Tracy Fuentes
Tracy Fuentes Bilingual/ESL teacher
Tracy is an eighth grade Bilingual/ESL teacher at Stevenson Middle School in Melrose Park, Illinois. She is the leader of the school’s new Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol strategies program and is in her twelfth year of teaching.
Monica Genta
Monica GentaTeacher / Author / Educational Consultant / Motivational Speaker
Monica is the author of two books: Game Changers and 180 days of Awesome, a middle school science teacher, and nationwide educational consultant and motivational speaker. She has earned a masters in Curriculum & Instruction and a Masters in Educational Leadership and Administration and is a National Board Certified teacher.

Her goal is to transform teachers, leaders, and schools from seeing education as an ordinary job into an extraordinary adventure. Genta feels that every person who walks into a school deserves to love their experience! She is a believer in finding awesome and celebrating life every day. Genta is full of energy, full of passion and full of love for helping others on their journey in life and learning.

Rae Hughart
Rae HughartTeacher / Director of Training and Development
Rae Hughart is a middle level math educator in Illinois and the Director of Training and Development for Progressive Mastery Learning, LLC.

Over the past few years, Rae has created and implemented the 3C’s of the Teach Further Unit Design – Curriculum, Creativity, and Connections – to transform classrooms across the Midwest. Through the development of rigorous content, career themed units and building strong community support, Rae continues to collaborate with teachers across the country to lead an out of the box classroom utilizing the mock internship design!

In 2017, Rae was inducted into the Illinois State University Hall of Fame for her innovative educational impact through the Teach Further Model. Additionally, Rae serves on several educational boards, including the Association of Illinois Middle Grade Schools (AIMS).

Jennifer Smith
Jennifer SmithTeacher
Jennifer Smith teaches 8th grade science at Monticello Middle School and just finished her thirteenth year of teaching. Smith is National Board certified in EA Science and was the 2016 ETA Hand 2 Mind Middle School STEM Teacher of the year.
John Olzen
John OlzenTeacher
John is entering his 4th year teaching science at Hadley Junior High School. Prior to teaching, he worked in the environmental health and safety industry and is able to weave those real life experiences into his classroom. John works in a full inclusion setting and is successful exciting students about science. Fully integrating NGSS and technology into his teaching creates high engagement for students. He wants to share ideas and help problem solve with colleagues. He has presented at previous AIMS conferences and is excited to be back for more!
Steven B. Mertens
Steven B. MertensAssociate Professor, Author
Steven B. Mertens is associate professor of middle level education in the School of Teaching & Learning at Illinois State University. Prior to that, he served for 15 years as a Senior Research Scientist at CPRD at the University of Illinois, where he worked as a principal investigator on numerous research and evaluation projects. He has authored over 60 publications and has presented papers at over 80 national, state, and regional conferences addressing varying aspects of middle level education and reform and teacher preparation. Steve is a past Chair of AERA’s Middle Level Education Research SIG, a member of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grade’s Reform, AIMS board member, and a former member of AMLE’s Research Advisory Board. He currently serves as the series co-editor for the Handbook of Research in Middle Level Education and the Handbook of Resources in Middle Level Education, published by Information Age.