When children return to school in River Forest later this month, they will find new staff, a new English language arts textbook series and a different way for middle-school youngsters to engage in science.
Two staff coming on-board will help teachers learn new strategies and practices related to the implementation of Common Core. The standards, being carried out in other school districts nationwide, lay out an ambitious set of goals for math, reading and writing skills that children should acquire as they move through school.
The specific skills that students will be asked to demonstrate build in complexity from grade to grade.
Getting students to where they need to be may require teachers to change some of their strategies and practices, and Kathleen Fleming and Mike Czerniawski will join the staff as instructional specialists at Willard and Lincoln, respectively, to do just that.
Jolene Lorimer, who already has worked in a similar position in District 90 schools, will be at Roosevelt Middle School, said Martha Ryan-Toye, the district's director of student services.
Fleming comes to River Forest from Glenview School District 34, where she had a similar position. Czerniawski was doing teacher support and professional development with an educational company.
"They will better prepare teachers, which ultimately will support kids," Ryan-Toye said.
Other new staff members include:
- Annmarie Clasky will help Lincoln teachers integrate technology into their classrooms. A similar specialist now will be in each school, with Mandy Nelson at Willard and Lindsay Johnson at Roosevelt. Clasky comes from the Chicago Public Schools.
- Kacie Bair, will work in special education and help coordinate meetings that set the types of support and services that special education students are required to have. She also will troubleshoot with teachers and parents to make sure their needs are met. Bair had a similar position with the Kankakee public schools.
- Laura Kaehler will be the social worker at Roosevelt Middle School. She most recently did similar work at Hinsdale Central High School.
- Jennifer Katz will be a new fourth grade teacher at Willard. She comes from the Andrew Jackson Language Academy, a magnet school in Chicago.
- Becky Peterson is a new fifth grade teacher at Willard. She had been a long-term substitute in the district.
- Rachel Rodriguez is a new language arts teacher at Roosevelt. She previously worked for the Yorkville and Naperville school systems.
- Nina Geishecker is a sixth grade resource special education teacher at Roosevelt. She had been a long-term substitute teacher last year.
A new English language arts adoption will help students at Lincoln get a better grasp on reading and writing non-fiction material. The new series is related to the Common Core, Ryan-Toye said.
The series is more rigorous and will help students become better skilled at, among other things, critical thinking, one of the goals of Common Core. The standards are more aligned with college and career readiness, she said.
"Students will still read fiction, but by middle school youngsters will need to learn how to read and understand the kind of fact-based material that they may encounter in future careers," Ryan-Toye said.
A new elective at Roosevelt will give seventh graders more hands-on learning in science. Over a nine-week period, kids will get to design and build models of various kinds of things. As eighth graders they will get a similar class in automation and robotics. STEM – or science, technology, engineering and math – is already in use in the Oak Park school system.
"It is project-based learning and will give kids exposure to all sorts of possible career opportunities," Ryan-Toye said. "There will be a lot of excitement and engagement around it."
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