Education

On a new episode of Teachers' Lounge: Exploring the top education issues to watch in 2021 with Rockford teacher Erik Czerwin.

Teachers’ Lounge host Peter Medlin and Erik dive into topics like:

Spencer Tritt

DeKalb Public Schools has hired a new superintendent. Her name is Minerva Garcia-Sanchez. She’s currently the Pilsen, Marshall Square and Little Village chief of schools in Chicago. WNIJ education reporter Peter Medlin talked to her about her expectations and goals as she starts at a new school district during the pandemic.

Peter Medlin

Nearly half of Illinois high school grads who enroll full-time at a community college get placed in a developmental education course. That includes 70% of Black students and, of them, only 8% graduate compared to 26% of white students.

Those classes cost students tuition money and time, but don’t count for credit towards a degree. Emily Goldman, with the Partnership for College Completion, helped lawmakers craft the Developmental Education Reform Act to address the issue.

Spencer Tritt

Illinois K-12 teachers will soon get their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. They’re in Phase1B of the state’s vaccine rollout, which starts on Monday.

Griff Powell is one of DeKalb Public Schools’ interim superintendents. He said they’ve been informed that teachers will start getting their first dose of the vaccine soon.

CREDIT FLICKR/ISAFMEDIA (CC BY 2.0)

Back in March 2020, Taylor Boelte was finishing up her nursing clinical shift when the hospital told her she wasn’t allowed to come back. Not just her, all nursing students had their clinicals cut short as COVID-19 spread across the country. 

 

“Clearly the hospitals weren't prepared, and we weren't really expecting for COVID to have this impact,” said Boelte. “It just kind of came all quickly but I don't really remember there being like a huge panic beforehand. I think it all just came at once.”

 

Spencer Tritt

Illinois made it a high school graduation requirement this year for seniors to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA.

On January 6, Morris Elementary School Principal Dave Raffel and his family stayed glued to the news until late at night as a mob of pro-Trump extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol Building.

He looked over at his son, an 8th grader, processing the images and realized he was going to have to say something to his other kids: the 1,200 at his school.

Every day, Raffel films his morning announcements and says the Pledge of Allegiance for his students, who are still learning remotely due to COVID-19.

Taylor Leach

This Week: Another edition of Student Teachers’ Lounge! Host Peter Medlin talked to Taylor Leach, who has experienced the pandemic as both a student and as a teacher. She just graduated with a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University and finished up student teaching at Kingston Elementary School in Genoa, Illinois.

What Happens If A School Loses 75% Of Its Revenue?

Jan 7, 2021
Byron CUSD 226

Last summer, Exelon announced its plans to close nuclear power plants in Byron and Dresden. Buster Barton, the Superintendent of Byron’s School District, said taxes from the Byron plant accounted for around 75% of the district’s revenue.

So, what happens if that goes away? What happens when a school loses that much money?

 

Spencer Tritt

During the pandemic, schools are seeing a significant teacher shortage, especially a lack of substitutes. They typically see a surge of subs and new teachers in January as winter graduates enter the job market.

But in 2021, it’s unclear if that boost will come for Illinois schools suffering staff shortages due to COVID-19.

Spencer Tritt

A new Illinois law going into effect in 2021 is meant to safeguard student data from breaches and ransomware.

With this update to the Student Online Personal Protection Act, parents will be able to review and correct their kids’ data held by schools or operators of online services who work with the school.

Parents can also request data be deleted in some cases. State Rep. John Carroll was a co-sponsor of the act.

On a special Christmas Day edition of Teachers’ Lounge: Rod Genandt. He’s been teaching 4th grade at Forreston Grade School for over 40 years in his hometown of Forreston, Illinois. He’s taught kids, he’s taught the kids of those kids and maybe even the kids of those kids before all is said and done.

He talked to host Peter Medlin about that, about the lack of men teaching grade school, how to create a safe and comfortable classroom for kids in a time it’s so hard to feel safe and comfortable.

On a new episode of Teachers' Lounge: Mike McHale. He’s a professor at Rockford University and a math and physics teacher at Byron High School. Mike is also a cross country coach and we talk about running during the COVID-19 season. He and host Peter Medlin chat about the potential closure of the Byron Nuclear Generating Station and the effect it could have on the school, community -- and his own personal connection to the plant.

Spencer Tritt

Most Illinois students have been learning remotely for some if not the entire fall.

Students of all grade levels are struggling with the academic and emotional stress of remote learning in a pandemic.

School districts have offered additional social-emotional support to try and help them manage the array of challenges.

Illinois State Board of Education

The Illinois State Board of Education released an interactive report showing how teacher preparation programs across the state are performing.

The Illinois Educator Preparation Profile allows employers and prospective education students to scour data about college programs to see how well they recruit students of color, what percentage of graduates get placed in teaching positions and a host of other metrics.

Spencer Tritt

“Are you there?” Jen Cotovsky types into the Google Meet chatbox. Still no response. Then, finally, a new message pops up from the student on her caseload. Cotovsky is a social worker for DeKalb High School.

