Velma Thomas Teacher Appreciation

Teacher Appreciation, Chicago Style!

This week, my colleague Tanesha Peeples and I want to take a moment to shout-out a handful of the many Chicago teachers we know who are working their hearts out for students every day.

Take Jessica Fong, preK teacher at Velma Thomas Early Childhood Center. When schools closed due to COVID-19, half of her preK students and families began taking part in remote learning by cell phone because they had no other devices at home. Understandably, the district has prioritized its own laptops for older student, but that still left her families in the lurch.

So, what did Fong do? She started a fundraiser and so far has raised more than $1500. With the proceeds, she has already purchased 5 Chromebooks with protection sleeves to make sure little ones don’t hurt them by accident with a spill. She has also set up her own at-home video production studio to make sure her remote lessons are as high-quality as she can make them.

Fong remote studio
Jessica Fong’s remote learning studio.

Teaching at the other end of the student age spectrum, we want to shout out Devin Evans, who teaches English to sophomores at Butler College Prep. Evans has twice been voted Teacher of the Year by Butler students. His classroom teaching focuses on leadership development and connecting literature to issues of social justice. Having learned much from the Black men who taught him, he helped found the Black Male Educator Alliance of Illinois to support the next generation of educators like himself. Evans is also a published writer, whose commentary has appeared in our sister publication, Education Post, and the Hechinger Report.

Teachers Are Doing It for their Communities

Tanesha also appreciates a couple of women in her world who are keeping it real in their classrooms. Horace Mann Elementary teacher Tameka Romayne started her teaching career in a room with 43 seventh grade students. Today, she teaches fifth grade at Mann. Tanesha says, “Her commitment to students is evident through her energy, passion and well-rounded approach to teaching.” Of Perspectives Charter Schools English teacher Tanitia Smith, she says, “She brings the real world into the classroom to teach her students.”

In this video, Tanitia also shared her views on the importance of teachers as role models for Black students :

Teachers Are Pooling Stimulus Checks for Hardest-Hit Families

Across the country, groups of teachers have begun pooling their stimulus checks to create direct assistance funds for undocumented and mixed-status families who have been locked out of government relief.

Here in Chicago, Back of the Yards College Prep teachers Hallie Trauger and Jackson Potter spearheaded the creation of Assistance for Back of the Yards Families. Today, the group is distributing its first set of $500 grants to 22 families who live, work or attend school in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. (Full disclosure: I have lived here for the last 15 years and my daughter and I donated to this effort.)

For all you do, teachers of Chicago, this one’s for you! Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

WHAT DO YOU THINK?
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Maureen Kelleher

Maureen Kelleher

Chicago Unheard blog manager Maureen Kelleher also serves as a senior writer and editor at brightbeam, a nonprofit network of education activists demanding a better education and brighter future for every child. Before joining the brightbeam team, she spent a decade as a reporter, blogger and policy analyst. Her work has been published across the education world, from Education Week to the Center for American Progress. Between 1998 and 2006 she was an associate editor at Catalyst Chicago, the go-to magazine covering Chicago’s public schools. There, her reporting won awards from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the International Reading Association and the Society for Professional Journalists. A former high school English teacher, she is also the proud mom of an elementary student in the Chicago Public Schools. Find her on Twitter at @KelleherMaureen.

  1 comment for “Teacher Appreciation, Chicago Style!

  1. Avatar
    May 8, 2020 at 12:17 pm

    Thank you so much, Maureen! I was preparing my lessons for next week when a notification came on my newsfeed recognizing me in this piece! I’m so thankful for this during teacher appreciation week! Thank you again, Maureen! -Devin

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