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Our Team

The Center for Urban Education Leadership houses a team of researchers, developers and leadership coaches, policy advocates, graduate assistants, and student interns. In addition to full- and part-time center staff, the center also engages faculty affiliates from departments within UIC’s College of Education (COE). Graduates from UIC’s Ed.D. program, who are educational leaders, have also contributed to CUEL projects.

Center Staff, Occasional Collaborators/Contributors

Dr. Shelby Cosner

Dr. Shelby Cosner

CUEL Director, EDPS Professor

Dr. Cosner is the Director of the CUEL and she a Professor in the Educational Policy Studies Department. She oversees all aspects of the center. She is an expert on the preparation and development of educational leaders, the continuous improvement of leadership preparation programs, and on leadership for school improvement with various pursuits and challenges in mind. She enngages in or leads both qualitative and mixed methods research teams. She has expertise with the design and testing of leader learning designs as well as design and dissemination of materials of value to leaders and their development.

Prior to her work at UIC, Cosner earned her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For over a decade Cosner worked as a school and system-level leader.

Dr. Cynthia Barron

Dr. Cynthia Barron

Occasional Contributor, EDPS Department Assistant Clinical Professor, Co-Coordinator for Ed.D. Program

Dr. Barron occasionally contributes to CUEL projects. She currently develops and coaches Chicago Public School (CPS) network chiefs as a part of a multi-year project funded by The Lloyd A. Fry Foundation and another anonymous funder. She has expertise in leadership preparation, development, and coaching. Dr. Barron has over forty years of experience in education as a teacher, athletic coach, counselor, assistant principal, truancy and dropout prevention coordinator, principal of two schools, area instruction officer, and interim chief area officer for high schools. Dr. Barron earned her doctoral degree from Loyola University.

Dr. Peggie Burnett - Wise

Dr. Peggie Burnett - Wise

Occasional Contributor, WISE Leadership Coaching

Dr. Peggie Burnett-Wise is an occasional collaborator with CUEL. She currently is co-leading the Malott Fellows program and providing leadership development and coaching to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) principals participating in this program. She has expertise with team leadership and breaking down structural systems of racism to impact long-term charges in public-facing institutions. Dr. Burnett-Wise has had a wide range of educational leadership experiences including leading a former turnaround school to the highest possible school quality rating in Chicago (1+).  Dr. Burnett-Wise earned her doctoral degree in Urban Education Leadership from the University of Illinois Chicago. 

Karla Lezama Cardoso

Karla Lezama Cardoso

Content Marketing and Management Intern

Karla is the Content Marketing and Management intern at the CUEL. Karla researches and gathers information for the center and also contributes to the design of web and print-related materials. Karla currently is working on her undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois Chicago.

ISAAC CASTELAZ

ISAAC CASTELAZ

Occasional Contributor, WISE Leadership Coaching

Isaac Castelaz is an occasional collaborator with CUEL. He currently is providing leadership development and coaching to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) principals participating in the Malott Fellows program. He has expertise with leadership development and principal support. He has had a wide range of educational leadership experiences including transforming one of the CPS elementary schools with the lowest possible school quality rating to the highest possible school quality rating in Chicago (1+). He earned his master’s degree in educational leadership from Northeastern Illinois University.

Sylvia Ibarra Delgado

Sylvia Ibarra Delgado

Graduate Assistant

Sylvia is a Research Assistant in CUEL where she supports research and data collection projects in CUEL.  Sylvia is currently working on her Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction – Literacy, Language, and Culture at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Dr. Craig De Voto

Dr. Craig De Voto

Occasional Collaborator, Researcher in the Learning Sciences Research Institute (LSRI)

Dr. De Voto is a Researcher at the Learning Sciences Research Institute (LSRI). Dr. De Voto occasionally collaborates on CUEL projects. He currently collaborates with CUEL on the $4.7M NSF-funded CASPIR project that is supporting the cultivation of a set of research practice partnerships that are designing and deploying a multi-level intervention to improve mathematics instruction and student learning.   He has expertise in leadership preparation and coaching as well as educational policy. Dr. De Voto earned his doctoral degree from the University of Illinois Chicago.

Dr. Martha Hebert

Dr. Martha Hebert

Researcher

Dr. Hebert is a Researcher in the CUEL and she contributes to a range of CUEL projects. She is a qualitative researcher and she takes a lead role in materials and documentation creation. In this role, she has contributed to and is currently contributing to a wide assortment of CUEL research and development projects.

Prior to employment at UIC, Dr. Hebert worked for the Chicago Public Schools in various positions including consultant in the Office of Grants Management, Executive Assistant to the Chief Officer for Professional Development, manager of the New Teacher Induction program, and coordinator in the Office of Funded Programs. She has worked at UIC since 2006 and has a doctoral degree from Loyola University in Educational Leadership.

