April is Volunteer Appreciation Month, and volunteers have always been at the heart of WITS’ efforts to develop life-long readers. In 1991, WITS founders, Joanne Alter and Marion Stone, felt they had a responsibility to give back to their community. Seeking ways to volunteer their time, Alter and Stone began partnering with a teacher at Byrd Academy, where they quickly became fixtures in the classroom and a literacy support for students. They saw firsthand the positive effects created by the simple act of reading aloud with students. WITS was then founded by recruiting caring mentors to donate their time in order to cultivate the love of reading in Chicago Public Schools. Over the past 27 years, volunteers have been integral to WITS’ ability to impact thousands of students.
The Student & Mentor Spotlight this month features two partners who enjoy reading stories together in the Talcott Elementary School library. Bob Chimis is a long-time WITS volunteer who has brought his enthusiasm to the WITS Kindergarten and Summer Early Childhood program for the last several years. Julian is an energetic kindergartner who enjoys reading stories and spending time with his mentor Bob. Continue reading Student & Mentor Spotlight: Bob and Julian→
By Shawn Bush, WITS Program Coordinator and Co-Editor of WITS Newsletter/Blog
Tai Basurto is the principal of southwest Chicago public school John C. Dore Elementary, Rochelle Lee Teacher Awardee and Study Group Leader, and a doctoral student finishing her capstone for the Urban Leadership program at University of Illinois – Chicago (UIC). In this piece, Tai shares how her teaching experience and passion for social justice inform how she leads and why she believes neighborhood schools are much more than just institutions of learning.
Since 1991, Working in the Schools (WITS) has connected students with literacy mentors in public elementary schools across Chicago. What began as a caring volunteer opportunity for the founders of WITS, Marion Stone and Joanne Alter, has evolved into the most influential literacy service provider to elementary aged students in Chicago. Now in 2018, WITS plays an integral role in building positive self-identity and critical literacy skills for more than 3,000 students in WITS programs each school year.
“We always knew our programs created positive attitudes toward reading in our students. But in 2012, it became apparent that our programs were affecting reading level growth,” said Brenda Langstraat, Chief Executive Officer of WITS since 2012. “It was then that we identified the two outcomes of WITS programs to be students’ reading level growth and attitudes towards reading.”
February is an entire month dedicated to love and hearts galore. At WITS, there’s no one we love more than our students and their mentors. In the Student/Mentor Spotlight, we feature the people who make our programs great, like Giovanni and Mark from our Mid-Day Mentoring program at Perez Elementary. Giovanni is in the 3rd grade, and Mark works at Northern Trust, a WITS corporate partner. Read on to learn more about the things they love, like books and pizza toppings.
Interview and Edited by Shawn Bush, Co-Editor of Blog/Newsletter
Gundry Rowe is a librarian at Walt Disney Magnet Elementary School. This past year, CPS librarians were given the opportunity to apply for the Rochelle Lee Teacher Award Program (RLTA)for the first time. Gundry is a 2017-2018 individual awardee and is one of the first librarians to participate in the RLTA program. Below, Gundry shares her path into library science, delivering a powerful message of the importance of school and public libraries, continued professional development, and student choice.
Every October, WITS programs begin as mentors and students meet each other to read together for the first time. Through our WITS Kindergarten, Mid-Day Mentoring, Workplace Mentoring, and WITS on the Weekend programs, we get to witness K-8th grade students from schools across Chicago build relationships with their mentor(s), sparking that curiosity for learning and developing lifelong literacy skills through positive reading experiences. Our program staff have the privilege of working directly with our committed volunteers and incredible students, so we asked them:
What are you most looking forward to regarding student programs in the 2017-2018 school year?
WITS’ Eric Coleman sat down with Rosalba Granados to give us the inside scoop about her experience being a Early Childhood Summer Program Lead Teacher and Rochelle Lee Teacher Awardee. Ms. Granados has been the WITS lead teacher for the summer program for the last 3 years and teaches the Dual-Language Kindergarten program at Talcott Elementary. The WITS Early Childhood Summer Program occurs 4 days a week during July and August and includes fairy tale read-alouds, practicing phonological awareness, and participating in robust reading, writing, sound, and play centers.
WITS on the Weekend students visited Navy Pier to ride the new Centennial Wheel. Check out pictures from the field trip below. Special thanks to Navy Pier for hosting us and to Clif Bar for keeping our students fueled.