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Developing Local Teachers as Innovative Leaders of Change in Chicago Public Schools
Through video clips and panel discussion, this session shows how educators in a dual-language (Spanish & English, PreK-8) and a South Chicago neighborhood high school are raising academic achievement and changing the (deficit) narrative about students, families, and the surrounding community. Using the examples of teacher-facilitated research lessons, shadowing students to understand the learning opportunities in a student's day, and community walks where educators learn from local residents, we will show the significance and pragmatic value of developing local educators as highly motivated leaders of change, and the conditions that lead to high levels of trust for authentic instructional improvement. Discussion includes some of important and challenging lessons that the presenters have learned from unpredictable circumstances. This presentation uses non-proprietary strategies and resources to encourage adaptation in other districts and schools based on local needs and priorities.
This talk was presented at:
National Title I Conference
February 2017 in Long Beach, CA
For more information:
Nia Abdullah

With a Bachelor’s of Science in Electrical Engineering from Howard University, Principal Nia Abdullah is a proud product of Chicago Public Schools. Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side by parents who were educators, she maintains a relentless passion for the academic success of urban youth. Nia is deeply committed to neighborhood schools as vehicles for community revitalization. Nia joined Chicago Public Schools in 2005, serving as an International Baccalaureate Math Teacher, Math Department Chair and Curriculum Coordinator at Hyde Park Academy. As a teacher-leader she spearheaded her school’s first IB diploma in five years and co-facilitated the implementation of common assessments and data to inform and improve teaching. At Bowen High School in South Chicago, Principal Abdullah and her teachers have consistently achieved significant gains in attendance and graduation. Nia attributes improvement to intrinsically motivating and inquiry-focused professional learning, as well as innovative STEM programs. She expects to receive her Doctorate of Education in Urban Educational Leadership in at the University of Illinois-Chicago in 2017.

Olimpia Bahena

Olimpia Bahena is an immigrant and Latina who is fluent in Spanish, French, and English. Upon moving to the United States from Mexico twenty-five years ago, she became a bilingual teacher in a historically under-resourced Chicago neighborhood school. She also became one of the first Latino educators in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to become Nationally Board Certified, and since has served as a mentor to teachers with provisional certification and as a bilingual education instructor for Illinois educators. Six years ago Olimpia became Principal of Talcott Fine Arts and Museum Academy. Talcott is a CPS PreK-8th grade dual language school (Spanish-English, English-Spanish) and 80% of its students qualify for free or reduced lunch. A champion of dual-language education, Olimpia is proud of Talcott’s reputation as an innovative, well rounded, high-quality, and high-performing school with dedicated and hard-working families, and learning-focused staff. Olimpia attributes her development as a leader to caring and disciplined mentors and she is proud to serve as a role model for students, staff, and the broader community. Foundational elements of her leadership include self-reflection, ongoing learning, and the humility to accept, learn from, and move forward after mistakes. Among her recent personal accomplishments are a Fulbright Exchange Program scholarship through which she hosted Argentinian educators and visited Argentina for two weeks in Spring, 2016. She is also in the final stages of her doctoral program and anticipates a Spring, 2017 graduation.

Margery Ginsberg

For over twenty years, Margery has provided direct service to urban schools for inclusive and intrinsically motivating instruction. Recipient of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Relating Research to Practice Award, her work builds on experience as a university professor and, for nearly a decade, director of the University of Washington–Seattle doctoral program for aspiring educational leaders. Earlier in her career she was a teacher on the Menominee and Southern Ute reservations, U.S. Dept. of Education-funded Title I technical assistance provider to state education agencies, coordinator of migrant education in a nine-state region in the Southwest United States, and director of evaluation for the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). Her most recent book, Excited to Learn: Motivation & Culturally Responsive Teaching (Corwin Press, 2015) received a 2016 IndieFab Book of the Year Award from the American Library Association. Her co-authored book Diversity & Motivation: Culturally Responsive Teaching in College (Jossey-Bass/Wiley) received the 2011 Cyril O. Houle Award for Outstanding Literature in Adult Education. Her work with under-resourced schools received a U.S. Department of Education National Professional Development Award. Margery has a Ph.D. in Bilingual/Multicultural/Social Foundations of Education from the University of Colorado-Boulder. She currently lives in Chicago, Illinois with her husband, Raymond Wlodkowski and can be reached at margeryginsberg@gmail.com.

Jessica Kertz

Jessica Kertz currently serves as assistant principal at Talcott Fine Arts and Museum Academy, a P-8th grade dual language school in the Chicago Public Schools system. Her leadership includes experience in international, charter, and traditional public schools. 

Early in her career, Jessica taught English at a public, dual language high school in Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain. This experience inspired a deep interest in comparative education policy and strengthened her understanding of instructional practices that support learning across a range of language groups.  Upon returning to Chicago, she served as a charter high school educator, piloted a college-readiness program for low-income students, and began an administrative career. Jessica combines her passion for social justice with adult learning and professional development. She has a B.A. in International Relations and Spanish from Bucknell University, a M.A.T. from National Louis University, and a M.Ed. in Education Leadership from Columbia University (NY).