On November 7, Illinois State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen Ayala visited School District 45 and toured Jefferson Middle School and the Early Childhood Center.
Dr. Ayala was accompanied by Ms. Irma Snopek, Policy and Communication Officer for the Illinois State Board of Education. School District 45 Superintendent Dr. Tony Palmisano greeted the two and escorted them as they visited the two schools.
Jefferson Middle School Principal Raúl Gastón and several Jefferson students from 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, greeted Dr. Ayala.
Each student greeted Dr. Ayala and presented small gifts to her as they shook hands.
The students presented Dr. Ayala with a “Crosstown Classic” scarf featuring the names of all District 45 Schools.
The state superintendent immediately smiled and put the scarf around her neck. “What do you think?” said Dr. Ayala. “It looks good,” the students said.
Dr. Ayala seemed genuinely impressed by the students and the warm welcome she received. She addressed the students, saying, “I have not met a welcoming committee like this in any of the schools I have visited, and I have visited a lot of schools.”
Legend Alka, a 7th grader, welcomed Dr. Ayala and presented her with a box of chocolates.
“I told Dr. Ayala I was involved in Motors Club,” said Alka. “I explained to her what it was and what we do in the Club.”
Alka also told Dr. Ayala that he was a saxophonist. “She told me that she loves the saxophone, and was in the school band when she was a young student.”
“She seemed like a kind lady,” Alka said. “I feel like it was a good experience to meet a role model, inspiring me to do better in school so that I can reach her level.”
Hector Garcia, an 8th grader, was also part of the students who welcomed Dr. Ayala.
“I presented the superintendent with a Starbucks gift card,” said Garcia. “She smiled and seemed very happy with it.”
Dr. Ayala spoke Spanish to Garcia, asking if he was bilingual. He responded that he did.
Afterward, Garcia said he was thrilled and nervous when he first saw Dr. Ayala. “I felt honored to be chosen to meet the state superintendent.”
Principal Gastón was excited by the opportunity to showcase his school and take Dr. Ayala around to visit classrooms and see some of the things Jefferson students and staff are working on.
“Dr. Ayala asked many questions along the way, and seemed interested in learning more about our school,” said Gastón. “I also liked how she spent time with the students she met.”
Dr. Ayala also visited a Spanish Heritage class at Jefferson, as well as an ELA and science classroom, where she got to see some of the new furniture and technology that were added this year as part of the District refresh.
In the Spanish Heritage class, Dr. Ayala spoke to the students in Spanish, asking them about the books they were reading, and chatted with them about the content.
Before leaving Jefferson, Dr. Ayala visited a physical education classroom, where she marveled at the rock climbing wall and heard about Jefferson’s PE Choice program.
At the Early Childhood Center
Dr. Ayala continued her D45 visit with a stop at the new Early Childhood Center, where Principal Kelly Nettleton and D45 Board of Education President Judy Degnan joined Dr. Palmisano in welcoming her.
The ECC is located just north of Jackson Middle School and is the new district-wide home for all early childhood programming.
At the ECC, Dr. Ayala visited classrooms and enjoyed visiting with some of the District’s youngest learners. Students greeted her and showed her their watercolor paintings, and Dr. Ayala was impressed by the ECC’s many state-of-the-art features and layout.
Before Dr. Ayala left, she asked Dr. Palmisano what he was most proud of.
Dr. Palmisano shared how proud he was of the D45 community, particularly how everyone handled the major events of the last two years.
“The resiliency of our students and staff, and our community, is what gives me a great deal of pride,” said Dr. Palmisano. “I’m proud of the whole community — starting with our students, our staff, and our families, and how much they supported our students’ growth that they’ve made, all during one of the most difficult times in history.”
“This is a very special place, I can tell,” Dr. Ayala said.