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New Members of Teacher Advisory Panel Begin Terms at IRA Chicago

 | Apr 24, 2012

At its February board meeting the Board of Directors of the International Reading Association approved the recommendation of the Teacher Advisory Panel (TAP) Board Committee to appoint five new members to the Teacher Advisory Panel for a term to begin at convention 2012 and end at convention 2015:

  • representing the Great Lakes Region, Thomas Leis, Wisconsin
  • representing the Plains Region, Mary Lou Benesch, Nebraska
  • representing the Southeast Region, Michelle Cardaronella, Louisiana
  • representing an additional U.S. region (Great Lakes), Michael Henry, Illinois
  • representing International, Maura Rose McMahon, Ireland

In addition, the Board appointed an additional international member to the panel, namely Margaret Muthiga of Kenya, to finish out the term of a current TAP member who is not able to continue. 

The Teacher Advisory Panel is an advisory body to the Association. It has the opportunity to present issues of concern to the Board and to respond to issues brought forth by the Board. The Panel meets electronically through conference calls and corresponds by e-mail.

As part of the appointment process, the Board considers the overall composition of the Panel in terms of representative diversity. A concerted effort is made to include teachers at various stages of the career cycle and to appoint at least one teacher who has less than five years of teaching experience. 

Moreover, the Board has made a strong commitment to the IRA Teacher Advisory Panel by approving up to US$1,000 for each TAP member’s travel expenses to attend an annual information/training session at IRA’s Annual Convention. 

For additional information about the panel visit the TAP page on the IRA website.   

Brief introductions of the new panel members are set out below.

Thomas LeisThomas Leis

Great Lakes Region

Thomas Leis teaches at Sparta Meadowview Middle School (grades 6-8), Sparta, WI. As a Library Teacher he works with students in whole class, small group and individual settings.  He also works with staff as a Differentiation Coach.

Thomas has been teaching for 24 years. His first five years as were spent in a self-contained grade 5 setting, then 17 years in the middle school setting teaching primarily Reading and Language Arts. The past seven years he has been in the library classroom working with students and staff as a library media specialist. He spends his summers teaching Driver Education, Secondary Social Studies, and keeping the middle school open a few afternoons each week so students and parents do not run out of reading material!

A lifelong learner, Thomas holds the following degrees and certifications: Secondary Broadfield Social Science (grades 7-12); Secondary History (grades 7-12); Driver Education; Reading Teacher (K-12); Elementary (grades 1-8); Education and Professional Development Masters; Library Media Masters; and Online Educator certification.

When his service is concluded Thomas hopes to be remembered as a dynamic, passionate, and fun member of the Teacher Advisory Panel, who shared his love of adolescent literature with anyone who would listen.  He will work to diligently to stress the importance of developing vocabulary instruction and content reading instruction at the middle and secondary levels.  He would like his tenure in this position to exemplify the need for representation of classroom teachers at all levels of the International Reading Association.


Mary Lou BeneschMary Lou Benesch

Plains Region

Mary Lou Benesch is currently teaching at Dodge Elementary School in Dodge, Nebraska, but that will change next year when Dodge merges with a neighboring school.  The new school will be called Howells-Dodge Consolidated Schools.  Plans are for the high school to be in Howells, as well as K-2. Grades 1-8 will be taught in Dodge.

Mary Lou currently teaches Title 1, grade and grade 4 reading, and grade 5-6 social studies.  She has taught in this very small district for 16 years, first as a media specialist and then as a Title 1 teacher. Prior to that, Mary Lou taught in small Catholic schools for 4 years. She also taught for three years right out of college, before she was a stay-at-home mom to her three daughters. 

Mary Lou holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Wayne State College, a media specialist endorsement from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and a Masters in Educational Reading Specialist from Concordia University. 

Mary Lou hopes to do her best with the opportunities that service on the IRA Teacher Advisory Panel opens to her.