Dr. Marie Tejero Hughes

Dr. Marie Tejero Hughes

SPED Professor, Occasional Contributor

Dr. Hughes is a professor of special education and an occasional contributor within CUEL. She has extensive experience as a principal investigator including directing multiple US Department of Education grants focused on recruiting, preparing, and retaining special education teachers and leaders. She currently contributes on a CUEL project enacted in partnership with the American Institute for Research (AIR) and funded by the US Department of Education (15M) that is supporting the launch of a national technical assistance center (Center on Innovative Development of Effective Approaches for Leaders IDEA-L). This technical assistance will support the preparation and development of more inclusive school leaders. She earned her doctoral degree from the University of Miami.  

Selena Jabaji

Selena Jabaji

Graduate Assistant

Selena is a graduate research assistant with CUEL, supporting research and data collection activities within the Center. Selena currently is pursuing her MA in Urban Higher Education at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Valencia Koker

Valencia Koker

Occasional Collaborator, WISE Leadership Coaching

Valencia Koker is an occasional collaborator with CUEL and the Executive Director of City Year Chicago. She currently is providing leadership development and coaching to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) principals participating in the Malott Fellows program. She has expertise with distributive leadership and principal support. Valencia is an experienced urban school leader whose experiences include taking a Chicago turnaround school to the highest possible CPS school quality rating (1+). She earned her master’s degree in administrative leadership – educational administration from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Dr. Kenya Mandeldove-Sadler

Dr. Kenya Mandeldove-Sadler

Occasional Contributor, Ed.D. Program Leadership Coach

Dr. Mandeldove-Sadler occasionally contributes to CUEL projects. She currently coaches Chicago Public School (CPS) network chiefs as a part of a multi-year project funded by The Lloyd A. Fry Foundation and another anonymous funder. She has expertise in leadership preparation and coaching. She is a former teacher, principal, district-level administrator, and deputy chief of transformation. She earned her doctoral degree from National-Louis University.

Dr. Ernesto Matias

Dr. Ernesto Matias

Leadership Coach

Dr. Matias is a Leadership Coach in the CUEL. He currently develops and coaches Chicago Public School (CPS) priority and progressive school principals as a part of a multi-year project supported by The Chicago Public Education Fund. Dr. Matias has a wide range of educational leadership experiences including serving as a principal, network chief, and central office leader in CPS. He has also served in a senior leadership role within the Illinois State Board of Education. He earned his doctoral degree in Urban Education Leadership from the University of Illinois Chicago.

Dr. David Mayrowetz

Dr. David Mayrowetz

Occasional Contributor, EDPS Associate Professor

Dr. Mayrowetz occasionally contributes to CUEL projects. He is a qualitative researcher with content expertise related equity-focused instructional leadership, distributed forms of school leadership, and instructional reforms. He earned his doctoral degree from Rutgers University.

Maddie McArthur

Maddie McArthur

Web Design and Content Marketing and Management Intern

Maddie is the Content Marketing and Management intern at the CUEL. Maddie researches and gathers information for the center and also contributes to the design of web and print-related materials. Maddie currently is working on her undergraduate degree in Education and Psychology at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Dr. Stephen McClain

Dr. Stephen McClain

Occasional Contributor, Ed.D. Program Leadership Coach

Dr. McClain occasionally contributes to CUEL projects. He currently coaches Chicago Public School (CPS) network chiefs as a part of a multi-year project funded by The Lloyd A. Fry Foundation and another anonymous funder. Dr. McClain is a former teacher as well as a school and network leader. He earned an EdM from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a doctoral degree from the University of Illinois Chicago.

Mary Nyaema

Mary Nyaema

Visiting Research Specialist

Dr. Mary Nyaema is a visiting research specialist in CUEL and a program associate at the UIC Learning Sciences Research Institute. She has worked on developing evidence based formative assessment tasks aligned to the Next Generation Science Assessment (NGSS) and instructional materials for K-12 students. Her research interests include incorporation of active learning strategies in science classrooms, visual literacy, culturally responsive pedagogies, use of technology in the classroom and bridging the gap between enacted and intended curricula. She holds a Ph. D from the University of Iowa in Science Education and has over ten years of teaching experience in mathematics and science.

British Reynolds

British Reynolds

Graduate Assistant

British is a Research Assistant in CUEL. British supports research and data collection projects in CUEL. She currently is working on her Ph.D. in EDPS at the University of Illinois Chicago.

