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.

Jena Borah

Jena is a certified teacher with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois and a master’s degree in Education with Certification in Reading Instruction from Eastern Illinois University. Jena has been a Title 1 reading teacher for elementary and middle level students as well as a community college reading teacher. She is passionate about helping students master reading which she believes is a skill that is foundational to learning and success in life.

Sally Bower
Sally Bower
Sally has a B.S. degree from the University of Illinois in Elementary Education and is Reading Recovery trained. She has been teaching for 15 years. She has taught Kindergarten, First grade and has been a Literary Specialist. She is currently working as a First grade teacher in Monticello. At the Reading Group, she specializes in Multisensory Methods of reading, spelling and writing.

Cody Gayhart
Cody Gayhart (1)
Cody is a certified ESL and Transitional Bilingual Educator at Stratton Elementary where he does reading intervention in the classroom and tutoring after school. He also taught in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin school system. He earned a Bachelors from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in World Language Education. Cody speaks multiple languages and has a great rapport with children.

Sydni Good

Sydni Good is a Certified Teacher with Champaign Unit 4 where she teaches preschool ESL and Special Ed for Congolese students. Previously, she has taught Early Childhood Special Ed at the Champaign Early Childhood Center. Sydni has a BS in Early Childhood Education with an endorsement in ESL from Milliken University. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Special Education of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners from The George Washington University.

Kayla Goodwin

Kayla Goodwin is a Special Education Teacher at Garden Hills Elementary School in Champaign. Previously she was a Special Education Teacher with Arcola Elementary School and an Early Childhood Special Education Teacher in Paris, Illinois. Kayla has an MS in Family and Consumer Sciences from EIU, a BS in Education from EIU, and an AA in Occupational Therapy. Kayla is a Certified Teacher and she recently completed Orton-Gillingham training.

Debbie Heffernan
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 has been an instructor at The Reading Group since July 2009.

Beth Koplinski

Beth works with students from Kindergarten through 8th grade on reading intervention and gifted enrichment. She is a Certified Teacher with Champaign Unit 4 Schools at Stratton Elementary School where she helps students with Reading Recovery and Literacy. Beth earned a Masters of Education from the University of Illinois in Curriculum and Instruction and she has a Bachelors Degree in Education from Ohio University.

Michael Marks
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.

Rachael McMillan
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.

Mary Rhodes

Mary has over 25 years of teaching experience in Champaign, Mahomet and Monticello as well as assessment experience with the Carle Child Disability Clinic in Urbana. She has taught education classes at Millikin University. Mary is currently a Cross Categorical Teacher in Special Education with the Monticello School District. She 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.

Kathleen Rowell
Kathi Rowell
Kathi retired in June 2014 from the Mahomet-Seymour School District where she was a reading teacher for thirty-five years. She worked with third through fifth graders who needed extra support with their reading skills. Of special enjoyment to her was seeing students become more confident in themselves as readers. In past years Kathi has taught at the Reading Group and has now returned where she specializes in multisensory methods of reading, comprehension skills and writing instruction. Kathi has an AB in Speech Communication and an Illinois Secondary Teaching Certificate. She also has an M.ED. in Early Childhood Education as well as a Reading Endorsement Certificate.

Carol Salo

Carol is a Certified Teacher with 20 years of public and private teaching experience, most recently at Pleasant Acres in Rantoul where she taught fourth grade. She has an undergraduate degree in Business from Michigan State University and a Masters in Education from the University of Kansas.

Lauren Thomas

Lauren is a 4th grade teacher at Barkstall Elementary School in Champaign. She has a B.S. degree in Elementary Education from Illinois State with a Reading Endorsement. She has experience with students with learning disabilities and a strong desire to create passion and excitement for learning.

Rita Young

Rita has been an instructor at The Reading Group for 17 years. She has a B.A. degree in Elementary Education and is certified by the St. Nicholas Montessori Center in London and by the American Montessori Society. She is the founder of the Clear Lake Montessori School in Houston, Texas. Prior to coming to The Reading Group, she was a pre-school/kindergarten teacher and director of the Montessori School of Champaign-Urbana for 21 years. At The Reading Group, Rita specializes in working with pre-school and early elementary-age children using multi-sensory techniques and systematic phonics-based instruction to assist them with reading, writing, comprehension and spelling.

Reading Group Administrative Staff

Winnie Crowder, CFRE

Executive DirectorWinnie has over 18 years of experience in non profit development and management experience including positions with Cunningham Children’s Home, Promise Healthcare, the American Red Cross, and Dorchester Children’s Center in Summerville, South Carolina. Winnie started her career in fund development in response to a calling to give back to the community, and she is particularly pleased to have worked with organizations that serve children. She also has 20 years of marketing and public relations experience, and was the former Marketing Director for Market Place Mall in Champaign and the Tanger Outlet Center in Tuscola. Winnie holds a Master’s degree from the University of Missouri and has five years of college level teaching experience. In 2015, she received the Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) designation. She is a Past President of the Association of Fundraising Professionals – East Central Illinois Chapter (AFP-ECI).

Bookkeeper/Office Assistant Yvonne Oliver

Yvonne Oliver has over 30 years of experience as a bookkeeper and office manager for a variety of businesses and municipalities in the Dallas area. She was a substitute teacher in Rockwall, Texas and a classroom and library volunteer for over 20 years for Rockwall, Texas Public Schools. She was also a Guild member for the Dallas Ballet Company. Yvonne has a Bachelors degree in Business Administration from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.