Meet four Chicago teachers who inspire

[caption id="attachment_205343" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Athenia Travis of Southshore Occupational Academy[/caption]

Karaoke. Nature play. How to cook fresh fish. Meet four teachers whose unconventional approaches to the classroom have earned them recognition from their students, their bosses, and their peers.

Since launching last summer, Chalkbeat Chicago has profiled inspiring teachers in an occasional series called How I Teach. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we’re resurfacing a few that have resonated most with our readers. The culinary arts teacher who grew up dyslexic and knew a thing or two about mastering other ways of learning. A high school digital video teacher who uses karaoke — yes, karaoke — to help students grasp basic audio-visual skills. The preschool educator whose lightbulb moment at a nature park led to a groundbreaking research project. And the special education teacher who counsels others about combating compassion fatigue and restoring the fun.

Have a colleague whose unique approach could be an inspiration to others? Are you a parent or student who has benefited from a standout local educator? We want to hear from you. Tell us all about it at   

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

We’re Cassie Walker Burke, Adeshina Emmanuel, and Yana Kunichoff and we cover public education in Chicago. Have a story idea? Great. Write us at One more reminder: Chalkbeat Chicago is regularly live-tweeting events and meetings on Twitter. Follow us @ChalkbeatCHI, @cassiechicago, @public_ade, and @yanazure.

The week in review

Another strike for the books: Chicago’s third charter strike, which ended this week, will have its own place in the city’s labor history: It was the first to unite teachers from multiple operators. Chalkbeat had the details.

Montessori mania: What does Montessori mean in the age of school choice? Chalkbeat asked an expert.

The era of feeling unsafe: In the wake of a shooting this week at a Colorado charter school that left one student dead and eight others injured, communities are again grappling with how to respond when violence shatters a place of learning. Chalkbeat readers shared their thoughts.

The saga of a gym: A wealthy campaign donor and driving force behind Chicago school reform efforts emailed Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to ask for a new $13 million gym for a local high school. What happened next raises questions about the power of political fundraisers, facilities decision-making, and the motivation the turnaround operator known as the Academy for Urban School Leadership, or AUSL, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Rethinking property tax relief: A clause in the 2017 school funding reform law was designed to provide property tax relief. But after one year of implementation, the State Board of Education is suggesting lawmakers might want to reconsider. NPR Illinois briefed the argument. 

Looking ahead

The Illinois State Board of Education meets Wednesday May 15. The board has recently been grappling with a state teaching shortage.

 On Thursday May 16, Chicago Learning Exchange will kick-off the city’s first hands-on learning festival, which will span four days and 100 activities at venues across the city. From tinkering with 3D printers at IIT’s Maker Lab to creating indoor vertical gardens from recycled 2-liter bottles at SweetWater Foundation, there’s a full lineup of events. Find it here.

Chicago Public Schools and the Mayor’s Office will cohost a parent empowerment expo for families of children with special needs on Saturday, May 11. Here are the details.



The Museum of Science and Industry’s Science Leadership Initiative event

Looking to boost the amount of classroom time that educators spend on science, the Museum of Science and Industry this week recognized 13 Chicago-area educators as champions of science learning through a Science Leadership Initiative. Each teacher received a $2,500 award, with an additional $500 going toward each individual’s school.

As part of the program, the class of teacher leaders, along with their administrators, are making three-year commitments to foster a whole-school approach to science.

The Science Leadership Initiative is comprised of teachers who go above-and-beyond their already demanding job to infuse the importance of science education throughout their entire school, helping to remove one of the key barriers to science education,” said Nicole Kowrach, the museum’s ITW Director of Teaching and Learning.

A #HighFive to the museum’s Science Leadership Class of 2019: Kristen Shreffler, Crete-Monee Middle School, University Park, Illinois; Cara West, Durkin Park School, Chicago; Jacqueline Taylor, Earle STEM Elementary, Chicago; Anita London, Hillel Torah North Suburban Day School, Skokie, Illinois; Tamika Reynolds, Jane Addams Elementary, Chicago; Caitlin Tully, John W. Cook Academy, Chicago; Shelley Deutscher, Lake Hills STEM Magnet Elementary School, Michigan City, Indiana; Izetta Washington, Perkins Bass Elementary School, Chicago; Latonia Reynolds, Piccolo School of Excellence, Chicago; Angela Vasey, Plum Grove Junior High, Rolling Meadows, Illinois; Hallie Askuvich, Sauganash Elementary School, Chicago; Paul Karlovics, Walker Elementary, Bedfork Park, Illinois; and Angelo Restivo, William J. Onahan Elementary School, Chicago.

Our weekly #HighFive is a shoutout to an awesome student, educator, community leader, or school. We’d love your pitches. Send them to Please include #HighFive in the subject line.