BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Julie Luck Jensen - Board Chair
Julie Luck Jensen has worked in the field of education for over 40 years as a teacher and administrator in Wheeling, Des Plaines and Barrington, Illinois. Her work with gifted education ran throughout 35 of those years, and she is a founding member of the Illinois Association for Gifted Children. Julie’s many roles with IAGC include board member, committee chair, president, and, currently, Chairman of the Board. She was involved in efforts to revise the state Gifted Education Seminar (GES) and, as a GES trainer, has taught numerous sessions of the seminar. After her retirement from her position as Director of Extended Services in Barrington District 220 in 2013, Julie has served as a consultant to several suburban districts.
Paula Olszewski-Kubilius - President Elect
Dr. Paula Olszewski-Kubilius is currently the director of the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University and a professor in the School of Education and Social Policy. Over the past 32 years, she has created programs for diverse groups of gifted learners and written extensively on issues of talent development, particularly on programming for under-represented gifted students and outside-of-school and accelerative models of gifted education. Her most recent work is a monograph written with Rena Subotnik and Frank Worrell, “Rethinking Giftedness and Gifted Education: A Proposed Direction Forward Based on Psychological Science”, published by the Association for Psychological Science, which received the Award for Excellence in Research in 2013 from the Mensa Education and Research Foundation of Mensa International, Limited, She has served as editor of Gifted Child Quarterly, co-editor of the Journal of Secondary Gifted Education and on the editorial review boards of Gifted and Talented International, The Roeper Review, and Gifted Child Today. She currently is on the board of trustees of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and the Illinois Association for the Gifted. She also serves on that advisory boards for the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William and Mary and the Robinson Center for Young Scholars at the University of Washington. She is the past- president of the National Association for Gifted Children from whom she received the Distinguished Scholar Award in 2009 and the GCQ Paper of the Year Award in 2011.
Denise Kuchta - Secretary
Denise Kuchta is the Coordinator for Gifted, as well as the Mathematics Instructional Coach at Queen Bee School District 16, where she re-established the gifted program in 2015-2016. Throughout her career, she has worked closely with students in grades 3-8, specializing in mathematics, gifted education and acceleration for math and English/Language Arts, and special education and interventions.
Denise serves on the Board of Directors for the Illinois Association for Gifted Children, and is the Secretary of the organization. She has served on the Social/Emotional Committee as well as the Networking Committee for several years. She also recently served as the chair of the IAGC Leadership Retirement Committee. Her passion in gifted education stems from life-long giftedness and the unique path students will take from the K-8 system to high school and into adulthood. She is committed to the needs of underrepresented learners and providing opportunities that facilitate life goals. She is also an advocate for educating the parents of gifted children – as well as parental involvement in education.
Denise has a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with endorsements in Mathematics, History, Language arts, and Middle school Teaching from Western Illinois University. She has a Master’s Degree in Administrative Leadership (Type 75) and an endorsement in Gifted Education from Aurora University.
Denise met her husband, Nick, in an undergraduate English course for gifted and talented students. Over the years, her interest in giftedness for adults has been of interest. Together, Denise and Nick have one daughter.
Eric Calvert, Ed.D., currently serves as co-chair of IAGC’s Policy and Advocacy Committee. Dr. Calvert is Associate Director at Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development (CTD) where he oversees programs for middle and high school students and provides consulting and program evaluation services to K-12 school districts. Previously he has overseen gifted education policy and international education initiatives for the Ohio Department of Education, led K-12 student programs at Purdue University’s Gifted Education Resource Institute, taught graduate courses in gifted education and educational technology, and served as a consultant to the International Studies Schools Network. He earned his doctorate in educational leadership from Bowling Green State University, a master’s degree in educational psychology from Purdue, and a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the University of Central Missouri with certifications in language arts and speech and theatre education. He is also an active member of the Ohio Association for Gifted Children and the National Association for Gifted Children.
Dr. Adrienne Coleman, a Diversity & Inclusion speaker/researcher, serves as the Multicultural Education Specialist at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA). In this role, she is responsible for promoting a culture that appreciates, affirms, and includes students, faculty, and staff from a multiplicity of cultural backgrounds, who have high talent and interest in mathematics and science. She previously worked at Rutgers University as a Program Development Specialist, Research Assistant and Adjunct Faculty with the Bloustein School of Public Health as well as at Illinois State University as a Health Educator. She has served as an AmeriCorps member and has been part of the United States delegation team that assisted Moldova (Eastern Europe) in addressing issues of human trafficking and inadequate health education.
Dr. Coleman is the recipient of the NAACP 2016 Trailblazer in Education Award, the 2013 - 2016 Leon Lederman Scholar’s Awardand the IMSA 2012 E = MC2 award. Her areas of interest include public health, social justice/diversity education and higher/gifted education. She is a qualitative researcher who has examined the motivation of Black and Latino students to engage in the STEM education and careers. Her research has informed STEM programs throughout the nation. She hopes to contribute to the education and economic development of students from underrepresented populations by continuing her research on the motivation of culturally and linguistically diverse students engaged in STEM, ultimately strengthening and diversifying the STEM education to career pipeline.
