim Schnoeker, Technical / Vocational, Coulterville H.S., Coulterville, IL

Tim is in the Department of Technology Engineering Education at Coulterville High School and currently serves on the Randolph Monroe County ROE (45) Advisory Committee. He is an Illinois Teacher of the Year Finalist and a Peabody Logos Leader in Education. Tim once again spent the summer working with his Construction and Manufacturing Technology students to make improvements at Hoyleton Children's Home, a residential treatment program for children and adolescents with severe developmental, emotional and/or behavioral issues. 

Astrid Schuler, Bilingual Kindergarten, Liberty Elementary, Cicero, IL

Astrid Schuler, a 20-year teaching veteran, leads 2 kindergarten sections per day in Cicero School District 99. She teaches in a Transitional kindergarten class and thinks that the best learning experiences for children are the ones that are self-directed.  She is concerned that accelerated standards for 5-to-6-year-olds are too demanding and developmentally inappropriate.  Accelerated learning will only create confusion in these children; educators must tailor expectations to the children’s early cognitive stages. Astrid strongly advocates for both all-day kindergarten and a teacher’s discretion to match curriculum to students’ needs, based on experience.  This year she belongs to the Bilingual Parent /Kindergarten Program.

Michael Sementa, Science & technology, Geneva Middle School North, Geneva, IL

Mike Sementa is a 2011 recipient of the Golden Apple for Excellence in Teaching.  This fall, he accepted a new teaching position as an eighth grade science teacher at Geneva Middle School North in Geneva, IL.  Mike spends his summers as a is a proud facilitator and instructor for the Golden Apple Scholars Program.  He enjoys the opportunity to mentor future teachers while expanding on his own teaching experiences.  Mike participated in planning efforts for the 2012 Educator Leadership Institute and was an active participant in the ELI activities that were held in Bloomington, IL.  In the meantime, he continues to expand his working knowledge of STEM and how to transition real life engineering skills and practices into the classroom environment.

Linda Smerge, Second Grade, Lincoln Elementary, Cicero, IL

Linda teaches second grade in Cicero District 99. She is an Illinois Teacher of the Year. She received Northern Illinois University’s distinguished alumni award earlier last year.  This summer, Linda attended a 3-day comprehensive literacy conference to help prepare for common core implementation.  She also participated in agenda-setting discussions for this summer’s 2012 Educator Leadership Institute.  This fall, Linda will be a teacher representative to the state’s P-20 Council Educator Licensure Steering Committee, which is working on issues impacting teacher preparation, recertification requirements, gradespan configurations for teacher endorsements, diversity in the educator workforce, clinical and student teaching requirements, and more.

Cheryl Watkins, Instructional Support Leader, Network 11, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, IL

 Cheryl Watkins gave the keynote address at the 2013 summer Educator Leadership Institute, which brought together almost one undred teachers and administrators from around the state to Bloomington to discuss key issues and reforms facing districts, and to inform ISBE on implementation challenges and opportunities around the new Common Core Standards, professional evaluations, and how we certify and license teachers.  Also, Cheryl enjoyed participating in a leadership conference, Diversity in Resources, in Washington, D.C., which specifically addressed the use of technology to support math instruction for students of color and those with disabilities.  She is a member of the Advance Illinois Board of Directors.

Rebecca Wattleworth Math and science, Warrensburg-Latham H.S., Warrensburg, IL

Rebecca teaches math and science at Warrensburg Latham High School.  She has enjoyed the EAC experience as a place to learn about state-level reforms and work with other award-winning teachers.  This past spring, Rebecca participated in efforts to review Illinois’ Test of Academic Proficiency or TAP).  Teachers gathered at the Illinois State Board of Education to review and set passing standards for the test which is given to students wishing to enter Illinois schools of education. She recently attended ISBE’s elementary and middle grades advisory group meeting to discuss setting math teaching standards.