Board Member Bios

Amber Ray, President

Home Parish: 

Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Holy Cross Catholic School 

Champaign, IL


I was born and raised in Lake Geneva, WI and attended St. Francis de Sales Catholic School. I met my husband, Derek, while teaching at a Catholic high school in Oregon. We have three children; Lewis, Annmarie, and Patrick. Derek is a teacher at The High School of St. Thomas More and our son, Lewis, attends Holy Cross Catholic School in Champaign, IL. My other children will also attend Holy Cross once they are old enough. Our favorite family activities include spending time outside swimming, biking, and going to parks. 

Career and Volunteer Affiliations:

I graduated from Loras College with a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Special Education and English literature. I earned my Master’s of Education in Special Education and Literacy Specialist endorsement from the University of Portland. I was a high school special education teacher at a Catholic high school in Oregon. I was hired to develop and start a special education program that would meet the needs of students with disabilities within the Catholic high school. I then became the co-director of special education. 

I went on to earn my Ph.D. in Learning, Literacies, and Technologies, Specializing in Special Education from Arizona State University. I am currently an Assistant Professor of Special Education in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I have worked with several Catholic schools to provide instructional support for students and professional development for teachers and school leaders. 

Reasons for serving on the FIRE Foundation Board:

I am passionate about Catholic schools being a place where students with disabilities are not only welcomed but belong. I am excited to support the Diocese of Peoria Catholic schools’ inclusive education efforts.