On Nov. 15, CTU members across the district demonstrated to CPS our ingenuity, wherewithal, and need to teach outside the confines of the Skyline curriculum with teacher-created content instead. On that day, educators taught indigenous history, elevated homelessness awareness month, and engaged newcomer students.

We came together to demonstrate that no scripted curriculum can possibly reflect the needs of our students and school communities despite an increase in mandates by networks to never deviate from Skyline.

The entire building at Nash Elementary refused to teach Skyline en masse. According to delegate and executive board member Sylvelia Pittman, “Nash had an amazing day of No Skyline Lessons. So proud of my colleagues.” The school began its non-Skyline day with five minutes of “calm classroom” time. Following that, individual classes focused on social and emotional learning activities.

At Haines Elementary, eighth grade students designed websites to articulate and share the ways in which students have power in their communities. They conducted research, assembled visual aids to communicate their data, and discussed their findings as they planned next steps.

Haines Elementary School teacher Michelle Wright with her students.

Michelle Wright

Michelle Wright’s seventh grade ELA students at Haines compared and contrasted specific scenes in two different graphic novels about growing up Chinese-American. The narrators in both books encounter significant challenges, but they also find their strength from their families and home culture, even as they sometimes feel different from their peers.

And Haines kindergarten teacher Jeannine Woods made a wide range of reading materials available to her students to ensure a culturally relevant curriculum that is also challenging and effective in supporting their literacy development.

At Sauganash Elementary, Vicki Kurzydlo taught her sixth and seventh grade English Language Arts students about Native history and culture, as part of Native American Heritage Month. She led a discussion with her students about how language evolves, especially as it applies to ethnic and cultural groups.

Photo of Sauganash Elementary school teacher Vicki Kurzydlo holding a sign that reads: “I teach truth to cultivate love and trust.”

Vicki Kurzydlo

Kurzydlo participated in our #SkipSkyline action in solidarity with her CTU siblings. While Kurzydlo’s school doesn’t mandate Skyline, she wanted to underscore the disparity with which Skyline has been ‘soft mandated’ more often in schools outside of the far northwest side neighborhood where she teaches. She believes ALL teachers should feel encouraged to explore strong, culturally relevant curriculum beyond what comes with Skyline, and it’s vital that we stand with our CTU siblings to demand the right to #TeachTruth.

At Westinghouse College Prep, science teacher Nina Hike and her students have been learning about blood chemistry and the pioneering work of Dr. Charles Drew, a Black chemist. Drew divided whole blood into plasma, white blood cells, and red blood cells using a centrifuge to separate the components by density. He used these protocols to establish blood banks with the Red Cross that saved countless soldiers’ lives during World War II.

Hike’s students used their knowledge of Drew’s work to design their own experiments, collect and organize data, and write and revise claims, evidence, and reasoning. They also will develop and use models to explain electrostatic forces, particle theory, states of matter, buoyancy, ions, density, and solubility.

Photo of Westinghouse College Prep science teacher Nina Hike in her classroom.

Nina Hike

Hike and her students have used the knowledge gained from this unit to organize blood drives at Westinghouse and CTU, demonstrating the capability of our members to impact their school communities and our city as a whole when given the freedom to develop culturally relevant, engaging, and rigorous curriculum.