I grew up in a middle-class family with my parents, three sisters, and numerous foster-siblings. My parents instilled in all of us the values of hard work and giving back to their community. With the support of my aunt, I attended Eastern Illinois University and acquired a Bachelor’s degree and teacher’s certification. I then became a fifth grade teacher. Around this time, I met my husband, David, and we've been married for over twenty years. My family has grown to include a daughter, son, step-daughter, and two young grandsons. I went on to earn a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction (with an ESL endorsement) from Concordia University. Throughout my life, I have continued to give back to my community. I have volunteered in classrooms for over a decade, served as secretary of the Band Boosters at my son’s high school, and am a outreach volunteer at a children's hospital in Chicago offering emotional support to families.