Educator Voice Academies Steering Committee

 Penny Lee-Cox: Co-Leader of the Educator Voice Academies Project

Penny Lee-Cox is a 5th Grade Teacher at Nob Hill Elementary School. Penny also serves on the IEA Board of Directors, where she is the Suburban Sectional Ethnic Minority Representative, as well as the IEA Bylaws and Resolutions Committee, the NEA Resolutions Committee, and the IEA's Region 56 Ethnic Minority Representative. She also serves on Congresswoman Robin Kelly's Education Advisory Committee Education. Penny is also a proud graduate of Leaders for Just Schools and member of the Opportunity Coalition Network. Penny also has a B.A. in both Elementary Education and English and a Master's Degree in Reading form Governor's State University.


Ceci Rice: Co-Leader of Educator Voice Academies Project

 Cecilia Rice is a 2022-2023 Teach Plus Illinois Policy Fellow and a high school special education teacher and case manager for 12th graders at Evanston Township High School in Evanston. She focuses on a utilizing a democratic classroom approach in order to build community and empower learners as self-advocates. She has been involved with both departmental and district equity initiatives over the past five years. Over the past three years, Cecilia has participated in Leaders for Just Schools: Opportunity Coalition Network run by Illinois Educators Association, and has most recently worked with a cohort as an equity coach. Cecilia earned her BA in public policy and peace studies, conflict resolution, and social justice at DePaul University and an Master's of Education and LBS1 in special education from University of Illinois at Chicago.


 Damia Ali: IEA  Aspiring Member Representative

My name is Damia Ali. I am an Aspiring Educator who is on the road to being an abolitionist teacher. I am a Golden Apple scholar, the Racial and Social Justice Coordinator for the Illinois Education Association, and a Junior, Special Education Learning and Behavior Specialist major at Illinois State University. I am zealous about public education, fostering an inclusive classroom that supports students with disabilities through effective implementation of their IEPs. I believe in utilizing educational resources and community assets to ensure we provide a high-quality education for all learners. I am the Black teacher I never had and in doing so, I am who I needed when I was younger.


Karyn Baldwin: IEA Early Career Member Representative

Karyn Baldwin teaches First Grade Dual Language at Huff Elementary in Elgin, IL (U-46). At Huff, she is a School Improvement Team grade level representative, the PTO teacher representative, and a member of the MTSS Tier ⅔ problem-solving team. Karyn is a Golden Apple Scholar, Teach Plus Policy Fellow (2019), Illinois State University Outstanding Young Alumni recipient (2021), Girl Scout Gold Award recipient, and a recipient of the 2019 Lambda State Foundation for Educational Studies Grant. She graduated from Illinois State University with a BS in Bilingual-Bicultural Elementary Education and The American College of Education with an MEd in Curriculum and Instruction and an MEd in Literacy.


 Tauya Forst: IEA Higher Ed Representative

Tauya R. Forst is a Professor of Justice Studies at College of DuPage. She holds a BA from Bradley University, MS from Grand Canyon University, and a JD from Northern Illinois University – College of Law as well as a Graduate certification in Online Instruction from University of Illinois and Restorative Practices from International Institute for Restorative Practices. Attorney Forst’s experience includes civil law at British Petroleum and Legal Solutions. Her legal experience in both criminal and civil law areas has shaped her passions of intermingling law, education, and restorative practices. Currently, Professor Forst teaches at College of DuPage (COD). She is a Community Relations Commissioner for the village of Glen Ellyn. Professor Forst’s actively participates in COD’s Black Student Leadership Committee, Co-Lead for COD’s Human Resources Equity and Diversity Subcommittee. Additionally, Tauya is the current Chair for COD’s Constitution Day Committee helping execute such programming as The Nineteenth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, as well as the United States Supreme Court. Furthermore, she presents frequently on Systemic racism, Institutional racism, Restorative Practices, Restorative Justice, Lady Justices of the United States Supreme Court, and Unconscious Bias in educational, not-for-profit and employee trainings. Also, Professor Forst co-led the first Silent Demonstration for faculty and staff regarding racial and social justice at College of DuPage.She has co-authored a constitutional law text entitled “Constitutional Law Comes Alive: An Integrative Approach through COD’s Open Education Resource program to help students meet their financial goals with no-to-low-cost textbook alternatives. Furthermore, Restorative Practices are key to her research and classroom instruction. Tauya used Restorative Practices to assess and author a manual to train youth who participate in a juvenile peer jury as an alternative to adjudication. Finally, she is an active member of the DuPage County Bar Association.


