Katie Russell

With a B.S. from Southern Illinois University, Katie Russell began her teaching career in Elementary Education teaching fourth grade. She has always had a deep love for reading and discovered during her first year of teaching, that her desire was to help struggling readers. Shortly after, she returned to Southern Illinois University to obtain her Master’s Degree in Reading and Language Studies. Katie has gained experience with readers at all levels by teaching  in third and first grades and working as a Reading Specialist for grades three through five. Katie now works at the Middle School as a special education teacher for sixth grade. Katie actively encourages literacy in her district by organizing author visits and helping to plan family reading nights. To promote literacy education in her community, Katie has served as the President of the Southern Illinois Reading Council, where she is still an active member, helping to plan workshops and summer conferences. On the state level, Katie has presented at the Illinois Reading Conference on topics, such as, family reading night and Literacy Work Stations. She has served on several IRC committees and presented at the Leadership Retreat for several years. She is also a member of the steering committee for the Illinois State Monarch Award List.

Leslie Forsman
Leslie Forsman has served as the PreK-12 Librarian for the Triopia CUSD #27 School District for 28 years and counting. During several of those years, Leslie has also held various classroom positions including 3rd/4th Grade Title I Reading, 8th grade Education to Careers, and 7th grade Quest. Recently she was asked to add being a daily 1:1 reading aide for a second grader. For several years she offered her students the chance to participate in "Recess Readers." This was a voluntary participation book club to read and discuss/share several of the Readers' Choice nominees of those years.  Leslie has also been actively involved on the board, tutoring at, and with planning programming for the Arenzville Library and Tutoring Center (ALTC). Leslie is the current Readers' Choice function representative for the Association of Illinois School Library Educators (AISLE). She helps with the creation and promotion of the AISLE's three Illinois Readers' Choice awards (Monarch, Bluestem, and Lincoln) nominee lists. She also serves on the Illinois Reads selection committee. Leslie has also helped promote reading by helping to create the AISLE/LBSS Endowment Fund and its grants of readers' choice nominee sets to libraries across the state.


Julie Hoffman
Vice President
Julie Hoffman, Ed.D., has taught in rural, suburban, and urban public schools throughout Illinois.  She is an educational researcher, reading specialist, reading coach, English language arts teacher, science teacher, professional book reviewer, and conference presenter with many years of public school teaching and literacy leadership experience. Her research interests include urban education, equity, social and emotional learning, children’s literature, and empathy. She is an advocate for the underserved and unheard. She believes that children’s literature can provide readers with a message of perseverance and hope. Her passion is to help students who have experienced trauma find healing, resilience, and empowerment through their own writing and the writing of others.

Stephanie Benson
Past President

Coming from a family of educators, Stephanie Benson’s biggest rebellion in life was the 9 months she thought she would major in something other than education. Luckily the rebellion was short lived.  Stephanie came to her senses quickly by deciding to become a special educator, a field of education unique to her family that she finds personally and professionally rewarding.  Stephanie spent the first six years of her career teaching 5th – 8th grade special education students. By the time they reach middle school, this student population has typically already faced a deep frustration level in reading, and behavior issues often begin to manifest themselves as a way of coping with the academic frustration. Stephanie, like many teachers, took on the mantra of Miss Malarkey in “Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind." Find the book that can hook a student and branch out the curriculum from there. Often her students could be found listening to audiobooks.  She and her classroom assistants would be found throughout the classroom reading aloud to different groups of students. JK Rowling, Andrew Clements, Lemony Snicket and Mildred Taylor were the rock stars in her classroom. For the last ten years with the implementation of Response to Intervention, Stephanie has been tasked with providing professional development, mentoring, and problem-solving support to her peers within the 10 districts of Grundy County. She meets with colleagues to find the best curriculums, supports and strategies to help students’ learning grow and thrive with the classrooms.


