PEORIA, ILL.—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten was in Peoria, Ill.—the first stop on the AFT’s Making a Difference Every Day tour—to focus on the efforts of Peoria’s education community to improve teaching and learning and strengthen neighborhoods through community involvement.
“It’s fantastic to see the union, school district and other stakeholders working together to support teachers’ efforts to improve teaching and learning,” said Weingarten. “Peoria understands that overcoming the challenges facing our public schools and communities requires collaboration. Teamwork works. At a time when some conservative governors are using budget crises to vilify teachers, we see the complete opposite in Peoria.”
Weingarten will be visiting communities across the United States in the months ahead to focus on the positive results of collaborative efforts by educators, other public employees, administrators and community groups, and to highlight the work of teachers, social workers, paraprofessionals and others who are making a difference every day in students’ lives.
Weingarten, along with Peoria Federation of Teachers President Bob Darling and Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery, started the day at Glen Oak Community Learning Center, an elementary school that provides expanded services to schoolchildren and the surrounding neighborhood, including after-school arts and academic programs run by the school’s teachers and community partners. Weingarten said that schools like Glen Oak and the specialized programs they have developed are making a difference every day, both because of a strong link between school and community, and because these resources are helping to level the playing field for kids by addressing the whole child.
The group also visited Manual High School, where labor and management have negotiated a three-year memorandum of understanding to restructure the school. They have extended time, and use it to strengthen teaching and learning, enhance instruction, and create a special focus on supporting and developing new teachers as a pathway to higher student achievement. Weingarten met with teacher mentors and inductees at the school, and learned about the healthcare facility and other wraparound services located there.
“Pairing new teachers with experienced peers is key to laying the foundation for a successful teaching career. Manual’s mentoring program helps support, develop and keep the best teachers in the classroom,” Weingarten said.
Weingarten also met with Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis, the Mayor’s Education Liaison Bill Collier, Peoria Public Schools Superintendent Grenita Lathan and other members of Peoria’s education community. The group discussed the importance of collaboration for better schools, and new ways that stakeholders can work together to implement meaningful public school reforms.
“Peoria shows that when you build trust, and when collaboration trumps conflict, our children win,” said Weingarten.
Making a Difference Every Day is the AFT’s effort to spotlight educators and other public employees whose work has a positive impact on the students and communities they serve. Weingarten said that by bringing everyone to the table to improve public schools, Peoria is a shining example of how to make a difference in the lives of schoolchildren.