When Mueze Bawany speaks out in support of our immigrant students or those in temporary living situations, he speaks from personal experience.
Bawany was an immigrant student himself, having moved to the United States from Pakistan at age three, and faced the same struggles many of his CPS students today face. But the love and support of his teachers saved him.
“The classroom was really one of the places where I felt unconditional love growing up,” Bawany said. “The educators at Clinton, they loved me along with all their other students and really understood a lot of the sadness and anxiety I felt as a kid.”
He said his transformational school experience through eighth grade at Clinton Elementary, in the West Rogers Park neighborhood where he was raised and still lives, is what led him to teaching. He earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and English from Northeastern University in 2017 and began teaching at Roberto Clemente High School soon after. Four years later he moved to North Grand High School, where he teaches English today.
“My teachers consoled me a lot and I think that love never left me,” he said. “Even when I drifted around, I was never able to escape the love I had for the classroom. Teaching has been the greatest honor of my life and it honestly is my absolute passion and love.”
Now, however, Bawany is prepping to leave the classroom as he mounts a campaign to unseat 50th Ward Alderwoman Debra Silverstein — with the enthusiastic support of his CTU colleagues. The House of Delegates endorsed Bawany’s campaign at its September meeting.
Bawany is a proud and active CTU member. You can find him knocking doors or attending campaign events in his ward decked out in his red CTU gear. But he became a CTU ally before he even began working in CPS.
In 2016, one of his Northeastern professors suggested he research school closures and their impact on communities. With guidance from his professor, Bawany started understanding the legacy and pain of school closures in Chicago.
This understanding empowered him to attend community meetings in 2018 around CPS’ plan to close all four neighborhood high schools in Englewood. He said he was appalled and saddened by what he heard and saw and understood it as the continuation of the 2013 school closures. At the same time, he began to bring these understandings, narratives, and details into lesson plans with his seniors in his Ethnic Studies class.
“The stories from people in the community always hurt my soul and, even more than that, I was hurt by watching CPS leaders completely neglect and ignore the pain and anxiety people felt,” he said. During the school closing hearings, rallies and community events, he noticed that the CTU had a long-standing relationship as a consistent presence standing in support of Englewood families.
“Once things started crystallizing for me about what being a teacher in Chicago is,” he said. “I immediately knew I wanted to be as strong of a union member as possible and also work around the issues this union stood for.”
He became the Clemente delegate just weeks after joining the staff in the 2017-2018 school year and began organizing while engaging in his own growth as an educator and all the commitments that come with serving the local community. Along with serving as delegate, Bawany also has served as a CTU district organizer, a member of the union’s bargaining team and is currently chair of the CTU Housing Committee — an issue near and dear to him because, as a kid, his family was evicted three times.
The son of a cab driver, Bawany’s parents instilled in him a passion and respect for public service. His parents had a fifth and seventh grade education, worked long hours at multiple jobs to make ends meet and relied on assistance and support from others.
“They relied on the teachers, on the parks, the libraries, and the community,” he said. “They relied on strangers to love me as much as they did when they couldn’t be there.”
Bawany said his greatest joy is being a teacher. He loves the students and the families who trust their children to him. And he feels he is paying it forward for all the support he got from his teachers.
“I get to work with kids that mirror so much of what I felt and it humbles me everyday and allows me to also pay my gratitude to every teacher that gave a little bit of themselves to me and my life,” he said.
He pledges to keep paying it forward when he joins the city council next year and to keep fighting for the schools and the city Chicago deserves.