I enjoy being a first grade Dual Language teacher at Congress Park. I love teaching Spanish to students, and being able to share with them an appreciation for others cultures and languages. I feel that I am helping my students to grow up to be a more open-minded citizen that will be able to communicate and empathize with many different types of individuals. Through our biliteracy unit frameworks, students in my class have opportunities to learn about others cultures. For example, during our biliteracy unit on individuals in the past and present, students had the opportunity to learn about the Aztecs and their traditions. Students learned about how the Aztecs celebrated the Day of the Dead. They also visited the Day of the Dead exhibits at the Mexican Fine Arts Museum in Pilsen, and used a molcajete to crush corn like the Aztecs did to make tortillas. In addition, through another biliteracy unit, they learned and had conversations in Spanish about how individuals such as Malala, Ellen Ochoa, Martin Luther King and George Washington Carver made a positive impact to our society. Students are excited to work on their Spanish everyday and are often caught singing songs in Spanish about Paz (Peace) and saying Si Se Puede (yes we can) like Cesar Chavez after saying each of our class affirmations each morning. I love being a part of cultivating a positive, multicultural mindset at D102.

Jessica Parra-Valverde
Congress Park
Years of Experience: 13 years
I started my career in D102 as a long-term substitute, and was able to experience multiple roles before finding my home in fifth grade at Forest Road. I was welcomed with open arms by my teammates and administration.

I have always felt supported from my building principals to try new things and grow myself as an educator. I love being part of a team working in fifth grade and a part of a community of teachers that want to give our students engaging experiences. I have been a co-leader of the IMSA Fusion program for three years, which has helped me experience new teaching practices and build more student relationships through STEM. District administration is supportive of teachers embracing new initiatives and providing an environment in which a strong professional community of learners can flourish. I have had the amazing opportunity to learn more about SWI through online courses and attend a D102 sponsored conference. I stepped out of my comfort zone and co-presented a poster session to other teachers at the conference.

I have been involved in work through the Education Association as an Association Rep, Secretary, and Vice President. These roles have given me the opportunity to hold leadership roles at Forest Road and in the district, the chance to work closely with building and district administration, and the benefit of working with staff across the district.

The best part of District 102 is the sense of community I feel. The students and their families that I have had the privilege of working with over the last seven years will always hold a special place in my heart. Experiencing a student have a "light bulb" moment; beg for one more chapter when we finish on a cliffhanger in a class novel; or watching the students support and encourage each other are what makes teaching the best job!

Stephanie Kean
Forest Road
Years of experience: 8 years
Since stepping into my first education role in 2005, I consider myself very fortunate to have had experiences that span across the age-spectrum of education. Working with students from elementary through high school helps me to appreciate our students’ educational journey from day one to graduation. My various experiences in other districts and age levels have helped shed light on how rewarding it is to work at Park and for District 102. I embrace the challenge to encourage my students to be leaders of the building and of the community. I pride myself on my mindset that each day is an opportunity to make a positive impact on students, parents, and staff connected to District 102.

The Special Education Department at Park Junior High has been a tremendous avenue for creative problem-solving. Working with such amazing teammates challenges me to rise up in order to meet the high expectations that my colleagues set. When my department is faced with a challenge, our collaborative approach of thinking outside the box comes naturally, as if the box never even existed to begin with. I am truly thankful for the team I get to work with each day.

My time at Park and District 102 has been enriched by my connection to programs that are dedicated to helping all students reach their individual potential. Programs such as “Students Achieving Potential” (SAP) and “Jump Start” are aimed at helping “at risk” students meet the social and/or academic expectations of Park Junior High. Over the past two years, I have found a greater reward as a teacher in helping to foster an environment where individual students not only feel their unique needs are supported by staff members but cultivated to gain greater confidence in their education.

One of my favorite experiences at Park occurred during the 2018-2019 7th grade boys basketball season. As a coach and as players, we experienced amazing victories and heartwrenching losses, but records aside, the time I was most proud of my players was when we had our “buddy practices” with the Mighty Patriots team. On three separate occasions, joint practices were held with the Mighty Patriots in an effort to encourage my team to have a positive impact on others. My players ran drills and facilitated the practice with the Mighty Patriot players. It was an emotional experience to see the mutually fulfilling impact on players and coaches from both teams. I want to say a special thank you for the Mighty Patriots coaches, Christy Schwartz and Geri Pasieka, for allowing me to set up the buddy practices.

Robert Regan
Park Junior High School
Years of experience: 6+