CICS Northtown Academy Principal Strives to Make Her Students Feel Seen

Written by Chicago International Charter School
17 October 2022
Posted in Educator Spotlight

“Trabajar com muchas ganas” is a phrase that was voiced to Iris Dominguez at a young age, amongst many others, that served as motivation for Iris to get an education. These same words also would eventually influence the trajectory of her future and her career path in education as well.

Principal Iris Dominguez has been a leader in education since 2013 and has dedicated her work to improving student culture and experiences to align student and teacher climate to mirror the diverse group of students who enter through CICS Northtown Academy doors. It has always been important for her to not only provide a positive experience for her students, but to also make sure she understands their unique experiences as well so they leave the school feeling confident in themselves and knowing they belong in any space. 

Growing up in the Northwest side of Chicago and immigrating from Mexico at the age of three, Iris understands all too well what it means to have a unique upbringing. She is the daughter of two hardworking parents who stressed the importance of education so she did not have to work as hard as they did. In spite of their blue-collar lifestyle, her parents made sure to enroll her in private schools where they felt she would be best set up for success - and still to this day she does not know how they were able to afford it. It was moments like this that Iris continues to reflect on when she is leading her school community. During her upbringing she knew her family was raising her to be independent by pushing the agenda of receiving her education, something she knew was a priority for them, but one thing she noticed that was missing were educators that mirrored her. 

When Iris began teaching in the Chicago public school system she recalls feeling happy and proud because she was finally able to have the opportunity to give students the chance to see someone who looked like them, unlike her own experiences growing up. Having the chance to relate to her students was exciting and she leveraged her content area, history, to further teach them about inclusivity through their backgrounds so that students could know that they shared more similarities than differences. 

Since working for CICS, Iris has felt that the network's support for inclusivity closely aligns with hers. She feels the network does a great job of making students feel welcomed in a learning environment and that is important to her because that helps build their confidence for being successful when they leave the school to accomplish whatever they put their minds to. For Hispanic Heritage Month, a select group of students and teachers organized an assembly to remember that served as a reminder of the continued need for inclusive environments in school settings that engage the community and instill pride in who they are. Students taught teachers traditional dances, participated in answering trivia questions, and more.

Moments like these encourage Iris to continue her efforts for the communities she serves where identities are affirmed and to let her students know that despite their socioeconomic status and/or backgrounds that they belong and are destined to do great things.

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