Illinois Education

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.

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.

Brett Callow of Emsisoft

In April, Illinois Valley Community College’s servers shut down. It happened soon after COVID-19 closed down the campus and shifted classes online. Hackers locked the college out of its own networks. That caused its website and email system to crash. 

In the directory where files should be, the hackers left a message demanding cash for ransom.  

Spencer Tritt

We’ve got a special episode this week. Remember a few months back when we heard from those valedictorians about what it was like graduating in the strangest senior year ever? And remember when we heard from some parent surveys about the challenges of learning from home a few episodes ago?

Well, today we’re hearing from the kids just starting their school journey: elementary schoolers from pre-K to 5th grade in the West Aurora School District.

On a new Teachers’ Lounge episode we have Deb Baird. She has ran her own at-home daycare business since 1984.

She talked to host Peter Medlin about her 36 years raising hundreds of kids in her own home. They went into how much it’s changed as she’s gotten older, her focus on nature -- especially monarch butterflies -- and so much more.

Spencer Tritt

Many Illinois students are more than a week into remote learning, and parents are still finding new challenges and trying to get used to the new normal.

“We’ve just had a morning recess mishap. Did that land on your foot? Are your toe-sies okay?” One of Colleen Chavez’s children was crying. After a few seconds comforting them, she told them to run along and play with something safer. Only got a few minutes before it’s time to log on or school.

Spencer Tritt

As the pandemic began to surge, schools closed and most students switched to online learning almost overnight. Schools with less access to technology relied on paper packets, especially for elementary students.

It was more like crisis teaching, like building the plane as you’re flying it. That’s how Lindsay Zelly described sudden changeover. She’s the director of professional learning at the Illinois Digital Educators Alliance. They provide professional development and online resources to teachers.

Spencer Tritt

Only weeks from the first day of school, some districts are reversing course and choosing not to have any in-person instruction right away.

Several teachers’ unions are calling on their schools to start the year virtually. Educators in Elmhurst are opposing their district’s back-to-school plan.

Max Schoenberg is the president of the Elmhurst Teachers’ Council. He says Elmhurst District 205’s plan would bring hundreds of students back into its buildings.

Peter Medlin

Rockford Public Schools just became the latest district to release a plan for reopening.

No matter the grade level, parents can choose full-time remote learning.

But in-person will look different depending on a student’s age.

The elementary school option will be all day, five days a week.

Heidi Dettman is the executive director of academics.

“The biggest reason is because of how critical their time with their teachers is at this developmental stage,” said Dettman.

Public Health Educator Weighs In On School Reopening

Jul 24, 2020
Spencer Tritt

The Illinois Federation of Teachers recently urged higher-ed and K-12 schools to start their semesters completely online. Many schools are releasing reopening protocols to return partially in-person during the pandemic.

Beth Squires is a professor at Northern Illinois University’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

She said, to open in-person, schools must first be able to guarantee that students wear a mask, keep at least six feet apart and wash their hands regularly.

On a new Teachers’ Lounge, host Peter Medlin sat down digitally with Ayla Peczkowski. She taught English & Special Ed at the Roosevelt Community Education Center in Rockford. Now she’s going to be in an administrative role at East High School, also in Rockford.

They talked about Ayla’s mixed feelings about schools reopening, teaching her students about news literacy during the pandemic and much more.

This episode goes in depth on what goes into a reopening plan. And there’s a story highlighting the struggles international students have faced during COVID-19.

Spencer Tritt

It’s just less than a month before the first day of school, and DeKalb is releasing their plans to reopen amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Students returning will see a different kind of classroom from what they left in March when schools shut down.

Schools are enforcing health and safety guidelines to try and limit the spread of coronavirus. Students will be required to wear masks. Classrooms will be reoriented to account for social distancing.

DeKalb’s plan uses a hybrid in-person and online format.

Spencer Tritt

School districts across Illinois are starting to release reopening plans for this fall.

Many parents are uncomfortable with their kids going back to school during the pandemic. They worry if social distancing is possible and if younger students will struggle to wear a mask all day. But not all.

Of the seven people in Renee Olson’s house, nearly all of them have had COVID-19. After quarantining inside for weeks, she still has a cough but said she feels about 95% back to normal.

niu.edu

As COVID-19 started shutting down international travel in March, students from Northern Illinois University studying abroad had to be rushed back home.

Anne Seitzinger said she knows it was devastating for them. She’s the director of the study abroad office at NIU.  

Months later, her staff is still helping them deal with the consequences of the abrupt change in plans.

“They're trying to get refunds for the students, and most of them have been able to do that,” she said. “And the ones that haven't been able to tell us about refunds yet, it's sounding positive.”

Spencer Tritt

Illinois recently released guidelines for schools to return in-person this fall. Some concerned parents are choosing to homeschool their kids this year rather than send them back to in-person classes during COVID-19.

Brandi Poreda has homeschooled three of her kids over the last 20 years. She said the biggest advantage of homeschooling is flexibility.

