Whether or not they realize it, hundreds of CPS students are seeing their curriculum influenced by the Ivy League.
This is the result of the Yale National Initiative – an opportunity that pairs K-12 teachers with university faculty for a semester focus on a topic that is guided by teacher needs. Last month, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett met with the Yale Fellows representing Chicago for the 2013-2014 School Year. The teachers discussed the benefits of their experience and presented examples of the dynamic curriculum units that were created during their Yale summer intensive.
“As teachers, we are always grateful to anyone willing to listen to stories of the amazingness of our students and what learning opportunities have made them possible,” said CPS Yale Fellow Molly Myers in an e-mail to CEO Byrd-Bennett. “We were especially grateful that you understood the power of our experience and its potential to impact more Chicago Public School teachers.”
The high-interest curriculum units created by Yale Fellows teach students to think like scientists, mathematicians and historians. They align not only with Common Core State Standards, but with the REACH criteria used to improve teacher evaluation and performance.
“The unit I created tells the story of Chicago public housing and the tumultuous path of social policy through real people’s lives,” said Yale Fellow Sarah Weidman.
A Language Arts instructor at National Teachers Academy, Weidman took her lesson directly to the classroom, presenting her students with a series of readings and guiding them through field research, historical reenactments and first-hand accounts from within their community.
“This unit gave my students the experience of exploring their identity and community while discussing the root of public housing in Chicago and how it affects them,” she said.
For Andrew Martinek, a veteran teacher from Gage Park High School, the Yale National Initiative has been the finest learning experience of his career.
“Teachers are treated like professionals in every respect,” he said. “Fellows are presented with access to content resources, including Yale’s staff and library, and are considered to be the pedagogical experts in the room, each incorporating the collaborative discussions and resources in a manner that best suits their own students. It is simply the best professional development I have ever experienced.”
To help bring their experience to other CPS teachers, the 2013-14 Yale Fellows recently held a professional development seminar for over 60 of their colleagues. They also plan to share the details of their Yale experience with the Chicago Board of Education at an upcoming Board meeting.
“My students likely do not know how they benefit from my work at Yale, but their classroom experience and the units I teach have all been deeply influenced by the Yale National Initiative,” said Molly Myers, who serves as the Social Studies Chair at Lindblom Math and Science Academy. “Yale units are designed to ask more of the student. They reflect the challenge of our time at Yale and the deep belief that students are capable of learning at a higher level if the information is appropriately scaffolded and made meaningful to their lives.”