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ITBE Executive Board

Welcome to our New 2017-2018 Board!

  Illinois TESOL-BE's Board also consists of Officers and SIG Leaders. For more information on each Board position, view TESOL-BE's Constitution and Bylaws webpages. 
Maria Alanis (2017-2018), Advocacy Chair

Maria Alanis has dedicated her educational career to linguistically and culturally diverse learners. She served as the Director of ESL/Bilingual Education for Champaign CUSD #4 (2005-2017) and has held instructional and leadership roles in PK-12 and post-secondary education in Illinois and in Texas. She has taught English as a Second Language, dual language, transitional bilingual education, and special education and was an adjunct professor of ESL and bilingual education at the University of St. Thomas. Maria holds a M.Ed. in ESL and Bilingual Education from the University of St. Thomas (Houston, Texas) and a B.S. from the University of Houston. Maria is a member of Habitat for Humanity’s Development Committee, Altrusa International, and the Latino Partnership in Champaign County. Maria has been a member of ITBE since 2006.

Maria’s passion to develop safe spaces, to advocate, and to facilitate authentic outreach, support, empowerment, and inclusion of marginalized stakeholders was the impetus to found Xenia, a non-profit organization in Champaign County (

Miguel Fernandez (2014-2017), Secretary

"Miguel Fernandez works as an Education Specialist at the Illinois Resource Center in Arlington Heights, where he provides professional development for school districts in the field of ESL and Bilingual Education. He has worked in the field of bilingual education for more than 15 years. He holds both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Foreign Language and Literature (English) and a Master’s degree in Language Testing and Assessment. He has also earned a doctorate in education.

Marie Friesema (2015-2018), Director of Exhibits & Advertising

Marie Friesema is the Academic Coordinator of the English Department at Wheaton College, and is also an adjunct instructor in the Intensive English Language Program at Moraine Valley Community College.  She received her B.A. from Trinity International University majoring in General Studies with emphases in English Communications; Health Performance and Wellness; and the Social Sciences.  She holds an M.A. in Intercultural Studies and TESOL from Wheaton College Graduate School.  She has taught ESL for ten years, mostly to the migrant adults who care for the horses at the thoroughbred racetracks in Illinois.  This was the context both of her master's thesis, English Teaching at the Backstretch of America's Racecourses, and her latest writing project – a screenplay. She also oversees the Illinois Council of the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America, a non-profit organization that provides spiritual, social, and educational services to the families of the horse racing industry. 
Barb Gomez (2015-2018), Awards Committee Co-Chair

Barb Gomez is currently an adjunct professor in the minority education department at National Louis University, NCE - National College of Education -  where she has been teaching since 2001. She worked in public education in Huntley District 158 for nearly 20 years as an ESL teacher in grades 9 through 12. Barb has worked on the board of ITBE as a member-at-large since 2011, first with the secondary education special interest group and currently as the Awards Committee Co-Chair. 

Maja Grgurovic (2015-2018), Awards Committee Co-Chair

Maja Grgurovic is clinical assistant professor and clinical director of the MA TESOL program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She teaches courses in second language methodology, computer-assisted language learning (CALL), and language assessment and supervises student interns during their practicum. Maja’s professional interests are CALL, blended language learning, and language teacher education.
Maja has worked both as a teacher and teacher educator. She has fifteen years of teaching experience and has taught EFL abroad and ESL in a variety of higher education settings. Maja holds an MA degree in TESOL and a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics and Technology both from Iowa State University.

Allison Lewis (2017-2018), Social Media Chair

Allison Lewis is an adult ESL instructor at Richard J. Daley College and at Pui Tak Center. She received a B.A. in English and Secondary Education from Wheaton College, and she received an M.A. in Linguistics/TESOL from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She first developed an interest in teaching English language learners when she was in college and did one-on-one tutoring of refugee students. She began teaching adult ESL in 2012. She has taught ESL to students of all levels and also has experience in curriculum development, materials development, and training ESL tutors.  
Shajaira López (2017- 2020), Treasurer

Shajaira López has worked in the field of education for over 10 years as a bilingual teacher, assistant principal, and currently as Assistant Professor and Chair of the ESL/Bilingual Education Program at Aurora University. She also volunteers at the Center for Learning English in Westbrook Christian Church in Bolingbrook, where she eagerly teaches adult ESL classes. Shajaira obtained a B.A. in Elementary Education and M.S. in Bilingual/Bicultural Education at Northeastern Illinois University, and recently completed an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership at National Louis University. Her goal is to work collaboratively with stakeholders in order to address the academic needs of students from language diverse backgrounds through student engagement, staff development, and parental empowerment.
Stephanie Martinez (2015-2017), Program Design Committee Chair

Stephanie Martínez is currently the coordinator of Modern Languages in the English and Modern Languages department at the University of Illinois at Springfield. She has taught ESL and Spanish at universities in Ilinois since 2010.

