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Chicago Teachers Union leader to speak

image of Karen Lewis

Karen Lewis has never shied from controversy.

Now in her second term as the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, she is outspoken about the changes in the Chicago Public School system and a staunch defender of how communities can come together to change the face of public education.

Lewis will give a talk titled Defending Public Education:  How Parents, Students, Educators and Communities Can Change the Stakes at Illinois State University in honor of Black History Month at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24, in the Brown Ballroom of the Bone Student Center.

The event, which is free and open to the public, is co-sponsored by the Office of the President and the Department of History, and is part of the Speaker Series of Illinois State University.

Elected president of the 30,000-member Chicago Teachers Union in 2010, Lewis was seen on the frontlines of the Chicago teacher’s strike in 2012. She is known for frank statements on the topics of poverty, racism and inequality in public education.

Lewis is a product of Chicago Public Schools, having attended Kozminski Elementary School and Kenwood High School, until accepting early admission at Mount Holyoke College. She later transferred to Dartmouth College, earning a degree in music and sociology. Lewis returned home to teach high school chemistry in the Chicago Public Schools for 22 years and earned master’s degrees in inner city education and fine arts from Northeastern University and Columbia College respectively.

The first National Board Certified teacher to lead a U.S. labor union, Lewis also serves as executive vice president to the Illinois Federation of Teachers and as vice president of the American Federation of Teachers.

The Speaker Series of Illinois State University seeks to bring innovative and enlightening speakers to the campus with the aim of providing the community with a platform to foster dialogue, cultivate enriching ideas and continue an appreciation of learning as an active and lifelong process.