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EIU Department of
World Languages and Cultures

Star Teachers

We are proud of our teacher education students in World Languages. You will find our alumni at high schools all over Illinois--and beyond. Due to their passion for teaching, dedication, and strong language skills they have built great programs at their schools. They love to return to EIU for our Department's annual "Culture Days" and bring their Spanish, French, and German classes.


Ali Rodriguez

Spanish Teacher, Windsor High School

I currently teach Spanish levels I to IV. I am originally from Baja California, Mexico and grew upAli2 in the city of Tijuana. When I moved to Illinois I decided to pursue my teaching certification at EIU. Now, I am happy to have the opportunity to teach Spanish at Windsor High School and share my knowledge of the cultures of the Spanish-speaking world with my students. My classroom is my second home. Teaching has taught me to be flexible and adaptable in life--celebrating the improvements however long it takes to get there. Teaching and learning are life-long endeavors. 

Language teaching and learning builds bridges between cultures. I try to visit as many Spanish-speaking countries as I can to educate myself on their diversity, traditions, and ways of living. This knowledge helps me to enhance my lessons and make the textbook come alive. The following countries that have had an influence on my teaching are Spain, Costa Rica, Chile, Peru & Mexico. My dream is to take my students to travel with me someday. It will be such a rewarding experience to discover together the rich cultures, foods and wonderful colors that a Spanish-speaking country has to offer. And, of course, apply our Spanish skills.  



Matthew Wilkie

Spanish Teacher, Paris Cooperative High School 


My love for Spanish and teaching emerged during my first year at EIU. Initially, I wanted to be a journalist. However, I discovered my true passion through challenging and engaging language classes, as well as tutoring my peers. I am grateful to EIU's World Language Department for igniting my love of language learning and teaching. Not only did they expose me to engaging curricula and pedagogy, they also encouraged me to pursue study abroad in Salamanca, Spain, where I studied for a semester. These experiences helped push me to develop into the passionate educator I am today.

Currently, I work in Paris, IL, and I teach Spanish 1 and 2. It is rewarding to teach students a new language and see them grow increasingly confident. In addition, I work as a part-time English tutor, mostly giving individual lessons through Zoom. My students have come from all parts of the world, including South Korea, Poland, Turkey, Brazil, and Mexico. Going forward, I am excited to pursue further growth opportunities and continue to develop myself as a language teacher.




Daniela Coombe

Spanish Teacher, Arcola High School Daniela

Enthusiasm and determination push me to face each day with a smile and greet every challenge as a friend. I am a proud 2022 EIU graduate. Ever  since I was little, I knew that I wanted to become a teacher, but it was not until later in my life that my own first language called my passion. I chose this career because I feel proud of where I come from and the fact of being bilingual has opened so many doors in my life and I would like to give this opportunity to future generations as well. As a teacher, I am rewarded with so many things but at the end of the day, the absolute, most fulfilling reward of being a teacher has nothing to do with what you have gained, but with what you have given.

I will always be grateful to the EIU World Language Department. Without the experiences and knowledge that my professors provided, I would not be where I am today. While I am not quite sure what the next step in my life will be, I look forward to new experiences that will help me grow as an educator. 





Cathryn Harshman

Milford High School in Milford, IL


2017-2018 is my third year of teaching high school levels I-IV, which includes several CHshort-term projects in grades PK-8.  Our school is rurally located and relatively small with 182 students in grades 9-12, but I quickly fell in love with the family-like atmosphere.  Several of my students participate in International Club where they work with groups throughout the school and community. 

I also stay active professionally with a few groups introduced to me by our Methods class at Eastern.  I currently serve as the Region 4 Director for ICTFL, am a contributing member of the GlobalFest Planning Committee, and am helping to train fellow teachers by presenting during the ICTFL 2017 fall conference, ICTFL 2018 and 2019 WinterFest workshops in Mahomet, and the Central States 2018 conference in Milwaukee. 

I am always working to write better curricula and help other small districts expand the depth and breadth of their world language programs.  Although World Language Instruction is my passion, I also recently began working toward a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership through my beloved alma mater.




Stephanie Cascio

ESL and Spanish Literacy

CascioI studied Spanish and Italian at EIU and graduated with a BA in both Elementary Education and World Language. After graduation, I relocated to Michigan to teach Spanish to 250 students at the elementary level. During the summer of 2014, I traveled to Spain to explore Alicante, Barcelona, Madrid, and revisit Salamanca… the place in my EIU journey where I realized my desire to acquire a second major in World Languages! I am currently pursing an MA in both ESL and Bilingual Education at Olivet Nazarene University and am in my third year teaching ESL and Spanish literacy at a Transitional Bilingual School. I'm overdue for another adventure abroad and have Italy and Costa Rica on my horizon.







