teachers

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.

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.”

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!

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.

Jim Kanas

On a new episode of Teachers’ Lounge, roots musician, jazz guitarist & music teacher: Jim Kanas. He’s retiring from DeKalb Public Schools this year and has been an artist-in-residence with the Illinois Arts Council at schools across the state.

Jim talked to host Peter Medlin about e-learning, being an artist outside of the big city, his passion for American music and, obviously, we didn’t have him on without making him play a little something.

Evadne Bowlin

This week, the Teachers’ Lounge is actually a Student Teachers’ Lounge. We have DeKalb Founders Elementary student teacher & Northern Illinois University senior, Evadne Bowlin.

Evadne talked to host Peter Medlin about how coronavirus affects her both as a student-teacher and just as a college student. We also got into her journey to education and how she’s kind of been a student teacher since the 7th grade.

John Zuber

On this week’s show: John Zuber. He talked with host Peter Medlin about teaching in the time of coronavirus. John is particularly fascinated by how it’s impacted his relationships with his students. He thinks so far doing classes online from his couch while traversing technical difficulties has made them more casual and maybe more personable.

 

Spencer Tritt

During the dash to prepare students and families to learn from home, the rural Oregon Community School District issued what amounted to a disclaimer. 

 

John Zuber is an Oregon high school English teacher. He says the district had to say e-learning simply won’t be at the same level of education they get in the classroom. It’s just not possible.

 

“Which is a good admission, I think. It's like we can't replicate what we would normally do, but we're trying," he said.

 

TEDxNorthwesternU

On this week’s show: Jay Rehak. He’s an author and Chicago Public Schools language arts teacher. He and his classes at Whitney Young High School are the co-writers of over a dozen student-sourced novels. 

 

From Here To Uruguay | Teachers' Lounge Podcast

Mar 6, 2020
Peter Medlin

On this week’s show: James Cohen. He’s an associate professor of ESL & bilingual education at Northern Illinois University. He’s also a former Fulbright Scholar who has lived in several different countries across the world and most recently taught in Uruguay.

 

Peter Medlin

On a new Teachers' Lounge: Trudy DesLauriers. She's a reading specialist at Morris Elementary School who has taught for over 30 years. She also has two golden retriever therapy dogs, Martha and Thelma Lou, who come in to help struggling readers. Once a month, a group of other therapy dogs from greyhounds to goldendoodles join them for their "Sit! Stay! Read!" event.

Trudy talked to host Peter Medlin about how her therapy dog program and how Martha and Thelma Lou sometimes get to offer emotional support for students on top of the reading help.

Maggie Kasicki

On this week’s podcast: Maggie Kasicki talks to host Peter Medlin. She teaches English as a Second Language at Rockford University. She also volunteers at schools across Rockford teaching cross-cultural education. They also talked a lot about her traveling, but specifically about how she travels culturally. There's no Holiday Inn, no continental breakfast. Maggie gets straight-up embedded.

 

Erik Czerwin

Erik Czerwin, language arts & literature teacher at Rockford's Guilford High School, sits down with host Peter Medlin for a wide-ranging discussion of the top education issues of 2019 and what they'll be looking at in 2020. 

They talk about everything from local stories like:

Spencer Tritt

 

Illinois is struggling to attract and hire new teachers. A new program hopes to borrow a few tricks from the medical field to address the issue.

Peter Medlin

This week, we’ve got a retired physical education teacher and girls’ basketball coach.

His name is Paul Williams, he taught and coached at Prairie Hills Junior High in Markham, Illinois for decades.

Paul talked to host Peter Medlin about the greatest lessons he’s learned about teaching, coaching and traveling across the country with his basketball teams and much more.

Peter Medlin

This week, a really special episode we've been excited about for a while. It’s a conversation with Dick Hart. He’s an 89-year-old retired choral teacher at Downers Grove North High School. He also played trombone in the Army band when he served during Korean War. Dick talked to Peter about all of that, his motto "music is life" and so much more.

Also on the show, a trip to the STEAM Academy at Haskell Elementary in Rockford to see how they jumped from being a lowest-performing school to a "commendable" one in just a year.

Spencer Tritt

The beginning of the school year is always hectic. That’s according to Suzy Changnon. She’s been a paraprofessional in the DeKalb School District for around 15 years.

If you’re not sure who paraprofessionals are, you might know them better as instructional assistants or aids.