 

 

Dr. Meagan Richard

Dr. Meagan Richard

Occasional Collaborator, Assistant Professor in the Darden College of Education and Professional Studies, Old Dominion University

Dr. Meagan Richard occasionally contributes to CUEL projects. She is an Assistant Professor in the Darden College of Education and Professional Studies at Old Dominion University. Her areas of expertise include the intersection of educational leadership with issues of equity and social justice, equity-oriented reform initiatives in urban school districts, and the use of mixed-method research strategies in educational evaluations. She is a 2023 graduate of UIC’s doctoral program in Educational Policy and Leadership Studies, where she also earned an M.Ed. in Measurement, Evaluation, Statistics, and Assessment. Her degree background includes an M.S. in Applied Sociology from Texas State University, and a B.A. in History from Wellesley College.

Dr. Alison Castro Superfine

Dr. Alison Castro Superfine

Occasional Contributor
Dr. Alison Castro Superfine is a Professor of Mathematics Education and Learning Sciences and the Director of the Learning Sciences Research Institute (LSRI). She is an occasional collaborator with CUEL. Currently she is PI on a $4.7M NSF-funded CASPIR project that is supporting the cultivation of a set of research practice partnerships that are designing and deploying a multi-level intervention to improve mathematics instruction and student learning. Her research focuses on both prospective and practicing teacher learning, and on research-practice partnerships as vehicles for collaborative and sustainable mathematics instructional improvement. She received her doctoral degree in Mathematics Education from the University of Michigan.
Dr. Benjamin Superfine

Dr. Benjamin Superfine

Occasional Contributor
Dr. Benjamin Superfine is a Professor of Educational Policy Studies and the Assistant Vice Provost for Faculty Relations at the University of Illinois Chicago. He also serves as a Faculty Affiliate in the UIC John Marshall Law School, the Learning Sciences Research Institute, and the Center for Urban Educational Leadership. He currently collaborates with CUEL on the $4.7M NSF-funded CASPIR project that is supporting the cultivation of a set of research practice partnerships that are designing and deploying a multi-level intervention to improve mathematics instruction and student learning. Superfine received two degrees (J.D. and Ph.D.) from the University of Michigan. Before joining UIC, Superfine practiced law at a firm in Washington, D.C. Superfine’s research focuses on the history of education law and policy, school finance reform, standards-based reform and accountability, and teacher unions.
Devin Swartley

Devin Swartley

Occasional Contributor, Director of School Leadership Pipeline, Department of Principal Quality at Chicago Public Schools
 
Devin Swartley is the Director of School Leadership Pipeline in the Department of Principal Quality at Chicago Public Schools, and she is an occasional collaborator with CUEL. She currently collaborates with CUEL on a project funded by the William T. Grant Foundation, the Lyle Spencer Foundation, and the Bezos Family Foundation that is supporting the design and testing of an equity-focused school leadership development intervention. Devin earned her Masters in Public Administration from DePaul University.
 
Allison Tingwall

Allison Tingwall

Occasional Collaborator, Director of Principal Quality, Department of Principal Quality at Chicago Public Schools
 
Allison Tingwall is Executive Director of Principal Quality for Chicago Public Schools (CPS), and she is an occasional collaborator with CUEL. She currently collaborates with CUEL on a project funded by the William T. Grant Foundation, the Lyle Spencer Foundation, and the Bezos Family Foundation that is supporting the design and testing of an equity-focused school leadership development intervention. Prior to her current district-level leadership role, Dr. Tingwall successfully served as the principal of one of the largest high schools in CPS. Dr. Tingwall earned her doctoral degree in Urban Education Leadership from the University of Illinois Chicago.
 
Dr. Steven Tozer

Dr. Steven Tozer

CUEL Contributor, EDPS Professor Emeritus and Founding CUEL Director

Dr. Tozer is a contributor for a range of CUEL projects. Among other things, he currently serves on a variety of national boards and work groups such as the Aspen Institute, the National P-3 Institute, the University of Connecticut/Office of Early Childhood Education PK3 Leadership Program, and Teachers Supporting Teachers. He is also a member of The Wallace Foundation Education Leadership Network. He has also served as a Fellow for Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, a Senior Research Fellow to the Learning Policy Institute, and a Fellow to the George W. Bush Institute’s School Leader Initiative.

Prior to his retirement in 2018, Tozer was Professor and University Scholar in Educational Policy Studies, founding Director of the CUEL, and founding Coordinator of the UIC EdD Program in Urban Education Leadership. Dr. Tozer was a former K-12 educator and he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana. Tozer has an abundant amount of publications and presentations revolving around the topics of Education. He also served as President of the American Educational Studies Association and Council for Social Foundations of Education. He was also a founding board member for the Illinois Education Research Council.

Dr. Molly Watson

Dr. Molly Watson

Leadership Coach

Dr. Watson is a Leadership Coach in the CUEL. She currently coaches Chicago Public School (CPS) network chiefs as a part of a multi-year project funded by The Lloyd A. Fry Foundation and another anonymous funder and she develops and coaches CPS priority and progressive school principals as a part of a multi-year project supported by The Chicago Public Education Fund. Dr. Watson has a wide range of educational leadership experiences including serving as a leadership coach for Learning Sciences International, a Deputy Chief of Schools for Chicago Public Schools, a leadership coach for UIC for the New Schools for Chicago grant initiative, and Senior Director of School Curriculum and Assessment for the Accelerate Institute. She has also been a school principal, assistant principal, and classroom teacher. She has a doctoral degre from the University of Illinois Chicago in Policy Studies in Urban Education.

