This month’s Confab is taking place at the Weinberg/Newton Art Gallery celebrating literacy, collaboration, and art. Member organizations Designers for Learning and The Chicago Home Tutor will present and give the community the opportunity to hear some of the amazing work they’re doing to improve literacy in Chicago. Read on to find out a little bit more about our speakers and register for the Confab today!


Jennifer Maddrell from Designers for Learning


Confab-Chicago-Literacy-AllianceJennifer Maddrell is the founder and Executive Director of Designers for Learning, a nonprofit with a mission to provide educational resources and service-learning experiences to promote all aspects literacy. Jennifer founded Designers for Learning in 2014 after completing a master’s degree in instructional systems technology at Indiana University and a Ph.D. in instructional design at Old Dominion University.

Before her career transition to the education field, she worked for over 15 years within the insurance industry after completing a bachelor’s degree in finance at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and an MBA at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Jennifer’s passion for education and technology inspired her career transition. She founded Designers for Learning with a dual mission to support underserved educational needs and to provide instructional design students and other volunteers with experiential learning opportunities. Since Designers for Learning’s inception, over 4,500 volunteers have enrolled in service-learning experiences to crowdsource the design and development of open educational resources (OER) for adult basic education programs to help learners with low literacy and math skills. Over 100 lessons designed by these volunteers are available for free to adult educators and their learners in the Adult Learning Zone group on OER Commons.

Founding Designers for Learning has been the most rewarding challenge in her life. Given that adult education programs in the US serve only 1.5 million of the 93 million who could benefit from their services, the motivation to support this enormous underserved need far outweighs the ups and downs of organizing and facilitating instructional design projects that involve hundreds of volunteers.

The best part of her job is connecting those who want to help with those who need it. She traces her passion for education and literacy to her parents. They considered their highest purpose and accomplishment to be ensuring that all four of their children graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. A proud “cheesehead” now living in Chicago, Jennifer spends much of her downtime cheering on her Badgers and camping with her husband in southwest Wisconsin not far from where her ancestors settled in the mid-1800s.


Tulin Akin from the Chicago Home Tutor


Tulin Akin has been a school psychologist since 2007, but she left public schools and began working for Chicago Home Tutor in 2014. She loved working with students, teachers and families, but had grown frustrated with the components of my job that took time away from students. She loves so much about the work she does now – she forms deep, lasting relationships with her students and families, she is able to apply best practices and flexibility to address student concerns, and she gets to choose her number of clients and schedule – allowing her to add or reduce supports as she determines is best for the student.

When she’s not working, you’ll usually find her running, reading, cooking, or hanging out with her husky, Chance. She also volunteers every week at Lakeview Pantry, and loves it. She is a voracious reader, on almost any subject, and have been since she was small – she happily loses track of hours on the weekend laying in the sun and reading. This is probably why literacy matters so much to her: it has brought her so much joy and increased her love of learning, and she truly believes it better connects her to others. She wants everyone to be able to experience those positives.

The Chicago Home Tutor was founded with the knowledge that with an attuned and skilled practitioner in their corner every student can make progress towards their academic and social-emotional goals. They specifically wanted to partner with CLA because they share the common goal to equip all people to read- a skill which empowers them in many other areas. They are familiar with the research on the importance of early intervention and firmly believe that with some effective, early support we can make big strides towards completely preventing literacy problems. They are hoping to partner with some organizations to make this a reality.

Learn more. Register for the Confab on February 21st!