SCHOOLS | October 15, 2021
Principal Maureen Delgado notes that one of the earliest things she remembers as a Clinton Elementary School employee was looking out onto the playground for the first time. Students from different cultural backgrounds playing together wasn’t anything out of the ordinary at a school in one of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods, but it was still memorable—and maybe even a bit magical.
It was a full-circle moment for Principal Delgado, who grew up in the same area of Chicago and attended CPS herself. Her father was a first-generation American who emigrated from the Middle East, which allows her to be a resource to help families that are new to Chicago navigate their new home.
“To have all of our kids back this year and seeing our families more routinely really resonates with me because I feel like a lot of our families remind me of what my own father went through,” she said. “They’re wonderful, appreciative, and do a great job of working with the school.”
Creating a welcoming environment for new students and families has long been a cornerstone of the culture at Clinton. That often starts with language—over 40 are spoken at the school—and partnering with community organizations to support families holistically with everything from counseling to academic support.
Principal Delgado has been at Clinton since 1999, serving as a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher for a number of years, and then transitioning into school leadership. She’s served as principal since 2016.
In many ways, her decisions as a school leader are a continuation of her priorities as an educator. She believed in collaborative learning—allowing students to work together in groups on hands-on projects. Now, the school is working toward implementing personalized learning in all of its classes.
“Even as a teacher, I felt pushed toward taking on leadership roles. I primarily taught English and social studies, and I was asked to do things like be the team leader and run the history fair,” she said. “Because of that, I started wanting to make a change greater than in my classroom.”
To maximize her impact as a school leader, she is constantly reflecting on how to make Clinton a more student-centered space. This year, her values are coming to life in a few different ways.
First, her team is focusing on student voice by finding new ways for students to be part of the school’s decision-making process. Second, they are refining their multi-tiered system of supports model to better meet the needs of all students. And, third, they are prioritizing social-emotional learning in the classroom and through out-of-school time programs and partnerships.
Each of these systems connects back to Principal Delgado’s vision for the qualities that she believes every Clinton student should embody.
“I see our students being critical thinkers and being able to share their opinions with others in a respectful way,” she said. “I also see them as being contributing members of our society, and I see our staff facilitating that growth with students of all ages.”
Another one of Principal Delgado’s earliest memories at Clinton happened at the end of her first school year teaching. She found it extremely hard to say goodbye to her seventh- and eighth-grade students because she had grown so connected to them. Now, more than 20 years later, she’s hired some of her former students and has welcomed a second generation of Clinton students into her school.
With no two days at Clinton the same, she’s learned a lot about thinking on her feet and how to best support students, staff, and families. But, most of all, she’s learned what she is capable of.
“My first year in the principal’s office, I remember questioning if I was doing the right thing. And, since then, I’ve learned that I have to trust my gut and stick by my decisions,” she said. “Being more secure in what I’m choosing to do has helped our staff and families see where we are headed. We want to grow and help our community continue to prosper.”