Keshia B. Warner, principal of Oak Park’s Whittier Elementary School, was in good company, Feb. 19, as she received a Leaving Their Stamp on Our World Trail Blazer Award from the office of 1st District Commissioner Richard Boykin.
The other two recipients of the award were Congressman Danny K. Davis and Boykin’s predecessor Earlean Collins, who wasn’t in attendance. The event was held at the Sankofa Cultural Arts & Business Center in the Austin neighborhood.
“All three honorees are 1st District residents,” said Boykin during last night’s ceremony, adding that he heard of Warner’s success at Whittier through his new policy director, Oak Park attorney and Village Trustee Adam Salzman, whose children attend the school. In 2013, Warner received the Principal Achievement Award for her students’ performance on the reading section of the Northwest Evaluation Assessment (NWEA).
“We wanted to pay tribute to her and to tell her to keep on doing what she’s doing,” Boykin said. “There’s no job greater than being a teacher.”
Warner, a graduate of Whitney Young High School, received her bachelor’s degree in English from Hampton University in Virginia, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and a master’s degree in administration and supervision from National Louis University in Chicago. She began her career in education as a third-grade teacher on the West Side of Chicago.
The first-year principal, who was hired by outgoing Superintendent Al Roberts last year, said that she was attracted to Oak Park because of its mission to educate “the whole child” and because of its relative intimacy.
“I enjoy a smaller district and the community feel, which is more difficult to have in a larger city,” said Warner, who served three years as assistant principal and three years as principal at Drake Elementary in Chicago’s Bronzeville community before transitioning to Whittier.
“It’s great for 10 principals who can work collaboratively,” Warner said. “It’s not about being competitive, but supporting one another and making sure that all of our children are succeeding.”
Cong. Davis, during his award speech, encouraged the approximately 60 people in attendance to look to the very people walking among them for models to which to aspire — people like Keshia Warner.
“We don’t have to celebrate heroes and sheroes from long ago,” he said. “There are heroes and sheroes that we walk among every day; we just don’t know that they’re giants. You don’t really have to look to Frederick Douglass, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or Martin Luther King to find heroes — just look next door. Look at the people that you see each and every day.”