CICS Ralph Ellison Campus is an urban high school dedicated to offering students a rigorous college preparatory education and their leader, Principal Taquia Hylton, is leading them every day to make sure this happens and we’re thrilled to share more insight into her background and leadership style.
Taquia demonstrates an urgent, strong, and nurturing leadership that her staff and students appreciate as they navigate their academic journeys.
CICS Ellison is named for the African-American writer and teacher who achieved international fame with his first novel, Invisible Man. Ellison's novels and essays were transformative in our thinking about race, identity and what it means to be an American. Now, let’s see what it means to be a principal for Taquia.
1. Why did you decide to become a principal?
I've always known that leadership was "my thing." I would boss my cousins around when we were kids and played "school" in my grandmother's basement. :-) I have always been the person that will get the job done. When I was nominated to be a Golden Apple Scholar in high school, this opportunity was the conduit to my career in education. I trained under Golden Apple for several years and even worked with them to train and coach new teachers. Education is my passion and I'm excited to share this passion with others each day.
2. What is one thing you are looking forward to in the new school year?
I am looking forward to establishing more external partnerships to increase students' access and exposure to careers, through our Education To Careers program.
3. What is one skill that you have that makes you a great principal?
It is more of a quality than a skill, but I would say, the ability to be FLEXIBLE. When you're a school leader, things can change so quickly, and sometimes without warning. A leader has to be able to adapt and adjust to whatever comes our way, and do it in a way that makes the work look "seamless" to others.
4. Name something that you are proud of on or about your campus.
One thing I am most proud of about our campus is our increased enrollment. We have exceeded our enrollment target for this year and we still have students on our waiting list. We'd love to accept everyone, but staffing and the teacher shortage is a major barrier.
5. How do you make positive connections with your students?
My students know me not only as Principal Hylton but as Auntie/Mama. I'm with them during their lunch periods, I sit and eat with them, I learn tik-toks with them, I go to their extracurricular activities, and I LISTEN to them. Often, students don't feel like they have a voice, or no one to share ideas with. My "babies" know they have that opportunity with their Principal.
6. How are you making those connections now?
The connections I make with students are not just a one-and-done event. It is ongoing. It is every day. I learn each student's name, they know how to reach me during school hours and after school, and they know that I genuinely care about their well-being.
7. What is your vision for student success this year?
My goal is for every student to GROW academically and have access to some new experiences in their lives. For some that growth may be academic. For others, it may be emotional or behavioral. I want to expose them to things they didn't know, or think were possible for them. In return, students know that I expect them to give me their best, and I call them out on it when they don't. If we can change students' lives even a little bit, I know we have done our job.
8. Education is ever-evolving. If money/resources/time were not an issue, what would you do to improve your school?
I would accept every student that has the desire to attend our school. I would have a pathway in place for them that gives them access to whatever their post-secondary plans may be. For some, it will be college. For others, it will be the workforce. To help students be successful, we have to give them education, experiences, exposure, and access. Providing all of those things, without barriers would be what I would do to improve my school.
Mrs. Hylton began educating children at the age of 18 when she was one of sixty high school seniors in Illinois selected as a Golden Apple Scholar. While under the tutelage of the Golden Apple Foundation, a prestigious organization that develops and supports teaching excellence in Illinois schools of need, Mrs. Hylton received a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Elementary Education from Northern Illinois University with endorsements in Middle School, Mathematics, Language Arts, and Social Sciences. She went on to earn her Master’s Degree (M.A.) and Certification in Educational Leadership from Governors State University and an Educational Specialist Degree (Ed.S.) in Educational Leadership with a Superintendent Endorsement from Northern Illinois University (NIU). Mrs. Hylton is currently completing an Ed.D. In Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at NIU with an anticipated graduation of May 2023.
Mrs. Hylton currently serves as the Principal of CICS Ralph Ellison High School. She has worked in Chicago Public Schools and in South Suburban schools with several years of experience in using data to inform instructional decision-making. During her career, she has served as a Principal, Assistant Principal, Dean of Students, Instructional Coach, Classroom Teacher, and Professional Development Provider for the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA). Through her experience and qualifications, Mrs. Hylton is able to provide coaching and support for staff, leaving them feeling informed and empowered to move forward in their efforts to help all scholars excel in college, careers, and life.
Mrs. Hylton is the mom of a beautiful and talented 13-year-old daughter (Kennedy), the wife of (Kevin), and a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.