Carmen Ayala, Ph.D.
Dr. Carmen I. Ayala has over 40 years experience in education. She recently completed four years as state superintendent for the Illinois State Board of Education serving almost two million PK-12 students in almost 4,000 schools in 852 districts across the state.
Prior to her arrival at the Illinois State Board of Education, Dr. Ayala had served since 2012 as the superintendent of Berwyn North School District 98, where she steadily turned around lower-performing schools.
Dr. Ayala has held a wide variety of roles in her 40-year education career. She was the assistant superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction at Plainfield District 202 prior to her service in Berwyn. Additionally, Dr. Ayala served as the director of School Improvement and Programs at Community Consolidated School District 300. She also served as an assistant superintendent, director of Bilingual Services, and teacher in Aurora East School District 131. She began her career in education as a teacher in Chicago Public Schools.
Dr. Ayala has held positions on numerous boards and committees, including the Illinois State Board of Education Bilingual Advisory Council, Illinois Women in Educational Leadership, Illinois Resource Center, and the Illinois Professional Review Panel for Evidence-Based Funding. She served as an executive board member on the Latino Policy Forum, where she championed equitable funding and increased resources for English Learners.
She was a Fellow of the Institute for Educational Leadership, adjunct professor for National Louis University, and was trained as a curriculum auditor by the Curriculum Management Center. She has led many workshops and conferences on topics concerning English Learners; deep curriculum alignment; and equity, diversity, and achievement gaps. She is the co-author of “Restoring the Soul to Education: Equity Closes the Achievement Gap.”
Throughout her career, Dr. Ayala has received multiple honors, including the 2023 Friend of Education Award from the Illinois Education Association, the 2022 Woman of Valor Award from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the 2020 Puerto Rican Arts Alliance Distinguished Woman Education Award, 2019 Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents Leaders in Education: Latinx Impact Award, 2018 Leadership Award, and the 2002 Excellence in Education Award from the League of Latin American Citizens, as well as the 2002 Kane County Distinguished Educator Award.
She earned her bachelor’s degree from Mundelein College with a focus on bilingual-bicultural education and Spanish literature. She went on to earn her master’s degree in business administration from Dominican University and her doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from Loyola University of Chicago.