Our Team 2018-09-17T11:28:29-05:00

Our Team


Mary Jo Tavormina, Project Director

As Project Director, Mary Jo is responsible for strategic planning, project management and leadership to support the collaboration and improvement of mathematics teaching and learning in over 30 districts and in Big Shoulders Fund Catholic schools. Previously, Mary Jo served as the Director of Mathematics for the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), providing direction and support for mathematics across the district, co-directed UIC’s All Learn Mathematics Project, providing professional development and support in Chicago and the suburbs, and co-directed the UIC Middle Grade Mathematics Alternative Certification Program, designed to meet the need for highly qualified middle grade mathematics teachers in Chicago Public Schools. She has facilitated professional development for district leaders, administrators, and teachers, and presented at numerous conferences around the country. She was awarded the first Philip Wagreich Award for achievements in advancing STEM education. She is a former middle grade mathematics teacher.


Joanne Baker, Senior Coach

Joanne has been a Senior Coach for SCMI and WCMI since 2010, but she has worked to support teachers and districts in improving the teaching and learning of high-quality mathematics for many years before that. Starting in 1996, Joanne was a coach for UIC’s All Learn Mathematics Project (ALM), where she supported teachers of grades K–8 in Chicago and the suburbs, in their classrooms and by facilitating professional development. In 2002, she also began mentoring and supporting early-career teachers in UIC’s Middle Grade Mathematics (MGM) Alternative Certification Program, and from 2004 to 2006, she co-directed MGM. From 2006 to 2010, she supported Chicago Public Schools teachers in the Cluster 4 Middle Grade Project (C4MGP). She has also guided and supported teachers in pursuing mathematics endorsements. She received her own Master of Science in Teaching Mathematics from UIC, and was an elementary and middle school mathematics teacher.


Jennifer Leimberer, Senior Coach

Jennifer serves as an instructional coach and professional development leader for a variety of projects. She began her career teaching elementary and middle school students in Chicago Public Schools. On her quest to provide high-quality learning environments for her students, found herself collaborating on the development of NSF-Funded science and mathematics tools at Northwestern University, Georgia Tech University and the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has a passion for helping teachers create productive and innovative learning environments that promote strategic, conceptual, and quantitative reasoning.


Margie Pligge, Senior Coach

Margie works passionately to promote high-quality mathematics teaching and learning. In addition to coaching, Margie directs professional development experiences for K–5 teachers. She began her career teaching high school and college mathematics, and has led professional development across the nation for over 40 years. As a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, she worked closely with the Cognitively Guided Instruction research team, exploring early algebra and number and operations, including fraction understanding, and was a member of an international research and development team designing, implementing, and revising a NSF-funded middle grades mathematics curriculum.


Melanie Wertz, Senior Coach

Melanie Wertz has had a unabated love for mathematics since early childhood. She completed her B.A. in Mathematics at Swarthmore College before the tech boom drew her into a lengthy career in corporate IT. When volunteering at a youth center revealed her interest in helping young people love math, she decided to become a teacher. Through a Math for America fellowship, she obtained her master’s degree at Teachers College, Columbia University and went on to teach both middle school and high school mathematics in New York City public schools. She joined the UIC team in 2011.


Kitty Thompson, Consultant

A successful educator for over thirty years, Kitty has been part of the UIC team since 2012. Her classroom success and enthusiasm as a mathematics and science coach, have helped her support teachers in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and multiple other districts. She has a passion for supporting teachers and is always amazed at the mathematics that young kids are able to do. When you meet Kitty, she’ll likely share some photos of student work from the classrooms she supports.


Regeta Slaughter, Consultant

Regeta became part of the UIC BSF team in September 2015. Prior to joining the team, she worked at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the Department of Mathematics Education as a field supervisor for secondary mathematics student teachers, and teaching middle school methods courses, which included Algebra Initiative course for CPS teachers. In addition, she has worked on the Algebra Intensification project that addresses struggling students in 9th grade algebra. Her passion for teaching began in Chicago Public Schools as a high school mathematics teacher, department chair, assistant principal, and lastly serving as Director of Mathematics for Chicago Public Schools in the Office of Mathematics and Science during the implementation of the Chicago Math and Science Initiative (CMSI) in 2003.


Liz Cape, Consultant

Liz is a licensed elementary teacher with a special interest in instructional practices that strengthen the teaching and learning of mathematics. She worked for the Learning Sciences Research Institute as a lead author for the Teaching Integrated Math and Science (TIMS) Project’s 4th edition of Math Trailblazers. Liz currently spends her summers as an International Facilitation Fellow for the University of Texas at Austin’s Charles A. Dana Center, facilitating professional development seminars to DoDEA teachers on standards-based math instruction. In addition, she runs an innovative math center where she provides small group instruction to support and challenge students.

Jean Goldrich, Project Assistant

Jean has been a part of the LSRI community since 2012, when she joined the Teaching Integrated Math and Science (TIMS) Project as an editor for the 4th edition of Math Trailblazers. She is a certified English secondary education and special education teacher with six years of experience teaching high school writing and English.


Noemi Espinosa, Project Coordinator


Martin Gartzman, Project Advisor

Marty was the founding director of the Suburban Cook County Mathematics Initiative and continues to serve on the project’s management team. From 2011 through June 2016, he served as Executive Director of the University of Chicago’s Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education (CEMSE), where he currently is a Senior Associate. He previously served as Assistant Vice Chancellor and Executive Director for High School Development at UIC and as Associate Director of UIC’s Institute for Mathematics and Science Education (IMSE), which he co-founded with mathematician Philip Wagreich and physicist Howard Goldberg. From 2002 to 2006, he served as the Chief Mathematics and Science Officer of Chicago Public Schools, where he directed the Chicago Math and Science Initiative, the district’s highly touted mathematics and science improvement effort. Marty has developed and served in senior and advisory roles with numerous projects and organizations in mathematics and science education. He began his career at Benito Juarez High School in Chicago, where he taught biology and directed the school’s bilingual program.