No one said teaching would be easy, but Casie Walls could never have imagined that most of her first two years as a teacher at CICS Loomis-Longwood would be remote. She is a big believer that professional development and mentoring support helped her with teaching her first-grade students. As an educator, Ms. Walls uses every resource possible including the No Nonsense Nurturing toolkit, teacher collaboration and even her own model of joy to make students part of a successful learning environment. This is why Casie was named a LIT teacher! LIT stands for Live Innovative Teaching and Ms. Walls exemplifies those words.
Casie is very familiar with the Loomis-Longwood campus. She attended and graduated from Longwood high school. Her passion for teaching came while a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she earned her Master’s in Instructional Leadership. When she was a student teacher at Longfellow Elementary School in Oak Park, her mentor urged her to apply for multiple teaching positions. Casie’s first choice was Loomis Primary because she longed to give back to the community that gave so much to her. When Casie received the call that she had a position at Loomis, she recalled, “It’s a small world and it was a blessing!”
Her first year at Loomis started in the classroom and transitioned to remote learning in March 2020. Even during remote learning, Ms. Walls has been able to build nurturing relationships with her students. “I try to model my own joy with my voice and my body in the virtual classroom which is easy when you see twentyone faces smiling at you! I start the day with an attention getter and when everybody is looking straight ahead into the screen, at that moment I have them.”
Ms. Walls understands the power of the No Nonsense Nurturing (NNN) Model. She uses positive narration to ensure that her students know she has high expectations for their learning. “My students know what I expect, and they know what they should be doing because I make sure to lead with precise directions and check for their understanding. I then use three praises such as Lisa has turned to page 4, Danielle has also turned to page 4 and Michael is looking at page 4. This positive narration lets them know what they are supposed to be doing such as being on page 4.” Her students learn from watching their classmates and the peers, as well as observing what she is doing online. “I will ask them to show me that they have paper and pencils. I will check for understanding. I will ask, “Who can tell me what I should have now? When I say go, hold up your paper and pencil.”
The NNN process strives to engage scholars by continually learning about them and relating their cultural backgrounds and experiences to classroom learning. In order to make the learning culturally relevant, Ms. Walls will add an example from her own life. “This is especially true when we are doing math. I engage with them and tell them how the problem relates to me. I try to find connections to their family life.” She recognizes that her students are young and so many things charge them emotionally, so she always stays grounded and connected when working with them. “I remind them that I was once in first grade. I reassure them with positive affirmations about how amazing they are and how smart they are. I try to create a safe space and assure them that they belong here. I may ask a question or have them write how they feel today, or if you were a teacher, what subject would you teach? They get so excited when they answer those questions.”
Even though the majority of her kids want to be back in the classroom, the health of her students and families comes first. Remote learning has helped her become much more tech savvy and organized. She has seen the power that using visuals to illustrate a problem has had for many of her students. She will take these new skills back when teachers and students return to the classroom. For Casie, she will always bring the joy of learning to all of her students, whether in person or remote.
Casie Walls is a second year 1st grade teacher at CICS Loomis Primary. Casie earned her Master’s in Journalism from Roosevelt University and a second Master’s in Instructional Leadership Masters in Instructional Leadership from University of Illinois at Chicago. Prior to working at CICS Loomis, Ms. Walls worked for 8 years at Chicago Public Schools as a paraprofessional/Special Education Classroom Assistant. Casie Wells aspires to grow into a leadership role in the education sector.