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Take Five with Karime Asaf: Chief of Language and Cultural Education

22 September 2023

Chief Asaf wants to enhance multilingual pathways, better support instruction for our English Learners, and shift our vision to embrace multicultural education.

Karime Asaf's headshot

Take Five is a series that highlights some of the many members of the CPS community who are going above and beyond for our schools. If you know someone who is making a difference, nominate them to be featured here

This week, we’re excited to spotlight our District’s new Chief of Language and Cultural Education, Karime Asaf. Karime moved into this position this school year after over 30 years of experience as a bilingual teacher, bilingual special education teacher, assistant principal, principal, deputy network chief, and network chief.

Before working in the District, Karime was a CPS student: she learned her first words of English at Senn High School after moving to the United States from Colombia when she was 16 years old. Karime sees her personal experience as having shaped her into someone who is resilient, adaptable, and wise. 

Throughout the years, Karime’s conviction and commitment to education has not wavered, largely because she believes so deeply in public education and CPS’ mission to educate and nurture ALL students.

What inspired you to pursue leadership roles in education?

Educational leadership found me. Mentors recognized leadership potential in me; because they trusted and believed in me, they empowered me to take on additional projects and more and more responsibility.

What is one lesson you’ve learned during your career?

I have learned how important it is to treat people with dignity. Even during difficult conversations, it’s important to me to stay respectful. As a learning leader, my role is to invite people in, open space for collaboration and innovation, and inspire their creativity and imagination. This sounds mushy, but I believe that there’s genius in everyone.

What are your goals as Chief of Language and Cultural Education?

I want to enhance multilingual pathways, better support instruction for our English Learners, and shift our vision to embrace multicultural education—there are 154 languages spoken throughout our schools! I also want to center equity in all we do and ensure our students on the South and West Sides have access to robust language programming.

What is something people might not know about you?

My first dream was to become a National Geographic photographer.

What do you like doing outside of work?

I have a new baby granddaughter and my responsibility on weekends is to take photos of her making funny faces. I have curated a very nice collection. I also love to take solo trips; traveling is important to me because it keeps me humble and grounded while I merge in authentic cultural and linguistic experiences. Kenya and Madagascar are my favorite countries to visit.

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