Time and again we hear that one of the very special strengths of The Reading Group is the outstanding qualifications and caring attitudes of our instructors. Most specialists hold at least a bachelor’s degree, many with master’s degrees and/or additional training in a particular area of instruction.
Rita was a Student-Teacher Supervisor for the MECA Montessori Teacher Training Center and was a Teacher and the Director of the Montessori School of Champaign-Urbana for 20 years. She has a B.S. in Elementary Education, is certified by the American Montessori Society, and is the founder of the Clear Lake Montessori School in Houston, Texas. At the Reading Group, she specializes in working with preschool and kindergarten children using multisensory instruction and is the Early Childhood Coordinator for the Building Blocks to Literacy Program.
Michael provides teacher training programs and specializes in working with preschool and kindergarten children who are gifted and at risk for school learning problems. He was the founder and director of the Creative Discovery School in Champaign for 12 years as well as served as an early childhood teacher at University Primary School in Champaign.
Mary has had over 20 years of teaching experience in Champaign, Mahomet and Monticello as well as assessment experience with the Carle Child Disability Clinic. She is currently a Cross Categorical Teacher in Special Education with the Monticello School District and also teaches Special Education at Millikin University and provides Assessment Services at the Reading Group. Mary has a Bachelors Degree in Special Education from Illinois State University and a Masters Degree with an emphasis in reading from the University of Illinois.
Sherri taught kindergarten, first and second grades in the public schools for fifteen years before joining the staff at Holy Cross Elementary School as Library/Media Director. At the Reading Group, she specializes in working with primary level children in a variety of subjects using a multisensory approach, with a focus on literature and grammar. Sherri has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Master of Arts in Teaching.
Rachael graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in English. She moved to Los Angeles and became a caseworker for an agency that assisted families in the American Indian community. There, she tutored children who needed academic as well as social assistance. Rachael also taught English and other subjects for the special education program at Rantoul Township High School for four years and has a short-term special education certificate. Currently, she is spending time at home with her two wonderful children, Jack and Kate.
Lynn has twenty years experience as a classroom teacher and private tutor for dyslexic students. She has a MA in educational psychology and teaching certificates in secondary language arts and preschool/kindergarten Montessori methods. At The Reading Group, Lynn specializes in a multisensory method of teaching literacy skills to young children.
Carol has a Masters degree in Education and a Masters in Social Work. She taught at the elementary level for 22 years and then worked as a School Social Worker until she retired. She now serves as a part-time School Social Worker at Holy Cross School in Champaign and is a reading instructor at The Reading Group with a focus on reading, composition, grammar, and basic math.
Leyla has a Masters degree in teaching English as a second language (ESL) and extensive experience tutoring students of all ages (from pre-kindergarten to adults). Lessons cover all aspects of foreign language acquisition to include vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, style and cultural awareness, with a curriculum developed to help target the individual needs of each student. She completed a four-week training program in the latest ESL teaching methods at Cambridge (England). In addition to teaching English, Leyla provides preparation for standardized tests (TOEFL, ACT, IELTS).
Debbie graduated from Illinois State University in Normal and has an MS degree from the University of Illinois. Having taught in the Urbana School District for 33 years (grades 3-6), she especially enjoys helping students gain self-confidence in themselves as successful students. Debbie retired from Urbana Schools in June 2009, but continues to work as a substitute teacher in the district. She as been an instructor at The Reading Group since July 2009.
Mary Kubalanza is available to work with students who need support in the areas of articulation, language development, and literacy. She received a B.A. from Bryn Mawr College in Psychology and Education in 2007 and an M.A. from the University of Illinois in Speech-Language Pathology in 2012. She is also currently working on a PhD. in Speech and Hearing Science at the U of I.
Julie is a reading teacher in the Champaign School District, where she teaches in the gifted program and in an after-school remedial reading program. At The Reading Group she is working with elementary-age students who have dyslexia or some other category of learning disability.
Christine has classroom experience in both the Fisher and Champaign school districts. She is an education practice supervisor of student teachers with the University of Illinois College of Education. At The Reading Group she is working with elementary-age students who have dyslexia or some other category of learning disability.
Kathy previously was public relations coordinator for the Urbana school district and served as a regional member of the Illinois Chapter board of directors of the National School Public Relations Association.
Reading Group Administrative Staff
Executive Director: Jennifer Bell
Jennifer has joined The Reading Group after 34 years as a special education teacher in Urbana School District 116. She has a B.A. in Special Education from Michigan State University, an M.ED. in Educational Psychology from the University of Illinois and an M.A. in Psychology from Eastern Illinois University. While working in the Urbana school district, she taught students with Learning Disabilities, Emotional/Behavioral Disorders (E/BD) and served as a School Psychologist and E/BD consultant.
Bookkeeper: Brenda Blager
Brenda brings over 25 years of financial and business experience to The Reading Group. She handles financial transactions and records. She also assists the Executive Director with daily operations.
Office Assistant: Katie Donnelly
Katie is a junior studying Advertising at the University of Illinois. She assists the instructors, bookkeeper, and executive director with a variety of tasks that help keep The Reading Group running smoothly.
Office Assistant: Maddie McCracken
Maddie is a junior in the College of Fine & Applied Art | Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois. She assists the instructors, bookkeeper, and executive director with a variety of tasks that help keep The Reading Group running smoothly.