Michelle Cardaronella

Southeast Region

Michelle Cardaronella currently teaches first grade at Hammond Eastside Elementary Magnet school, located in Hammond, Louisiana. It is a "School of Interest" in becoming an International Baccalaureate World School. Michelle has been a teacher of primary-age students for twenty-three years now. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education and a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction, both from the University of New Orleans. She also holds an Early Childhood Generalist certificate from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

When Michelle looks back on her service to IRA as a member of the Teacher Advisory Panel, she hopes that she will have represented teachers across her region well. She hopes to provide the Board of Directors with insight from the classroom and her experience as a consumer of quality professional development. She also wants to inspire other talented and passionate teachers to remain in the classroom.


Michael HenryMichael P. Henry

U.S. At Large Member

Michael P. Henry is a high school reading teacher and literacy coach at Reavis High School in Burbank, IL, where he has been teaching for the past seven of his eight teaching years. Michael holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago, a Master’s Degree in Reading Education from St. Xavier University, and is currently enrolled as a doctoral student of Literacy Education at Northern Illinois University.

Through his various roles, Michael feels uniquely situated to consider voices from a variety of stakeholders at a variety of levels. As a high school reading teacher, he is allowed access to the thoughts and feelings of struggling adolescent readers.  As a high school literacy coach, his collaborative work with teachers informs his thinking a great deal about how different disciplines engage in literacy practices and how experts read and write in their field. As an adjunct professor of education, he hears the reading and writing goals and expectations of future teachers and can relate them to those of the practicing teachers with whom he works. And as a doctoral student of literacy education, he understands the critical importance and difficulty of transferring literacy theory to pedagogy and practice.

Through these various roles, Michael has been afforded the opportunity to see how what is postulated on college campuses becomes practice in high school classrooms and how that practice is received by students. Because of this, he believes that it is his responsibility as a Teacher Advisory Panel member to ensure that all voices from all levels in the field are collectively heard, as IRA’s mission is best served collectively in the field. When he looks back on his legacy as an IRA TAP member, he hopes to be remembered as the member who always kept voices from the field at the forefront of the conversation. 


Maura Rose McMahonMaura Rose McMahon


Maura Rose McMahon teaches reading in five primary schools in Dublin.  She has been teaching since 1994. She holds a Master's Degree in Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, a specialist in Special Education, and has completed her coursework and comprehensive exams towards a Ph.D. in Education. 

Maura’s experience working in areas of educational disadvantage has highlighted the greater need for stakeholder cooperation and participation in teaching and learning in schools. She is now working on creating a structured mentoring system in reading which uses trained volunteers to help to offset the continued budget and staffing cutbacks in education.

As a member of the Teacher Advisory Panel, Maura aspires to create a wider discussion about using volunteers in schools to help to foster a love of reading with all children, and facilitate authentic reading opportunities in the wider school community.


Margaret MuthigaMargaret Muthiga


Margaret Muthiga has served as an educator for the last 29 years, and has experience as a classroom teacher of children aged between six and fourteen years. Currently she is a senior teacher at Kilimo Primary School in Nakuru County, Kenya, serving also as the teacher in charge of the school library which she founded a couple of years ago. Margaret teaches language and social subjects. Muthiga is a college graduate, senior approved teacher grade M.

Margaret joined the IRA local council in 2002, and became an international member of IRA in 2005. She attended IRA training workshops which have enabled her to better her teaching through the diagnostic teaching approach techniques and also to stimulate and promote development of remedial reading and to assist development of improved teacher programs. Her dream is to turn students and teachers' lives around by inspiring them to read, to learn, write with passion, and live with the purpose to shape their own quest for a meaningful life and that they in turn will go further to enlighten and empower others across the globe.

As a TAP member, Margaret hopes to serve IRA diligently giving it her all through the experience she has gathered all these years in her capacity as a classroom teacher.


Teacher Advisory Panel (TAP) Information

About the Board of Directors and the International Reading Association

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