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Inside CPS

News and Stories from across the District

Learning Flexibility at Ogden International School

21 December 2022

Mr. Zayas has loved the experience of serving students from pre-k all the way through 12th grade. 

Mr. Zayas

Mr. Juan Carlos Zayas is currently working toward his goal of becoming a school principal. He’s enrolled in a doctoral program at National Louis University and is a few months into his year-long principal residency in CPS through the Chicago Leadership Collaborative (CLC). 

If you would have asked him earlier this year for more specifics about his goal, he likely would have told you that he wants to lead a high school. Now, he says that the CLC has made him feel more open-minded. He is a resident principal at Ogden International School, a school that spans from pre-k through 12th grade over three campuses. Mr. Zayas explains that one of his favorite parts of his experience as a resident principal has been the variety of the work. 

“I love the fact that I can go to our Jenner campus that houses pre-k students and get a fist bump or a side hug from those students in the morning,” said Mr. Zayas. “And then, during that same day, I can be in a grade-level meeting discussing what colleges our high school students should consider attending.” 

While Ogden’s three-campus setup has allowed Mr. Zayas to expand his skill set, it’s also been his biggest challenge. For example, he has 22 teachers on his caseload for classroom observations, all spread across the three campuses. This means he has needed to be extremely thoughtful about scheduling his day and managing his time, giving him a glimpse into all the competing priorities that a school leader faces on a day-to-day basis. 

But Mr. Zayas has been more than ready to take on this role. He came to Ogden with more than 20 years of teaching experience spread across jobs in New York City, Miami, and here in Chicago. He’s been part of Chicago Public Schools since 2009, teaching primarily fine arts and technology. His years of experience in the classroom have informed many of his priorities for his time at Ogden. 

“All of my experiences have allowed me to build relational trust with teachers by bringing a sense of relatability to the role,” said Mr. Zayas. “At the same time, it also establishes my credibility and lets everyone know that my asks always connect back to what is best for the students.” 

A collage of student images

Another one of Mr. Zayas’ priorities for his year as a resident principal is to amplify the voices of minority students who are often overlooked. So far this year, he’s used surveys to capture student feedback and ideas. He has then used those surveys to ensure the school’s programming directly reflects his students’ needs. This has led to the creation of a new mentorship program for female middle school students, as well as additional out-of-school time programming for pre-k students. 

“The administration at Ogden has been great in the sense that they’ve given me guidelines but have never acted in a prescriptive way,” said Mr. Zayas. “With these surveys, they never said ‘no’ and always listened to my ideas.” 

Mr. Zayas notes that he doesn’t have any major regrets regarding his career, but, if he could go back in time and offer himself one piece of advice, it would be to start working toward a role in school administration sooner. He’s been very impressed by the work of the District’s Department of Principal Quality this year and thinks they made a fantastic decision by choosing Ogden to be his school for his principal residency. 

He has learned so much so far this year at Ogden, but, through it all, he hasn’t forgotten that he isn’t the only resident principal in CPS this year. He actually created a group chat for all of the residents to connect with each other, and he believes that building those relationships will lead to this year being even more impactful than it already has been. 

“We have about six months left in our residencies, and it’s a lot of pressure as we each keep working through our own leadership development plans,” said Mr. Zayas. “I think leaning on each other or even just picking up the phone or writing an email to show support will go a long way.” 

Mr. Zayas says that every move to a new city has inspired him to be more self-reflective as an educator. You can learn more about the CLC here.

Ogden International School Of Chicago Sign

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