From Biology to Apps
Get to Know Chris from Infiniteach
Infiniteach was founded to change the way we educate and support individuals with autism. The staggering increase in the prevalence of autism – up more than 600% in the past two decades alone – has created a void in effective services and products. Furthermore, in the United States, is estimated that we spend $2.4 million dollars in lifetime care for each individual with autism (Autism Speaks, 2012). As the prevalence and costs of autism education continue to rise, Infiniteach knows that it is imperative that we develop comprehensive and cost-effective solutions that help every child on the spectrum. Infiniteach builds technology to connect individuals to the world around them.
Each app they develop is embedded with best practice autism interventions and proven strategies that increase independence and improve quality of life for individuals with autism. We caught up with Christopher Flint to get the inside scoop on his career path and what makes him tick outside of his work at Infiniteach!
He’s excited to expand Infiniteach’s reach.
I’m the co-founder of Infiniteach. We develop technology to help connect individuals with disabilities to their communities. Our mobile apps support inclusive schools, libraries, museums, and soon-to-be dental offices and airports!
He changed his career plans after volunteering with a student with autism.
I was a Biology major in college, then volunteered with a student with autism, loved it, and changed my career. I’ve been in the autism space ever since as a special educator, trainer, principal, and co-founder of Infiniteach.
Christopher and the Inifiniteach crew joined the CLA before the Literacenter opened its doors!
We met Stacy when Infiniteach was working out of 1871, Chicago’s tech start-up space. She introduced us to her newest concept, Literacenter, when it was still a hard hats required construction zone. We met Jimmy and Allison, and just knew this was going to be an awesome space for all things literacy and education in Chicago.
Outside of his professional pursuits …
Christopher has been playing D&D with a group of guys for the last 25 years.
If he could choose a superpower, he would go with “flying, definitely flying”.
He “loved and still loves” Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
Want to learn more about Inifiniteach? Check out their website!
Please join us at the CLA Confab with presentations from two incredible member organizations: iAchieve Learning and Classroom, Inc. Read on to learn a little bit more about our fabulous speakers!
iAchieve Learning specializes in providing one-on-one tutoring for grades K-12 in all subject areas as well as music instruction for all ages. Their goal is to work above and beyond to help students of all ages reach their highest learning potential. Every student learns at a different pace and has their own unique strengths and weaknesses. iAchieve Learning’s tutors and instructors are trained to recognize these and help prepare a learning plan to help your child succeed.
Sarah Kochan is the Owner and Founder of iAchieve Learning. Working one-on-one with students and teachers has been a passion of Sarah’s for many years. She holds a Master’s Degree in Mathematics, was a high school Math teacher for 10 years, and began private tutoring about 11 years ago. Sarah started iAchieve Learning in 2014 and has worked very hard to create a business that offers many different educational services to be able to help as many students and families as possible. iAchieve Learning started off with one main service, tutoring, and 2 sub-contractors and has now grown to offer 7 main educational services with around 25 instructors. Music has also been a large part of her life and she has been playing the piano for 29 years. Seeing the progress and results that students are able to achieve in a single learning session is amazing and is what inspired Sarah to start iAchieve Learning. She is an active member of the Chamber of Commerce for Des Plaines, Park Ridge, and Mount Prospect, a member of Learning Forward, and the National Association of Professional Women. Sarah is passionate about teaching, helping others, and making sure every student and educator is provided with an exceptional learning experience.
Classroom, Inc. creates digital learning games and curriculum set in the professional world that foster students’ literacy and leadership skills and connects school to life in an authentic workplace. Their research-based learning approach has combined innovative learning games, data-driven tools, and educator resources to personalize learning for all youth in grades 5-9.
Noreen Haque-Colombe came to education through corporate America. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Aviation Administration and a Master’s Degree in Education and participated in community outreach where she taught a kindergarten class. The experience served as an impetus for her to change careers and pursue education. She has been in involved in education for over 10 years and has worked as a classroom teacher, Program Manager, and curriculum design and professional development instructor. She feels incredibly fortunate to have worked in professional development as it offers the opportunity to work with a variety of school communities and learn about their needs. Working in professional development, she has worked to help schools maximize instruction and implementation. Meeting a variety of school staff and students is always a pleasure for Noreen. Each school has its story and it is always an honor to take time to understand what their successes and areas of improvement are. Outside of work, she enjoys traveling, reading, and biking with her two daughters.
