Civics Education Resource Site

Illinois Civics Instructional Coaches

Instructional Specialist

Mary Ellen Daneels is a National Board Certified teacher who taught at West Chicago Community High School for 27 years. For the past four years, she has served as the Lead Teacher Mentor and Instructional Specialist for the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, leading efforts to support the implementation of the middle and high school civics course requirements and Illinois social science standards.

She has been recognized as the Law-related Educator of the Year from the Constitutional Rights Foundation of Chicago, Teacher of the Year by the 19th District of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and American Civic Education Teacher from the Center for Civic Education and the Illinois Education Association Teacher of the Year. Mary Ellen has presented on the proven practices of civic learning throughout the nation, as well as provided professional development workshops in Estonia, Angola, and Belarus. She has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning and highlighted in numerous publications such as Education Week, Social Education, and Educational Leadership.

A member of the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition, Mary Ellen has advocated for civic education before federal and state lawmakers. She served on the Board of Directors for the National Council of the Social Studies and worked on the task force to revise the Illinois social studies standards.

  Email Mary Ellen |   @daneels_m

Civics Instructional Coaches

In order to facilitate the implementation of legislation concerning a new middle school civics course requirement and sustain the support of the high school civics requirement, the McCormick Foundation has hired Civics Instructional Coaches to represent 10 designated areas throughout Illinois.

Civics Instructional Coaches will receive in-depth training both in-person and via webinars. Civics Instructional Coaches, in turn, will facilitate professional development for middle and high school civics/social studies teachers in their respective regions. Civics Coaches will also be responsible for ongoing engagement with Regional Offices of Education, teachers, schools, districts, and pre-service programs in their area via newsletters, social media engagement, workshops and conference presentations throughout the school year.


Jason Artman is the Social Studies Department Chairperson at Mendota High School, where he teaches U.S. History, U.S. History Honors, and Civics. He was an Illinois Civics Mentor the last three years and is co-author and co-facilitator of two OnlineImpact civics workshops. He is finishing the DePaul/Barat Foundation microcredential course series on teaching with primary sources, civics, and student inquiry. In addition to sharing civics resources and strategies, he enjoys presenting workshops on practical ways to use reading and writing to teach civics and U.S. History.

Jason lives in Mendota with his wife, Tori, and daughter Piper, a junior at MHS. His older daughter, Mia, is a freshman music major at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Region: Bureau, Henry, LaSalle, Marshall, Mason, Peoria, Putnam, Stark, Tazewell & Woodford Counties
  Email Jason |   @JasonMArtman1


Alia BluemleinAlia Bluemlein has the privilege of teaching at her alma mater, Prairie Ridge High School, in Crystal Lake. This is her seventh year teaching; she began her career as a middle school Social Studies/Language Arts teacher, and has had the awesome opportunity to teach grades six through twelve. Currently, she is a U.S. History, AP Government and Politics, and Law in American Society teacher, so civics is an integral component of the curriculum she gets to teach. She has an undergraduate degree in History and Political Science — the study of civics has always been a passion of hers and at the forefront of her studies.

Outside of teaching, Alia volunteers with a nonprofit (A to Z Literacy Movement) providing literacy development for students both locally and abroad. She loves to travel, having spent time in Zambia teaching and most recently traveling through Europe on her honeymoon with her husband.

Region: Boone, Northern Cook, Lake, McHenry,  & Winnebago Counties
  Email Alia |   @MrsBluemlein


Candace FikisCandace Fikis attended the University of Illinois for her undergraduate degree and received a master's degree in Education Administration from Aurora University. She has taught for 22 years in a wide variety of classes including an interdisciplinary American Studies course, Criminal Justice, Current Political Issues, Economics, AP Macroeconomics, AP Microeconomics, Government, and U.S. History at West Chicago Community High School. She has served as a Student Council Advisor and coach of the school’s nationally ranked Economics and Personal Finance Challenge Teams. She has been recognized as a Visa Practical Money Skills Educator and 3M Outstanding Economic Educator from Econ Illinois. She has served as a Civic Mentor teacher for the state and presented at many local, state and national conferences.

In her free time she loves to travel with her family and cheer on her daughters at their numerous sporting events.

Region: Southern Cook, Grundy, Iroquois, Kankakee, Kendall & Will Counties
  Email Candace |   @CandaceFikis


Tracy FreemanTracy Freeman is a National Board Certified teacher in her 31st year of teaching, all but 5 in high school social studies classroom. She is currently teaching AP US Government, US History which is standards-based, Civics and currently short term prepping Economics. Freeman is department chair at Normal West High School. They are a Democracy School and civically engage students in school whenever possible. They host an annual Veteran’s day dinner, career fair and many other student-initiated projects. The introduction of service learning as a requirement in civics and AP have led to countless student projects. She has also brought students to programs by Mikva Challenge, Constitutional Rights Foundation and meetings with state and local officials.

Freeman is married with 2 girls who have graduated from the high school where she teaches. Her oldest graduated from college and is back living at home, the youngest is a sophomore in college.

