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Meet the Board

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Dr. Rachel Lella holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication and American Studies from Rider University, a master’s degree in Elementary Education from Monmouth University, a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Kean University, a master's degree in Language Education from Rutgers University, and a doctorate in Teacher Leadership from Rutgers University. She holds certifications as an elementary teacher, supervisor, and principal. Based on her research at Rutgers, she received the Edward Fry Fellowship in Literacy and the Center for Literacy Development Endowed Scholarship.

She began her career in education in 2006, teaching students in grades PK-4 for 12 years before accepting her previous position as an elementary and K-12 ESL curriculum and instruction supervisor in the Wall Township Public Schools. She is currently the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the North Hanover Township Schools (Wrightstown, NJ), which proudly serves a >70% military population from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. She is also a lecturer at Rutgers University. Dr. Lella belongs to a number of professional education associations and has presented at their local, state, national, and international conferences.

Dr. Lella serves on the NJLA Board and is a member of multiple committees. She enjoys spending time with her two young daughters, and can typically be found at or near the beach with a good book.

Literacy Interests:

  • Creating Student Independence in Self-Selecting Reading Strategies

  • Supporting Struggling Readers

  • Supporting English Language Learners

  • Literacy Leadership

  • Literacy-Focused Curriculum and Instruction




Dr. Susan Dougherty holds a. bachelor’s degree in Elementary and Kindergarten Education from Penn State University, a master’s degree in Reading from Rutgers University, and a master’s degree in Educational Media and Technology and a doctoral degree in Language and Literacy from Boston University.


Dr. Dougherty is currently the chair of the Department of Teacher Education and an associate professor of Literacy Education at Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ. She works with future elementary teachers and in-service teachers pursuing reading specialist certification. She began her career as an educator in New Jersey, teaching in grades K-4 for 10 years. She serves on the Board of NJLA and is co-editor of the newsletter.


Dr. Dougherty recently published Pivotal Research in Early Literacy: Foundational Studies and Current Practice, which she co-edited with colleague Christina Cassano. She is also co-author of Engaging Readers: Supporting All Students in Knowledge-Driven Reading, Grades 4-8 with Dana Robertson and Evelyn Ford-Connors.


Literacy Interests:

  • Word Recognition in Grades K-6

  • Building a Solid Foundation for Literacy in Pre-K

  • Supporting Students Who Find Reading Difficult

  • Literacy & Science: Informational Texts and the Next Generation Science Standards

  • Family Literacy: Developing True Partnerships




Bio coming soon...



Immediate Past President

Nicole Mancini teaches fifth grade English Language Arts at Bedminster Township School District. She graduated Washington College in 2002 as a triple major in English, education, and gender studies. She earned a Masters of Science in Education from Monmouth University and has a Reading Specialist certification. Nicole has served as a team leader, member of Bedminster Township School's Gifted & Talented Advisory Council, Technology Committee, Teacher of the Year Committee, and English & Language Arts Literacy Curriculum Committee; she also led the faculty's professional book club. 


Nicole has presented various workshops both in and out of New Jersey on technology, building students' passion for reading, motivating reluctant readers, battling mental health stigmas through books, and engagement. She has been an advocate for using diverse and neurodiverse books in the classroom for several years and has worked with authors from around the country to help educators learn more about this topic. In addition, Nicole is a freelance writer, a member of the International Literacy Association and West Jersey Reading Council, and an ambassador for Flipgrid. She has been published on the Nerdy Book Club blog and Teaching Channel, appeared on the Books Between Podcast and My Disney Class Podcast, and was featured on the Educator Spotlight column for MG Book Village and segments on ABC, CBS, and PBS. Nicole also organizes and appears on author panels for both children and adults in local bookstores. 

Literacy Interests:

  • Reading Engagement

  • Technology in the Classroom

  • Using Diverse Books in the Classroom

  • Creating a Literacy-Focused Classroom

  • Independent Reading

  • Motivating Reluctant Readers

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Immediate Past President of ILA

Ken Kunz holds a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and English from Kean University, a master's in Reading Specialization from Rutgers University, and a doctorate in Teacher Leadership from Rutgers.  He is a certified Elementary Teacher, Teacher of English, Reading Specialist, Teacher of English as a Second Language, Supervisor, and Principal.


Ken is a former elementary school teacher, professor of teacher education, and intermediate school supervisor.  Currently, he is the Founder/Director of For the Love of Literacy and serves as a literacy consultant in school districts across New Jersey.  


Ken has been recognized by the NJ Governor's Teacher Recognition Program and was a recipient of the Edward Fry Fellowship in Literacy at Rutgers.  He is a Past President of both the International Literacy Association and NJ Literacy Association.


He is co-author of Breaking Through the Language Arts Block: Organizing and Managing an Exemplary Literacy Day, Literacy Changemakers: Bringing the Joy of Reading and Writing Into Focus for Students and Teachers, and The New Leader’s Guide to Early Childhood Settings.  Ken lives in Asbury Park, NJ and enjoys running, exercising, and socializing with his literacy friends and family.



Board Member

Eugenia Cooley is a 6th grade elementary teacher in the Hillside Public Schools District.  Her career began as a substitute teacher in 2004 and after completion of state alternate route requirements she became a 3rd grade teacher within the same district in 2006.  She earned a Bachelor's in Marketing from Kean University, a Master's in Reading Specialization from Saint Peter's University, and a second Master’s in Educational Leadership also from Saint Peter’s University.
Eugenia is a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, International, past president of the Epsilon chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa, an international honorary organization for women educators, a Montclair State University Network for Educational Renewal Clinical Faculty member and Leadership Associate, a longtime Scoring Leader for ETS, and an Early Intervention Child Development Specialist.  She has also served as a liaison for her school’s Social Emotional Learning Team, a member of the NJIT LiFE (Leadership and iSTEAM for Females in Elementary Schools) Cohort, member of the Merck ALISI (Advancing Leadership in Science Instruction) Cohort, and past Teacher of the Year for Hurden Looker Elementary School.
She has proudly raised two daughters that are now educators and is now raising a loving Yorkie, named Egypt.