We hope to see you at the Confab on June 20th – RSVP today!
This Month’s Literacy Changemakers
Please join us at the CLA Confab with presentations from two incredible member organizations: Empower LD and the Schuler Scholar Program.
EmpowerLD is nonprofit corporation that exists to inform and educate the larger public on the nature of learning differences, including the social and emotional impacts. EmpowerLD aims to provide practical, applicable, and actionable information to teachers, parents, students, and professionals so that individuals with learning differences can be fully appreciated and empowered to meet their full potential. Laura J. Thompson, AM, LCSW and Melodee A. Walker, Ph.D. will present on their behalf.
Laura J. Thompson, AM, LCSW
A.M., Social Work
Laura is a native of Illinois. She earned a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1996, followed by a Master’s in Social Work at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. In graduate school, Laura focused on clinical and school social work, which led her to internships in schools in the northern suburbs and the west side of Chicago. Working extensively with students with severe emotional, behavioral and learning disorders helped her to understand the social and emotional impacts of living with learning challenges. Laura joined the Hyde Park Day School, a school for bright kids with learning challenges in 2000 and remained there until opening her private practice in 2010.
Melodee A. Walker, Ph.D.
B.A., Elementary Education, Reading Endorsement, University of Northern Iowa
M.Ed., Learning Disabilities (K-12), Calvin College
Ph.D., Special Education, Learning Disabilities and Behavior Disorders, University of Texas
During her doctoral studies, Melodee served on grant-funded research teams at the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk at the University of Texas examining the impact of multi-component reading interventions, as well as investigating systems and programs as they relate to improved outcomes for students with disabilities across the nation. She also participated in the preparation of preservice special education teachers as an adjunct professor at Texas State University. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, Melodee was a teacher in general and special education classrooms across diverse settings for eleven years. She has also worked in the private sector providing remediation, evaluation, consulting, and advocacy services for students with learning differences. Her primary research interests include dyslexia, effective reading instruction for students with reading difficulties, schooling practices, and observation studies, with an eye toward increasing the alignment of prevailing practices with research-based instructional practices.
The Schuler Scholar Program supports high-potential youth to gain access to and succeed at selective colleges. The Schuler Scholar Program believes if students are motivated, have access to academic and enrichment programs while in high school, are well-informed of college options, receive support from a wide network, and secure financial assistance that they will have a better opportunity to attend the college of their dreams. Kareem Mohammad will discuss their work.
Reading Program Associate
Kareem joined the Schuler Scholar Program in July 2015 as an AmeriCorps Scholar Coach serving Maine Township High School East. Kareem has earned bachelor of arts degrees in Psychology and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago. As an advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community, he uses his knowledge and experience to create diverse and inclusive programs.
As the Reading Program Associate for the Southern region, Kareem collaborates with school staff to customize in school and after school programs, providing thoughtful feedback, in an effort to create innovative curriculums. Kareem lives in the city and in his spare time collects manga (Japanese comics).
After their presentations, attendees will have the opportunity to make announcements and chat with fellow literacy advocates. RSVP today!
Thank a Teacher
Whether it’s your child’s favorite teacher or a special educator in your own life, if you’re looking for an easy (but thoughtful!) way to convey your appreciation for the awesome teacher in your life, look no further! Just click, download, and print one of the customizable appreciation certificates below:
“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. It might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” – John Steinbeck
“A teacher is a compass that activates the magnets of curiosity, knowledge, and wisdom in the pupils.” – Ever Garrison
“Education is not filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” – William Butler Yeats
“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” – B.B. King
Creating a Home for Writers
Photo Credit Fred Beuttler
We are thrilled to have the University of Chicago Writer’s Studio as a new CLA member! We caught up with their amazing Program Manager, Gina DiPonio, to learn more about their organization, how they hope to work with fellow CLA members, and more.
Tell us a little bit about the University of Chicago Writer’s Studio mission.
The University of Chicago Writer’s Studio strives to be a creative home to writers of all genres and ambitions. We offer noncredit, open-to-all classes, which are mostly downtown, and free events around town including our annual Business of Writing Seminar, semi-quarterly open house/open mics, and regular write-ins. We want to help their students and greater community live the writing lives they imagine (and have fun doing it!).