Region: Champaign, DeWitt, Ford, Livingston, Logan, Macon, McLean, Piatt & Vermillion Counties
  Email Tracy |   @freemantracy84


Chris JohnsonChris Johnson is entering his 15th year teaching at ROWVA Jr/Sr High School in Oneida, Ilinois where he teaches a range of classes including AP Government and Politics, AP European History, high school civics, and 7th grade world history.

Teaching history and government is a real passion for Johnson, who looks for creative ways to combine teaching topics in the social studies with modern technology tools. He is an active member of ISTE and their state affiliate IDEA and draws inspiration from these outstanding groups of educators to find new ways to empower students to become active and engaged members of the global world they live in. He looks forward to working with educators across the state to develop effective civics education for our junior high students!

Region: Adams, Brown, Cass, Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, Knox, McDonough, Mercer, Morgan, Pike, Schuyler, Scott & Warren Counties
  Email Chris |   @c_johnson007


Bonnie Laughlin-ScultzBonnie Laughlin-Schultz  taught high school in the St. Louis area prior to earning a PhD in history. She was a James Madison fellow, class of 1999, and graduated from Knox College with a BA in history and secondary education. She is the social science teaching coordinator and an associate professor of history at Eastern Illinois University, where she teaches social studies methods courses as well as the U.S. history survey, women’s history, research methods and writing, and courses in the online MA for teachers.

Laughlin-Schultz organizes an annual fall conference for IL social studies educators, writes about the teaching of history and civics, has presented at the Illinois Council for the Social Studies as well as other teaching conferences, and is a member of the National Council for the Social Studies, Illinois Council for the Social Studies, and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Region: Clark, Clay, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Edwards, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jasper, Lawrence, Massac, Moultrie, Pope, Richland, Saline, Shelby, Wabash, Wayne & White Counties
  Email Bonnie |   @eiuhistl


Heather Monson teaches in East Moline at United Township High School covering government/civic for over 10 years, along with teaching World History and US History at all levels for over 16 years. She has an MS in History along with 30 additional graduate hours in History. She is currently half way through a MA in Museum Studies. She also teaches Social Studies methods at WIU-QC campus. She is an active member of the NCSS as part of the Archival committee and enjoys their conferences annually.

Monson works with the Golden Apple Foundation as a mentor across the state working with new Golden Apple Scholar graduates. She enjoys travelling so much that she takes students every other year to Europe on trips. She has two daughters and greatly enjoys attending concerts of all types. In her free time (of which there is never enough) she enjoys reading and cooking and is an avid runner. She is really excited for this new adventure and look forward to working with teachers from her region.

Region: Carroll, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Rock Island, Stephenson & Whiteside Counties
  Email Heather |   @mrsmhistory


Logan RidenourLogan Ridenour works at Dupo Jr/Sr High School in Dupo, Illinois, teaching U.S. History, Freshman Orientation, and is in charge of the school's Cooperative Education Program. He taught U.S. Government and Civics at his prior school for seven years and has been attending workshops about the best practices in Civics education for the last three years.

Ridenour is an avid golfer and currently coaches high school golf. He has been married for five years to his wife, Jennifer, and has a three-year-old son named Lincoln.

Region: Alexander, Clinton, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Marion, Monroe, Perry, Pulaski, Randolph, St. Clair, Union, Washington & Williamson Counties
  Email Logan |   @LoganRidenour3


Matt Wood is an alum of Illinois State University and has been teaching for the last twelve years at Leman Middle School. He is a member of the National Council of Social Studies and the American History Association. Matt spends his time researching best practices to implement in his classroom, while also coaching track and sponsoring Student Council during the school year.

Working in collaboration with the League of Women Voters and District 94, his Student Council kids hosted a Candidate Forum for the local spring elections in an effort to help increase awareness of the importance of local civic engagement. Last spring, Matt accepted the task of helping his district develop its new Civic Action course. When he is not teaching and learning, he spends his time helping raise his three beautiful sons with his wife, Katie, in their home in Kane County.

Region: Central Cook, DeKalb, DuPage & Kane Counties
  Email Matt |   @Matt_LMS_Civics


Corie Yow is a graduate of Illinois State University and received her Masters from University of Illinois Springfield. Yow is beginning her 18th year of teaching in the Ball-Chatham CUSD #5 located in Chatham, Illinois. During her tenure, she has taught middle school U.S. History, World History, English Language Arts, and was an instructional Coach for the district.

Yow was one of the leaders of the task force who developed the Illinois State Social Science Standards. As the leader for the middle school level, she presented the standards to the Illinois State Board of Education for adoption. Since the adoption of the new standards, she has continued working with Illinois Social Science Stakeholders, provided professional development at the DuPage County Social Studies Conference and several ROEs, as well as consulted school districts across Illinois with the implementation process and curriculum alignment. Yow is also a member of NCSS and ICSS.

Region: Bond, Calhoun, Christian, Effingham, Fayette, Greene, Jersey, Macoupin, Madison, Menard, Montgomery & Sangamon Counties
  Email Corie |   @YowCorie