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Language & Literacy

L&L Graduate Students

Jay Brennan

Graduate Student, Curriculum & Instruction

My Ph.D. research focuses on the simultaneous acquisition of two languages from birth, or what is often referred to as bilingual first language acquisition (BFLA). My work avoids comparing bilingual children's development to that of monolingual children acquiring the same languages. By placing the individual language learner at the center of research, we better avoid stigmatizing bilingual development patterns. These stigmata often reinforce myths of BFLA that result in policies guided by myth. By studying the bilingual child on their own merits, my work attempts to describe part of multilingual language development's unique structure. By examining bilingual children on their own merits, this work enriches an image of how BFLA differs from monolingual acquisition and what these differences actually mean. By dispelling myths surrounding BFLA, this research can provide a more equitable basis for decision making about raising and educating children bilingually. My research is in resistance to certain myths surrounding BLFA that guide education policy; myths such as the monolingual brain's superiority, less time-on-task for multilinguals, misdiagnosis of language impairment among multilinguals, and a general irreverence for minority languages and cultures indisputable among majority school curriculums around the world.

Mackensi Crenshaw

Graduate Student, Curriculum & Instruction

I am a first-year master’s student who has just arrived at UIUC from Columbus, Ohio. I recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in K-12 Special Education and 6-12 English Language Arts. I am very excited to begin my program! My research interests are largely focused on the cultivation of both critical and traditional literacy in contemporary education, especially among marginalized populations of learners. I am very interested in exploring the curricular possibilities that exist at the intersection of popular culture pedagogy and the concept of social constructivism. I want to consider how the integration and examination of cultural products can facilitate authentic literacy development in both traditional classroom spaces and in alternative, community learning spaces. I hope to utilize my work in the program to create and teach curriculum based in authentic literacy practice that promotes self-advocacy, self-concept, and embracement of the rich cultural history of the United States.

Abby Glickman

Graduate Student, Curriculum & Instruction

I’m an English teacher at Centennial High School. I’ve worked at Centennial since 2017, when I student taught there and graduated from the U of I’s English and Secondary Education program. I love helping students develop their reading and writing skills. I enjoy being in Curriculum and Instruction’s Language and Literacy program because I get to learn more about literature and reading for students. I'm an avid reader myself, so it is fun to help students become engaged in the process. I’m also pursuing the Reading Endorsement. I look forward to exploring more about how to help students develop reading skills through the endorsement classes. Reading and writing are my passions, which makes teaching English a wonderful job for me!

Carrie James

Graduate Student, Curriculum & Instruction

Carrie L. James is a doctoral candidate in Language and Literacy with a concentration in Writing Studies. Carrie earned two bachelor's degrees - one in English literature and another in news/editorial journalism at the University of Missouri - Columbia. In 2004, she earned her M.S. in English Education from Queens College as part of the New York City Teaching Fellows program. She taught in New York City middle and high schools for 14 years before joining the doctoral program here at the University of Illinois. During her time in the PhD program, Carrie has served as a consultant at the Writers Workshop, a field supervisor through School and Community Experiences, a research assistant at the Siebel Center for Design, and an instructor and teaching assistant for C& I & Writing Studies courses. Her research interests include teacher preparation in writing instructional methods - particularly multimodal composing pedagogies. Additionally, Carrie is interested in researching educational technology that might support students’ writing development, student engagement in writing and composing, assessment and feedback practices, and how literacy practices move and are taken up by both teachers and students, particularly in secondary English classrooms. Her most recent research focuses on the impact of engaging pre-service teachers in Human-centered design as well as a critical analysis of the English language arts edTPA exam for middle and high school grades.

Miche'le Johnson

Graduate Student, Curriculum & Instruction

Miche’le is an alumna of the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign earning a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction. She has worked in the Public and Charter school sectors as a traditional Kindergarten and Second grade teacher and in a community center as an After-school teacher. It was during these years that she grew an affinity towards Black Language, Black culture and Black identity and recognized the need for authentic and continuous representation throughout literacy instruction. Miche’le’s research interests include critically analyzing current literacy curriculum and assessments for Black elementary students and restructuring these tools using a linguistically and culturally responsive approach.

Hyeryung Kim

Graduate Student, Curriculum & Instruction

Hyeryung Claire Kim is a doctoral candidate in Language and Literacy. Born and raised in South Korea, she spent significant time in her mother’s kindergarten classroom while she was growing up. This early exposure to teaching young children led to her interest in early childhood education. After graduating high school, Claire moved to the United States to pursue early childhood education as a profession. Dr. Lillian Katz’s research on the project approach at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign drew Claire to this institution. After completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education at Illinois, Claire continued as a master’s degree student and worked at University Primary School (UPS) as a preschool and a 2/3 grade teaching assistant for six years. Claire’s dissertation research explores dramatic response to multicultural literature in an early childhood classroom setting.

Melanie Marshall

Graduate Student, Curriculum & Instruction

Melanie Kirkwood is a doctoral student in Language and Literacy and an Illinois Distinguished Fellow. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Secondary English Education, where she was also a Ronald E. McNair Scholar. Her undergraduate research on representations of Black girls in young adult novels set a precedent for the scope and focus of her graduate studies. After teaching briefly in the Madison Metropolitan School District, Melanie began her Masters in Reading Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Committed to both research and practice, Melanie worked as a Title 1 Reading Interventionist at a local public school prior to beginning her doctoral studies. Drawing from her experiences as a Black girl reader, teacher and researcher, Melanie’s research interests include intersectional diversity in children’s and young adult literature, selection and implementation of quality children’s literature in underserved school communities, and culturally specific literacies of Black girls and women engaging literature. Throughout her doctoral studies, she has served as a reviewer for the Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books, has taught the Elementary Education Children’s Literature course, and has served as a graduate student liaison for prospective and incoming graduate students. Currently, Melanie serves as the Historian of the Literacy Research Association’s Doctoral Student Group and she is a homegirl in SOLHOT (Saving Our Lives, Hear Our Truth’s), a Black girl collective.