Why did you decide to join the Chicago Literacy Alliance?
We’re honored to take part in the Chicago Literacy Alliance and connect to so many meaningful, innovative organizations/programs. We know the importance of being an active part of the Chicago literary community and are excited to share ideas and resources as well as create collaborations with other member organizations. Bottom line: The CLA is amazing.
Is there anything you wish more people knew about the University of Chicago Writer’s Studio?
Sometimes people miss the fact that we aren’t in Hyde Park. Our classes and programs are mostly downtown and online. Also, I want to make sure that everyone knows that anyone (over 18) can register for our classes and events. There’s no admission process. That’s what we mean when we say we’re open to all. Finally, I want people to know that we are flexible and eager to try new things. I always tell students that if they wish we were offering or doing something differently, just let me know. We do our best to create the classes, events, and opportunities that our community needs.
What events or programs are you excited about?
This June, we have two events lined up, both of which are free. We’ll be at Printers Row Lit Fest on the afternoon of Sunday, June 10, where our instructors will be presenting three creative-writing mini-lessons (exact time and title TBD). The next weekend, we’re holding a Writer’s Studio Write-In at Gleacher Center, our home base. We’ll be announcing this event and making registration available soon. These always fill up quickly, so please be sure to register early if you’d like to attend.
We’re so excited that in addition to becoming a member, the Writer’s Studio is also becoming a CLA Resource Partner. What are you providing members and what do you hope they’ll gain from the offering?
We’re offering CLA members a 20% discount on all of our classes. We hope that this will help anyone in the CLA who wants to practice or study creative or professional writing do so. Also, we are looking forward to creating programs that hold several spots exclusively for CLA members.
How are you hoping to collaborate with fellow CLA members?
There are so many ways to collaborate, and there is so much to learn! To start, we’re interested in learning more about how to further encourage diversity in our classrooms in terms of student body, especially, as well as faculty, course content, and pedagogy. We’re also eager to devise events with member organizations, which might include co-hosting a reading, panel or open mic (or something else!). In terms of expertise, our instructors are creative pros and we, as a team, bring a great deal of knowledge and ability in terms of creative and professional writing, writing pedagogy, and the publishing world. We’re happy to share that!
Wednesday | April 18 | 9AM
Please join us at the CLA Confab with presentations from two incredible member organizations: Pangea Educational Development and Literacy Volunteers of Illinois. Looking for a mini-preview of what you can expect? Learn more about our two speakers this month below!
Dorothy M. Miaso is the Executive Director of the Literacy Volunteers of Illinois, a position she has held since 1992. In her work with the Literacy Volunteers she has been involved with a variety of literacy and national service-related initiatives at the local, state and national levels, and has been involved with correctional education for adults and juvenile at the state and county levels. Prior to joining the Literacy Volunteers, Miaso served in various capacities in the public sector in government and not-for-profit agencies. She served as the Assistant Director of Operation ABLE, a non-profit Chicago-based employment program for older workers, and, as the Director of Senior Programs in the Governor and Lt. Governor’s offices. She also worked for the Cook County Board of Commissioners. Miaso is a past member of the Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service (who recently named an award after her)and a past board member of the American Association of State Service Commissions, a national organization that provides leadership and support to state volunteer service commissions throughout the country. She is a member of the Illinois Adult and Continuing Educators Association and the Illinois Conference on Volunteer Administration. Miaso holds a B.A. degree in English/Education from Northeastern Illinois University and a Master’s in Management of Public Service from DePaul University.
Literacy Volunteers of Illinois is a statewide organization committed to developing and supporting volunteer literacy programs that help families, adults and out-of-school teens increase their literacy skills.
Drew Edwards is the Co-Founder and CEO of Pangea Educational Development. He is a research fellow for education in conflict & emergency situations with the Qatar Foundation and has been living and working in Uganda for 7 years. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from DePaul University and is currently a graduate student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Pangea Educational Development is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering schools and unifying communities through sustainable education. Founded in 2011, PED partners with schools in Uganda through three phrases to jointly identify problems, map and implement sustainable projects, and equip them with the tools to manage their program in the future.
Excited to hear more, checking out the Literacenter, and networking with fellow literacy advocates? Join us on April 18th!
