Since Carol Dudzik, the long-time principal at Lincoln School in Oak Park, retired three years ago, slowing down has not been in her lexicon. She takes "life-long learning" seriously, so she diversified.
Besides leading workshops, writing training manuals for principals and performing consultant work for District 97, this fall she's teaming with Illinois State University in an effort to improve the quality of teachers in Little Village, the Latino neighborhood on 26th Street in Chicago. Over the next decade, ISU plans to assign student teachers to that neighborhood. Dudzik, who is bilingual, will work with the university to help their student teachers understand the Latino culture, pick up some Spanish, and possibly build student teacher housing there.
"It is a fascinating concept to get more college students who are interested in teaching into areas where the children desperately need good teachers," she says.
Last year, with the cooperation of former Dist. 97 Superintendent John Fagan, Dudzik obtained her national certification for elementary school principal mentoring. To satisfy the certificate requirement, she supervised John Hodge, the new principal at Irving School, for nine months.
"That was a wonderful learning experience for me," Dudzik says. "It made the work I did with the group of four principals in Dist. 97 the previous year more formal and put my experience in a framework of national principal standards."
Prior to her experience with Hodge, Dudzik says there were four new principals in Dist. 97 the previous year, and on a monthly basis, she mentored them as well.
"I tried to get the principals to pay attention to that little tingle in your body that tells you when something isn't right," Dudzik says, "and they learned how to balance the management piece and the leadership piece, so they could be a vital, healthy, happy leader, and have it trickle down to the teachers, children, parents and community."
Born in Minnesota, Dudzik moved to Forest Park when she got married 35 years ago to her husband John and never left. Upon graduating from college, she became a Spanish teacher in Dist. 97. Then she moved into several assistant principal positions and became principal at Lincoln Elementary School in 1974.
"I love Lincoln and was very rooted in the community," she says. "One of the interesting things that happened at Lincoln School were the selections parents could choose from when their children entered first grade?#34;either multi-age (first and second grade), a Spanish-immersion option, or a traditional classroom."
She recalls that, early on in her career there, Lincoln teamed with the University of Illinois at Chicago to pilot, develop, write, create and form a collaboration between teachers from the UIC and Lincoln. Their objective was to discover new ways of teaching math.
"It was about a 10-year process, and we worked with girls and boys who didn't necessarily memorize well, in an effort to engage them in math," Dudzik says. "The beauty of it was the connection with the university."
This summer, Dudzik authored and published a 25-page training guide for principals; a month-by-month compendium of activities for new K-6 principals in Oak Park titled, "The Fun Starts in August." Additionally, Dudzik chairs the education committee for the Oak Park Education Foundation and sits on the board of The Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory (FOPCON). The education committee, she says, is working through a strategic plan to consider options for children and adults at the conservatory, and she would like to see its programs connected with the children in the local schools.
"One of the things that concerned me when I retired is, would my learning stop. I think people are drawn to education because they are huge learners," Dudzik says. "In the three years that I have been retired, I was very fortunate to have Dr. Fagan suggest that there was additional service to the district I could give, and I asked if I could be of additional service, and he supported my efforts."
?#34;Deb Quantock McCarey