From Disillusionment to Rejuvenation: Bridging the Gap with Self-Care

You go out of your way to give that one kid in your homeroom an individualized behavior tracker and a pep talk every morning to set him up for success. You positively narrate, give wait time, and strive for 100%. You feel like things are finally starting to gel in your room.

All of a sudden, the days are shorter and darker, and routines you thought were solid in your classroom start to feel like they just aren’t working the way they were in October. Read more

Special EDition: DL Professional Learning Continues

The AUSL DL Professional Development Series is Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 2.49.40 PMstill going strong. Session topics this year have included Behavior Management, IEP Development, and Universal Design for Learning. In February, educators from 18 AUSL schools explored the 5 W’s of Progress Monitoring. Progress monitoring is a standardized method of formative assessment that tells us how well students are responding to instruction. The data collected allows practitioners to estimate rates of improvement over time, compare the efficacy of different forms of instruction, and determine when an instructional change is needed. At this session, participants learned how to establish a baseline, set goals, and create a plan to monitor individual student progress. Additionally, several useful sites to guide this process were shared, including the following:

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Special EDition: Ten Ways to Practice Self-Care


So PARCC testing is in full swing, and you’ve started daydreaming about Spring break. You may feel drained, and you’re wondering how you can possibly stay motivated for the next few weeks. You know your kiddos deserve high-quality instruction, but you’re JUST. SO. TIRED.

We’re often told that we must take care of ourselves in order to care for the children in front of us. We’re told to get plenty of rest, exercise three to four times a week and drink eight glasses of water every day. If you follow these three simple steps, everything will be okay, right? I’m sure these three steps help, but what are some other ways you can unwind and revitalize on the weekends leading up to and during Spring break?

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Special EDition: Spotlight on AUSL Case Managers

CMEvery school has that special person who knows everything there is to know about the development and implementation of IEPs.  This person interprets assessment results, coordinates referrals, facilitates IEP meetings, advocates for the needs of diverse learners and their families, and the list goes on and on. That special person is your case manager.  This job is incredibly important in ensuring that all students have access to a quality, individualized education. As a former case manager, I am familiar with the challenges and joys of this work and I recognize the unique skills that effective case managers must possess.  Because of this, I dedicate this month’s post to all AUSL Case Managers.  Let’s learn a little bit more about these special individuals who keep us on our toes!

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Special EDition: Reigniting the Co-Teaching Flame

bandCo-teaching involves two adults paired together for a significant period of time to share the responsibilities of educating and raising children. Perhaps this is why co-teaching is often referred to as a “professional marriage”. This arrangement allows general and special educators a unique opportunity to blend their expertise to create a powerful partnership. But the honeymoon doesn’t last forever and now that it’s November, many co-teachers have already lost that loving feeling and are wondering…how can we reignite the co-teaching flame? Don’t file for divorce yet! You and your co-teaching partner can get back on track by revisiting a few of the following co-teaching basics:

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Get to Know Our New Maraldi Winners

Our AUSL schools are uniquely positioned in Chicago and even nationally due to our amazing teachers.  What a great way to end the school year by celebrating the commitment to transformational teaching in our classrooms. We have identified a new group of Madeleine Maraldi Fellows to join the ranks of distinguished AUSL teachers who embody the spirit of the award – proven excellence in teaching, leadership beyond the walls of one’s classroom, and a commitment to the mission and vision of AUSL.

Later this month, the awardees will travel to the Koldyke Ranch in New Mexico for three days. Their insights as Maraldi Fellows will help shape the vision of AUSL teacher leadership and AUSL’s Teacher Development Team.  

Meet and learn about the 2014 Maraldi Awardees in their own words and check out the surprise visits to their classrooms!


Keviyona Ray

Grades 7-8, Johnson School of Excellence

“I want to develop and expand my leadership skills. Learning new and invigorating ways to lead and challenge others will allow me to become a better leader in my school and within the AUSL Network.  I am energized by the thought of working alongside other fellows who have the same vision as I have; which is all children can learn and become productive citizens when given the tools to succeed.

I believe that being in the Fellow program will allow me the opportunity to share my ideas and learn from other teacher leaders. In order to accomplish my goals I want to learn to balance my priorities as a teacher and a leader. I know that in order for me to meet the needs of my teachers and my students I need to be able to create an agenda that will better assist me in meeting the needs of everybody.”

DSC00361Christerralyn Brown

Grades 6-8, Dewey School of Excellence

“Like the award’s namesake, Maraldi Fellows are innovative leaders who make the impossible possible through a single-minded focus to set goals for students, not limitations.  I switched careers from speech pathology because I wanted to have a greater impact on students and I knew there were so many opportunities to do so as a special education teacher.

Early on, I realized that no matter how high you set that ceiling, children will always stretch to reach the goal that you set, especially when they love you. My genuine love and respect for who children are and what they can do enables me to help children who have struggled the most change how they see themselves. I specialize in working with the most discouraged students. Through encouragement, rigor, and engagement, I get them to see themselves as every bit the scholar I know they can be. Maraldi Fellows are game changers and they level playing fields. It would be an honor to be considered this kind of educator.”


