Instructors | Online Learning for Teachers pursuing Continuing Education and Professional Development | The Connecting Link

 

TCL Instructors

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John has his Master of Education and brings to TCL more than two decades of experience. He has counseled, taught and coached at the middle school, high school and college levels. John developed and implemented a developmental guidance curriculum. He was recognized as educator of the year by the Norfolk County Teacher’s Association. 

In his free time John likes being active – working out, staying upright in his kayak, camping and fishing. He loves to cook and plays golf.


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Kirstin is currently a teacher and Instructional Coach at Lyons Township High School in LaGrange/Western Springs. She has been in the district for five years where she has played various roles. Kirstin currently teaches sophomores, but she has taught freshmen in the past. She has taught all levels of English at some point in her eighteen year teaching career.  

As an Instructional Coach Kirstin has the opportunity to help plan Professional Development for her district as well as directly work with 10-12 teachers one-on-one every year. The focus of the Instructional Coaching program is to create more student-centered classrooms through the use of standards and skills-based instruction while incorporating the formative practices. Kirstin has worked with her small team of coaches to bring the goals of the district to fruition in a range of classrooms. She has worked with teachers in some capacity from almost every department.  

As well as working at Lyons Township and The Connecting Link, Kirstin is a mother of two young girls. She lives in the city and is a product of the Chicago Public School System. Her daughters attend CPS schools, and Kirstin is committed to raising her children in the city. She also has two dogs, and she would have five more if her husband agreed. He doesn’t.


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Dr. Amber Bechard is a full-time Associate Professor at the University of La Verne in California. She has 31 years of classroom experience across special education, kindergarten and English Language Arts. She holds a M.Ed. in Special Education from National Louis University, an Ed.D in Curriculum & Instruction from Aurora University and National Board Certification in Early Adolescent Literacy.

Dr. Bechard has a recently published a book chapter titled One Teacher’s Journey: Evolving Teacher Identity and Practice and the Changing Sociopolitical Context of Education published January 2017 in Challenges Associated with Cross-Cultural and At-Risk Student Engagement. Her research interests include Twice Exceptional Students, inclusive education and international immersion for educators.


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“Teaching is the act of sharing the knowledge we have been given by others with hope that someday, by some way, it will again be passed on.” 

Shelly Fisher’s passion for teaching is never-ending. She presently has unlimited energy teaching 2nd graders, but also plays a huge role in her school building as a leader of the Positive Behavior Intervention System team and as a designee for her principal. Shelly holds her teaching degree in Elementary Education with an endorsement in Mathematics and a master’s degree in Educational Administration. 

Mrs. Fisher continually challenges herself and seeks ways to improve teacher effectiveness by meeting the needs of the ever-changing world of education, holding high accountability for the students in her K-5 building who range from ESL learners, Gifted Learners, children with Autism, children with learning disabilities, speech impaired children, to children with social and emotional issues. 

She also provides leadership to colleagues, student teachers, teacher’s assistants and teachers who explore her classes through The Connecting Link. She has been a TCL instructor since 1991 and continues to provide classes that are exciting, motivating and useful for teachers who are always trying to be the key factor in their students’ lives and success. Experienced with many different TCL classes, Shelly strives to keep them current and is always excited to hear when her students apply knowledge gained from her classes in their educational setting. She focuses on giving time for teachers and educational staff to share, compare, contrast and dig deeper into educational experiences and strategies.


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Throughout her tenure in education, Dr. Frey has enjoyed teaching and serving as an administrator in K-16 settings. She has a depth of experience in educational leadership, successful grant writing and educational policy development and implementation. Dr. Frey is a national and regional presenter on student development; program design and assessment; and, leadership in higher education.

Her areas of professional interest are: support and persistence of first-generation college students; leadership and social justice; and, multicultural education. Her active scholarship is the impact of positive psychology on pedagogical design and the vocational development of a college student. She has been recognized regionally for her support and advocacy of LGBTQ issues, and her work in student affairs.

Dr. Frey holds a Doctorate in Education from Seattle University; a Master of Education in Multicultural Education from the University of Washington; and a Bachelor of Arts in Education from Pacific Lutheran University. Dr. Frey's passion is being a leader/educator and working in partnership with others to become their best selves. 


