Dalton S. Day

Photo of CTU member Dalton S. Day sitting outside on the grass having a picnic.

Growing up as a queer person on a farm in a small conservative Texas town, guest teacher Dalton S. Day said he faced many personal challengesBut a handful of teachers changed his life and showed him another world was possible.

“I work at CPS in the hopes of making at least a fraction of a difference in the lives of young people, the way my teachers made a difference for me,” he said. “There are very few things more rewarding than learning and growing alongside our students.”

Day grew up in Pottsboro, Texas, a town of about 2,200 people, and graduated from a high school class of just 80 students — a world away from what he experiences in CPS. He moved to Chicago in 2014 to attend Loyola University, where he majored in French and International Studies. He continued his studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago, receiving his masters in French, and then at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, where he earned another masters degree in library and information sciences.

Day began his career teaching French at UIC, but his contract there expired during the pandemic. He was looking for a job where he could make a difference in the community so he took a position covering maternity leave for a French teacher in another district. He enjoyed that position so much that he applied to be a guest teacher in CPS and the rest is history.

He began working in the district in April 2021 and has worked in schools across the city. But these days he is assigned primarily to Curie High School in Archer Heights, which suits him just fine. After working in other districts, including private schools where tuition tops $20,000 a year, Day decided to stay put in CPS, largely because of his “CTU siblings.” He is well aware that guest teachers in CPS earn more than they do at other schools, primarily because of the union’s advocacy.

An active rank-and-file CTU member, Day got his first taste of union action while working as a graduate assistant at UIC. His union there, the Graduate Employees Organization, waged its first ever strike in 2019 and won historic gains.

“My love for labor organizing was cemented during my first strike at UIC, where we won a fair raise and fee reductions for graduate students,” he said.

He joined CTU as soon as he could and, within a year, became a citywide delegate, a role that puts him in touch with CTU members across the city. He shares policy information and helps advocate for and defend the rights of guest teachers, clinicians and other citywide CTU members. He also serves on the CTU’s Displaced and Substitute Teacher and Climate Justice Committees.

Other than a year at school in Paris, Day has been a “proud resident of Chicago” and easily sees himself spending the rest of his life here.

“I am absolutely in love with Chicago, its communities, and the workers who keep it running,” he said.

His family still lives on their farm in Texas, but he hasn’t been able to visit as much as he’d like because of the pandemic. “When I do go back, it is certainly a type of shock to the system, quite a bit different than my big-city living,” he said. “But I enjoy seeing my family and having some authentic Tex-Mex when I’m down there.”

Having summers off allows Day to pursue his favorite hobby, beekeeping. He is part of a group of keepers that tend the hives at El Paseo Community Garden in Pilsen and at a couple other remote sites. He also is taking online courses to become a Master Beekeeper.

“These days, bees need all the help they can get. In addition to producing honey and medicinal products, bees are key pollinators — honey bees alone pollinate 80 percent of all flowering plants,” he said. “We rely so much on their labor. I feel like it’s the least I can do to help them along their journey.”

Day also noted that bees are like teachers. If you are a bad beekeeper, he explained, they will fly away and find a new home — just like teachers can choose a new school if their administration fails to take good care of them.