Brigid Comer

Grade 3, O’ Keeffe School of Excellence

“This year I had the opportunity to come to a new turnaround and be the part of the process of turning around a school for the second time. The staff at my school this year consists of close to twenty first year teachers. This has given me the opportunity to mentor and guide new teachers on their journey. I have truly enjoyed being able to share my experiences, advice and most often collaborate and pool resources to best serve our students.

Having this experience this school year has motivated me to pursue leadership opportunities. I am hoping to use my experience and knowledge of teacher’s needs to plan more professional development that is tailored to the strengths and needs of our staff. In collaboration with a literacy consultant I am working to take her teachings and present it in a more accessible way to first year teachers. Some of the best choices I have made as an educator have come under the advice of mentor teachers and coaches; people who had done the hard work themselves. I desire to take on that role someday.”


Vanessa Garcia

Grades 9-12, Solorio Academy High School

“When I think of my goals I think of everything I have to accomplish or fulfill to the fullest. Being part of the critical thinking PLC for the past two years has opened my eyes to the changes we can make to our curriculum in order to maintain cohesiveness with other subjects in our schools. The more united we are as a department and as a school the more we can learn. Furthermore, by promoting positive change within our school we are preparing and guiding our students toward college and future professions. Another one of my goals is to become a better mentor.

This was also the first year I had the pleasure of mentoring and this is something I never saw coming. Even though I was hesitant at first, I did not know I was going to learn so many things that I can now apply to my teaching. The fact that I had the opportunity to guide and help a resident acquire tools that are necessary and fulfilling to teaching has been an amazing experience. I’ve learned so much as an educator and I would love to keep doing it for years to come.”


E.M. Miller

Grades 9 & 11, Chicago Academy High School

“I have been looking for an opportunity within the network like the Maraldi Fellowship. I want to grow as an AUSL network leader. I am dedicated to my school and my network, and I want to take my leadership to the next level. I want to become an agent of change to equalize student opportunity and close the achievement gap within my school, network, the city, and the nation.

I think Chicago Academy High School and the AUSL Network are excellent starting points for affecting that kind of change. I have been a part of many efforts to take CAHS and the AUSL network to new levels of achievement; now I am ready to take a new step as a leader. I believe the year-long fellowship and support afforded by the Madeleine Maraldi Award will help me reach my personal and career goals by providing a supportive cohort of passionate, visionary educators with whom I can forge new ground in network leadership.”


Jamila Leonard

Kindergarten, National Teachers Academy

“As an educator committed to working toward systematic change to ensure that ALL children have the highest quality education, I believe that it is essential that teachers not only present rigorous instruction in their own classroom, but also help lead and develop the capacity of all of those around them.  I would love to expand my leadership capacity by working to develop implementation plans for primary teachers using technology across the network.  I would also like to help facilitate professional development at other school sites through technology Playdate sessions.

I have mentored for two years and with each resident that passes through my classroom I am able to learn and grow as a classroom teacher, coach and collaborative colleague.  Mentoring pushes me to be reflective, enhances my professional capabilities, and allows me to impact not only the 30 students I teach, but also many more to come.  I also think the experience of opening our doors and collectively reflecting on one another’s practice is invaluable.  I strongly feel that understanding what’s going on in classrooms in and outside your own grade level will have a greater impact on student achievement.  I want to work to make all of my team members comfortable with this.  I also want to establish a culture for ongoing professional growth and develop that feels authentic and valuable.”

Amy is AUSL’s Director of Teacher Development. 

May Video Playlist: 5 to Inspire


This month’s playlist is dedicated to our teachers, coaches and administrators who desperately need a lift. You know: something, anything that reminds you of how incredible our profession is and pushes you to return to school tomorrow and run it. So I present to you five clips that should inspire you.

adapted-peFitness for All: Adapted PE @ Solorio

Solorio physical education teacher Matt Erlenbaugh shares this incredible program where juniors and seniors lead students with severe and profound disabilities through adapted activities in physical education.

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Tch of the Week: CAHS Art Teacher Brian Mead

photo 1 (2)School buildings can be hectic and Chicago Academy High School is no exception. When I am seeking a tranquil place, I head to Brian Mead’s art classroom and all the chaos fades away. Student centered creative work is taking place, and the atmosphere makes you want to sit down and find your inner Michelangelo.  

Brian Mead is only in his second year as CAHS’s art instructor, but his impact on his students and the school makes it seem like he has been here so much longer.

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Tch of the Week: Sarah Golz from the Howe School of Excellence

Golz We have a new generation of scientists emerging on the West Side thanks to the amazing work of Sarah Golz. It’s my privilege to tell you about my diligent colleague.

Sarah has an unwavering commitment to educating her students that extends beyond her work inside her classroom. Every day I am inspired by her nurturing and empowering demeanor with students, her passionate and collaborative leadership style with colleagues as well as her caring and inclusive attitude towards families and the school community at large.

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Tch of the Week: Morton School of Excellence’s Lucas Smith

DSC00494In the midst of everything that teachers are expected to do every day, I have mad respect for those educators who still provide a safe space. Not just for their students, but also for weary or lost colleagues to talk and ground their purpose for being a teacher. On our worst days, that stability is transformative.

Lucas Smith has been that stable presence at Morton School of Excellence as a middle school English Language Arts teacher and mentor for the past six years. Let me tell you a little bit about him. Read more