SCHOOLS | May 4, 2021
One of Ms. Maura Hall’s favorite projects to work on with her kindergarteners each year is a quilt for Black History Month. Each student is required to research a Black hero and show what they’ve learned by drawing a portrait of or symbol relating to that person on a piece of felt.
Just as the pieces are combined to make the finished project, Ms. Hall sees her career as the summation of the relationships she has forged with her students and families.
When she does the math, she estimates that she’s educated approximately 1,000 CPS students during her more than 30-year career with the district. She became a teacher because her mother and grandmother were both CPS teachers, and they made it seem like a “glamorous” profession. A Beverly resident, she’s hopped between a few schools in the area—first, Esmond, then Mount Greenwood, then Barnard, and finally to Vanderpoel Humanities Academy, where she’s taught kindergarten since 2006.
“The constant that’s always been at Vanderpoel is that we have phenomenal families and students,” she said. “That has remained true since the day I walked in here. I think the teachers are really invested in Vanderpoel because it’s like this hidden gem in Beverly.”
Since her first few years of teaching, Ms. Hall has relied on partnerships with her families to refine her instruction and develop her priorities. She remembers a situation from the beginning of her career when a parent was concerned about students who were struggling to balance the amount of homework she was assigning with sports and other extracurricular activities.
“I pride myself on self-reflection to evaluate not only my students’ abilities, but also my own abilities and being okay with tweaking things as needed,” she said. “As I got older and my two sons started playing hockey, there was a moment when they were doing homework in the car with the dome light on that I saw exactly what that parent meant.”
At times, her parents have also helped her embellish her lessons. One of her parents was an international pilot who the class would “live vicariously” through wherever he was traveling by exploring the culture of that country. This year, she engaged parents through a virtual Christmas assembly, complete with costumes, songs, and even a virtual trip to the North Pole.
Ms. Hall also has help teaching this year: Marcus, a Vanderpoel alumnus, current Daley College student, and a part of the Men of Color in Education initiative.
“My students think Marcus is just the cutest and smartest and nicest kid. They don’t realize that he’s not a fellow kindergartener,” she said. “He is truly exceptional, and we’re so proud that we could mentor him.”
Marcus’ time with Ms. Hall and her students helped him discover his passion for education—soon, he’ll transfer to the University of Illinois at Chicago to pursue a major in primary education. His success is one of Ms. Hall’s final accomplishments within the district— as is successfully having the daughter of her principal, Ms. Kia Banks, in her class.
“How many people have the privilege of having an educational leader place that much trust in you as a teacher? It was awesome to see my principal as a parent,” she said. “I told her that she has to stay in her lane and I have to stay in mine, but we also have to work together.”
Principal Banks and Marcus are just two of the many individuals in Ms. Hall’s 34 years of teaching who will remember her as someone who cultivates a love of learning in her students unlike anyone else. This comes from a series of values that she hopes other educators can learn from.
“You need to enjoy your students and get to know each of them so you can bring creativity to the learning environment,” she said. “That will hold your students’ interest and will also hold your own interest. But, above all else, you need to love what you do.”
Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! Looking for a way to celebrate your favorite teacher? Check out the district’s digital media toolkit.