Meet Our Team

Jennifer started her career as an English Learner teacher in Washington, DC while earning a Master's degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages at American University. Seeing the impact she could make as a teacher leader, she later served as an Environmental Science Peace Corps Volunteer in Nicaragua, an Instructional Coach in Chile, a Project-Based Learning Teacher Trainer in the Czech Republic, and an English Language Specialist in Perú.  In California, Jennifer worked on establishing a newcomer program for recent refugees from Central America as she earned a Master's degree in Educational Leadership at UC Berkeley.  As principal of IJLA, Jennifer is grateful to be part of a community that is dedicated to social justice and to providing a safe space for youth and families to unlock their full potential.

 
Elliott was born and raised in Pilsen.  In 2006 he graduated from Benito Juarez High School.  Elliott has a BA in History and is currently studying Immigration Law at Loyola University.  He has been working with Instituto for 8 years, and is the Dean of Students at IJLA.  Elliott loves working there because it is a great space for him to teach students freely, from historical events to life skills to challenging traditional notions of masculinity.
Carina Gutierrez was born and raised in Little Village. She has been working at IJLA for 6 years. Currently, she serves as the Admissions Registrar & Clerk. She is also an IJLA graduate (Class of 2009). Ever since she was a student, she wanted to be part of the IJLA team. She dreamt of one day coming back to make a difference in students' life just like how the staff had done for her.  Carina graduated from National Louis University last May with a BA in Human Services/Psychology and plans to continue her education so that she can better assist the youth and families that IJLA serves in the community. Helping others is something she loves to do and she hopes that in the future, she can continue doing that as a Youth Social Worker.
 
Elisabethe started her career in education as administrator for Urban Alliance, a non-profit that seeks to provide seniors in high school with post-secondary skills and support. As a first-generation college student, Elisabethe decided to focus on supporting students inside and outside the classroom. Elisabethe began her teaching career as a Learning Specialist in Chicago through Teach for America, while earning a Master’s degree in Special Education at Relay Graduate School of Education. Elisabethe, who is a Diverse Learner herself, makes a unique connection and relationship with the students she serves. As the Learning Specialist and Case Manager of IJLA, Elisabethe is grateful and honored to be part of a community that is dedicating their work to dismantling the stereotypes and biases of Special Education and traditional schooling. Elisabethe states, “IJLA is more than a school, it’s a family.”
 
 
Zoë graduated from Northwestern University in 2017 with a double major in Theatre and Creative Writing. She went on to work with College Possible as an AmeriCorps member. College Possible is a non-profit organization based in Chicago that works to decrease the degree divide between upper and lower-income students. She worked with a cohort of 40 students for their Junior and Senior years and helped them with SAT prep, the college application process, FAFSA, scholarships, and more. After leaving College Possible, she knew she wanted to continue to work with students to help them follow their post-secondary goals, which is how she ended up at IJLA. Here, she works with students to find and follow their goals, both during and after graduation.
Aside from being an educator, Val is a poet, activist, abolitionist, restorative justice practitioner, avid crafter, and lifelong learner. She also laughs really loudly and is a fan of long sentences. She grew up in Berwyn, IL and moved on to graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2011 with a major in English and a double minor in Gender and Women’s Studies and Secondary Education. She continued her education at National Louis University, graduating in 2017 with a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on bilingual education. Her first experience teaching at a large high school highlighted the injustices and inequities in the educational system, and she found her place at Rudy as a math teacher in 2017 by pure chance, or perhaps fate. Since then Val has worked in collaboration with the team here to transform the math curriculum, among other disciplines, from traditional to culturally relevant and meaningful learning. She is especially passionate about making academics accessible to English Language Learners and more gender-inclusive. She enjoys long talks after school in her classroom and ordering pizza on occasion. She can probably answer 80% of the random questions you have.
Fabiana graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2016 with a major in English Education and a minor in Italian. Soon after graduating, she went on to work at Foreman High School where she taught English as a Second Language and Photography. Later, she went to work at Rickover Naval Academy where she taught Honors English and Advanced Placement Literature. Though these classes were exciting to teach, she knew she wanted to shift her teaching and curriculum to be more representative of her students and more project-based, which is how she ended up at IJLA. Fabiana is incredibly grateful to have found a space that not only uses a restorative model, but that also focuses heavily on developing social justice curriculum.
 
