Liz Barlock is a kindergarten teacher at Baker Demonstration
School in Wilmette who is committed to a progressive philosophy of
learning through "play." An entry on her blog shares, "We continue
to discuss the Human Body and observe where the children are going
to take this study. We created science journals for each child to
document their ideas and questions…and listed and drew what we
think we know already." In this unit, and throughout the year,
Barlock ensures understanding through query and exploration-a
practice she pursues in her own professional development as she
takes on leadership roles within the school, engages in dialogue
with colleagues, and presents findings at conferences throughout
We call teachers like Ms. Barlock "A+ Teachers" and Chicagoland is
filled with them. From kindergarten teachers to educational
department heads and athletic directors, our schools have teachers
that are always looking for new ways to engage our students in
learning opportunities and who are making a difference in the lives
of children of all ages. So, what makes an "A+ Teacher"? Here are
some of the common traits they each possess along with stories of
some local "A+ Teachers" nominated by their colleagues:
Inspire Lifelong Learners
Ann Rundio has been teaching at Luther North College Prep in
Chicago for forty-two years. Throughout those years, Rundio's
teaching has been instrumental in preparing students for college
and careers. Students from every walk of life have returned to
Luther North over the last four decades attributing their academic
and professional successes to Rundio's expertise in teaching them
how to write well. She is known for insisting that students give
their best effort and for pushing them beyond their own
expectations to meet her high expectations for them. Chicago radio
personality Nick Digilio makes frequent on-air references to the
impact Rundio's teaching had on him.
Make Learning Fun
Sr. Katie Mitchell loves yellow. Her classroom is filled with
yellow on all sides; you almost need sunglasses to be in her room.
Her favorite pillow is one shaped like the sun. This is a classroom
that is bright, colorful, and exciting for all the second graders
at Pope John XXIII in Evanston. Her sunny disposition, warmth, and
positive attitude contribute to the caring and up-beat environment
in this classroom. Everywhere you look are student projects hanging
from wires and displayed on bulletin boards. This is indeed the
"home" of these seven and eight year olds. It is a place for safe,
interesting, and exciting learning. Sr. Katie creates this
atmosphere so all her students enjoy learning.
As a second grade teacher at Holy Cross School in Chicago, Stacy
Brehm approaches teaching very creatively and through hands on
experiences, like her use of classroom economy. Her students are
learning lifelong skills such as budgeting money, responsibility,
and generosity. Much like the real world, they receive a paycheck
for completing homework and doing jobs around the classroom. Each
week they pay rent and pay fines for breaking rules. Lunches with
the teacher or keeping a stuffed animal at their desk are a few
things they can purchase with discretionary income. The charity
jar, to finance hardship cases, is filled by many practicing the
virtue of helping those less fortunate.
Think Outside the Classroom
When Cammy Czarnik came to the faculty of The Willows Academy in
Des Plaines in 2007 she brought with her a vibrant passion for
learning. In the short years she has been at The Willows, Czarnik
has brought a new spirit to The Willows…in the History Department,
in the Fine Arts, in the Student Council, in technological
innovation in the classroom, in the spirit of the faculty team. As
a young educator, Czarnik possesses a keen sense of the education
of the whole child. She understands that learning is not a passive
activity, nor is it one that is restricted to a classroom. As
History Department Head, Czarnik has a keen understanding of
learning as a process. When assigning classes, Czarnik clearly
articulated the importance of teaching lower level classes in
addition to the AP level classes so all teachers are involved in
the development of students who can learn history well. She keeps
abreast of current technological trends and pursues the nuances of
the limited technology available to her. Outside of the classroom,
Czarnik continues her commitment to her students as moderator of
Student Council and supervises the performing arts stage
Communicate with Parents
Amy Jacobs is a creative, innovative educator who has taught eight
courses for Center for Talent Development's Saturday Enrichment
Program (SEP), including Entomology & Mini-Mammals, Far East
Adventures and Illuminating Light. Parents agree that she
always goes above and beyond their expectations. She is accessible
and regularly communicates with parents about what their children
are learning and how parents can continue to support their
children's learning at home. Further, they report that her
strategies and activities are a perfect fit for the children with
whom she works.
Focus on the Individual
Amy Salzman is a third grade teacher at Chicago Jewish Day School
where they believe in educating the whole child and that healthy
emotional growth enhances academic achievement. Salzman believes in
this mission and vision and demonstrates this in her teaching.
A skilled and thoughtful teacher, she is very well organized
and knows her students' strengths and challenges. She also
possesses great humility, a quality that we often don't find in
today's leaders, and is a valued colleague that can be counted on
for help or assistance whether it is collaborating in a curricular
area or simply changing a duty schedule.
Help Children Reach Full Potential
Brehm Preparatory School in Carbondale will soon celebrate its
30th anniversary, and so too will one staff member - Gregory
"Coach" Douglas. Douglas is a faculty member and athletic director
at Brehm Preparatory School. He was hired when the school first
opened in 1982 and has not left since. His passion for helping
students, both boys and girls grades 6-12 with complex learning
disabilities, achieve their fullest potential is inspiring to not
only the students, but also their family members, the staff and
faculty at Brehm and the community as a whole.
With seventeen years of experience teaching at the Early Childhood
levels from Preschool through First grade at Our Lady of the
Wayside School in Arlington Heights, Debra Fisher reaches each
child in her classroom with ease through her differentiated
instruction approach. Using best practice and research-based
teaching practices, Fisher gives each child the confidence to look
inside themselves and see their own true potential. Her warmth and
caring is evident in everything she does.
Mrs. Joji Escanilla of Skokie Montessori is dedicated to not only
helping every child in her class succeed academically, but she
strives to help student's discover their own potential. She
believes every child is capable if directed and guided to the right
path and she sets a high standard in all levels of the school-from
toddler to primary. The students are gaining and receiving a solid
foundation in learning and discipline under her leadership.
We commend all of these teachers for inspiring our students in and
out of the classroom-for giving of their time and talents to ensure
that every child that walks through their classroom will have an
opportunity to find a lifelong love of learning.
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