Dr. Adrienne Coleman possesses a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Argosy University and a Master of Science Degree in Health Education as well as a Master of Science in Educational Administration and Foundation both from Illinois State University.
With over 30 years of public education experience, Dr. Kerry L. Cox, has served thousands of students and families through a combination of teaching and administrative roles. She has taught at the elementary, middle and college levels and was a building principal from PreK through middle school levels. Presently she is the Carrollton CUSD#1 Superintendent and an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield in the College of Education and Human Services.
Dr. Cox received her undergraduate degree in elementary education at Illinois College, a Master’s degree in elementary education / gifted education from Western IL University, a post-master’s certificate in educational leadership from the University of Illinois at Springfield and her doctorate in Educational Leadership from Illinois State University. “Gifted Education: Politics and Leadership in Education” was the title of her dissertation completed in 2011.
A Golden Apple award winner as a teacher, Dr. Cox was named an IASA Superintendent of Distinction in the spring of 2017. She also completed the National Institute of School Leadership’s Executive Development Program for School Leaders in 2016. A presenter at numerous regional, state and national conferences, Dr. Cox currently is the Two Rivers representative of the IASA Governmental Relations and Advocacy Committee.
Dr. Cox has been a member of the IAGC Board of Directors since 2014 and has been a strong supporter of gifted education for her entire educational career. She brings a unique perspective to the Board of Directors through the lens of a current district superintendent.
Newenka came to the field of giftedness out of concern for her two gifted daughters. A former management consultant with Accenture, she put her management skills to work advocating for their needs. She started the Gifted Education Cooperative, GECO, which supported the needs of gifted children and their families in her community. As a member of the IAGC advocacy committee, Newenka organized the first Take Our Gifted Children to Springfield Day, where hundreds of yellow-shirted gifted children, their parents and their teachers descended upon our capitol to meet their representatives. Newenka is a founding member and the current president of the Chicago Gifted Community Center, a 501(c)(3) organization committed to facilitating educational and emotional support for gifted children and their families. Newenka is also the SENG liaison for Illinois, an experienced SENG Model Parent Group facilitator and frequent presenter on topics related to raising gifted children. Newenka joined the IAGC Board of Directors in 2016. As a board member she has focused on the needs of parents and on the technology needed to manage the organization. She would love to hear what parents feel IAGC should be doing to support their needs and the needs of their children.
Susan Rhodes - Board President
Susan Rhodes retired after 35 years in public education in Illinois. During her last nine years Susan served as the principal of Iles School, a gifted magnet school in Springfield serving 450 identified gifted and talented students in grades 1-8. Ten years prior to being principal, Susan worked as a central office administrator in mathematics curriculum and gifted education. She was a leader in developing the district’s magnet school that began in 2000. Prior to her employment in Springfield District 186, Susan was at Educational Service Center #8, a five county region in northwestern Illinois working with 40 school districts providing math, science and gifted education staff development, initiating an annual conference for fine arts educators, and successful grant writer. Susan taught in grades 5-8 for eleven years in Walnut, a small rural school she attended as a child and taught summer school programs for gifted learners. In 2001 Susan was a contributor to the NAGC’s Standards in Action Publication. Susan has been a Reviewer for the U.S. Department of Education “Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program” Competitive Grants in addition to evaluating proposals at the Illinois State Board of Education and serving from 1994-2007 on the ISBE Teacher Education Site Visit Teams. She has been a regular contributor to IAGC’s annual Journal, a convention presenter, IAGC board member since 2008, adjunct faculty member for Benedictine University, National Louis University, and Lincoln Land Community College. Susan currently serves on the Illinois State Board of Education Gifted Advisory Council.
Sally Thomson - Past President
Dr. Sally Thomson is an adjunct professor at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois. She has been a classroom teacher, a teacher of the gifted, an elementary school principal and a district gifted program coordinator, working in the field of gifted education since 1986. She is co-author of the 3-book series, Primary Education Thinking Skills (PETS program), published through Pieces of Learning. Sally has master’s degrees in both Education Administration and Curriculum & Instruction, with emphasis on educating the gifted. Her doctorate from Aurora University is also in Curriculum & Instruction with an emphasis in gifted education. She served on the Illinois State Board of Education Gifted Advisory Council from its inception in 2006 through 2014. In her personal life, Sally is Vice-President of the Hinckley Area Food Pantry, the Finance Secretary for the Hinckley First United Methodist Church, and she sits on several church committees as well as serving as song leader. The mother of four gifted children herself, Sally resides in Hinckley with her husband, Jim: a counselor, author, and family therapist.
