Education

Nicholas Stange’s American History class is just starting a unit on the Civil Rights Movement. But before they dive into history, they’re supposed to examine similar current events so they can follow the thread back. It’s to help the students fully grasp the topic at hand.

Stange, a teacher at Harlem High School in Machesney Park, said that wasn’t too difficult this year. During their discussions about calls for racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement, he showed his students black-and-white photos he took at Rockford protests following George Floyd’s murder.

Northern Illinois University

Today on the show we have not just a teacher, but a teacher of teachers! Dr. Laurie Elish-Piper is the Dean of the College of Education at Northern Illinois University. We talked about what drives her to want to help mold the next generation of teachers, how today’s aspiring teachers are different than 10 years ago, her career-spanning literacy work and how COVID-19 has changed how student teachers prepare to go into the classroom.

Susan Stephens

Rockford Public Schools and Alignment Rockford are partnering to expand summer programming for students after COVID derailed the school year.

The new “Live, Learn, Play” initiative encompasses everything from academic prep and recovery courses to activities like Dungeons & Dragons.

RPS Chief of Curriculum Heidi Dettman says the big difference this year isn’t just more offerings but placing them at community center sites across Rockford.

Spencer Tritt

There is a network of state-run support for Illinois K-12 students who experience homelessness and housing instability. School districts and liaisons work together to offer them support mandated by state and federal legislation. That support often disappears once they graduate.

Peter Medlin

Jeanine Szostak wanted to make the best of a scary situation. COVID-19 had just shut down schools and her DeKalb middle and high school kids were stuck at home with her trying to help them get their footing with online learning. 

Peter Medlin

On a new episode of Teachers’ Lounge: Marcel Walker! He’s a comic book artist and art teacher extraordinaire. Marcel helped create the educational comic series “CHUTZ-POW! Superheroes of the Holocaust” with the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh and works with “ToonSeum" -- a museum of comics and cartoons.

Spencer Tritt

Following the consolidated elections earlier this month, three new members will soon take seats on the DeKalb School Board.

On the campaign trail, voters often asked Ari Owens how she was going to leverage her connections with Northern Illinois University on the school board. She’s the assistant director at NIU’s Gender & Sexuality Resource Center.

Owens said she hopes she can help students in the district take advantage of the counseling and mentorship programs they offer.

On a new Teachers’ Lounge, Dr. Laurie Cooper Stoll: sociology professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. She’s also an author who studies social inequalities, gendered violence and fat studies -- which is primarily what we talked about on this episode. She also has a website and blog she runs with a colleague, Dr. Darci Thoune, called “Two Fat Professors” where they fight fatphobia with education, community building and, as they say, a LOT of sass.

Spencer Tritt

Steve Wilder has no idea what “normal” looks like in Sycamore. He started as superintendent for Sycamore schools in July 2020. He spent his spring frantically guiding his outgoing district through the first wave of the crisis while also trying to transition to his new position.

“There were times that I felt really helpless,” said Wilder. “Because those questions were coming and I didn't have the answers that people wanted that I wanted to be able to share with them.”

Lissette Jacobson & Maurice McDavid

On a new episode of Teachers' Lounge, Lissette Jacobson and Maurice McDavid! They’re elementary school principals in West Chicago and the hosts of the podcast “Black, Brown & Bilingüe”! They talked to Peter about the mission of their show – uniting the Black and Brown communities with conversations & education.

Spencer Tritt

A year after COVID-19 shut down schools, DeKalb high schoolers are back in the building. And in just a few days, they’ll be back a full five days a week.

“Me and my friends had this joke until we got back -- spring break never ended,” said Abby Slater, she’s a freshman at DeKalb. As she mentioned, time moves differently during the pandemic -- especially for students who had their whole education experience thrown out the window and reassembled before it hit the ground last year.

Spencer Tritt

As students begin returning in-person, one of the biggest challenges they face beyond academics is COVID-19 trauma. Yasmina Sefiane is used to talking about the significant impact trauma can take on students and their learning. She’s the program director at the NIU Center for Child Welfare & Education.

She also helps run the Educational Access Project. They have advisors across every corner of Illinois helping break down the barriers youth in foster care face to succeed in school.

On a new Teachers’ Lounge, we have an entire family of teachers --the Goekes! Karl, Stacy and Rachel join Peter to talk about their experiences as educators going through the pandemic. We talked about how in-person school “normalcy” isn’t really that normal at all.

 

They’re all teachers at different schools at different grade levels -- so we get a look behind the curtain at every level of education! Also, Karl even taught Rachel’s Spanish class in high school. He had other siblings and cousins too!

Spencer Tritt

A year since classes were canceled due to COVID-19, the DeKalb Public School District announced a return to full week in-person instruction. All grade levels will have the option beginning on March 30.

