It is a wonderful school

“My whole life has been in education,”  I said in conversation with the principal at Elizabeth Ide School a few days ago. And so I begin to reminisce.

This all began over 50 years ago for me; babysitting, reading books, and playing with the neighborhood toddlers at the age of 12. Over 40 years ago, I began teaching high school for ten years and then began teaching junior high at a special education alternative school. I would have stayed, but the money wasn’t the best for putting two children through college.

For 10,000 dollars more, I was offered an administrative position at a for-profit college which I took. My children could take advantage of tuition reimbursement. But that school had a massive, corporate lay off which I was included. Like a car salesman being picked up at another dealership, I was picked up by another school. Finally, the school or should I say company, closed for good. Eventually, it was agreed upon in my family that applying for a teacher assistant or becoming a substitute would be the best choice.Those positions are always in demand.

So I subbed and assisted in one of the more highly-acclaimed and well-paid districts in Naperville. I saw some excellent teaching. I saw some very poor instruction of teachers  lecturing to a classroom; constantly glancing at their cell phone. I heard a teacher call a student a jerk.

I had applied to a variety of schools at the time and I always loved the kindergarten as well as the early, primary grades. The day after I had been hired at Elizabeth Ide School, grades kindergarten through second in Darien, it was God’s gift that one who knew my employment struggle and was a personal job reference revealed that his children went to the school. I had no idea.

“It is a wonderful school,”  he said. I also found out that another friend was employed for over 30 years within the same district…..Center Cass School District 66, though she was at another school that had closed. “The culture is so competent and caring there,  she said. At the time, I did not realize her school was part of the same district.

After assisting almost two years at the school, it truly is a wonderful school! I don’t think I have ever seen a teacher who is not totally focused on expressing learning opportunities for their students. They are constantly on in a positive light. They are engaged in their children’s needs from the time they arrive in the morning until they leave at night. They are brilliant at executing ideas to help students grow. They know exactly how to help build amazing futures for them.

Throughout the entire district, the teachers love their job, but most of all, they love their students with a passion unequal to most school environments that I have observed.  Administration,assistants and support staff also intensely work, side by side, to demonstrate their love and pride for the students.

Currently, the district teachers are fighting for a fair contract. They have been without a contract since August 2018. According to CCEA Inspires, if the Board accepts the teachers proposal, no new taxes will affect the community as well as no program cuts.

Then why????

Why aren’t we assuring that the best educators remain in the district? In the process, if teachers and staff are able to thrive, we are also guaranteeing that the value of our home and village is recognized as one of the most promising as far as education excellence. Our own children will want to raise their families here.

Even if present home owners taxes were increased, the advantages far outweigh the immediate circumstances. As a homeowner of over 30 years in a neighboring Downers Grove school district, I have voted yes to numerous referendums and supported teacher strikes while watching my property value almost double.

Maybe the Board just doesn’t realize how valuable their teachers really are. Maybe all I can do is try to share my experience and help them re-examine the teachers proposals.

Ultimately, you can help too. If you are a member of the community or just interested in supporting the teachers at Center Cass School District 66, the Board of Education is providing an Informational Session next week for parents and friends to learn more.

Please check out the Center Cass website. The teachers need your attention and time is running out.

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The child behind the crooked smile

He works for microwave, shredder and sometimes gum. Not chewing the gum themselves but chewing a piece of gum for him.  Sometimes he works for a laugh or cough. He likes that too. Microwaves are not allowed in the classroom since he likes burning pencils and whatever he can add to the mix. But one is secretly unplugged, hidden and pulled out for him to open the door and close it five times as a reward in the special needs classroom.

Another likes to walk constantly. So we walk with him as he may laugh, he may cry but he will stand by the door hitting it when it becomes too much. So we walk inside around the school. He is quiet, he follows and he grabs my arm making sure that I am close. Sometimes, when standing together, he places his head on my shoulder. For him, he likes his movie….a small lap top that is available to him daily with one slide after another of his family, his birthday and his special trips with brothers and sister. Though he does not watch, he listens to the music that accompanies the video. He is happy to be with his family.

As they work on daily lessons of reading and math, some will shout try again as they know the teachers familiar comment when they get it wrong. As one works on learning time, when successful with saying the correct time or number, he asks for the high five sign and the brown chair which indicates a break for him.

One young man pulls at his teeth when having a rough time, jumping up and down with his cries but when we suggest that he work, he sits proudly as the speech therapist helps him identify certain objects and says the words clearly while we cheer him on. He loves when we congratulate him. He loves when we are proud of his accomplishments. Sometimes, I wonder if he does this more for us than him.

Some severely autistic, most non-verbal, others with Downs Syndrome, some physically handicapped,come together in my summer school classroom with nurses as well. Some assistants have worked with the students before, some have not and daily we try to see beyond their smiles, their laugh, their screams and their tears.

There are fights, there are scrabbles, there are break downs and we, as staff, have changing faces, voices and eyes in the back of our heads but we continue daily to make sure they have one more day in their lives that will offer encouragement, strength and most of all, love. And we have nothing else on our minds as we pursue the day. There are no room for cell phones and other talk unless it is about those we care for in the classroom.

And as we walk together to assist them on the bus or parents cars at the end of summer school, we breathe a sigh of exhaustion, yes, but fulfillment that we have helped in ways that are not imaginable in most jobs.  None of our personal problems have credence when we go to work every day….that is why we are here. Someone from the classroom turns to me and says I wonder if others know what we do and my comment ….. a gesture to the one above. She smiles…..I guess that is all that matters.