Her first piece of advice to parents homeschooling for the first time? Don’t try to replicate the public school classroom experience.

'Dear Class of 2020...' | Teachers' Lounge Podcast

Jun 26, 2020
Spencer Tritt

This is a special episode of the show we’re calling “Dear Class of 2020…”  The teachers are gone. This week it’s all about the students graduating after the strangest senior year ever. You’re going to hear four valedictorians give the speeches they would have given, in a normal year, to an auditorium full of their friends and family.

The Class of 2020 valedictorians are:

Xavior Hutsell of Roosevelt High School in Rockford

Nina Mitchell of DeKalb High School

Ashley Althaus of Amboy High School

And, finally, Tessa Harbecke or Sycamore High School

Spencer Tritt

The State guidelines that were announced Tuesday for schools to resume in-person classes this fall need more work. That’s according to one of Illinois’ biggest teachers unions.

The pandemic put schools across the country in a tough position. They know many don’t consider the quality of e-learning equal to that of in-person instruction. But, even with new in-person safety protocols, some parents say they aren’t going to feel comfortable sending their kids to school.

Peter Medlin

The DeKalb School Board held a special meeting today on Juneteenth to ask members of the public to talk about their experiences with racism and inequality in the school system.

The need for more staff diversity was brought up by several speakers. Surveys show racial disparities between the numbers of black students and teachers exist across the country.

Maurice McDavid

This week, we have our first ever returning guest on Teachers’ Lounge: Maurice McDavid. He’s been a teacher and administrator in his hometown of DeKalb for about a decade, but, starting next year, he’s going to be an elementary school principal in West Chicago.

Maurice is a black educator. He talked to host Peter Medlin about what he’s been thinking about during this national movement confronting police brutality and systemic racism in America. And Maurice gave his perspective on the racial inequities rooted in the education system.

Spencer Tritt

Does having more officers in a school automatically mean more safety? More and more school districts are questioning that premise after protests sparked from the killing of George Floyd.

JUANPABLO RAMIREZ-FRANCO / WNIJ

Watching protests unfold in his hometown of DeKalb, Maurice McDavid saw a black student he taught in the eighth grade leading a march. He remembered rapping with that student in a Black History Month presentation.

“I want all of our students of color to know that their lives matter, that they have value,” he said. “And, if I can just be very honest, as I watched some of the protesting, some of that anger explode out into rioting -- I've thought about the safety of my students.”

CIRCUIT BREAKER SCHOOL

Media investigations on isolated seclusions and restraint in Illinois sparked controversy and prompted immediate emergency rule changes from the State Board of Education last fall.

The Many Ways To Graduate During A Pandemic

May 29, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has canceled milestones for countless people. Weddings have been pushed back, memorials modified for social distancing and some funerals made digital.

High school graduation is a milestone that may feel a little different for students after e-learning for their final months. In early May, the Illinois State Board of Education made a statement saying schools were not to have typical in-person ceremonies. The board also gave guidelines on how schools can still celebrate.

Marilyn Moltz

Editor’s Note: WNIJ and our podcast Teachers’ Lounge are giving a platform for you to hear some of valedictorian speeches students may not get to give in person this year. It’s called “Dear Class of 2020...” If you want your school to be a part of our special edition show, send us an email at teacherslounge@niu.edu. And thanks!

Editor’s Note: WNIJ and our podcast Teachers’ Lounge are giving a platform for you to hear some of those valedictorian speeches. If you want your school to be a part of our special edition show, send us an email at teacherslounge@niu.edu. And thanks!

Justin Saichek

On a new Teachers’ Lounge, seventh grade language arts teacher Justin Saichek AKA The Last Wordbender. Justin is a rapper and spoken word artist who teaches at West Middle School in Rockford.

Justin talked to host Peter Medlin about how he got his rap name, teaching in the same building he went to middle school, coronavirus learning challenges, freestyle rap battles, and they dove deep on Justin’s hip hop career and music influences.

Pixabay

In Illinois, public college and university students and their guardians will soon have a better idea of how much they’ve borrowed -- and an estimate of how much they’ll be paying back per month.

That’s thanks to a state pilot program. The letters relay information on federal, private and institutional loans.

Bobbi Smith is the interim director of financial aid at Western Illinois University.

Spencer Tritt

Last October, the State Board of Education showed nearly 2,000 unfilled teaching jobs and nearly 5,000 total education positions. 

 

Bob Sondgeroth is the regional superintendent for Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties. He says it’s likely the pandemic will worsen Illinois’ teacher shortage. 

 

“I honestly think that we're going to have some retirements that we didn't plan on,” he said. “They're going to decide it's not worth the risk.” 

 

Spencer Tritt

Around 60% of DeKalb students qualify as low-income, according to the Illinois Report Card. That means they also qualify for reduced or free meals.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, schools scrambled to keep providing food for students who rely on their district for much more than education.

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