Dr. Sam Whalen

Dr. Sam Whalen

CUEL Research Director

Dr. Whalen is Research Director for CUEL. In this role, he oversees all CUEL research and evaluation. He is a quantitative and qualitative methodologist with expertise in program evaluation as well as the design of robust data infrastructures for use with evaluation and continuous improvement (the latter of which contributed to CUEL work recognized by the Spotlight Award from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching). Areas of content expertise include school leadership preparation/development, professional learning, and school-community partnerships.

Prior to joining UIC in 2003, Dr. Whalen was a Senior Researcher at Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago and Research Director at the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy. He earned his doctoral degree from the University of Chicago in Education.

Dr. Yue Yin

Dr. Yue Yin

Occasional Contributor, EPSY Professor

Dr. Yin is an occasional contributor to CUEL projects. She currently contributes to a project funded by the William T. Grant Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the Bezos Family Family Foundation that is strengthening the C2 Research Practice Partnership–which connects CUEL with Chicago Public Schools. As a part of this project, a leadership development intervention is being designed and tested through a randomized control trial. She has expertise in quantitative research design including randomized control trials, applied measurement/statistics, and assessment. Beyond her academic work, Dr. Yin serves as a K-12 school board member, where she draws upon her passion for education and expertise to advance the quality of education for all students. Dr. Yin earned her doctoral degree from Stanford University.

Paul Zavitkovsky

Paul Zavitkovsky

CUEL Contributor, Retired Ed.D. Program Leadership Coach; CUEL Developer (Continuous Improvement and Leader Development) and Policy Advocate. Occasional Contributor

Mr. Paul Zavitkovsky is a contributor to an assortment of CUEL projects. He is an expert with the design of data systems and infrastructures for continuous improvement. Prior to his retirement from UIC in 2018, he coached and taught in the EdD program in the Department of Educational Policy Studies. He has served as an elementary and middle school principal in three districts. As principal of a diverse, high poverty elementary school in Chicago, the school received national awards for its reading program and for its turnaround efforts.

Past contributors

Dr. Lionel Allen

Dr. Lionel Allen

Occasional Contributor, EDPS Department Assistant Clinical Professor and Co-Coordinator of Ed.D. Program 

Dr. Allen occasionally contributed to CUEL projects. His content expertise centers on leadership coaching, leadership preparation, equity-oriented leadership, and the experiences of and supports for African American principals in urban contexts. After almost twenty years in education as a teacher, assistant principal, turnaround principal, and chief academic officer, his current work focuses on the development of aspirant and novice principals. Dr. Allen earned his doctoral degree from the University of Illinois Chicago.

Dr. Jason Salisbury

Dr. Jason Salisbury

Occasional Contributor, EDPS Associate Professor

Dr. Salisbury occasionally contributed to CUEL projects. He is a mixed methods researcher with content expertise related to equity-focused instructional leadership and distributed forms of school leadership. He is a former teacher, and he earned his doctoral degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dr. Joe Shoffner

Dr. Joe Shoffner

Occasional Contributor, Ed.D. Program Leadership Coach
Dr. Shoffner occasionally contributed to CUEL projects. He has expertise in leadership preparation and coaching.  He is a former CPS principal. He earned his doctoral degree from the University of Illinois Chicago.

PK-12 Educational Leaders and Occasional Contributors

Dr. Patty Brekke

CUEL Developer (Continuous Improvement and Leader Development)

Dr. Brekke is a high school principal in Chicago. She earned her doctoral degree from the University of Illinois Chicago.

Dr. Laquita Louie

CUEL Developer (Continuous Improvement and Leader Development)

Dr.  Louie is a former principal and now serves as a central office leader in the role of distributed leadership manager. She earned her doctoral degree from the University of Illinois Chicago.

Dr. Patrick McGill

CUEL Developer (Continuous Improvement and Leader Development)

Dr. McGill is a central office leader and a former high school principal. He earned his doctoral degree from the University of Illinois Chicago.

Dr. Nate Pietrini

CUEL Developer (Continuous Improvement and Leader Development)

Dr. Pietrini is the Executive Director of High Jump and is a former award-winning principal of CPS elementary school. He earned his doctoral degree from the University of Illinois Chicago.

Dr. Paul Riskus

CUEL Developer (Continuous Improvement and Leader Development)

Dr Riskus is an elementary school principal in CPS. He earned his doctoral degree from the University of Illinois Chicago.