Whether you’re a part of an established organization with a large staff or you’re a one-person shop just getting your programs off the ground, shared workspaces are a fantastic option for nonprofit professionals looking to collaborate with like-minded peers and increase organizational capacity.
In addition to establishing a culture where it’s a norm to help each other, coworking offers individuals and organizations the flexibility to work independently, hop in a conference room for a team meeting, or organically collaborate around a communal table. Efficiency increases and creativity flourishes when team members have the autonomy to personalize their work environments!
Need more convincing? Check out these 10 statistics about the benefits of a shared workplace:
1. Coworking is good for employee satisfaction. 72% of members of coworking spaces are happy with their current work situation.
2. Happy teams are productive teams! 64% of coworkers are better able to complete tasks on time.
3. Meeting potential donors, volunteers, and program partners in coffee shops doesn’t always lend itself to making the best first impression. 83% of non-profit organizations using a shared workspace report improvements in organizational credibility.
4. Whether it’s the flexibility in working arrangements or the social interactions that shared spaces help facilitate, 70% of people report feeling healthier than they did working in a traditional office setting.
5. The coworking trend is growing! The projected number of members in coworking spaces worldwide for 2018 is 1,690,000 million.
6. This is a gimme, but it’s important to note nonetheless: a shared workspace encourages individuals to see themselves as part of a larger community and helps facilitate organic introductions and professional relationships.
9. Shared workspaces are good for non-profits’ bottom lines. 75% report more stable costs after moving to a shared workspace.
All said, shared workspaces have a variety of benefits for people in all industries. One of the most salient points throughout the many (many) pieces of research out there is this: community matters. From non-profits to creatives, individuals want to feel as though they’re part of something larger and shared workspaces are a great start.
Check out the featured links throughout this post to learn more about the benefits of shared workplaces or visit the Literacenter to learn more about how we’re bringing literacy professionals from around Chicago together to cowork, learn, and grow.
We caught up with Adam Morgan, Editor-in-Chief of the Chicago Review of Books to get the scoop on the organization. Check it out:
The Chicago Review of Books dedicated to making the literary conversation more inclusive by covering diverse genres, presses, voices, and mediums; shining a light on Chicago’s literary scene; and serving as a forum for literature in the Midwest.
Why is it important to shine a light on Chicago’s literary scene?
I honestly believe Chicago is in the middle of its fourth literary renaissance, so I want to help bring our poets and writers into the national conversation. The city has so many great cultural institutions for readers and writers, but I felt it was missing a digital media outlet dedicated to covering the city’s creative output.
Why did the Chicago Review of Books decide to partner with Chicago Literary Hall of Fame for The Evolution of Chicago Comics and Comic Books exhibit and panel?
Diverse genres is part of our mission, so we try to cover comics and graphic novels/memoirs as often as possible (though not as often as we’d like). When the CLHOT approached us about a partnership, it seemed like a no-brainer. They had a lot of historical knowledge about Chicago’s past comic strips and illustrators, and I tried to bring a contemporary angle to the exhibit that would highlight the local writers and artists working today, like Michael Moreci, Ashley A. Woods, Gene Ha, Jenny Frison, Lucy Knisley, Nicole Hollander, Tim Seeley, and many more.
What would you like to collaborate with CLA members?
This is tough! We’re hoping to partner with another organization to provide writing workshops in the future, once we’ve secured nonprofit status and some grants, so learning about program implementation is important to me. It’s also a great networking opportunity for us, to meet like-minded, nonprofit-oriented people in Chicago who love reading and writing.
We’re definitely available to share our expertise when it comes to digital media and digital strategy for smaller organizations on a budget. And we’re always open to using our channels to promote local literary events and initiatives.
Visit chireviewofbooks.com to learn more!
Most of us have a favorite story from childhood. Whether you’re currently reading some of these classic authors and books with your own kids or just love a good trip down memory lane, read on to (hopefully) discover something new about some of your favorite children’s books and their authors!
1. Dr. Seusss’ first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was rejected by over 20 publishers
2. On average, a copy of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar is sold somewhere in the world every minute.
3. The Harry Potter books were the first children’s books on the New York Times Bestseller list since E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web in 1952.
4. The steps taken by Alice in Alice: Through the Looking Glass make up a playable game of chess (though not necessarily an efficient one).
5. Margery Williams, author of The Velveteen Rabbit, wrote a horror novel called ‘The Thing in the Woods’ under the pseudonym Harper Williams.