Sarah Wojda  Sarah Wojda

TAPIF, French Ministry of Education

With determination of teaching abroad for the year after my graduation, I have been working outside the realm of teaching French. I first worked as a full-time substitute at Hinsdale South high school. I recommend new teachers who struggle with classroom management to experience the role of substitute teaching. Your experiences will teach you confidence and management skills that you will later bring into your own classroom. I currently work at Hoffman Estates high school as a Teaching Assistant in an academic center. My role is building rapport with students who have very poor grades. I strive to teach organization and communication skills that will teach students to be successful not only in school but in life.

I have been accepted into the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) by the French Ministry of Education, where I will be teaching English at the primary school level for the 2016-2017 school year. I cannot wait to move back to France not only to build upon my French skills but also my teaching!





Julia Holecek  Julia Holecek

Ladue Horton Watkins High School, Ladue, MO

Spanish 1 and Spanish 3

Spanish 1 is fun and I love that I get to expose my students to a new language and get them excited about it. I enjoy Spanish 3 because I am able to spend most of the class period in the target language and converse with students. I've thoroughly enjoyed my first few years of teaching and look forward to the many years ahead. I enjoy my students who challenge me and make me laugh on a daily basis!









Levi Antrim Levi Antrim

Edwardsville High School, Edwardsville, IL

German 1 & 2

I am planning on starting a GAPP exchange at EHS. I'm a great example of how an exchange program like that can make a huge difference in a student's life. If it weren't for the exchange in which I participated in 2004 I probably wouldn't be teaching German today.








April Karpus-Weddle

April Karpus-Weddle

Effingham High School in Effingham, IL

French 1,2,3,4

I've been teaching for 6 years now and I love it! My students make me smile every day and they tell me that learning French is fun. It's great to hear and I love having fun in class. We sing and dance a lot. I'm also the sponsor of French Club and it's great exposing these kids to new cultures and experiences. I especially love being the only French teacher (which sounds weird), but I get to see the students from their freshman year all the way until they graduate. My French 3 and 4 classes truly feel like a family.







Cindy Lewis Cindy Lewis

Taylor Preparatory High School in Taylor, MI.

Spanish 1 and 3

I love teaching because it is a rewarding career where I am a positive influence for students. I enjoy how each day is different in teaching Spanish and truly enjoy all my students. Currently, I attend Eastern Michigan University where I am working towards my Master of Arts in World Languages-Spanish.







Lynette GuthrieLynette Cervi

Jacksonville High School, Jacksonville, IL

German 1-5 ; GAPP coordinator.


I am a Jacksonville HS alum. I literally grew up in District 117 starting in Kindergarten at South Elementary School until I graduated from Jacksonville HS in 2006. I loved learning German. During my sophomore year, I hosted a German exchange student through GAPP (German American Partnership Program) and became a GAPP student myself. Being part of this exchange fueled my desire to become a German teacher. GAPP creates lifelong friendships! 




Erica McNeely Erica McNeely

Newton Community High School, Newton, IL

Spanish I, II, III

Spanish Club Sponsor; Germany--Student Cultural Exchange Sponsor

There are hard days but my students mean the world to me!







Bianca Capezio Bianca Capezio

Lyons Township High School in La Grange, IL

Spanish 2 Accel (a fast-paced, more rigorous Spanish 2 course); Spanish 2 Prep. They both use the same textbook but I have to modify activities, assessments, and projects for each level.

I highly encourage first-year teachers to get involved. Along with teaching, I've joined a Professional Development team. Also, I am the Junior Varsity Girls' Gymnastics Coach. Even though life is extremely busy, it helps with time management and you become really involved with the school. In addition, you get to work with your students outside the classroom environment. Days will be extremely hard, but all it takes is one student to say 'Thank you' or you see them understand the material. That is what really makes it all worth it!



Emily Johnson
Emily Pedziwiatr

Lincoln-Way East High School in Frankfort, IL

German 1, 2, 3 and 4

I love seeing how interested the students get in German and German speaking countries and how that leads to their language growth. Cultural learning and language learning go hand in hand. I spent a semester in Lüneburg and a summer in Berlin and Leipzig while studying at EIU. My first-hand experience of Germany enriches my German lessons every day. My future plans are to continue working at Lincoln-Way East and start working towards my Master’s degree.






Dawnaya Key Dawnaya Key

Mt. Zion High School in Mount Zion, IL

Spanish II, III, IV, and AP (college prep class)

Spanish Club & International Club (World Exchange Program) Sponsor

I was born to become a Spanish teacher. I am one of the most passionate teachers you could ever meet and I absolutely love what I do. It is a privilege and blessing to be bilingual and I’m proud to help my students reach the ultimate goal of bilingualism through sharing the same language that I learned as a child. I am currently writing my first book about the journey that led me to teaching Spanish and hope to publish it within the next year.










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Department of World Languages & Cultures

Coleman Hall, First Floor
Fax: 217-581-3113

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