Teacher Development Program Application Now Available – Deadline June 17th!

Teacher Development Program Application Now Available – Deadline June 17th!

Studying to become a teacher? Learn how the Teacher Development Program can help you finish your degree and support you in your first years in the classroom!

The Big Shoulders Fund Teacher Development Program (Big Shoulders TDP) recruits, prepares, and develops quality teachers to serve in Big Shoulders Fund schools. Big Shoulders TDP teachers are committed to three pillars that drive their work:community, excellence, and leadership.

The Big Shoulders TDP is a multi-year professional development program that offers a variety of supports specific to the candidate. In partnership with local universities – DePaul University and Loyola University at Chicago – Big Shoulders TDP provides tuition assistance, tutoring and clinical placement opportunities, and guidance on job selection. After graduation, a candidate will receive up to three years of customized coaching and professional development.

Currently, the Big Shoulders TDP supports pre-service teachers – two years from degree-completion – interested in pursuing an Illinois Professional Educator License and its associated endorsements, and in-service teachers in their first through third years in the classroom. The Big Shoulders TDP is actively recruiting pre-service teachers to participate, giving preference to those interested in focusing on STEM education.

Interested? Visit the Teacher Development Program page to learn more.

Extension Opportunities for former Brush Creek Ranch Students

Extension Opportunities for former Brush Creek Ranch Students

Check out these two fantastic extension opportunities for former Brush Creek students to apply for: an Action Research Mini-Grant and a Junior Counselor Position. Applications for both are due March 18, 2016.


Action Research Mini-Grant
Any current elementary student, who has attended Brush Creek in past years, is eligible to apply for an Action Research Mini-Grant. Students may receive up to $500 to design, launch, and implement an action research project that sustains the learning Brush Creek Ranch Science Enrichment experience. Projects that have received funding in the past include a school-wide recycling initiative, a coordinated neighborhood clean-up, and after-school science clubs.


Interested students must to the following:

  1. Identify a Teacher Mentor to advise and oversee the project.
  2. Confirm support from the school principal.
  3. Complete the BCR Action Research Project Application by March 18, 2016.


Junior Counselor Position (current 10th, 11th, and 12th graders preferred)

Former Brush Creek Ranch students who will be rising high school Juniors, Seniors, and graduates in the summer of 2016 (currently in 10th, 11th, or 12th grade) are eligible to apply for the Jr. Counselor Position, who will accompany students and chaperones during the one-week trip to Staddle Camp at Brush Creek Ranch. Rising sophomores may apply, but upper classmen will be given preference. Jr. Counselors will be responsible aiding the implementation of daily programming and support students as they complete various activities. All Jr. Counselors will be trained in CPR and First Aid prior to their trip. This application process is competitive with a limited number of Jr. Counselor positions available.


Interested students must:

  1. Be a former BCR scholar who is currently in grades: 10th, 11th, or 12th
  2. Be highly motivated, engaged, and exhibit leadership abilities.
  3. Be available to spend a week at Staddle Camp during Summer, 2016.
  4. Complete the BCR Jr. Counselor Application by March 18, 2016.


If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Eliza Bryant, Director, Academic Programs and Enrichment, at ebryant@bigshouldersfund.org.

Big Shoulders Fund Helps Transform Struggling Schools

Big Shoulders Fund Helps Transform Struggling Schools

“We simply wouldn’t be here without Big Shoulders,” said Denise Spells, principal at St. Ethelreda School on Chicago’s South Side. This is a constant refrain from principals at Big Shoulders Fund schools.

St. Ethelreda and six other schools faced challenging financial and operating conditions in serving their communities. In response, Big Shoulders Fund agreed to temporarily take on the majority financial responsibility for these schools during a three-year period, along with helping the schools to address key operating issues. Big Shoulders increased its commitment from seven to ten schools starting in the 2015-16 school year, and is working with these schools to improve in both the short and long-term.

See how the Covered Schools Initiative is transforming these schools.

National Mentoring Month

National Mentoring Month

This January is the 15th Annual National Mentoring Month, a campaign aimed at expanding quality mentoring opportunities to connect more of our community’s young people with caring adults.Big Shoulders Fund is proud to celebrate all of our amazing mentors.

Some of our favorite mentors have shared with Big Shoulders why they love to mentor with our students!

Meet Amy Drozda who is Big Shoulders Fund’s Director of Corporate Partnership and Outreach. This is Amy’s first year as a mentor. She mentors at St. Ailbe School on Chicago’s South Side to 6th grade Gallagher Scholars.

Why did you choose to become a mentor?
St. Ailbe Gallagher ScholarI chose to become a mentor because after working at the Big Shoulders Fund for eight years and completing my MBA I wanted to use my time to work directly with our students.  I am lucky to support our mission by organizing service days, working with our schools leadership and helping our amazing supporters get involved, but I have never gotten to spend time with the students.   The students are always the highlight of my visits and I was hoping by mentoring I could share some of the many things my parents blessed me with and interact with the students who I wake-up every day for.