The student has their camera and microphone off, so the chatbox is the only way to talk right now. Those are the most challenging meetings she has with students. At this point, she’s used to talking to high schoolers with their camera off.

Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh -- photograph by Melanie Wieland

On a new episode of Teachers' Lounge: Lynne Ravas. She’s a recently retired English teacher who taught across the country. Lynne also has family -- including her father -- who survived the Holocaust. For decades, Lynne has worked with organizations to educate people of all ages and pass down the stories of survivors, especially as survivors themselves have passed away.

Peter Medlin

A new report reflects on the long-term cost of cutting education funding during past recessions and how Illinois can learn from those mistakes during the COVID recession.

The Partnership for College Completion argues that recessions are a rare opportunity to make college access and cost more equitable.

Mike Abrahamson is the Partnership’s policy manager. He believes the future of Illinois’ economy depends on how Illinois devotes funding to education now, when dollars are scarce and there could be budget cuts for schools around the corner.

Spencer Tritt

Illinois has had a shortage of teachers for years now, and that extends to substitutes. But, during the pandemic, that pool of subs has dwindled even further. That made it challenging for in-person schools to have socially-distanced classrooms staffed at all.

Chris Mehochko is the regional superintendent for Kendall and Grundy counties. Regional education offices serve as the hub for subs, helping them with licensing and background checks.

Susan Stephens

The Kishwaukee College Board voted to extend its president’s contract through 2024. It gives Laurie Borowicz a $10,000 base salary increase to $200,000 per year. The college also upped her employer contribution retirement match from 1-1 to 2-1.

Bob Johnson is the president of the Kishwaukee College Board of Trustees. He said she deserved the upgrades.

Goodly Creatures, LLC

This week’s episode is with Katrina Syrris. She leads a double life. By day, Katrina is a high school theater teacher at St. Edward Central Catholic. By night and weekends, she owns and operates Goodly Creatures -- her theater production company.

She’s a producer, a director, a playwright -- the list goes on and on. 

Host Peter Medlin talked to Katrina about being an artist during the pandemic. Goodly Creatures lost their studio space during COVID so she’s had to pivot online both for her theater company and her high school classes.

Rep. Jeff Keicher

Illinois residents voted down the proposed graduated income tax plan. Some education experts were hopeful those extra funds could help restore a portion of funds lost due to pandemic revenue shortfalls.

State Representative Jeff Keicher wasn’t surprised the graduated income tax amendment failed. The Sycamore Republican says it was a matter of a lack of trust in the legislature and Governor J.B. Pritzker to spend that money wisely. He sits on the higher-ed finance committee.

Peter Medlin

Illinois voters said “no” to the graduated income tax on Tuesday. 

 

More than 100 labor groups including the Illinois Education Association came out in favor of the proposed amendment. Kathi Griffin is president of the IEA. She said Illinois needed the tax proposal to pass to continue paying for Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) of K-12 schools.

 

Every year, tens of thousands of Illinois college students who qualify and apply for a Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant receive nothing. The need-based aid is "first come, first-served" and the state runs out of money well short of meeting the demand.

DePaul University

This week, an election-focused episode with Dr. Christina Rivers, associate professor of political science at DePaul University. She studies voting rights, African American politics and she’s taught several inside-out classes at the Stateville Correctional Center with students on the inside and DePaul students.

Join host Peter Medlin for a discussion on how different school re-opening plans are playing out throughout northern Illinois. Hear from parents and teachers about the challenges of incorporating different learning options during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 

SD209

Students in the Proviso School District are still learning remotely as COVID-19 case rates go up across Illinois. But their teachers are now working inside the district’s school buildings, despite safety concerns and the Teachers’ Union filing of an Unfair Labor Practice & Grievance against the district.

 

Almost 300 Proviso teachers have been back for a week now. Maggie Riley -- she’s the president of the Proviso Teachers’ Union -- said the conditions are exactly what they were worried about. 

 

Peter Medlin

Over the summer, the school year was still in limbo and racial tensions were running high in Rockford as well as communities across the country. A former student reached out to Amanda Becker with a simple question: “Mrs. Becker, how are you going to teach about this?”

Becker is a history teacher at Auburn High School and a Rockford historian. Her answer was a philosophy she learned from her own teaching mentors.

“The best thing to do is to let the kids talk. That's it. Don't teach them anything. Let the kids talk,” she said.

Judith Meyer

Our guest this episode is Judith Meyer, she’s an artist -- a painter, to be exact -- and art professor at Rock Valley College.

Judith talked to host Peter Medlin about how to virtually teach about art, the unexpected places around the world her art has gone to, what she's been working on during the pandemic, creativity as a spiritual exercise and so much more.

Peter Medlin

On a new episode of Teachers’ Lounge, we have Jason Cavanaugh. He’s a high school math teacher and baseball coach in Sycamore.

They’re learning remotely. So, Jason is going into his empty, retrofitted math class to teach kids who are at home. Obviously, he’s never done this before, the students haven’t either. And, as you can imagine, the technology is not always flawless.

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