6. C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien once went to a party dressed as polar bears.
7. The titular character of Clifford the Big Red Dog was almost named Tiny. Author Norman Bridwell changed the name after a suggestion from his wife.
8. Keep your eyes open to find a white bull terrier in all Chris Van Allsburg’s books, including The Polar Express and Jumanji.
9. The authors of Curious George were forced to flee Paris during World War II’s German occupation, according to the New York Times. They weren’t able to carry much, but one thing made it into their suitcase: the original Curious George manuscript.
10. Carolyn Keene, to whom every book featuring Nancy Drew is attributed, is not a real person. Keene is a pseudonym for the many authors who contributed to the mystery series.
Here’s to keeping all of our inner children alive through the magic of children’s literature!
Written by Cara Ward
Looking for a way to celebrate Women’s History Month with your little reader? Consider celebrating the many contributions women have made by reading a few stories that highlight women’s accomplishments, breaking stereotypes, and building self-esteem together! Not sure where to start? Check out this list of ten books that feature important women in history and strong, unique female characters.
1. Grace For President by Kelly DiPucchio
Ages: 5-9 years
After Grace learns that the United States has never had a female president, she decides to take matters into her own hands and run for class president. In addition to a fun narrative, this book provides an introduction to how elections work, and highlights the opportunities for girls and women to get involved in the American political system. This informative, entertaining read teaches girls the importance of never giving up on their dreams.
2. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
This is not your typical damsel in distress princess story! Follow the fiercely independent Princess Elizabeth as she searches for her husband-to-be, Prince Ronald, after he is seen being taken by a dragon. A self-empowered, fearless role model for young girls, this princess shows her readers that they can be the heroes in their own stories.
3. Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly
Ages: 8-12 years
This book—which you probably recognize as a major motion picture—tells the story of four Black female mathematicians at NASA who helped achieve some of the greatest moments in the space program. This story of women in a STEM field fighting for their dreams will serve as an inspiration for readers of all ages.
4. I’m a Girl! By Yasmeen Ismail
Ages: 3-6 years
This picture book is all about being unapologetically, a girl! It’s a great book to read with any young child to teach them that they can be whoever they want and they should be proud of whoever that is.
5. Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst
Ages: 5-9 years
This book covers all kinds of amazing feats achieved by females throughout time ranging from pilot Amelia Earhart to fashion designer Coco Chanel all the way to writer Jane Austen. Reading this novel with your kids will both be an informative and fun way to talk about all the amazing things women have achieved.
6. Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole
Ages: 4-8 years
Princess Smartypants isn’t your typical princess. She’d rather live with her pets than a prince, rides a motorcycle, and scares off every suitor that comes her way by giving them impossible tasks to complete. This book tips the princess stereotype on its head and gives young readers an independent female character (who doesn’t need a man to make her happy) with whom they can relate.
7. Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
Ages: 5-7 years
Rosie dreams of being an engineer and spends all her times building gizmos and gadgets. When her great-great-aunt Rose (also known as Rosie the Riveter) comes to town with a dream of building something that will make her fly, Rosie gets to work on a special contraption with her. This story not only inspires girls to follow their dreams but also to never give up if things don’t go right the first time.
8. Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya
Ages: 5-8 years
This is the story of an inspiring young Pakistani girl who fought for girls’ right to education. Her work eventually led her to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. This is an important story for all people to read but this specific edition makes the subject matter accessible for younger readers. This novel documents an extremely recent and relevant piece of women’s history that will connect kids to the world events going on around them.
9. Seeds of Change : Wangari’s Gift to the World by Jen Cullerton Johnson
Ages: 6-9 years
This beautifully illustrated book shares the empowering story of Wangari Maathai, the first African woman, and environmentalist, to win the Nobel Peace Prize. From her youth in Kenya where she learned to respect nature and appreciate the land, plants, and animals that surrounded her, to her fight to promote the rights of her countrywoman and help save the land, her story is one that will inspire readers of all ages.
10. Beautiful by Stacy McAnulty
Ages: 4-8 years
This book empowers girls to define themselves by who they are not by what they look like. It breaks barriers by showing girls to be themselves whether that’s splashing in mud, conducting science experiments, or reading books under a flashlight with friends. This book will encourage all girls to embrace who they are and realize their inner potential.