May 12, 2023

A Note From CPS Leadership

Click here to view this letter in Spanish, Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Filipino, Polish, Ukrainian, Urdu, or Vietnamese.
Dear CPS Colleagues, Families, and Supporters,

This week was a true celebration of the CPS professionals who care for our students’ safety, challenge them academically, and nurture them emotionally — all with the goal of helping our young people discover their gifts and pursue and achieve their loftiest dreams.

Celebrating our Outstanding Teachers
I was privileged to attend several celebrations as part of Teacher Appreciation Week, including the assembly to announce that Ms. Rebecca Hermann, the computer science teacher at Palmer Elementary School in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood, had received the Teacher of the Year Award from Amazon. Ms. Hermann is one of just 10 teachers nationwide to receive this honor, and she will receive $25,000 to help enhance Palmer’s computer science program. See the joyful reaction from Ms. Hermann and her students in the above video!
A photo of the South Loop Golden Apple Award winners
Meanwhile, not one but TWO teachers at South Loop Elementary were honored as 2023 recipients of the prestigious Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. Helen Chan, a fourth-grade math teacher, and Rick Coppola, a seventh-grade English language arts teacher, both received this acknowledgement for their outstanding performance in the classroom.

Ms. Chan, who has been at South Loop since 2009, teaches her students to be proud of what they have to offer and pushes them to collaborate with each other. And Mr. Coppola, a 16-year veteran with CPS, puts a lot of effort, love, and energy into teaching and sees it returned to him by his students, parents, and colleagues.
Ms. Latavia Hinton winning a Golden Apple Award
Latavia Hinton, a middle-school math teacher at Boone Elementary in Chicago’s West Ridge community, was also surprised this week with a Golden Apple Award. Despite her eclectic collection of eyeglasses, and her shirts printed with corny math jokes, Ms. Hinton is very serious about teaching, and works to change the negative mindset that many students have about math by showing them the tremendous impact it can have on their everyday experiences.
Ms. Anquiniece Brown winning a Golden Apple Award
And though her award preceded Teacher Appreciation Week by a few days, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge Ms. Anquiniece Brown, a fourth-grade math and science teacher at Marquette Elementary in Chicago Lawn, on her Golden Apple Award. Ms. Brown describes becoming a classroom teacher as the best decision of her professional life, and enjoys creating opportunities for students to apply the concepts they’re learning in the classroom to their lives outside of school. 

I am incredibly proud of our award-winning teachers. But there are thousands more whose work is not in the spotlight, but who are transforming the lives of children in their classrooms every day.
Ms. Mason and her students
Take Jessica Mason, an Englewood native whose junior high teacher at Langford Career Academy eventually became her principal when she returned to her Englewood alma mater to teach. She now works to show her second grade students that no matter their zip code, the sky is truly the limit when it comes to what they can do.
A headshot of Jennifer Reyes
Then there’s Jennifer Reyes, a math teacher at Hernandez Elementary in Gage Park. Her goal is to help students learn to love math, which begins by creating a classroom environment where children feel empowered to ask questions, share their ideas, and above all, make mistakes.
A photo of Ms. Olga Chavez
And Ms. Olga Chavez, a veteran bilingual education teacher in CPS, joined the team at Al Raby High School this year to give back to students in the East Garfield Park community near where she herself grew up. Ms. Chavez is currently working with other teachers of color through the Museum of Science and Industry Institute for Quality Science Teaching, their goal being to make curricula more inclusive and accessible for all students, with a particular focus on English learners and students from economically-disadvantaged communities.

The above stories are a small sampling of the heroic work that is being done each day by our CPS teachers, and I truly hope that each and every one of them feels valued, not just during Teacher Appreciation Week, but every day throughout the school year.

Honoring our Exemplary CPS Nurses
From minor ailments and illnesses to medically-complex situations, our 535 school nurses do a masterful job ensuring that health-related issues aren’t barriers to our students receiving a high-quality education. Our nurses are partners to our families, teammates for our educators, and friends and role models to our students, and we were thrilled to celebrate them during National Nurses Week.
Nurse Audrey interacting with a student
Meet Audrey Burchett, who has been with the District since 2008 and who serves some of our youngest learners as a school nurse at Blair Early Childhood Center a school in Chicago’s West Lawn community that serves many children with complex medical needs.