Last week, the Illinois State Board of Education reduced school social distancing from 6 feet to 3 feet. The move had a dramatic impact on the quest to return to in-person classes.

Spencer Tritt

Just open a window. That was priority one of the CDC’s first air filtration guidance last month.

Spencer Tritt

Last spring, while shoppers scavenged for toilet paper, schools scrambled to secure their own PPE and safety supplies.

Somonauk School District Superintendent Jay Streicher was trying to buy equipment for his students and staff before it sold out. Guidance changed so quickly, he says it was tough to even know what to buy.

Spencer Tritt

The Biden Administration announced schools still have to do standardized tests during the pandemic.

Lynn Gibson says even Illinois superintendents are about 50/50 on whether testing could provide helpful insight on how well students are doing -- or if it’s a complete waste of time.

On a new episode of Teachers' Lounge: Jackie Cleven! She’s a second-grade teacher at South Prairie Elementary in Sycamore and teaches at Kishwaukee College. Longtime Teachers’ Lounge fans may remember Jackie as the first guest who was ever on this show. She shared a personal essay about how she feels at the end of the school year.

Spencer Tritt

Ninety-three percent of schools said they have a problem finding substitutes to fill in when teachers are unavailable. There was a shortage before the pandemic, but COVID-19 made it substantially worse, especially as schools return in-person and the need for substitutes ramps up.

Spencer Tritt

Morelia Garcia was helping an afterschool program at her high school when the principal walked by. He started asking her the sorts of questions everyone approaching graduation gets: “What are your plans for college? You want to be a teacher, right? Well, how about here?”

They both laughed and Garcia countered with the sort of question everyone approaching graduation wants answered: “Can you actually help me pay for school?”

Golden Apple

In special ed, teachers usually work with fewer students, and the relationships they build -- not only with kids but also their parents -- can become very close. The school year has been especially challenging with COVID-19 restrictions, but Maddi Bodine has kept forging those bonds -- even online or through plexiglass. She’s a pre-K special ed teacher at Kingston Elementary.

Spectrum School

On a new episode of Teachers' Lounge: Mary Beth Cunat! She’s the principal at Spectrum Progressive School in Rockford. Talking to Mary Beth is like taking a free master’s degree class in education. We went in-depth about what it means to be a “progressive school,” her lengthy career in education including her time at Chicago Public Schools, teaching working with her family at Spectrum as well as her love of animals (specifically we both love otters and talk about that for a while. Don’t miss it!)

Spencer Tritt

In the first varsity basketball game of the year, the gym was so quiet and the crowd so sparse, Auburn High School junior guard Robert Chaney could hear his mom yelling from the stands. 

 

The Knights came out slow but cruised to a blowout win against Guilford. Basketball is usually the longest sports season of the year. Get into a shooting slump? No big deal, shoot out of it, and be your best when the games really matter. Now, it’s one of the shortest seasons -- only about four weeks -- so Chaney says they have to keep their heads down.

 

Spencer Tritt

The Biden Administration wants to reopen all schools within his first 100 days in office, but around half of all Illinois students are still learning remotely. DeKalb Public Schools is transitioning students to a partially in-person hybrid schedule for the first time since the pandemic began.

On a new episode of Teachers' Lounge: Shelly Tranchita! She’s a physical education teacher at Sycamore High School. We talked about how physical health is a vehicle for mental health, and how she focuses on mind and body wellness in her classes. With the trauma her students have endured during the pandemic, she’s started teaching about meditation along with the physical fitness. We also talk about what a virtual or socially-distant P.E. class even looks like. Hint: lots of masks and open windows for air circulation, even during the winter!

Spencer Tritt

Before the pandemic, Shelly Tranchita would walk around her packed, sweaty P.E. class shouting affirmations and helping students with their yoga poses. Now, for the first time during COVID-19, Sycamore High School is back in-person on a hybrid schedule. Her class looks a lot different now.

“The temperature today was 6 [degrees] and I have fans on in the indoor gyms that I'm in that don't have outside circulation. I wear two masks. I wear a microphone all day long so I can project my voice without yelling and spreading more aerosols, more germs,” she said.

Spencer Tritt

This school year, schools identified around 420,000 fewer homeless students than last year. That would normally be a hopeful sign, but not during the pandemic. Advocates say there aren’t fewer students experiencing homelessness. It’s just that schools can’t find them.

Spencer Tritt

How have Christian schools been doing during the pandemic? Well, it depends on when you ask. After the spring upended education along with the entire economy, parents often pulled their kids out of parochial schools. The tuition, often upwards of $10,000-per-year and sometimes beyond, was too expensive with many families furloughed or laid off.

Peter Medlin

Many colleges and universities saw student numbers plummet due to the pandemic. But community college enrollment is down more than any other higher-ed sector.

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:

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