Democratic Classrooms PLC

Democratic Classrooms PLC

These educators inform and develop training, guidance, and resources for principals and classroom teachers to help all schools build inclusive, democratic, and collaborative school cultures where every student, teacher, and parent feels a sense of belonging and ownership.

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Catherine Aguilar-Sandoval
North-Grand High School

My pronouns are she/her. The 2021-2022 school year is my 9th year teaching, all at North-Grand High School. I have taught a variety of Social Science classes, with Civics and Latin American History being my areas of expertise. As a first generation Latina, it is important to me that my students understand not only how our world came to be, but also the power they hold to be changemakers.

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Ditra Backup
Lincoln Park High School

My pronouns are she/her/hers. After receiving my MSEd from Northwestern, I started my career at Mayer elementary, and am currently teaching US History and Psychology at Lincoln Park High School. I believe that building an inclusive, responsive, and student-centered classroom community is crucial to facilitating students' engagement with the world around them. I am excited to collaborate with this group of educators to develop my teaching to better serve and empower students!

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Rebecca Coulter
Roosevelt High School

My name is Rebecca Coulter and I use pronouns she, her, hers. I teach Civics and U.S. History at Roosevelt high school. I have been a teacher for 20 years and have taught abroad in Costa Rica, Mexico, Argentina, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar. I am extremely passionate about and focused on developing my teaching in regards to SEL, restorative practices, and anti-racist teaching.

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Ani Daniel Diaz
Ruiz Elementary School

Ani (she/her/hers) is a second generation bilingual latina, passionate educator of children in the intermediate and middle grades, has 5+ years of experience teaching each of grade four self-contained, grade five, and 6th grade mathematics. She has degrees in Spanish, Latin American Studies, Curriculum and Instructions, and is a Math Specialist. She strives to improve her practice, empower and inspire her students, and continuously grow as a teacher, parent, and human being. Mrs Diaz is an avid problem solver and is always looking for ways to do what is best for all.

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Melody Farmer
Alex Haley School

I'm on a constant journey of self-improvement for my mind, body, and spirit! I want everyone to have this feeling and find joy and peace in community.

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Jenna Fisher
Skinner West School

Jenna Fisher joined Skinner West School in 2009 and has taught all grades from Kindergarten to Third. She is currently the school’s SEL teacher. Jenna believes every human being has a unique purpose and is capable of doing extraordinary things in the world. She facilitates creative learning opportunities in which students think, connect, lead and share.

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Larue Fitch
Scott Joplin School

For seven years, Larue Fitch worked with students in grades 4 through 8, teaching science, literacy and math. Leadership opportunities began to open up within his school and he became the Science Lead Teacher. Seven years later, he entered the role of Assistant Principal and Resident Principal in Chicago Public Schools. Currently, Mr. Fitch is serving as an educator for Chicago Public Schools.

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Stephanie Gates
Lionel Hampton Fine Arts School

Stephanie Gates is a 30-year veteran educator with Chicago Public Schools. Though she has spent most of her career in middle school, she has also been a K-8 writing teacher and librarian, and mentor teacher to first and second year teachers. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, writing, getting lost in a good book or trying new things.

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Samantha Godden-Chmielowicz
Schurz High School

My pronouns are she/her. I have taught in Chicago Public Schools for 27 years, and am a National Board Certified Teacher in World Languages Other than English. I currently teach French & Civics at Schurz, and I am the parent of 1 CPS graduate and 1 current CPS student. I believe it is important to be a life-long learner, and to support my students in their educational and life journeys.

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David Jablonsky
Multicultural Arts High School

David Jablonsky (he/him/él) is a Social Studies and ESL teacher at Multicultural Arts High School. He serves as the school's Social Studies Department Chair, Student Voice Committee Facilitator, and Lead Peer Conference Coordinator. He is looking foward to building on his work around culturally responsive teaching and uplifting student voices by growing democratic classrooms that are inclusive, collaborative, and reflective.

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Cynthia Jones
Williams Prep at DuSable

I am a product of Chicago Public Schools. I have 25 years of teaching experience having taught every grade level beginning with preschool. Currently teaching at Williams Prep at DuSable.

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Lauren Kirshenbaum
Walt Disney Magnet School

My name is Lauren Kirshenbaum (she/her/hers) and this is my second year teaching in CPS! I graduated from Indiana University with a degree in both Elementary Education and Special Education in 2020, and am beyond grateful to start my teaching career at Walt Disney Magnet School. As a 3rd Grade Inclusion teacher, I am passionate about creating and fostering a brave space for my little leaders!