Susan Corwith - Treasurer
Susan Corwith is an Associate Director with Center for Talent Development (CTD) at Northwestern University. Dr. Corwith leads the Admissions & Advising, Assessment, School and Family Services, and Marketing and Communications teams at CTD. She brings to her role extensive experience in program design and evaluation, advocacy and outreach. She received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in educational leadership and policy analysis with an emphasis on high-quality programs for gifted students. For over 20 years Dr. Corwith has been active in the field of gifted education, working as a K-12 educator, gifted program coordinator, administrator and researcher. Dr. Corwith is also an instructor in the School of Education and Social Policy’s gifted masters and certificate programs and serves on accreditation teams for AdvancEd and CAEP. Prior to joining CTD, she was President of the Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth, a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to meeting the needs of gifted students.
Tracey has been an active member of the Yorkville IL community for 24 years, raising 4 children, with her husband Jim; all attended Yorkville schools. She has a passion for children and gifted education and has been a passionate advocate for 22 years. Recognizing the struggles her own children presented she made it her mission to build support and understanding for all high ability learners, both in the classroom and in life.
In 1998, Tracey did extensive research on acceleration using districts in the Northern Illinois area as well as contacting many experts in the field of gifted education nationwide. She worked with the Yorkville School District to create a policy for the first whole grade acceleration. Her son was radically accelerated in 1999. In 2002, she enrolled in Aurora University to complete her Master’s in Education with the focus on all facets of gifted education. Since then, Tracey has been a 5th grade gifted teacher, a Gifted Resource teacher for students grades 3-8, Director of Gifted Education working to create a K-2 enrichment, 3-6 gifted program and a consultant for grades 7-12. She has published four language arts units for gifted children and become a consultant, trainer, and mentor for the state of Illinois. She currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Illinois Association for Gifted Children. Her goal is to impact the way we educate gifted students, inform parents of the special needs of their children, and raise awareness within gifted students themselves, in order to help them become captains of their ships and not passengers in the river of life!
Connie Lee is an assistant principal in a Chicago Public School Regional Gifted Center. She is a proud graduate of Chicago Public Schools (CPS), and has worked for CPS as teacher and administrator for over 15 years. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign, Urbana with an Elementary Education degree and a minor in Mathematics. She also has a Master’s Degree in Education Leadership.
Her passion is to continue to serve gifted students in an urban school setting. With a growth mindset, Connie knows that she still has a lot to learn, to grow, and to accomplish. She strongly believes in the importance in collaborating and working alongside with other educators, parents, students, and administrator to advocate and support the academic and social and emotional needs of gifted and talented children.
Dr. Jose M. Torres was named President of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in 2014. He is a recipient of the Dr. Effie H. Jones Humanitarian Award (2014) from the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), an award honoring leadership in educational equity and excellence to those demonstrating an extraordinary “commitment to the advancement and mentorship of women and minorities in positions of leadership and/or demonstrate a commitment to address social justice issues among children, youth and adults in schools.”
At the invitation of the Governor of Illinois, Dr. Torres serves on the advisory committee for the Governor’s Technology Advisory Group; and the Governor’s Cabinet on Children and Youth. He also serves on the Cost of Segregation Education Advisory Group; and on the board of directors of the Illinois Association for Gifted Children, the Governor’s P-20 Council and Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Illinois.
He is the former School Superintendent of Elgin School District U-46 where he implemented a five-year accountability plan that established new benchmarks supporting the District's 40,000 students' efforts to achieve academic success. He served on the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Equity and Excellence Commission (2011-2013) and provided recommendations for closing the achievement gap of English language learners. He is a past regional superintendent for the Chicago Public Schools and has worked in school districts in San Jose, CA; Anne Arundel, Baltimore; Rockville, MD; Washington, D.C.; and the U.S. Department of Defense Schools.
Dr. Torres holds the degrees from the University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland): Bachelor Degree in General Studies (1983), Master of Education (1985), and a Doctor of Philosophy in Education Policy, Planning and Administration (1999). His hometown is San Juan, Puerto Rico.
April Wells is the Coordinator for Gifted, Academies, Advanced Placement and World Languages in Illinois School District U-46, where she facilitated the comprehensive redesign of the District’s gifted programming in 2012-2013. April serves on the Board of Directors for the Illinois Association for Gifted Children, and has presented at conferences including IAGC, National Association for Gifted Children, the Statewide Conference for Teachers Serving Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Students, and the College of William and Mary Center for Gifted Education. Her interests emphasize equity pedagogy, underrepresented learners, developing a gifted continuum of services, and providing instructional supports that allow students to maximize their pursuits. April is honored to support legislative efforts at the state level aimed at developing systemic supports for high ability learners. April has a bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from DePaul University, a master’s in Teaching and a master’s in Administration and Supervision from National Louis University. April is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Chi Alpha Omega Chapter in Schaumburg, IL.