Melissa Wheeler
Recording Secretary

Melissa Wheeler has taught in a variety of settings over the last 15 years. She took her first teaching job in a small, private school in upstate NY, teaching 1st and 2nd grades. Finding the reading curriculum to be inadequate, Melissa heavily supplemented with materials she purchased herself. Following a passion to bring literacy in a new way to underserved students, she left the private school to work in some of the toughest, lowestperforming inner-city schools in Syracuse. She soon found a permanent classroom at a charter school in the city, where she was a 2nd grade classroom teacher once again. While there, Melissa returned to school to work on her MSED in Literacy, Birth -12th grade. Shortly after obtaining her MSED in Literacy, Melissa moved with her family to Oakland, IL. In 2012, she was hired as the Reading Specialist at the elementary school in that town. This year, Melissa will be teaching 4th grade at Dr. Howard Elementary School in Champaign. She is excited to get to infuse all subject areas with rich literacy opportunities. In the future, Melissa plans to pursue a PhD in Social Justice with a focus on Literacy. She believes that literacy is an essential tool for unlocking social justice and equity, and wants to further its use both domestically and globally through work in the classroom, as well as providing high-quality training to teachers worldwide. Melissa is an active member in ILA and IRC due to her conviction that organizations such as these are key to promoting social justice and equity in schools. She holds that it is essential that all students receive a high-quality education, fueled by rich literacy skills, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, zip code, religious beliefs, or any other conceivable circumstance.


 Nancy Oesterreich began her career with classroom teaching experiences in several school districts. After a break from teaching to raise her children, Nancy pursued her Reading Specialist master’s degree from Olivet Nazarene University in 2005. Nancy accepted a position as a reading teacher in the Joliet Public School District in 2006. From 2009-2011 Nancy was a high school reading teacher at Crete Monee High School where she not only taught reading to students, but also actively provided professional development regarding content area reading strategies. During this time, Nancy completed her Master’s degree in educational administration at Governors State University. Upon receiving her administrative degree, Nancy became the Reading Director in the Elmwood Park Community Unit School district from 2011-2013. Here she was responsible for the Title I grant, coordinating the work of the interventionists, and presenting professional development to the staff, grades K-12. From 2013-2017 Nancy worked as a Principal Consultant for ISBE in the Title Grants division. In this capacity, Nancy worked with over 100 school districts across the state designing Title Programs, interventions, and utilizing Title Grant funds (Titles I, IIA, and IV). Nancy also assisted with writing the Illinois State ESSA plan and designing and presenting professional development at conferences across the state. In 2014, Nancy became actively involved in the Illinois Title I Association and has assumed many leadership positions in this statewide council of IRC, as well as becoming the ISBE liaison and Advocacy Chair for the Illinois Reading Council. In 2017, Nancy returned to working at the school district level as the Director of School Improvement, Accountability and Language Arts in Cicero School District 99, and this past summer became the Director of Federal Programs for CUSD 300 in Algonquin.


Christy Ziller
Director of Membership

My name is Christy Ziller and I live in Wilmington, Illinois.  My husband, Tom, and I have one daughter, Shelby.  We will be welcoming into our family a son-in-law on October 31st, 2015. We have two granddogs, Izabella and Oakley.  I am currently a 7th grade Language Arts teacher at Wilmington Middle School. I have been in education for 17 years.  I have a B.A. in Elementary Education and a M.S. in Reading from the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois. I joined the Illinois Reading Council and Will County in 2002. While a member of the Will County Reading Council, I have served as many different roles.  This year, I will serve as President. As a member of IRC, I have presented, attended and volunteered in many capacities.  I am excited to be a part of the Executive board of the IRC as Membership Director and begin paying forward all of the fruits I have been given through this wonderful organization.


Cindi Koudelka
ILA State Coordinator

Dr. Cindi Koudelka is a Curriculum Specialist with National Board Certification in Adolescent Young Adulthood/English Language Arts at Fieldcrest School District and an adjunct professor for Aurora University. Being a bibliophile and school nerd, she is certified in Early Childhood, Elementary, and Special Education, K–12 Reading, and Administration and has taught at all of those levels. She is a youth advocate who believes in the power of literacy to disrupt systemic oppression and strives to grow her own learning with research focused on critical adolescent literacies, educational equity, positioning, and youth participatory action research. Cindi is dedicated to sharing this learning with other educators as she is a member of multiple national and international literacy and research organizations. Through those opportunities, she presents at a variety of conferences, serves as a peer reviewer, and participates in related committees in her efforts to foreground activism, community, and love.  Cindi also believes it is critical that educators give back to the local and state communities, so she has been an active member in IRC as she has been a Council President for both SRL and SRRC, a Regional Director, served on various committees, and currently continues to chair the advocacy committee.

IRC Staff

Carrie Sheridan
Executive Director
Karen Kortkamp
Public Relations Coordinator
Media and Marketing Coordinator