Highlighting Women’s History Month with the Second-Grade Team at Melody STEM Elementary School
08 March 2023
Mrs. Durr and Mrs. Rivera focus on building self-confidence among students, especially their young women.
It’s hard to believe that this is Mrs. Tammie Durr and Mrs. Anabel Rivera’s first year working together in their second-grade classroom. They clicked instantly. Mrs. Rivera says that she brings the creativity and Mrs. Durr brings the ideas, and their skill sets complement each other to create a welcoming classroom environment. Mrs. Durr describes coming to work as leaving home and going to a second home because of the friendly atmosphere and her supportive colleagues.
They arrived at Melody STEM Elementary School within several years of each other. Mrs. Rivera joined the Melody community in 2014 as a substitute, working her way toward her current role as a special education classroom assistant. Mrs. Durr has been teaching in CPS since the 1990s. She’s always enjoyed being around children, smiling as she recounts the story of her husband knowing she was right for him because children would always fly out of her two-door car whenever she opened it. She became a second-grade teacher in 2018.
One similarity that Mrs. Durr and Mrs. Rivera share is the presence of strong women who pushed them toward achieving success. Their mothers are the first people who come to mind. Mrs. Durr describes her mother as very career-oriented, and she was always amazed by how she could “do it all.” With two kids of her own, she marvels over how her mother was able to care for six children and make it look easy. The quality that Mrs. Rivera will always remember about her mother is her encouragement. Her mom always wanted her and her brother to go to school so they could build a better life for themselves, which she now tries to instill in her own children.
Since March is Women’s History Month, they’ve taken some time to reflect on what their stories mean on a larger scale.
“My mom did not have much growing up, and it shows us how women have been able to overcome challenges to open doors for us today,” said Mrs. Rivera. “We’re still not able to have all of the same opportunities as men, but we have come a long way, and we’re getting there.”
Both Mrs. Rivera and Mrs. Durr are doing their part to inspire the next generation of leaders in their second-grade classroom. Mrs. Durr says that process starts by being intentional about cultivating relationships with students. From the moment students enter their classroom in the morning, they go the extra mile to show students that they are cared about, whether that’s through listening to a student share a story about their weekend or hyping them up for an upcoming assessment.
Mrs. Durr believes that her classroom has experienced impressive academic growth because of strategies such as classroom meetings and peace circles that engage students and allow them to play an active role in restoratively responding to any issues that take place. This engagement acts as the foundation for students to take on more rigorous academic assignments.
On top of this approach, Mrs. Rivera explains that there is also a focus on building self-confidence, specifically among female students. She notes that if a student is feeling insecure about their appearance, she always tries to show them that they are beautiful in their own way.
Earlier this school year, their class read Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle, and they were blown away by how their female students connected to the book’s themes of injustice and gender inequality. They had a powerful classroom discussion about how everyone should have the opportunity to pursue what they are passionate about, and their female students left with more confidence to know that they can do whatever they set their minds to.
It has been a phenomenal school year so far in Room #205, and it would not be possible without Mrs. Rivera and Mrs. Durr’s strong relationship with each other and their passion for serving students.
“As an educator, you are contributing to the future,” said Mrs. Durr. “It’s amazing to wake up every day and have this amazing purpose in your life to know that your students are going to look back and think about the experiences they shared with you and how those impacted and influenced them.”
23 February 2024
Take Five with Chrishan David, English and AP African American Studies Teacher at Gwendolyn Brooks High School
Two years ago, Ms. David became one of 60 educators to teach the AP African American Studies Pilot 1 program, offering students a rich introduction to African American history and culture.