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Dr. Julie Gold brings a plethora of experience from over two decades of public education service and private practice to TCL. She began her career as a teacher/counselor at special education residential schools for adolescents with emotional and behavioral disabilities, where she was frequently faced with the question: What comes first –Depression and Anxiety or failure to acquire literacy and math skills? This question drove her inquiry into her graduate studies in School and Counseling Psychology. Dr. Gold was fortunate to have the opportunity to obtain her Masters and Educational Specialist Degree (School Psychology) in a rural setting at Indiana State University and her Doctoral Degree (School Psychology) in an urban community at Northeastern University. Here, she learned that a myriad of risk factors exist that influence student success.

Dr. Gold maintains the premise that Prevention and Intervention are the keys to student achievement and wellness. She has worked tirelessly to provide TIER 1, 2, and 3 services for students at-risk for social, emotional, and learning challenges. Through neuropsychological, formative, and behavioral assessment, consultation, coaching, training, counseling, and on-going reflection, Dr. Gold has learned that equipping teachers, families, administrators, and mental health staff with instructional strategies and support ultimately meets the needs of students in public schools. 

In her free time, she loves spending time with her husband and two sons, enjoying Northern New Hampshire’s outdoors - boating, paddle boarding, hiking, and picking blueberries. She also enjoys going to the gym, cooking, baking, and writing. 


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Kelly is blessed to spend her life wearing various hats. As a wife, mother, business owner and educator she finds great joy in tearing down walls; whether it be facilitating the intellectual and personal growth of her students or spending time with the family business remodeling homes. She treasures her family and enjoys spending time together biking, camping, rooting on the Chicago Cubs and hanging out at the beach. Kelly is thrilled to add “TCL Instructor” to her list of blessings and looks forward to sharing her passion for education while providing adult learners with engaging, relevant courses.


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My name is Rita Guzman Ed.D. I am originally from Joliet where I continue to reside. I graduated from the University of St. Francis in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in Education. I continued my education at National-Louis University and received an endorsement in Bilingual and English as a Second Language. I then returned to USF to pursue a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and a second master’s degree specializing in Differentiated Instruction with a minor in Special Education. I returned to pursue a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership.

I've been working in Valley View School District 365U for the past fifteen years. I taught first grade bilingual and K-5 ESL. I can honestly say that I love my current position as assistant principal. However, I must admit that at times I do miss having my own classroom. I enjoyed being an ESL teacher because it allowed me to work with students who spoke 37 different languages and it enabled me to learn more about individual cultures and customs.

When I am not working I most enjoy simply spending time with my family. My wonderful family includes my husband of 22 years, Alex, and our two beautiful daughters. Our sixteen year old, Brittney, is currently in 12th grade and our active eleven year old, Lindsey, is in seventh grade. I enjoy listening to my daughters tell me about their day and going to the movies.


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Freja Joslin is an award-winning educator and teacher leader with an M.A. in Secondary Education: Social Justice and 20 years of experience in middle school education working to transform education for equity and justice. Freja is passionate about providing her students with a rigorous and meaningful Humanities curriculum that enables them to better understand the world and seek solutions to social problems. Through hands-on, project-based learning that expects students to demonstrate mastery of complex skills and knowledge, she believes education can be authentic and relevant to students’ lives.

Freja developed a passion for coaching teachers and prospective teachers as a founder of the Mentor Teacher Program at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School in South Hadley, Massachusetts where she served as Lead Mentor Teacher for dozens of new and veteran teachers in all subject areas in grades 7-12. Freja also served on PVPA's Instructional Leadership Team and Diversity Committee, leading Professional Learning Communities and professional development workshops on a range of topics from arts integration to gender inclusive schools.

Most recently, Freja has been working as a freelance curriculum writer after moving to Guadalajara, Mexico with her husband and 9-year-old son to explore the culture, learn Spanish, and take a break from the classroom. She has also been volunteering at a migrant and refugee shelter and coordinating a bilingual conversation club.


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Mike McGowan is currently a Technology Director and building administrator for Sunnybrook School District 171, a Pre-K to 8th grade district in Lansing, Illinois. He is also an executive board member for ICE (Illinois Computing Educators), the Illinois ISTE (International Society for Technology in Educators) affiliate. Mike has a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of St. Francis, a degree in Education with a focus on Teaching Computers and Business from Lewis University and a master's degree from Concordia University in School Administration. 

Mike started his career right out of college teaching Computer Basics classes at Joliet Junior College. He has taught everything from Pre-K up through high school. For the past 13 years he has been a Technology Director and administrator, helping school districts integrate technology into daily operations and curriculum for his schools. Mike is a firm believer that technology can be a vital enhancement to the learning experience so long as it is intended to supplement instruction rather than supplant it. 