“There's a lot of scrambling," as Changnon characterized the job. "Students have needs that need to be met. And sometimes a lot of us are doing double duty trying to cover one schedule and then breaking away mid-class to go help another student.”

Peter Medlin

Illinois lawmakers approved a plan increasing starting teacher salaries over the next five years. That's forcing northern Illinois education leaders to prepare their districts for the change. Some will barely feel its effects at all, while others are playing catch up.

Peter Medlin

This week on Teachers’ Lounge, we take a look at the science behind brewing with DeKalb High School biology teacher, Steve Byers. He’s also the owner and brewmaster behind the new Byers Brewing Company in downtown DeKalb. Byers talked with Peter about how he got started brewing in college trying to recreate his favorite discontinued beers. They also discuss how he manages running a small business, being a full-time teacher, oh, and he has a new baby!

District 300

Eastview Elementary School in Algonquin was honored as a National Blue Ribbon School.

This is the first time in more than three decades (and the second time ever) a school in Community School District 300 has received the distinction.

The award recognizes either “Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing” or, like Eastview, “Exemplary High Performing” schools.

It’s based on student scores placing in the Top 15 in the state for Math and English.

Jim Zursin is the principal at Eastview.

Logo design by Spencer Tritt

Rich Egger, news director at Tri States Public Radio in Macomb, joins us for a special edition episode of Teachers’ Lounge. Public radio stations across the state collaborated on our “Enrollment Exodus” series chronicling enrollment challenges facing Illinois colleges and universities, especially since the 2015-2017 state budget impasse.

Logo design by Spencer Tritt

Since returning to DeKalb a decade ago, Maurice McDavid has held many titles. Some call him their teacher, others call him their preacher. To some of his elementary school students, he even goes by his hip-hop moniker, Mr. McDizzle. But above all of that, he's trying to be an advocate in the town he was raised in.

Also on the show, a topic with both international and personal ramifications: cybersecurity.

Logo design by Spencer Tritt

A mother and daughter, they both teach kindergarten at the same school. They come from a long line of teachers in their family. And this year, the next generation is putting on her backpack to share those same halls as she goes into kindergarten herself.

Logo design by Spencer Tritt

She works with teenagers and young adult students with autism. She also happens to be a comedy writer. And she moonlights on top of that as an indie musician. She says her work has been described as a "girls' night out with Kacey Musgraves and Alison Krauss." On this episode of Teachers' Lounge we talked to Cora Vasseur about how all of that happened, and how her art influences her work with special needs students -- and vice versa.   

Also on the show, a conversation about student debt forgiveness; and two prominent Illinois politicians weigh in on the debt crisis.

Logo design by Spencer Tritt

 

Teachers’ Lounge is a new podcast from WNIJ telling the stories of education in Illinois with the help of stories from Illinois educators. Join reporter Peter Medlin every other Friday (payday!) for a new episode. 

If you are a teacher, you know a teacher who you think should be on the show, or have a story about a teacher who inspired you -- send us an email at teacherslounge@niu.edu to join the conversation. 

Also, feel free to send us your ideas for stories and topics for the show to cover.

 

Photo by Spencer Tritt

 

Jim Vera teaches government at Oswego East High School. He often has his students, mostly sophomores, stand in all four corners of the classroom. The corners are marked "Agree," "Disagree," "Strongly agree" and "Strongly disagree."

 

He starts small. Do we have good sports programs here? They all pick a corner. Then the debate escalates until, eventually, they're discussing topics like if it's okay to burn the American flag. 

 

 

Peter Medlin

Montmorency is a rural K-8 school district of just around 230 kids in Whiteside County. They've had an opening for a special ed teacher for about a month. They've only had three teachers apply so far.

 

"You know, we had the special ed position open for two weeks before I even had an applicant," said Alex Moore, superintendent at Montmorency. He also went to school here; in his words, he grew up about two cornfields away.

 

U.S. Department of Education

Ethnically diverse teachers are underrepresented in school districts across Illinois. Research shows that when a student resembles their teacher, the student makes a unique connection and their school performance improves.

 

 

More than 30,000 Los Angeles teachers are on strike this week.

The biggest issue on the negotiating table has not been teacher salaries, as is common. Instead, LA teachers are worried about class sizes, which can sometimes reach 40 students per class.

 

Meanwhile, teachers in Denver, Colorado, are nearing a work stoppage of their own.

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