Teacher Appreciation Week: A Spotlight on Our Science Teacher Partners

Teacher Appreciation week is an extremely special week for us here at The Learning Partnership. We have witnessed our teachers go above and beyond to provide better opportunities for their students. It is a privilege to be able to document their success through our research. We are continually inspired by their tenacity and love for their students. We have been especially inspired since March 2020 when teachers have had to adjust their teaching styles as schooling has taken many forms due to the pandemic. In honor of Teacher Appreciation week Cat McGee sat down with three principals in CPS to talk about their thoughts on the importance of this week and asked them to reflect on the impact of their teachers that are participating in our research on scientific argumentation.

We thank the following principals for their time to help us elevate our thanks this week: Miss Heather Chron, Principal of Garvy Elementary and colleague to Stephanie Morales, Mr. Cederrall Petties, Principal of Earle STEM Academy and colleague to Julius Dease, and Principal Rachel Mota, Principal of Mozart Elementary and colleague to Emily Dubicki.

What does this week mean to you as a principal and why is it so important?

It gives us the opportunity to express our appreciation and gratitude for our Earle STEM exemplars, that’s our teachers. They have been fantastic during my tenure here, and especially during this recent pandemic. They’ve made significant sacrifices to support our scholars, our students. They’ve done wonderful things as it relates to addressing not only the academic needs of our students but the socio-economic needs of our students as well. They’ve been flexible and receptive to us working with them to learn how to navigate this new learning environment. It is a wonderful opportunity to just tell them thank you and let them know we appreciate them, and they are highly valued.

-Mr. Petties, principal of Earle STEM Academy

“This week has always been special to me dating back to when I was a teacher myself. It has always been a time to recognize and appreciate our teachers but most importantly, now it’s about recognizing the heart and the hard work that teachers embody on a daily basis.

-Miss Chron, principal of Garvy Elementary School

Mr. Petties (left) and Mr. Dease (right) from Earle STEM Academy

This week is a time to recognize and acknowledge teachers because they are always flexible, helpful, supportive, and dedicated to their students and families. But oftentimes, I feel like they forget about themselves because they are always wanting to serve others and focus on their planning and instruction. So, I think this is a great time for me as an administrator to thank my teachers; they are superstars and deserve to be recognized.

-Principal Mota of Mozart Elementary School

What qualities and characteristics separate teachers and make them really impactful in society for students and the community?

Their dedication and their expertise in their field, they’ve done a lot of professional learning and their commitment to their students being successful, and always caring. They are very committed.

Miss Chron

I think every teacher brings their own experiences and expertise to the table. This creates a collaborative culture for learning as well as a supportive environment for students. Their own experiences really play out in the classroom.” 

-Principal Mota of Mozart Elementary School

“We look for exemplars who are willing to come in and learn the needs of the community and then mesh that with what we as a district strive to develop within our scholars which is to prepare them to be able to compete in a global economy. A key part is having teachers who are willing to work with the families as well as the community because we see that as an asset. We have teachers who are willing to constantly improve upon what it is that they do and have teachers who are willing to remain with our scholars over the long haul. We are proud to have them.

-Mr. Petties, principal of Earle STEM Academy

Highlighting our Teachers

What impact has Stephanie Morales had on her students in STEM with Amplify Science?

Since she’s been a part of her Amplify Science cohort, she’s brought so much knowledge to her class. We’ve had to do a lot of reorganization of standards with NGSS (Next Generation Science Standard) and she’s been on that team. She’s a lead on that team. She’s worked with the Museum of Science and Industry. She just is always, always looking for new information and bringing it back to the school.

She builds a rapport with her students and has a joking nature with them but is also serious and very particular which is great because the students need structure and consistency. She loves supporting social-emotional learning, so she always utilizes second step or calm classroom, she just brings everything in. So, with Amplify Science, she incorporates everything into the curriculum. She has these beautiful presentations and is amazing with technology. She’s just amazing. She’s brilliant, dedicated, and professional.

-Miss Chron, principal of Garvy Elementary School
Stephanie Morales (left) and Miss Chron (right) from Garvy Elementary School

What impact has Julius Dease had on his students in STEM with Amplify Science?

Mr. Dease has been highly committed to Amplify Science, implementing the curriculum with fidelity, attending professional development sessions and being receptive of how to improve on his implementation. He is knowledgeable of his subject content area and he has within his skillset a sense of readiness where he builds relationships with the kids so that he can see the unique needs that they have. There’s a bonding that takes place where they’re willing to be open and take risks. They trust him. We see that as being a unique quality that Mr. Dease possesses. He is very inviting and brings about autonomy, he believes in giving students choice. He has built relationships where the kids feel comfortable being themselves and are comfortable revealing areas that need to be refined, taking risks and challenging themselves. He also makes real-world connections making the learning relevant. He is on our instructional leadership team and is very receptive to working with his colleagues. Mr. Dease is our science person here at Earle STEM. We would have it no other way.

-Mr. Petties, principal of Earle STEM Academy

What impact has Emily Dubicki had on her students in STEM with Amplify Science?

