Team members

Jie-Qi Chen, Ph.D., principal investigator
Contact Dr. Chen
Erikson professor Jie-Qi Chen has been active in teacher professional development initiatives for more than 20 years. She works with her colleagues to inquire, explore and generate ideas and practices meaningful to classroom teaching and learning processes.  Her expertise includes cognitive development, classroom assessment, multiple intelligences, and urban schooling as well as early mathematics education. She began her career teaching in early childhood and elementary classrooms in China and the U.S. before earning her master’s degree in early childhood education at the University of Northern Iowa. She holds a doctorate in applied child development at Tufts University.

Jennifer McCray, Ph.D., project director
Contact Dr. McCray
Jennifer McCray earned both her master’s and doctorate degrees at Erikson Institute. A former preschool teacher, for the past eight years she has taught pre- and in-service preschool and elementary teachers. In addition to directing the Early Mathematics Education Project, Jennifer conducts research on preschool teaching and learning. Her dissertation, which focused on preschool teachers’ understanding of mathematics, recently won two national awards.

Jeanine O’Nan Brownell, M.S., assistant director for programming
Contact Ms. Brownell
Jeanine O’Nan Brownell is an early childhood teacher with experience in preschool to third-grade classrooms. She has worked as a mentor to new teachers, an instructional coach, and an author of early mathematics curriculum. Currently she is working with a group of Head Start teachers in a three-year project to improve early mathematics instruction in Chicago. She earned her master’s degree at Erikson Institute.

Mary Hynes-Berry, Ph.D., instructor
Contact Dr. Hynes-Berry
A specialist in teacher education and literacy development, Mary Hynes-Berry brings to the Early Mathematics Education Project more than 30 years’ experience using stories and storytelling as tools for learning. She has used that approach while working directly with young children, and taught both in-service and pre-service to use the techniques as well. She has taught at Erikson as an adjunct faculty member since 1996 and was a consultant to the New Schools Project. Once a math-phobic educator with a doctorate in English, she was converted to a math enthusiast when she directed a K-3 mathematics curriculum project for Encyclopedia Britannica. She shares that enthusiasm for developing young children’s mathematical understanding with project participants as she promotes and demonstrates effective ways to teach math.

Rebeca Itzkowich, M.A., instructor
Contact Ms. Itzkowich
Rebeca Itzkowich earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at New York University and taught immigrant children from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds in preschool through third grade in New York City for 10 years. She became a teacher educator out of a desire to help teachers preserve the sense of wonder and curiosity children commonly enjoy in preschool but too often lose as they move into the elementary grades. For the past 15 years she has worked with both pre-service and in-service teachers to help them rediscover themselves as learners, understand the unique needs of culturally and linguistically diverse learners, and learn to become reflective practitioners so they can bring the joy and rigor of genuine learning into their classrooms.

Lisa Ginet, Ph.D., instructional coordinator
Contact Ms. Ginet
Lisa Ginet has spent more than two decades as an educator in various roles: classroom teacher, child care provider, parent educator, home visitor, teacher trainer, and adjunct instructor. She has worked in diverse settings, from child care centers and elementary and middle schools to community colleges and private universities. She has taught mathematics to children from infancy to middle school and to teachers in college classes and workshops. She completed her doctorate in early childhood education at Concordia University Chicago in 2010.

Donna Johnson, M.S., teacher support services coordinator
Contact Ms. Johnson
Donna Johnson holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Her passion for teaching and learning led her from engineering into education, where she has been involved in teaching children of all ages in nontraditional settings. She presents workshops that focus on children from birth to age five. On the Early Mathematics Education team, she provides support for coaches who help teachers enhance their math content knowledge and reflective teaching practice.

Cody Meirick, M.A., program coordinator
Contact Mr. Meirick
Cody Meirick earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from the University of Missouri. Summer jobs working for the American Youth Foundation sparked his interest in education nonprofits. Previously an event manager for a St. Louis art education center, he moved to Chicago in 2009 to join the Early Mathematics Education Project.

Emma Whitman, M.S., doctoral research fellow
Contact Ms. Whitman
Emma Whitman is currently pursuing her doctorate at Erikson Institute. She joined the Early Mathematics Education Project as a research fellow in 2007 and has assisted with data collection and analysis regarding teacher attitudes and efficacy, children’s learning, and teachers’ practices. Her dissertation examines teacher language used in various classroom instructional settings. She received her bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and her master’s in education from Bank Street College of Education. She has taught in both public and private schools and is currently an assistant director at a private preschool in Brooklyn, New York.

Yinna Zhang, B.S., doctoral research fellow
Contact Ms. Zhang
A first-year doctoral student at Erikson Institute, Yinna Zhang studied biological science at Tsinghua University. After graduating, she switched her focus to developmental and educational psychology and earned her master’s degree at Beijing Normal University. Her work for the Early Math Education Project focuses on refining a new measure of teacher knowledge and conducting analyses of child outcome and teacher attitude data. She is an active participant in community-based research at Erikson, with strong interests in educational assessment, program evaluation, and understanding issues related to children’s behaviors during the process of socialization.

Katie Morgan
Ruth Ortigoza
Veronica Arriaga
Patricia Garner
Tracey Brownrigg
Barbara Ewing
Tonia Humphrey
Jill Sapoznick

Research/Video staff
Antonela Ciupe
Lauren Degnan-Irwin
Amanda Armstrong
Edana Parker
Amanda Finkl
Judith Quintanilla
Tom Shriner
Mattie Vandersteen
Carissa Madrid
Kana Mehra

Former student staff
Bilge Cerezci
Bill Heaston
Kim Schubert
Sarah Collentine
Alicia DiMarco
Dyah Larasati
Irene Podrobinok
Katrina Nousaine
Kathy Lukenbill
Reena Vohra
Brittany Thomas



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It’s working

We’re making a difference in children’s math skills. Our research shows that children in the classrooms of teachers in the project learn more about math during the school year than children whose teachers did not participate.

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