Edwin is a proud 90’s LA baby, lover of his Central American roots, Circle practitioner & a work in progress. His involvement in youth empowerment began at the age of 16 as the youth group leader of a small church in South Central LA. This inspired him to become more involved in working alongside youth in the hood and practicing restorative justice principles. He has served in a variety of youth roles such as: mentor, teacher, environmental justice organizer, digital media storyteller, after school program coordinator- among other life giving opportunities. Those experiences brought Edwin to Rudy where he served his first 2 years as the Dean of Culture and Counselor. As of this year he has transitioned into his new role as the Digital Media Instructor and Counselor and is LOOOOOOOOVING IT!
 
Anton Miglietta grew up in the community of Uptown, Chicago from 1978 to today and attended Chicago Public Schools (CPS) as a child. Following in his mother’s footsteps, Anton became a teenage community-youth organizer in Uptown and citywide. He co-organized several education & recreation programs targeting marginalized youth including the Rise and Shine Morning Program, Youth on Youth Summer School, and the Uptown Youth F.O.R.C.E. He received his undergraduate degree from Northeastern Illinois University and completed his masters at Chicago State University (M.Ed.). Anton taught in alternative schools for ten years, becoming the Social Justice Curriculum Coordinator at Rudy Lozano Leadership Academy and lead organizer of the annual citywide Social Justice Student Expos (2004-‘08). In ‘08, Anton stepped out of the classroom to care for his 2nd daughter and form the Chicago Grassroots Curriculum Taskforce, an organization he and others founded to advance culturally relevant curricula. He co-authored Urban Renewal or Urban Removal? A Grassroots Look at Chicago’s Land Grabs and the Struggle for Home and Community, published in 2012, as well as the Grassroots Curriculum Toolkit. Returning to the classroom in 2016, Anton gained his National Board Certification (NBCT) while teaching at Instituto Justice Leadership Academy in Pilsen. Currently, Anton is honored to support his students in centering Latinx history in specific, and peoples’ histories in general, at the Chicago History Museum through a dynamic student-led collaboration that also includes the Newberry Library and Art Institute of Chicago. Most recently, Anton and his life partner, Lindsay Smith, wrote a short piece entitled, Inspiring Students Means Embracing Culturally Responsive Teaching (The New Teacher’s Guide to Overcoming Common Challenges, 2021, Routledge Books).
Gaby is from Ecuador and has been living in the United States for 10 years. While she was a mother at a young age, balancing many responsibilities, she was determined to succeed in this country. Adapting to a new culture and language, Gaby was able to get her Bachelor's degree in Computer Science at Northeastern University in 2013. After she graduated, she continued working in a family-owned company, and at the same time, volunteered tutoring kids and youth with assignments and projects. She realized that her passion was to help others who had trouble with education, especially due to language barriers. She decided to become a teacher, and she found an opportunity at IJLA. As a teacher at IJLA, she has been able to advocate for students whose second language is English and incorporate technology in her classes, giving students the opportunity to dabble into the different pathways that this increasingly technological world offers.
 
Kyle was born and raised in Hillside, a western suburb of Chicago. He earned a BA in athletic training from North Central College (NCC) in Naperville, IL. After graduating, he went on to work as an athletic trainer for NCC while also continuing his education there - working towards a teaching certificate in secondary education. Kyle has taught biology, chemistry, earth science, health, physics, and sports medicine at several high schools in the Chicagoland area. He is thrilled to be a part of the unique learning experiences, powerful restorative justice model, and incredible social justice curriculum IJLA has to offer. He’s both anxious and excited to learn more about social justice issues and to work with students, staff, and the community on exploring how we can use science to create powerful systemic change.
 
 
Sebastian Zamora, 17 years old, graduated from Instituto Justice and Leadership Academy in March of 2020. Overcoming significant barriers, he graduated high school in less than 3 years and since then has joined IJLA staff, assisting the community with financial and food relief during the pandemic and tutoring current students who need extra support, such as IJLA's English Learners.  Sebastian is currently working towards his bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and Special Education at Western Governor University. Sebastian is driven by the motto by educator Rita Pierson, “Every child deserves a champion—an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.”