Literacy Interests:

  • Creating Culturally Responsive Classroom Communities

  • Student-led Activities/Strategies

  • Utilizing Technology to Enhance and Increase Reading Comprehension & Student Engagement



Board Member

Bio coming soon...



Board Member

Ms. Spaulding holds a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and Preschool from Rider University and a masters in Reading Specialization from Rowan University. She is a certified Elementary Teacher, Preschool Teacher, Special Education Teacher, Reading Specialist, and Supervisor.


Ms. Spaulding is a former reading teacher, and special education teacher. Currently, she is a third-grade teacher in a (K-5) elementary school in the Clayton School District.


Ms. Spaulding has served as a Board Member and President of the South Jersey Reading Council and is a member of International Literacy Association. She currently serves as a Board Member of NJ Literacy Association


She has presented workshops on Project Read, a literacy program encompassing phonics, reading comprehension, and written expression. She has served as language arts chair for three years in the Clayton School District.  She lives in Atco, NJ with her husband, three children, and two rescue pets.  Ms. Spaulding enjoys music, scrapbooking, and spending time with friends and family.

Literacy Interests:

  • Guided Reading/Differentiated Small Group Instruction

  • IEP Planning

  • Comprehension

  • Literacy Environment

  • Literacy Strategies



Board Member

Jenna has taught 4th and 6th grade for 13 years. She was the 2016 NJ Governors District Teacher of the Year. Jenna currently serves as a member of the Rutgers Center for Literacy Development Advisory Board. She is the advisor of the afterschool club-EarlyAct (a division of Rotary International) that is comprised of 50+ members in 1st -6th. Jenna specializes in Visual Literacy and Sketchnoting.  She also supports John Hattie's Visible Classroom philosophy.  She presents annually at the NJEA convention on literacy and acts as a literacy coach in her district.  



Board Member

Gina holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a master’s degree in Science and Environmental Education. Gina also has completed 30 additional credits in Literacy and Reading Instruction. Gina is currently enrolled in a Supervisor’s certificate program which she plans to complete in June 2019. Gina is a certified K-6 teacher in New York and New Jersey.


Gina started her career in New York teaching 2nd and 3rd grade and her passion for teacher leadership and coaching began to take hold. Gina worked as a literacy coach for Children’s Literacy Initiative for 10 years, coaching best practices and facilitating Professional Development mostly in the tri-state area. Gina has also facilitated Professional Development workshops in multiple states across the country.


Gina presently works at Dr. William H. Horton School in Newark NJ as a school-based literacy coach, working with grades K-5. Gina works in classrooms with teachers on Literacy Environment, Guided Reading practice, Learning Centers, International Read Aloud, and Classroom Culture. In addition, Gina facilitates professional development, teaches small groups and works with teachers to impact practice and increase student achievement Gina is a board member of NJLA and serves on Professional Development committee. Gina is a published writer of the NJLA newsletter.

Literacy Interests:

● Guided Reading

● Independent Reading and Conferring

● Read Aloud

● Literacy Environment/Classroom Culture

● Family Literacy



Board Member

Juli-Anne Benjamin is a veteran educator who has dedicated her life in the service of children, both nationally and internationally, having taught in South Africa and recently in New Delhi, India at Delhi Public Schools.

A highly qualified, lifelong learner trained by Teachers College Instructional Coaching cycles in workshop methodologies and small-group instruction, Juli-Anne loves to read and is devoutly committed to building culturally relevant and sustainable classroom libraries. She champions read-alouds in literacy lessons and grounds instructional practice in building and curating sound relationships with teachers and students and culturally aligning books that serve as windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors into the diverse experiences and worlds of children.


Juli-Anne holds several Master's degrees in English Education and School Leadership, has been featured in Who's Who Among America's Teachers, and has proudly served NYC Schools as an English teacher, reading specialist, mentor, and instructional coach.

As Founder of EdCampBROOKLYN and EdCampNewark(NJ), Juli-Anne has married her love of classroom teaching with the lens of teacher leadership to usher teachers into open spaces of personalized professional learning networks and is deeply committed to amplifying teachers as leaders in advocacy and agency of effective professional development that arms teachers with the most innovative, collaborative, and practical pedagogical tools that have a rich impact on student learning.


Juli-Anne has been pursuing her Doctorate degree in Curriculum, Instruction and Leadership
while tangentially studying at Harvard Graduate School of Education and has participated in modules within the Professional Studies programs. She works tirelessly within social justice and equity frameworks to include teachers of color into emerging professional learning spaces, currently works in Newark NJ, as an instructional coach and is deeply honored to serve as a member of the NJLA Board. 

Literacy Interests:

  • Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

  • Culturally Responsive Literacy Instruction

  • Using picture books as a window, mirror and sliding glass doors into the diverse lives of characters

  • Read Aloud for all

  • Reading as a civil right 

  • How to choose diverse texts for the middle school classroom

  • Reading books as a ways to disrupt non-responsive curriculum 

  • Cultural Sustainability in middle school texts

  • Urban classroom management

  • Children’s Right To Read



Board Member

Bio coming soon...

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