Akiko Ota (2017 - 2018), Technology Chair

Akiko Ota is the director of the ESL program at Governors State University. She attained an M.A. TESOL, an M.S. Education (Postsecondary, Adult, and Continuing Education), and Ed.D. on Educational Leadership: Postsecondary Education from Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. She has been teaching in English in the United States and Japan across the full spectrum of instructional levels (literacy to college transitional ESL) for various student populations and institutions for more than eighteen years. In addition to her expertise in teaching English, she specializes in international student research and teacher and student services personnel training in U.S. higher education. On her free time, she enjoys taking photography, Zumba, and good coffee at local coffee shops. 

Khrystyna Sanborn (2015-2017), Convention Proposals Chair

Khrystyna Sanborn has been actively involved as an ESL instructor at Heartland College since August of 2008. She earned her M.A. in English and Uzbek from Kiev National University. Her love of teaching language began in college whereby she taught English to Ukrainian children. Khrystyna also teaches at Heartland College’s adult literacy program.


Juan Rios (2017-2018), Professional Development Committee Chair

Dr. Ríos Vega is an assistant professor at Bradley University, Department of Teacher Education, where he teaches undergraduate courses in the area of English as a Second Language (ESL). Before moving to Peoria, Illinois, Dr. Ríos Vega worked in North Carolina in middle, high, and college as an ESL instructor for over 16 years. He earned a B.A. in English and Education from University of Panama; M.A., Curriculum and Teaching with Emphasis in ESL from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro; Women’s and Gender Studies Certificate from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Ph.D., Philosophy in Educational Studies, Cultural Studies Concentration from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Dr. Ríos Vega has developed extensive research on Latino/Latina students in education. In 2015, Dr. Ríos Vega published his first book Counterstorytelling Narratives of Latino Teenage Boys: From Vergüenza to Échale Ganas, where he unpacks how socio-historical issues in education shape Latino/Latina students’ academic success. Dr. Ríos Vega has also published articles in co-edited books, Ni Latino, Ni Hispano: A Journal of Resiliency and Social Justice (2015) and From Panama to Academia: A Testimonial of Struggle and Resiliency (2016). He is a member of the American Educational Studies Association (AESA), American Educational Research Association (AERA); Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL), and Critical Race Studies in Education Association (CRSEA).
Jesus Villegas (2016 -2018), Newsletter Editor

Jesus Villegas teaches in Purdue University Northwest’s intensive English Language Program. He has been an ELF/ESL instructor for 20 years, which include serving in the Peace Corps as an English Language Specialist and working in the Middle East as an English Language Fellow with the State Department. Born in Mexico and raised in Chicago, Jesus developed a love for languages and photography at a young age. These two interests have guided Jesus throughout much of his adult life, and he is always looking for creative ways to incorporate student-produced photography and video into his ESL/EFL classes.
Nancy Whaley (2015-2018), Publicity Chair 

Nancy Whaley is an ESL Instructor at Loyola University Chicago.  Nancy has been working in ESL in different capacities since 2003, when she worked as an ESL tutor and a substitute teacher in K-12 bilingual programs.  She received her B.A. in Spanish Translation from Brigham Young University and spent a semester studying Spanish in the Dominican Republic.  She later decided that helping people learn English was her true calling, and she received her M.A. in Applied Linguistics from the University of Utah.  After earning her Master’s degree, she spent half a year in Monterrey, Mexico teaching Business English to professionals.  She then moved home to Chicago where she worked in community English programs, language schools, and higher education programs. She has extensive experience teaching all 4 skills to each level, from Beginner to Advanced.  She has also created teacher training materials and led a course for training teachers.  She loves working with international students and helping them achieve their goals.