CSME Science Coach Advocates for Teachers at Legislative Forum
On Tuesday, February 22nd, the Golden Apple Foundation invited CSME Science Coach Kayla Cherry to Springfield’s Legislative Education Forum co-hosted by Advance Illinois and The Hunt Institute in partnership with Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton, Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, Senator Dale Fowler, Representative Carol Ammons, and Representative Aaron Ortiz. State legislators, funders, and partners engaged in conversation with practitioners and resource experts centered on identifying ways to both strengthen and diversify the teacher workforce in Illinois. Current teachers and administrators elevated teachers’ stories, advocated for their needs in and outside of the classroom, and shared the personal benefits of mentorship. Here Kayla shares some excerpts from her presentation:
As a young girl, education was at the forefront of many of my family’s conversations. Coming from a long line of teachers, I watched them dedicate their time and energy to educating the next generation. I watched them foster relationships with the youth and empower them to obtain new heights. I saw firsthand the impact of the village and the essence of the community.
In high school, the need to help others continued as I enrolled in a dual credit course in Child Psychology and simultaneously taught 3 and 4-year-olds in a program called Little School. I learned child development concepts two days during the week and immediately put learned skills into practice. Prior to teaching, the Golden Apple Foundation provided summer institutes, professional learning opportunities, and observation cycles at on-site locations.
Early on, my passion was confirmed by these experiences, and coupled with my knowledge, I began my teaching career as a Golden Apple-trained Science teacher in Chicago Public Schools. During those years in the classroom, I continued receiving mentorship and support. While my mom (retired teacher) helped me set up my classroom and other veteran teachers shared their experiences, my mentor, Jozel, bought timers to help with student pacing in groups, helped me organize, and was a thought partner as I developed relationships with my students, their parents, and school community.
These past few years, teachers have experienced physical and mental exhaustion. They have gotten sick and lost loved ones and are being told to keep pushing through and continue to give their all to their students who are also bringing their trauma into the classroom and do not have the tools to process it all. As a mentor or coach, it is not enough to provide instructional support but also care for the whole teacher. I have led our talks by checking in on their well-being and addressing their immediate concerns. I have asked them to share ways I can support them in and outside of the classroom. I am to be what my mentors were to me.