SCHOOLS | May 4, 2022
By Ms. Louisa Economou, Primary Science Lab Teacher at Galileo Scholastic Academy
When I was in seventh and eighth grade at Peirce Elementary School on Chicago’s North Side, I routinely took advantage of opportunities to help out with the kindergarten classes. I fell in love with working with students, and, since then, I’ve always wanted to be in the classroom. I’ve been the primary science lab teacher at Galileo Scholastic Academy since 1994.
I love my job because of the flexibility it comes with. I get to do all of the fun, hands-on activities that other teachers may not have time to do, tailoring my instruction directly to my students’ interests. And, since I know the curriculum so well, I’m able to ensure that they build on the skills that they develop in my class year after year.
For example, students have been learning about snails and exploring why some types of snails are more likely to survive than others. Then, they also looked at beetles and earthworms to broaden their understanding of what animals need to live. I always tie our hands-on projects to their other classes. I love when they come to my room and exclaim: “Hey, we’re learning about that upstairs!”
I’ve developed so many memories at Galileo. We hatch chicks every year, and, one year, one of the chicks went missing. I could not figure out how that happened and looked everywhere for it. Then, the next day, one of my students shared that she had put the chick in her bookbag because she wanted to take it home.
I also love being involved in our school’s science fair. Every year, there is always a project that amazes me and makes me feel like I’m doing my job well.
A colleague called me the “mom” of Galileo one year, and I think that’s reflected in the relationships I build within my school community. Students know that they can always come to me for help and that I will always try to answer their questions. Parents know I will always answer their emails and be available to talk with them directly.
And my colleagues see me as the person who is one of the first people to enter and one of the last people to leave. I do all the laminating. I coordinate the yearbook. I teach engineering. I’m on many committees.
There are so many things to do at Galileo that sometimes I don’t even want to go home. My place will always be in the classroom because I am so invested in my students’ success.
I want them to be critical thinkers who use data and evidence to draw conclusions, rather than just accept everything they hear. I want them to see how facts are different from opinions. And I want them to know how to research to find answers to their questions.
I always start every class by saying: “Good morning, scientists.” Now, whenever I walk into a classroom, my entire class exclaims: “Good morning, Ms. Economou,” in unison. I think that sums up the relationship that I have with my students better than anything else. The bonds we have built center on respect.
How did 30 years go by just like that? I don’t know how they went by so quickly. But I do know that my school and my classroom will continue to be the place where I want to be. It is amazing to watch Galileo blossom in such wonderful and supportive ways.
Ms. Economou says the best advice she got from a fellow teacher was that it is okay to have an off day as a teacher. She uses that advice to always find a way to rebound and plans on teaching at Galileo for at least several more years.