U46 teachers hold first grade-in (Sun-Times Media)

by Emily McFarlan Miller

ELGIN — Kathy Gentry sat on the floor in the hallway with a garbage bag full of rolled-up poster boards, all part of a social studies project in which each of her 175 seventh- and eighth-grade students at Kenyon Woods Middle School in South Elgin made up their own islands.

The made-up islands had names like “Little Brazil” and “Jack-opolis” and “Fruit Island,” covered in glitter letters and plastic fruit and descriptions of their geographies and governments.

The good posters will take the teacher a minimum 20 minutes to grade; those that didn’t follow directions, 30 to 40 minutes, Gentry said. That’s anywhere from 58 to 117 hours – three to five days – spent grading one assignment. That’s how she’s spent every spring break the past eight years she’s done the project, she said.

“I think (School District U46) truly doesn’t understand all that we do outside the school day,” she said.

“The amount of time that we take to prepare and to make lessons as interesting as we can and try to keep in contact with parents — I think a lot of them are not really aware of it.”

Gentry was one of more than 115 School District U46 teachers who staged their first “grade-in” Monday night at the U46 Education Services Center, 355 E. Chicago St.

Those teachers lined the second-floor hallway for an hour before the U46 Board of Education meeting. Some graded assignments while others worked on lesson plans, on interventions, on data analysis and parent contact.

That comes as Elgin Teachers Association members are “trying to be more visible in the work that they do” during the union’s longest-ever contract negotiations with U46, ETA President Kathy Castle said.

About 200 people packed the much-larger second-floor auditorium during Monday’s meeting. Last week’s School Board meeting also had been moved to the auditorium from the regular board room after the ETA requested mediation after nearly 10 months of negotiations with the School District.

Since that meeting, the ETA and U46 have filed jointly for mediation, U46 Chief of Staff Tony Sanders said. Neither has heard when their first meeting with a federal negotiator will be, both Sanders and Castle said.

For the rest of the story, read U46 teachers hold first grade-in (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Andrew Nelles for Sun-Times Media.