I have been a teacher at West Belden for 17 years. For most of my time here, I have taught 1st grade (thirteen years), 2nd grade (two years), and now I am in my second year of co-teaching and mentoring a 3rd / 4th grade team.
I love everything about working with West Belden students! During the Fall of 2002, CICS had an open teaching position at one if its campuses, West Belden, and I found it to be the perfect opportunity for me. I noticed that every educator here is invested in its school culture and also part of a diverse community. Besides that, I was amazed by the successes of the incredible students and the supportive families we have in West Belden!
Why did you choose to be an educator?
I always knew I wanted to become a teacher. I was inspired by amazing teachers who made learning fun. They were all so positive, caring, and patient. My childhood experiences of playing school were also another reason. I will say as a young adult, I loved working with young children and my family and friends noticed my passion for teaching. During my high school years, I remember my friends having uncertainties about what they wanted to major in college, but I knew I wanted to become a teacher because I was focused and determined to set good examples for children!
What is the most rewarding aspect(s) of being an educator?
The most rewarding aspect about being an educator is knowing that I have the ability to make a difference in the growth and development for young students in Chicago. I care about my students well-being and I want to help them reach their ultimate goal. What makes it even more rewarding is when my former students visit West Belden and tell me they are attending a university or pursuing a professional career. That makes it extra special!
One challenge I find as an educator is what takes place outside the classroom because student’s learning and development is always ongoing. Which is why I believe strong communication with my student’s families is important and makes a big difference in their academic progress. When parents are committed to teachers and invested in their child’s academics, the students see that there is a team effort supporting them!
What classroom innovation(s) are you implementing currently?
Last year, I took on the challenge of teaching a multi-age community of sixty 3rd and 4th graders where I personalized goals, voice, and choice in student’s learning. As part of this new network model, I had the opportunity to utilize data to drive my instruction while continuously reflecting and monitoring student growth. This model has been ongoing throughout the current school year and students are benefiting from our flexible learning environments while being in multi-age groups with their peer mentors. For example, when you walk into our classroom, you will notice students collaborating with each other and working on targeted skills from their personalized agendas. This allows students to focus on their independence and work accountability.
What is the desired outcome(s) of this innovation(s)?
With this multi-age approach, we are meeting the needs of all our students each day. We are able to dive into grade-level content and understand each individual child as a whole learner while utilizing data to challenge them.
What is your superpower?
I would say that my superpower is the ability to make learning fun and meaningful for my students. I always try to incorporate their interests into articles they read or the experiments they may have mentioned to me. I always try to relate what their doing to WHY and HOW it could be useful to them in the real world.
The best piece of advice I could offer other teachers is to take time to get to know each of their students. Students will remember each of those special one-to-one moments that they have with you, and they will feel loved and valued as a learner.
If I could change one thing, it would be that each one of our students has a strong growth-mindset so that they can feel comfortable and confident while learning and mastering life long skills that will make them successful in their adult lives!
Kelly Pollack is currently a 3-4th grade co-teacher and mentor at CICS West Belden. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s, College of Education. She received a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an endorsement in EL from Concordia University. Kelly enjoys playing at the park with her family, taking nature walks, traveling, gardening, and baking. She hopes to one day learn a new language!