As told by Daniel Jackson ’18

Growing up in Chicago’s Bronzeville and Englewood neighborhoods, I had seen the need for Black male teachers in Black communities my entire life.  As a student in Chicago Public Schools (CPS), Black women were always normalized in the classroom. So even as a student, I was aware of the need for gender balance and sought to be the difference I wanted to see. 

As a student at Illinois State, I had the opportunity to return to Chicago in 2017 for student teaching during my junior year. Going back to CPS allowed gave me an in-depth experience working with Black children. This educational opportunity also solidified that I wanted to continue to make an impact in the city that supported me throughout my journey. Along with outstanding pathways to practice in my profession, ISU provided valuable training outside the classroom to build my confidence to overcome challenges that stopped many others. Being a part of college group work and group study sessions transitioned to skills to work with a team of grade-level educators to fuel success of our students.

This power of teamwork has been a valuable lesson during the pandemic where many educators have sought early retirement because of the challenges to overcome. I must admit that there were many times I had sleepless nights, waking up thinking how to adjust lessons plans. I also had to think about how to engage second-graders in a virtual classroom, the access to technology my students may, or may not, have, and the skills to use this technology. My motivation was knowing the importance of teamwork and how working together would help students thrive even in the most uncertain of times.  

Our team of educators worked through lesson plans together two to three times a week. We did intensive research on resources, websites, and programming to share with administration on what would work best to keep our students motivated too. We collaborated, worked twice as hard, and found new ways to educate that had never been done so that our students could be successful. With strong collaboration and planning, today I am proud to report that over 95 percent of my students have consistently attended class either in person or virtually with high engagement. 

This challenging chapter has provided many valuable lessons on teamwork and resilience. Most of all, it has brought us closer to the next chapter in a book that holds the secrets to unlock the limitless potential and creativity of our children. Seeing young students shine through in video conversations and overcome obstacles gave me the drive and will to make sure they have a future regardless of the pandemic.

I became a teacher to mold minds, encourage creativity, and solidify strong futures. Investing in our children, especially in challenging times, brings me joy in knowing that we are cultivating leaders to continue pushing forward and instill that drive into future generations. 

Along with his passion to collaborate and overcome challenges in uncertain times, Jackson is also a part of “Teach Chicago Tomorrow.” Learn more about the initiative to create a pipeline for homegrown educators and what he is doing to help.