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Kelly Lane
Shoesmith Elementary

Kelly Lane (she/her) is a fourth grade math teacher at Shoesmith Elementary in Hyde Park. It is her privilege to begin her twelfth year teaching in CPS. Prior to teaching at Shoesmith, Kelly taught at Pershing Magnet School in Bronzeville. She enjoys teaching intermediate grades because it is the time when children begin to establish their own identity, foster independence, and grow into young adults.

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Kristyn Lawrence
Joseph Kellman Elementary School

My pronouns are she/her/hers. I have been working for Chicago Public Schools for 25 years! My experience includes classroom teacher, literacy coach and area reading coach. Currently I teach 3rd Grade at Joseph Kellman Elementary School in Network 5.

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Mitchel Meighen
Suder Montessori Magnet School

Mitchel Meighen (he/him) is an award-winning educator and presenter and has been recognized for his passion for student engagement and non-traditional teaching philosophies. Mitchel has been recognized as an Apple Distinguished Educator, a program designed by Apple to recognize K-12 and higher-education pioneers who are looking to change the world and use Apple technologies to transform teaching and learning.

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Dr. Maria Ovalle
Curie Metro High School

My pronouns are she/her/hers. I earned a B.S. in Special Education from NIU, a M.A. in Education Administration from St. Xavier University, and an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Loyola University. I have been an educator in CPS for twenty-five years. Though I have held a variety of positions, both in the school setting and as an administrator, I choose to teach. I empower my students to advocate for themselves, to build on their strengths, and to have their voices heard.

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Lorraine Platek
Little Village Academy

I am a career changer who started teaching in 2002. I am renewing my national board certification this year in EA Math. I'm entering my 8th year as the 7/8 math & algebra teacher at Little Village Academy. I'm looking forward to a year of building a democratic classroom.

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Donna Puccini
Edgebrook Elementary

My pronouns are she/her/hers. I have been teaching at the Elementary school level for twenty years. Prior to that, I worked with immigrant teenagers at the Jewish Community Centers of Chicago. My practice emphasizes promoting empathy and inclusivity through stories, and reflecting on the ways they serve as Mirrors and Windows. My students are exploring history through multiple perspectives.

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Eric Reed
James Ward Elementary

My pronouns are he/him/his. I have been teaching social studies and civics for over 10 years and have been working at James Ward Elementary for the past 6 years. I have a BA in Psychology from DePaul University, an M.ed from DePaul University and an additional M.ed from ASU. I believe that all students have the ability to use their voice and to engage in civic discourse. I aim to provide all students with a safe space to learn, grow, and to share their own experiences.

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Liz Robbins
Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep

My pronouns are she/her/hers. I have been with Chicago Public schools and as high school social science teacher for 18 years. Currently I teach Dual Credit US History at Brooks!

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Kenia Rodriguez
Orr Academy High School

Hello all! This is Ms. Rodriguez from Orr Academy H.S. A first generation Latina, born and raised in Chicago. I'm a proud CPS, DePaul, and Northwestern alumna. I love teaching history and enabling students to use their voice. I am a firm believer that knowledge is power.

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Luis Rodriguez
Durkin Park School

My pronouns are he/him/his and I'm a Bilingual Teacher at Durkin Park School. I've been at CPS for 19 years, am a Children's Books Author, and a Quest Center Course Creator. I prioritize SEL, Mindfulness, Growth Mindset Habits, and Publishing.

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Elizabeth (Betty) Scalia
Oscar F Mayer School

Betty Scalia is a Language and Literature teacher at Mayer School. She is constantly working on getting better at giving students voice and choice. She works to empower students to take action in their lives, learning, and communities.

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Kenya Sherrill
Simeon Career Academy

My pronouns are she/her/hers. I am a social science teacher at Simeon Career Academy and have been teaching there for 6 years. Currently, I am pursuing a Masters in Education with a focus in Curriculum and Instruction. I value empowering youth to advocate for themselves and for their communities. I also value this work within myself. I believe that by doing so, we can continue to push the needle for communities of color and make our way to a more equitable and just society.

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Haley Zaffar
Ogden International School

Haley is a passionate educator of students from middle school to high school at The Ogden International School of Chicago. She enjoys spending time with her family and being outside. She also enjoys reading and learning about other cultures and histories.