“There is no one on this earth like Nurse Audrey,” said Bess Hendry, the principal at Blair. “From skinned knees to medically-fragile students, she exudes calm and confidence in every situation. Blair is so lucky to have her!”

Nurse Audrey makes it a point to focus not on a student’s health challenges, but on their abilities. Her goal is for the children at Blair to see her as someone who they can trust, and who will take care of their medical needs while managing to have fun in the process. She enjoys mentoring CPS nurses who are new to their role, and works hard to be a supportive resource for families who are managing the stress of caring for children with chronic health conditions.
A bulletin board reading the
School nurses Marie Dolan and Angellique Garnett, both of whom serve the students of Beard Elementary, have found a colorful and creative way to educate students around health and wellness. These nurses habitually cover the windows of their office with themed bulletin boards containing health and safety tips. The theme this spring is “The Very Healthy Caterpillar,'' which coincides with the academic unit students have been doing on children's author and illustrator Eric Carle.

“These are young children, so we try to make our bulletin boards colorful and age appropriate,” said Nurse Dolan. “It makes the nurse’s office less intimidating when kids need to come in for first aid or treatment."
A photo of the ROSE Award winning CPS nurses
We closed out National Nurses Week by honoring those CPS nurses who were selected for this year’s Recognition of Service Extraordinaires (ROSE) Awards. Nominated by their peers and school communities, the 2023 winners were honored in the categories of integrity, compassion, accountability, respect, and excellence. 

Congratulations to this year’s ROSE Award winners: 
  • Norma Rivera (Back of the Yards College Preparatory High School)
  • Debra Adams (Mahalia Jackson Elementary School)
  • Cyntia Lopez (Northwest Middle School)
  • Elliot Davis (Clinton Elementary School)
  • Mary Soeding (Walter Payton College Preparatory High School)

Congrats also to CPS Nurse Managers Tesia Milton, Althea Dumas, Brandon Major, Jenny Kasal, and Shanna Hodges, who were recognized for their exemplary leadership in a time of change. 

Along with highly-qualified teachers, school nurses are essential to our District’s mission of educating the whole child, and of setting every student up to learn, grow, and thrive. I hope that all of our teachers and nurses felt truly appreciated this week, and that this feeling lasts throughout the rest of the school year and well into the future.


Pedro Martinez
Chief Executive Officer
Chicago Public Schools

Help Us Highlight Your School
One of our goals for 2023 is to highlight more of the amazing things that are happening day-to-day in our schools, along with the people who are making them happen. There is no better source for this good news than you — the members of our school communities — so we hope you will consider sharing your stories by completing this brief form.

Help us show the world that the best are with CPS! Fill out this form so that we can share your stories in this newsletter, on our District’s blog, and across our CPS social media channels.
Photos of Ms. Carrillo
Take Five with Aracely Carrillo: School Nurse
Take Five is a series that highlights some of the many CPS staff members who are going above and beyond for our schools. If you know someone who is making a difference, nominate them to be featured here.
Meet Ms. Aracely Carrillo, one of the District’s incredible school nurses. In her work, Ms. Carrillo helps ensure our CPS students have the services and support they need to develop and thrive.

It is currently National Nurses Week — what message would you like to send to your nurse colleagues?
Our job is very unique, and it can be stressful. We spend so much time caring for others, and I want to remind my colleagues that it is important to remember when to take a step back and take care of ourselves as well.

Read more of our Q&A with Ms. Carrillo here.
Goethe Elementary students at the Illinois State Championship for Odyssey
A Look Around the District
Here are some highlights from schools around the District!

Marshall High School’s Culinary Arts Program recently facilitated two cooking events. Students prepared a New Orleans-style meal and a Caribbean meal for administrators and staff to judge in a friendly competition.