Mike is also an international speaker on a variety of educational technology topics. He has spoken on topics including the use of interactive white boards in the classroom, free educational technology resources, use of coding to engage and enhance learning, more recently the design and construction of Makerspaces/STEM labs and the use of virtual reality in the classroom. Mike has had the privilege to speak at conferences all across Illinois and in Maryland, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa, as well as presenting in Canada and Germany. 

His true passion is making sure all students have access to available technology as they will likely have technology-related jobs. Engaging students to become proficient in computer-based skills now will better prepare them for those future careers. 


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Judith McManus is a seasoned educator and the curriculum developer of over fifty online courses, author of seven published books, and creator of instructional media materials used by schools, organizations, and libraries around the world. Judith has received numerous awards and international recognition for her contributions to education. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa, holds K-12 teaching certifications in Iowa and Arizona, and has taught at all grade levels (elementary through graduate college). Judith is also the producer, director, and editor of a short film exhibited on HBO and Cinemax. Her latest chapter book for tween girls, Nellie Mack of Sabino Canyon, is based on third grade common core performance objectives, STEM principles, and real-life role models.    

In Teaching and Reaching 21st Century Online Learners (K-12), Judith will facilitate your understanding of and instruction in the online educational environment. In addition, you’ll directly apply the course material to your own individualized plan for reaching and motivating online learners.   

Judith received her B.S. in Education and Special Education and M.A. & doctoral coursework in Communication and Theatre Arts from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa.


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Steve brings over thirty years' experience in K-12 education ranging from teacher, assistant principal, elementary school principal, administrator, project manager and executive coach. His graduate degrees are in Educational Administration and Supervision, and Music Education. Steve has designed professional development and workshops for teachers, directors, and parents on student assessments, 21st-century learning, Common Core Standards, Danielson Framework for Teaching and best practices. In his free time, he enjoys writing, listening to music, taking long walks, biking, and kayaking.


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"Why is it that in society if someone says 'Hey I can't do math, I am no good at it!' that many others respond by saying 'I know what you are talking about, I can't do it either!' and everyone laughs and cuts up BUT if someone says 'Hey I can't read or write, I am no good at it!' the whole room goes quiet, eyes shift to the floor and everyone walks away from that person like something was wrong with them." – Patrick Raleigh

Patrick has been an educator for 17 years. He began his working career in the financial arena. Although he liked his work, he felt like something was missing. Patrick then went to back to school to receive his master's degree in Education. He has never regretted the decision to become a teacher and has enjoyed every day.

Patrick has a broad range of teaching experiences including 6th grade Math, 8th grade Science, 8th grade U.S. History, and 8th grade Math. However, his favorite classes are Algebra and Geometry. These are two classes where there are so many real world applications.

Outside of school Patrick loves being outdoors: running in the woods, biking through farmlands, or teeing it up on the golf course. In addition to being active he enjoys hanging by the pool and reading a good book. His family is so important to him. His wife of over 20 years is his rock. His three children are active and keep them both busy. One is playing college lacrosse, one is super involved in chorus and his youngest loves school.   

Patrick says the reason he teaches is to learn. Working with teachers is best part of this career. “You can always learn something from other teachers if you are open to it. Be open!”


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Jill has over 13 years of experience as a licensed teacher in the areas of Special Education, Reading Education, and Health Education. She embraces diversity and has worked with students in grades K-12 in Wisconsin, Minnesota and California.

Jill completed her Master of Science degree at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls while teaching full-time. She fully understands the soaring demands of today’s teachers. Her courses are designed to maximize the time of all educators by providing engaging, meaningful, and applicable activities which can be used to enhance teaching practices. She focuses on research-based best practices and technology integration throughout her own instructional practices.

Together with her husband and two young boys Jill enjoys traveling, biking and the changing seasons of the great outdoors in Wisconsin. 


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Toni Schrage has been a teacher for 24 years. She currently teaches ESL in grades K-5 at Springfield School District 186 in Springfield, Illinois. She is also a reading skills teacher for Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Illinois. Toni teaches online and blended graduate-level courses to educators seeking their ESL endorsements for the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois. She has experience teaching in grades K-12, undergraduate students and master's degree-seeking students. Toni has worked with gifted students at the middle school level, and special education students at the elementary, middle school and college levels. 