Emily provides her students with real-life scenarios that are scientifically based. Her activities allow for student groupings and collaboration. She creates a comfortable learning environment where students are able to take learning risks amongst their peers. She makes learning fun so sometimes the kids don’t realize that they’re learning because they’re so engaged in that activity or that real-life connection that’s also scientifically based. She’s very reflective in her planning and practices, she’s passionate about her content in science and she’s supportive of parents, students, and her colleagues. Before the pandemic, she would take time during her prep to go make appointments with teachers who needed additional support for implementation. She’s just very supportive and ready to help in any way. She also is super positive and non-judgmental which is perfect for middle school students. They can voice their opinions without having any judgment involved. She creates that nurturing environment and is very forgiving. I’m happy she’s on my staff, that she’s willing to work with our community and is committed to Mozart School.

-Principal Mota of Mozart Elementary School

How have teachers played a role in advocating equity for their students and families?

Principal Mota (left) and Emily Dubicki (right) from Mozart Elementary School

Teachers are on the front line, they’re actually interacting with the kids on a daily basis for the entire day. They give voice to the students and a voice to the homes so that we as a school are responsive to their needs. If a student’s device is no longer working, they’re not able to access the classroom. We have a technology coordinator that’s available to provide support and a parent team that’s able to provide support. We’ve had students struggle with the bandwidth. We have Chicago Connect with the district so the district has afforded students with free internet access. We work to coordinate that so we can get that out to the parent but that all starts with the teachers telling us that their student/students are having issues connecting. Teachers have been fundamental in terms of giving us information concerning a student’s level of engagement, performance, and if there’s a need for access to a device or internet services. Our teachers have done a fantastic job of taking on additional responsibility this year.

-Mr. Petties, principal of Earle STEM Academy

We have staff members who have been trained in restoring practices. During grade-level meetings, we dedicate the first 15-20 min to having those trained staff members lead social-emotional activities. Each lead has conducted conversations with the staff about equity, biases and privileges. Teachers in the upper grades incorporate a lot of civics and social justice topics into their classes to encourage students to express their ideas, thoughts and comments in a respectful manner. Teachers foster a safe learning environment for students to engage in these conversations.

-Principal Mota of Mozart Elementary School

“Especially this year with remote learners and hybrid learners, as we were having conversations about coming back to school, our teachers would ask “How are we making sure that we’re servicing students at home?” When kids wouldn’t turn on their videos or answer in the chat they would ask “How do we know we’re reaching them? How do we know they’re learning? How do I know I’m doing my job?” They’ve been extremely vocal about making sure students that are remote are getting as much out of school as students who are in the building, even though they’ve now had a shortened amount of screen time. Our teachers, Stephanie being one of then, are just always, always there for their kids. They are extremely communicative with the families as well. They focus on their priority standards. They know things aren’t normal and they take that into consideration.

-Miss Chron, principal of Garvy Elementary School

How can students and parents show their appreciation for teachers beyond this week?

When I talk to my teachers, they want their work to be appreciated. We came in as professionals. We love to teach and develop scholars. Students love their teachers. They love them. They miss their teachers because of the relationships that have been built between teacher and student. So, I want to let students know to express that. Let your teachers know how much you appreciate and value them. I want us, myself included, to show our staff our appreciation. I like to say we work hard in recruiting the best. We want our parents and students to realize the invaluable resource that we have within our community. Let them know we do appreciate and value them and that they are a part of our family.

-Mr. Petties, principal of Earle STEM Academy

Parents can show appreciation for teachers by collaborating with their child’s teacher to support both academic and social-emotional learning. I think when teachers and parents are in constant communication about a child’s progress, that is a gift in itself. Having strong parental bonds is highly beneficial. Teachers are appreciative of all the parent feedback and support. As for students, it’s similar. When teachers see their students make progress and apply what they have learned, that is a gift. This is the fuel that inspires teachers to continue the work they do. And thank yous go a long way too, those words never go out of style.

-Principal Mota of Mozart Elementary School

“I feel like parents should trust their teachers because these teachers are experts. They went to school for this, they study the curriculum, and go through professional learning. Trust your teachers and know that they always have students’ best interests at heart because they do. They get up every day to come here and have the desire to make a difference. Parents should presume the best because that is what teachers are doing. They’re giving their best all the time.

-Miss Chron, principal of Garvy Elementary School

Special Thanks from The Learning Partnership

We want thank Miss Chron, Mr. Petties, and Principal Mota for all of the support that they provide to their teachers. I am sure that their words captured for this blog represent only a fraction of the appreciation they feel for the dedication of Ms. Morales, Mr. Deese, and Ms. Dubicki. We at The Learning Partnership echo these words of appreciation. This year is the third year in which we have had the pleasure of watching them grow as science educators. We have been awed and humbled at the personal commitment they have made to their students during the pandemic. For over a year, they have actively participated in professional development opportunities The Learning Partnership has provided around their 7thgrade science curriculum. Even after teaching for an entire school day, Ms. Morales, Mr. Deese, and Ms. Dubicki would dedicate additional hours to develop their craft of science teaching. During this week, we want to celebrate the impact they have on their students. Each of you are the rock stars upon which your students rise to become our future citizen scientists.

-Dr. Steven McGee, president of The Learning Partnership