Shavon Coleman

Photo of PSRP Shavon Coleman.

When PSRPs are needed for a CTU action or event, you’ll find Shavon Coleman on the frontlines. For example, during the pandemic, Coleman insisted on working remotely at Lawndale Community Academy until CPS implemented proper safety precautions. Her daughter has respiratory issues and her mother has a heart condition.

“I was not willing to risk the life of my daughter and my mother just because Mayor Lightfoot wanted to show how tough she was,” Coleman said. “I believe in speaking truth to power when it is needed.”

These days, you’ll find Coleman speaking truth to power as a pre-k teacher assistant at Lawndale and in her role as CTU PSRP delegate and member of the PPC and Parent Engagement Team. 

Deep North Lawndale ties 

Coleman’s ties to the North Lawndale school and community run deep. Born and raised on the West Side, she comes from a long line of educators. She attended Lawndale Academy, where her grandfather taught physical education for 41 years. He retired in 2005, the same year she began working at the school.

“I wished I had the opportunity to work alongside my grandfather,” she said. “But there were a good number of teachers, custodians and lunchroom employees who raised me that I was able to call colleagues. Now, working in the school community that reared me is my way of saying thank you and allowing the elders in the community to see the fruits of their labor.”  

With nine other family members working in schools — six in Chicago, two in Minneapolis and one in Mississippi — Coleman believes she, too, was destined to be an educator. As a child, she remembers her favorite roles to play were store cashier and teacher.   

Strikes and rallies 

In her time at CPS, Coleman has participated in multiple strikes, rallies, school closing fights and legislative actions, always spreading the word of the mighty CTU and organizing her colleagues. 

“In my mind, I never saw myself as an organizer, but colleagues like Brandon Johnson, Tennille Evans, Christel Williams and Dr. Aisha Wade-Bey encouraged me to believe otherwise,” she said. “And they’ve encouraged me to take my organizing beyond the school doors and even consider running for office.”

In fact, she credits her union siblings and colleagues with encouraging her to pursue her teaching credentials. In 2014, she earned her Associates Degree in Child Development from Harold Washington College and in 2021 earned her bachelor’s degree from National Louis University. She hopes to be a fully credentialed classroom teacher by 2025.  

Coleman is confident in her success because she believes her strength and power come from a higher source. “I am a believer who believes I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me,” she said. 

A future teacher

“I’ve been in the role of a teacher assistant for far too long and my union brothers and sisters recognize, as well as myself, that I have been a teacher, disguised as an assistant.” she said. 

As one of Lawndale’s four delegates, Coleman has a number of priorities for our next contract and high hopes they can be achieved.

First, she said, the voice of the people who are inside classrooms, doing the work, are the voices that should be heard. More social workers and psychologists are needed and she also would like to see better assessments for students, especially in preschool. 

Plus, she would like to see a fast track to teacher licensure for teacher assistants, like her, who have been in a CPS classroom for 10 years or more. And funding needs to be allocated more equitably, so schools on the West and South Side have all the resources, technology and programs students need. 

Speaking her mind

As anyone who knows Coleman will tell you, she doesn’t shy away from speaking her mind — especially when it comes to her union. 

“CTU has always been a force to be reckoned with and I know I can call on my union when I face any adversity,” she said. 

She recalled when she faced a problem with a co-worker, CTU helped resolve it. When her school illegally laid her off, CTU helped her get her job back. And when CPS docked her pay and lodged disciplinary charges against her during the pandemic’s remote-work action, CTU filed a grievance that prevented discipline and won a settlement benefiting hundreds of rank-and-file members who took a stand for safety.

And, she remembered when politicians and their lackeys tried to close and merge schools in West Lawndale, CTU helped the community fight back. 

“Stacy Davis Gates was right there, on the front line, next to me, in the cold, helping us to keep our schools open and continue the fight of retaining sustainable community schools,” she said. “That’s what our union is all about.”