Toni was born and grew up in Auburn, Illinois. She received her bachelor's degree in elementary education from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. She moved to Arizona for her first teaching position and received her master’s degree in Elementary Education with an endorsement in English as a Second Language from Northern Arizona University. Toni enjoys providing educators with information that will enhance their teaching.  

Since Toni is constantly learning and seeking new ideas she hopes you will enjoy the flexibility of the programs that are offered at TCL.


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Dr. Wendelyn Shore has worked in higher education for over 30 years. She earned her B.A. in Psychology from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, followed by her M.S. and Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma. Currently, she serves as Professor of Psychology at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. Her teaching interests are in the areas of statistical & research methods, cognition, psychology of language, and positive psychology, particularly as it pertains to mentoring. Dr. Shore is an active scholar who maintains two lines of programmatic research, one investigating representation of word meanings, especially partially known words, and the other investigating college student development, especially the mentor-protégé relationship. She has coauthored multiple peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations reporting results from this research. 

Dr. Shore grew up on her family’s dairy farm in Wisconsin, which remains the family home. She was the first in her family to earn a college degree, has lived all over the United States as she pursued her academic career, and has traveled the world for work and for fun. For the last 20 years she has lived in Tacoma WA.
 


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My name is Sarah Steinmetz. I am a secondary teacher of ACT prep and Talented and Gifted Seminars. I have taught 8th grade science, alternative education math and science and high school science. I love working with children and seeing them reach their goals. It excites me to see where their next chapters in life will take place. Every child should be treated with respect, because every child has a unique story.  

My husband and I have a beautiful family of three daughters and a rabbit that lives outside. We love spending time outdoors. I spend my free-time running, baking, gardening, hiking and reading. However much free time remains is spent on gymnastics and swim teams between the girls. I love it and wouldn't change the busy schedule. 

I look forward to getting to know all of you in a Connecting Link course!


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Education is Bonnie's passion. Her favorite quote: “If you think education is expensive, just try ignorance.”

Being retired from the classroom, she is enjoying her continuing work with Connecting Link students and is able to focus completely on their needs. The opportunity to learn and grow with students each day is fulfilling. She still enjoys that “light bulb” moment with learners.

Working with TCL for over 20 years as a site-based instructor, an online instructor and a course writer demonstrates her desire to make sure that the excellence of Connecting Link courses shines. As a classroom teacher educating grades K-5 and a Technology Integration Coordinator for the school district which included educating educators, students (K-12) and parents she has a wide variety of teaching experiences. In her final classroom years she enjoyed teaching in a self-contained gifted/talented classroom.

In 1978 she received her first degree from Northern Arizona University, in Flagstaff, AZ and in 1988 received a Master of Science in Education from Indiana University. A Gifted/Talented Endorsement was earned in 2005.

She enjoys teaching, traveling, sailing, gardening, reading, cooking and spending time with her family.


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Hello my name is Joy Westendorf and I have enjoyed teaching courses with The Connecting Link for the past 13 years. I hold a Bachelor of Science, two master's degrees (Teaching and Special Education) and am a National Board Certified Teacher. I find that utilizing best practices, providing active learning, prompt feedback, communicating high expectations, and respecting the unique differences and experiences of every learner positively impacts the overall learning experience in my class.

I enjoy traveling the world and being adventurous! I have been skydiving, enjoy skiing, backpacking and hiking. I enjoy anything that includes the outdoors, watching and playing sports, photography and reading. I absolutely love spending time with my family, three dogs and my nieces and nephews!  


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Mary Wolf has been working for The Connecting Link for eight years. She is a 5th grade math teacher in suburban Chicago, where she has been teaching for thirteen years. She began her association with TCL as a student and was intrigued by the varied course offerings and the multiple instructional delivery methods (in person, online, structured). Over the years she has met many outstanding educators through Connecting Link classes and looks forward to enhancing those and forging new ones!


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Paul has developed and written many of our most popular tech courses. Technology is changing the face and direction of education; however, Paul makes it a point in all of his courses to invoke the human side of the classroom. Technology should be a medium to reach students, but the teacher is what drives the learning and engagement.  Paul’s work experiences have taken him around the world to a variety of school districts and classrooms. He is eager to hear your experiences and shares his to reflect together on the art of teaching.

In his free time Paul travels around North America watching his son play hockey. His passion for teaching never stops and he even finds time to stop into local schools in the communities he visits to see what they are doing!


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