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We Love Illinois Schools

We are the Illinois State Board of Education, and we love Illinois schools.

We are inspired by the passionate and innovative people who have dedicated their lives to Illinois students. Join us as we celebrate extraordinary educators and connect schools with great ideas. We look forward to sharing resources and opportunities to support the efforts of teachers, administrators, students, and families.

Episode 17: We Love Illinois Schools, Lassoed: How Illinois SEL Leaders use the hit show to inspire educators

Episode 16: Briana Morales Just Wants To Change the World

​Briana Morales is our 2023 Illinois State Teacher of the Year. She's a high school English teacher at Gordon Bush Alternative Center – the alternative school for East St. Louis School District 189. To learn more about our Teacher of the Year program, visit our website. To nominate someone for the 2024 Teacher of the Year, go to this page. To request Briana for a speaking engagement, express interest here. To be inspired to connect with students, click play.

Episode 15: A Conversation with 2022 Teacher of the Year Kim Radostits

Episode 14: You have to Maslow before you Bloom -- and that goes for adults too

Episode 13: Believe the data: A principal mentor explains how 5E is key to school improvement

Episode 12: We Love Illinois Schools, A Space to Relate: Affinity Groups for Educators of Color

Episode 11: Dr. Carmen I. Ayala says farewell – for now

Just before her official retirement, Illinois State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala reflects on her four decades in education and especially her four years at the helm of the Illinois State Board of Education.

View the "Dr. Carmen I. Ayala says farewell – for now" podcast transcript

Episode 10: All Means All

Gower District 62 superintendent Dr. Victor Simon talks about data mining the 5Essentials, and how his personal background reminds him why it matters, and its connection to the Equity Journey Continuum.

View the "All Means All" podcast transcript

Episode 9: How a "Bad News" Summative Designation Can Lead to Great Results

Dr. James Hayes, principal of Harvard Park Elementary in Springfield, talks about the "Comprehensive" summative designation his school received in 2019, and how IL-Empower helped his campus achieve a vast improvement. Listen to the end for surprise positive outcomes that reach beyond the gradebook.

Episode 8: Justin Johnson: Reflections on being Illinois 2021 Teacher of the Year

Days before announcing our 2022 Teacher of the Year, we asked Justin Johnson, our 2021 Teacher of the Year, to tell us what he learned, what he missed, what advice he has for the next Teacher of the Year -- and what advice he has for ISBE, as we work to retain and sustain teachers of color.

View the "Justin Johnson: Reflections on being Illinois 2021 Teacher of the Year" podcast transcript

Episode 7: How a Preschooler made Illinois History

Jett Hawkins wanted to wear his hair in braids. His school said that hairstyle violated the dress code. So Jett's mother, Ida Nelson, began working to change the school's policy. Less than a year later, she and 4-year-old Jett had transformed school dress codes throughout Illinois with the passage of a new law. In this podcast, Ida explains why hair has such profound significance in Black culture, and why she's still working to help change laws in other states.

View the "How a Preschooler Made Illinois History" podcast transcript

Episode 6: Race In America

Have you ever heard of the "racial empathy gap"? Did your own education omit some important information? Is there anything you should know about the town that you live in? Hear our eye-opening conversation with Jessica Splain, a social studies teacher at Community High School in Crystal Lake, who created a professional development course titled Race In America.

View the "Race in America" podcast transcript

Episode 5: Support On Scene: How one district partners with police to address trauma where it happens

In the 2019-2020 school year, East St. Louis School District 189 lost four middle school students to gun violence. In response, Dr. Tiffany Gholson, director of Parent and Student Support Services, created a team of social workers to respond on-scene to any traumatic incident involving youth, day or night.

Her team works in cooperation with state and local police to intervene with victims, families, friends, witnesses, and perpetrators. State Police Inspector Nick Manns says this kind of trauma-responsive community partnership transforms lives.

View the "SOS: A trauma-informed partnership between schools and police" podcast transcript

Episode 4: Culturally Responsive Teaching & Leading: A Conversation With Three Educators

We are joined by three stellar educators for a lively chat about their personal experiences as students, the teachers who inspired them, the value of diverse educators, and what these Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards could mean for Illinois students.

Rudy Hernandez is superintendent of Cicero School District 99 — a large elementary district west of Chicago, with more than 10,000 students, most of whom are Hispanic.

Corey Winchester has taught history and social sciences at Evanston Township High School for more than a decade. In 2020, he was named Illinois History teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. He has also been a Teach Plus policy fellow and a Golden Apple award winner for excellence in teaching.

Keisha Rembert has taught history and English at the middle school level, and is now an assistant professor of teacher preparation at National Louis University in Chicago. She was also a Teach Plus policy fellow and, in 2019, Keisha was named Outstanding Middle-level Educator in English Language Arts by the National Council of teachers of English.

Both Rudy and Keisha are members of our Diverse and Learner Ready Teachers Network, which helped develop these new standards.

We recorded this conversation in December, just before the holidays. Due to everyone's busy schedules, we interviewed Rudy first, and then Corey and Keisha together. What you'll hear in this podcast is those interviews mixed together and slightly edited for time.

Episode 3: When Kids Need Help

Sometimes, students need educators to connect them with advocates. Teachers are mandated reporters, duty-bound to act on suspected cases of child abuse and neglect.

In this episode, hear how Child Advocacy Centers can help, in a conversation with Kim Mangiaracino, executive director at Children's Advocacy Centers of Illinois; and Julia Strehlow, Director of Education, Prevention and Policy at Chicago Children's Advocacy Center.

In the second half of this episode, you will meet Molly Uhe-Edmonds, former deputy director of education at Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and now the director of the new Student Care Department at ISBE.

Episode 2: CTE During COVID-19

Career and Technical Education courses are now more important than ever. They prepare students for high-wage jobs in the post-pandemic economy, and bolster local businesses by supplying the necessary skilled workers.

But how do you have a hands-on CTE class when you can’t have in-person instruction?

In today’s podcast, we’re going to take you to Township High School District 214, where every student has some sort of workplace experience outside of the classroom. Superintendent David Schuler says his district has found ways to both keep those experiences going, and make a meaningful contribution to the battle against COVID-19.

View the "CTE During COVID-19" podcast transcript

Episode 1: Make Illinois Count

On National Census Day, we're featuring an in-depth interview with Anita Banerji, who leads the organization Forefront's 2020 Census efforts for Illinois. We also drag a teenager away from his video game to fill out the census survey in real time.

View the "Make Illinois Count" podcast transcript

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