Loyola University Chicago

School of Education

Responding to "vast needs" in low-income, urban schools

Responding to "vast needs" in low-income, urban schools

Jessica Kibblewhite, a Chicago public school graduate, never planned to be a teacher. After attending Vassar College and then studying design at Columbia College Chicago, Kibblewhite has worked for years as a graphic designer (even illustrating her own children’s book). However, her passion for social justice and her belief that change begins with education inspired her to pursue her MEd in Special Education at Loyola.

What inspired you to change careers and become a teacher?

While I enjoyed the problem-solving and creative dimensions of graphic design, I realized that something significant was missing: I was not being challenged by my deeper desire to promote social justice through social change. Returning to my earlier interests, I began to read more about America’s school systems and their relative strengths and weaknesses. As I know from my experiences and studies, America’s school system is still struggling to provide adequate programs for students of diverse abilities and backgrounds. This is particularly true in schools in lower-income, urban environments. I decided it was necessary to act now to do something important to respond to these vast needs.

What draws you to special education?

I initially became interested in special education in high school and at Vassar College while working with children and adults in specialized summer programs. I began to think more about what it would mean to work professionally with diverse learners. There are many students with great potential who are too often provided insufficient or inappropriate support on micro and macro levels. Every student must be valued and should be provided with the resources to thrive and succeed. I decided that I would like to work with students with special needs, as I deeply believe in the ability of a committed, motivated teacher to bring real change to the lives of students so often underserved by our system.

Talk about your summer as part of the program.

This summer, I have learned many invaluable and interrelated means through which to learn and to make reasoned, reflective, and responsive decisions towards promoting the social justice in which I so deeply believe.

Invaluably, all of our courses this summer included work beyond a classroom setting, including two weeks in Senn High School classrooms, working one-on-one with English Language Learners in Onward Neighborhood House’s classrooms, and active, critical community engagement throughout the Edgewater neighborhood.

This summer, I also began working in the 48th Ward and State Representative’s office under their remarkable education liaison, Karen Dreyfuss. Currently, I am working on an initiative that provides educational opportunities for all of its residents, facilitating engaged learning within schools and throughout the community.

Before beginning the program, I could not have imagined the extent to which my life would change in only three months and the extent to which, through the support of this program, my passion would grow. And, just as importantly, how much more I have yet to learn.