Natalie N., West Side

nneris-edited.jpg“The only difference between me and everyone else on my block [growing up] is that I went to class every day. That’s it. We have the same lived experiences, I just went to class every day,” says Natalie N. 

A former Chicago Public School student herself, Natalie has over a decade of teaching experience in Chicago and is now Chicago International Charter School’s Chief of Academic Accountability. As you might guess, Natalie knows a lot about Chicago education and is deeply invested in the education of her two daughters, who currently attend 5th and 3rd grade at Nathan Hale Elementary School.

When Natalie first started the school search process with her then-husband, she was disappointed to find that her neighborhood traditional school wasn’t delivering the outcomes she was hoping for. Natalie believes that neighborhood schools are important—that students gain from living and learning in the same place and that neighborhood schools build community. 

As an alternative, Natalie and her former husband placed their daughters into a private school. Natalie noticed that the private school education wasn’t better quality than many public schools, and in fact was behind in some areas. At that time, Natalie and her husband were separating, giving her daughters access to a new neighborhood school—Nathan Hale Elementary School, where her daughters now thrive.

Natalie pushes her daughters to achieve in school so that they can be eligible for a selective enrollment high school. Although sometimes she feels guilty for putting pressure on her kids, she knows first-hand that the right high school can open doors to the right college which can open doors into a better career.

As both a parent, and someone whose career focuses on student outcomes, Natalie understands the importance of standardized testing, but also believes that good teaching can achieve great results. She knows that high stakes tests like PARCC and NWEA have a role to play, but also places emphasis on instructional models, and quality teaching skills.

For her own daughters, and for the many students that Natalie’s work impacts she is a strong advocate for more equitable funding in schools and to increase support given to teachers so that their teaching can make a real difference.