 Andrew Hirshman: Opportunity Coalition Coordinator

Andrew is a proud member of the Mundelein Education Association, where he is a high school Social Studies teacher. He has served as the President of the MEA and also for eight years, as a Member of the Board of Directors for the Illinois Education Association. Andrew has presented on educational topics with organizations including the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of State and the Federal Reserve. He has coached educators and teacher leaders at Northwestern University for over 20 years and also serves as the coordinator of the Opportunity Coalition.


 Cheryl Jones: IEA ESP Member Representative

I wasn’t interested in education after high school. I did end up with two college degrees, one from South Suburban College, Holland, IL another from Columbia College, Chicago that BA in Marketing Communications and Public Relations. But since 1999, I have worked in education. First as a substitute teacher, then as a cross-category para, and now as a media specialist (librarian/computer teacher without the teaching certification). I started my union work as an AFT-IFT member. I didn’t just stay a member, I worked and helped in all areas of the local in recruitment, negotiations and progressed to being the treasurer. As the years moved on and I moved districts. I gathered more union knowledge by participating in EVERYTHING! And after seeing how little union information is given to ESPs, I decided to jump in the fire. That fire was becoming a member of the IEA Educational Support Association Council. I have participated in EMELT, HCR, and the One Conference plus every webinar/workshop in between.


Jay Mehta: Northern Illinois Geographic Rep

Jay Mehta teaches AP Language and Composition, Advanced Argumentation, and Advanced Communication Studies, at Wheaton North High School in Wheaton, IL. Jay sponsors the Youth and Government and Yearbook. Jay collaborates with his colleagues to revise the 10th grade English curriculum to represent and incorporate under-represented voices. He has led professional development sessions in China to teach English as a second language and sat as a local panelist to advise student teachers entering the teaching profession. Jay leads a research team as a Senior Policy Fellow for Teach Plus. He graduated from Bradley University with a BA in English and Secondary Education, earned his M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction from Loyola University Chicago, and is in the process of earning his doctorate in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership, with a concentration in Diversity and Equity, from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Liz Ojeda: IEA and NEA Board Liaison 
I am a 3rd grade bilingual teacher at Maercker Intermediate School in Westmont, Illinois. Currently I am Co-President of the Maercker Education Association and NEA Board of Directors. At the NEA level, I serve on the Legislative Committee and Resolutions Committee. At the IEA level I have served on the Executive Committee; as co-Chair of the Racial and Social Justice Committee; on the Human and Civil Rights Committee; Bylaws Committee, and Budget Committee. From the day I became an IEA member I have been working hard to unite, engage, and advocate for all of our members. I believe that we are each the creators of our own path, and when we have an amazing support system such as this we can without a doubt become stronger. I am an a-activist e-educator i-independent o-organizer u-union leader


Bobby Rickman: Southern Illinois Geographic Rep


Bobby Rickman has been in educator for over 15 years in Tennessee, Missouri and the last 10 years in Illinois. He is currently the President of the Alton Education Association which is one of the largest wall-to-wall associations in the State of Illinois. Over the last few years Rickman has emphasized the IEA Virtual Coaching and Building Mentoring program, working to recruit and retain new educators, expand the power of the voice of Education Support Professionals, and increase the work in racial and gender equity.


 Rick Wilkin: IEA Retired Member Representative

Rick Wilkin graduated to retirement after 33 years of experience as a PK-12 educator. As a middle and high school classroom teacher, Rick taught American History, World History, Geography, Government, Sociology and Current Events. As a school counselor, Rick worked with PK-12 students teaching SEL in the classroom, meeting with students for individual counseling, advocating for students with special needs in IEP and 504 meetings and advocating for safe and welcoming spaces for all students and educators. As a local union leader, Rick advocated for and won essential rights for members at the bargaining table. Now retired, Rick’s advocacy continues. He is his local’s VP and membership chair. He continues to advocate for safe and welcoming education spaces as a member of the IEA Human and Civil Rights Committee, the IEA-Retired Racial and Social Justice Committee, the NEA-Retired Racial and Social Justice Committee, a former member of the IEA LGBTQIA+ Committee and now serving on the Educator Voice Academies Steering Committee.