Veronica Moermond

Graduate Student, Curriculum & Instruction

Veronica started her journey as a high school ELA teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio. From there, she went on the run the Developmental Department at a technical college before playing the adjunct game for a number of years. She then signed up for the U.S. Peace Corps and found herself as a TEFL Teacher Trainer in Baganuur, Mongolia. At the conclusion of her two-year Peace Corps service she moved into the capital, Ulaanbaatar, and acted as program designer and Lead Instructor of the Bridge Program at the American University of Mongolia. Her final year in Ulaanbaatar was spent teaching Cambridge courses to the wonderful students at Elite International School where she was the Head of the Secondary English Department. Veronica then moved to Uong Bi, Vietnam, to work as an English Language Fellow with the U.S. Department of State. For two years she taught at Ha Long University and was in charge of all Third Year English Majors. After an accidental adult gap year in the Dominican Republic, Veronica moved to Urbana to begin her doctorate in Fall of 2020. She plans to research the lived experiences of K-12 trans educators and their sense of belonging to their schools and communities.

Kendra Nalubega

Graduate Student, Curriculum & Instruction

Kendra Nalubega is a PhD student in Language and Literacy. She was born in Rwanda and raised in Uganda, both in Eastern Africa and moved to the U.S in 2010. She received her Associate’s degree from Harper College, Palatine, IL, in 2015. She transferred to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, 2016 and continued on to graduate school to receive a Masters of Education in Curriculum in 2017. Her research focus is African-born immigrant youths, specifically from anglophone Sub-saharan Africa, and their experiences while transitioning in the U.S education system. She is concentrating on how they are assessed and placed in ESL/ELL programs, resources made available to them, and the degree to which their culture(s) are included in the curriculum.

Jaehee Park

Graduate Student, Curriculum & Instruction

Is a doctoral student in L&L from C&I. She has taught Foundations of Bilingual Education, Social Studies for Early Childhood, Educational Psychology, and courses related to Korean reading and writing. She served as a co-chair for College of Education graduate conference and been working as a curriculum developer for language courses. During weekend, she works at heritage language school and at Sunday school at her church. Her research areas center on developing educational resources and instruction that support linguistic minority students' language and culture development from schools, home, and community. The topic of dissertation is investigation of voices linguistic minorities (teachers, students, and parents) in gifted programs and how the programs should support linguistically and culturally different students in the program.

Jim Sosnowski

Graduate Student, Curriculum & Instruction

Jim Sosnowski is doctoral candidate in Language and Literacy. After earning his BA in Biology with a grade 6-12 licensure from Augustana College, he taught high school science in the suburbs of Chicago before teaching EFL in Central and South America. Motivated by his EFL teaching experiences, he came to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2007 to pursue an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language where he continued on as a Lecturer, teaching ESL at the post-secondary level. In 2010, Jim helped to launch Language Partners (LP), a prison-based, peer-taught, ESL program based out of Danville Correctional Center, of which he is now a Co-coordinator. His research emerged from his participation in LP as he and the teachers began exploring how their program contributed to the minoritization and silencing of their students. His dissertation is focused on examining how ideologies related to language, race, and education contribute to the minoritization of adult English language learners. Through partnering with the LP teachers, he hopes this research will contribute to a more equitable and critical teaching environment that will impact the LP community and challenge deficit-based pedagogies commonly used when working with adult language learners.

Purity Wawire

Graduate Student, Curriculum & Instruction

Purity Wawire is a doctoral student in C&I and specializes in Language & Literacy. Purity was born and raised in the Western part of Kenya, where the family resides. She has a background in education from her undergraduate degree in Education Arts with a major in Kiswahili language and literature, and Religious Studies from Egerton University. Purity has lived and worked in Kenya as a high school teacher and a research assistant on various Literacy development projects till when she relocated to the US in 2018. While at Ohio University, she pursued her master’s degree in African Studies with the Center for International Studies (CIS) and graduated in 2020. With an international focus, her masters research focused on Language policy, Literacy, and equal participation in educational development in Kenya and Tanzania. While at Ohio University, she was also the Swahili instructor on record with the Linguistics department and taught in the elementary, intermediate, and advanced level classes. Besides, she also worked with other Swahili programs across the country such as the Swahili STARTALK academy program as an adjunct lecture at the University of Kansas, and the SILMW program at the University of Illinois. While Foreign language teaching and learning is something that she has passion with, she has a research interest in Language and Literacy. Being born and raised up in an entirely diverse linguistic and cultural background has contributed to her growing research interests. Purity’s research interests focus largely in exploring the language and literacy practices in linguistically and culturally diverse settings at home, community, and schools. Her current research investigates the language and literacy practices of African immigrant families, largely focused on the immigrant parent’s experiences raising and supporting their children’s bilingual and biliteracy journeys. 

Jiadi Zhang

Graduate Student, Curriculum & Instruction

Jady Zhang is a doctoral student in Language and Literacy program. She received her Master’s degree from the Penn State University in Teaching English as a Second Language. She has varied experience teaching English and Chinese in both ESL and EFL context. Her research interests are bilingual education, heritage language maintenance, translanguaging, multicultural children’s literature, and teacher education.

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