Pedraza received her bachelor’s degree in history from Northern Illinois University, but she always wanted to teach; so she obtained a state bilingual certificate. Jungman Elementary School in Pilsen welcomed her, assigning her to co-teach the mixed-grade class during regular hours and the 4th-grade bilingual class after school.
For schools, the booklet suggests ways to form partnerships with community organizations and strategies for getting people involved with their schools. For example, it suggests schools find out what’s available for their students from public departments of health, welfare and social services as well as from youth service agencies.
In her first year, DeRamus was in the classroom, helping students with reading. Then, to make use of her expertise, school officials asked her to switch to the guidance office, where she volunteers four days a week. Now, DeRamus is one of the first faces many students and parents see.
“I’ll never forget that day. They were hiding in the bushes and made the bus driver, who was black, stop. They were looking for an African-American male, but of course they didn’t use those words. The bus driver told us to crouch down in the seats while the Klan got on the bus to search.”
The entire Chicago public school system could use more teachers to help reduce class size and cut down on the discipline problems, he says. And the kids need parents who take a more active role in their children’s lives, he adds
One of Levinson’s most prized moments was teaching a student to read aloud. “She had never read aloud to anyone before. She had no concept about inflections or stopping at the end of a sentence,” she says. “Now when we read, her voice goes up when there’s an exclamation or a question mark. She reads with more authority and confidence.”
Barry, 55, said she has always enjoyed helping new teachers and signed up when the system announced it was searching for mentors. She attended three training sessions at the beginning of the school year and received an extensive “Partnership for Professional Practice” guide book covering topics from parent-teacher conferences to offering constructive criticism. She receives a $1,500 stipend for the extra work.