What is your favorite thing about mentoring?
My favorite thing about meeting with my mentees is hearing their stories and what they are excited about.  They are so observant and always want to share.

When I went on a field trip with them it was neat to see how excited they were that I had come to spend time with them.  It was amazing to share our favorite exhibits and experience something together.

Sometimes it is hard to realize you are making a difference or if the time you go matters, but it does.

This fall at the high school fair I was fortunate enough to meet one of my mentee’s parents. I always thought he didn’t want to be there and was just like, here is Ms. Amy again. However, when I met his mom and introduced myself she hugged me hard and said, “ Oh, you are his mentor.  He talks about you all the time and is so excited after your visits.”  The students touch my life so much. I only hope that I am helping them too.

The Strength in Numbers When Teaching Math: Big Shoulders Fund Math Initiative and Network of Schools

The Strength in Numbers When Teaching Math: Big Shoulders Fund Math Initiative and Network of Schools

IMG_8342_SThey say it takes a village to raise a child, and in that same sense that’s how Big Shoulders Fund looks at education.  When searching for new ways to ignite classroom science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) instruction, Big Shoulders knew it could not be done one school at a time. The STEM Initiative includes teacher professional development, direct in-classroom coaching, administrator supports, curricular implementation guidance, and family education. A part of the overall STEM initiative is the Big Shoulders Fund Math Initiative (BSFMI) which works with 13 schools across Pre-K through 6th grade to promote high-quality mathematics instruction. This year, the work has expanded to a larger network that includes middle school and high school teachers.

“I think what is great about this initiative is that it unites math teachers not only in one school, but across a network of schools,” says Sara Burnworth, Big Shoulders Fund Instructional Math Coach. BSFMI aims to establish a community of educators who work together to improve mathematics teaching and learning. Participating schools use Everyday Mathematics, a high-quality, researched-based curriculum that is aligned to the Common Core State Standards for Math (CCSS-M). Components of the program include: professional development (in-person and online through webinars) for administrators and teachers, creating teacher leaders at each school who attend professional development aimed at building leadership capacity in math instruction, in-school coaching support by the Center for Elementary Math and Science Education at the University of Chicago (CEMSE) staff, creating Power Users at each school who attend professional development around implementing technology in math instruction, and building a network community of math teachers.

BSFMI at St. Margaret of Scotland“Last year I had kids begging to play math games on the board and computers during recess which was a great feeling,” says Jenna Ryan, 4th and 5th grade math and science teacher at St. Margaret of Scotland and Teacher Leader and Power User for BSFMI. Her classroom is equipped with a SMART white board which she uses to enhance her daily math lessons. “Because of Big Shoulders, we are lucky enough to have the e-suite that goes along with the Everyday Math Program so it all directly corresponds with the lessons we go through. It has helped the visual learners to see various examples on the board and lets them connect to the material in a way that suits them,” says Ryan.
Beyond teaching high quality math, an integral part of the program is the collaboration of the teachers across the network of schools. During collaborative coaching, a group of teachers come together to plan, observe, and debrief an Everyday Math lesson. One “host” teacher volunteers to teach the lesson. Everyone involved in the coaching session prepares using a planning sheet as though they were going to lead the class. “The hope is that everyone collaborating to help the host teacher also prepares for the lesson,” says Burnworth. “During the lesson the teachers spread out throughout the room and take notes on what they observe students do and say. Observing teachers are not to help the students or teach them, since that would not be an Erikson teacher sessionaccurate representation of what a normal day looks like.  After the observation, all the teachers come together and review the outcomes for students. No one talks about what the teacher did – the main focus is whether or not the students met the mathematical goals of the lesson. “If they didn’t,” says Burnworth, “the teachers discuss why they think the students didn’t understand, and help the host teacher plan out how to support those students.”

All of Big Shoulders Fund academic programming focus on being both in-depth and practical. Meetings provide math teachers the opportunity to talk to another teacher at their grade level. When working in schools as small as ours, many with single grade classrooms, this can mean a lot.

“Teaching is very complex, but also isolating,” says Burnworth, “and so it is always comforting to talk to someone else who knows your grade level and has the same struggles you do in their classroom.”

Big Shoulders Fund Mathematics Initiative and Middle School / High School Mathematics Initiative is made possible through support of the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust, I.A. O’Shaugnessey Foundation, Walter E. Heller Foundation, EY, Tengelsen Family Foundation, The Gallagher Family Foundation, Robert E. Gallagher Charitable Trust, CareerBuilder.com, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, as well as Patrons and individual donors supporting this effort.