The Illinois State University National Center for Urban Education (NCUE) is excited to announce that this February some of our recently graduated Illinois State alum will begin their teaching careers in Chicago Public Schools (CPS), joining the current 400 ISU NCUE graduates. What makes this extra special is that some of these #edbirds will be returning home.

Part of the mission of the NCUE Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline is to recruit and support CPS graduates to come to ISU College of Education and return to their communities to teach. Whether that is through the traditional ISU Education program on campus or with the new Teach Chicago Tomorrow program, we are thrilled to support these future teachers to come back to teach in Chicago!

Emily Perez, a special education deaf hard of hearing major, will be a CPS citywide itinerant teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing. She chose to pursue this position to advocate directly for students with hearing loss. During her student teaching semester, she was able to gain experience as an itinerant and shared that she became more “passionate about servicing students who look and remind me of my brother and sister with hearing loss.” The families also reminded Perez of her own parents’ experience with children who are deaf entering the public school system with limited guidance and/or resources. She hopes to be that bridge for parents and teachers in advocating for their child to receive fulfilling experiences that do not restrain them. 

Looking into the future, she hopes that after completing her first year of teaching, “my students will be able to say that I was the most supportive, emphatic and caring teacher.” Perez is a CPS alum from Kelly High School in Brighton Park.

“It means so much to me and my family as well to return to the areas that helped shape my philosophy of teaching,” Perez said. “It is a long time coming for myself due to my experiences as a sibling of a deaf adult and my brother’s experiences in the public school system. This is my chance to give back to families and provide them with proper resources and/or guidance in obtaining quality access to services for their child to succeed without setbacks.” 

Emily Perez ’21 is a special education deaf hard of hearing major and new CPS DHH itinerant teacher.

Perez is well aware that she is entering the teaching force mid-year during the continued challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. She worries about “not being enough for students who are struggling to return to in-person classes and who count on teachers to provide them with enough support to get them through the school-year during a pandemic.” Yet she is “excited about working alongside a supportive team of CPS itinerant teachers and clinicians who share the same passion as myself.”  She also knows that she has the extra advantage in “being able to connect with students from the areas I grew up in and be a voice for them.” 

Kimberly Edwards ’21 is an early childhood education major and new CPS kindergarten teacher.

Kimberly Edwards is currently the top candidate to take on the kindergarten position at Scott Joplin Elementary in Auburn Gresham, an ISU partner school on the South Side of Chicago. Edwards student taught at Joplin last fall with the first-grade team and will be right down the hall from her mentor teacher. When determining her major and future career as an educator, kindergarten has always been her top choice to teach so this is her “dream job” graduating right out of college.

“It means so much—unreal honestly—to start my teaching career in the district where I attended myself,” said Edwards , a South Sider and CPS graduate from Kenwood Academy. “There is truly no better feeling than being provided the opportunity to positively impact the students attending CPS schools. I am honored.”

Looking ahead to starting her career mid-year, Edwards said she is excited as she prepares to be in her own classroom, building a class community and environment where she’ll be “able to ensure the best learning experience for all of my students.”  

As a novice teacher, she still wonders sometimes if she’s “doing it right,” but she remains grounded.  

“I’ve been told that the first two years of teaching will be the hardest, but I have faith that I will push through,” she said. “After all, I will always have my kiddos in my forefront to keep me encouraged and determined.”

At the end of this first year, she hopes that her students will see “that I always encouraged them to work hard to better themselves and to never give up. I hope that they’ll say that I was there any time they needed me with open arms for comfort and ears to just listen to their thoughts and ideas.”

We wish these new #edbirds all the best as they begin their teaching careers back home in Chicago. ISU NCUE will be here to support them this year and in all the years to come.