The Many Faces of North: Amy Alderson, retiring staff

English and ESL teacher Amy Alderson is retiring after 30 years of teaching, working in the District 127 schools (Central and North) for a combined 28 years. While she is excited for more time to do things that she is passionate about during her retirement, she sees the end of her teaching career as bittersweet because of her love for teaching and being around her students and colleagues.

Alderson’s desire to teach was not just specific to her, others in her family were also teachers. She saw teaching as not only easy for her, but also something that she was meant to do.

“I decided to be a teacher because my mother was a teacher, my sister was a teacher, teaching runs in my blood. I love being around students. I love learning and I love teaching, and I don’t know, I love everything about it,” Alderson said.

Not only does Alderson have a love for teaching, but she also has a love for learning and was very passionate about learning and teaching Spanish. She completed multiple degrees and has a master’s in teaching English to speakers of other languages. She uses her knowledge of Spanish and Spanish culture to contribute to Latinos Stand Up and was flown to Texas to be presented an award from the National Hispanic Institute because of her work.

“I went to undergrad at the University of Iowa, then I got an ESL endorsement at Northeastern Illinois University, then I went to CLC and Northeastern to learn Spanish and for Spanish near masters degree and then I was only like 12 hours short of a masters in Spanish. Then I did Grand Canyon University for a master’s degree in teaching English to speakers of other languages,”

Alderson said. “Several years ago an organization called National Hispanic Institute flew me down to Texas for an award, so that was kind of cool because we sent a lot of students to that program, and it’s a really good program,” Alderson said.
Alderson started the ESL program in 1994 and was able to build off that in her years at North. Alderson and her other colleagues were able to build off of that and develop new programs for speakers of other languages. New dual language classes will be introduced next year, and the credit goes to Alderson and the staff’s work to implement new opportunities for speakers of other languages.

“I’m proud of how far our services for students who are still learning English as an academic language have come. It used to be just little old me with three students in a large closet in 1994, and now we have resource classes. We’ve got ESL classes, and we’re going to do dual language classes,” Alderson said.

Through her years of teaching, she was able to work with many teachers on different subjects and was able to find different people she considered to be mentors for her in the field. She was able to connect with many people through teaching that she might not have been able to if it weren’t for her different teaching opportunities. She was also able to develop Junior English Honors to where it is now and feels proud of the work she has done over the years to be fully happy with how the curriculum has developed, as well as how she teaches it. She is not only grateful that she was able to finally get the curriculum where it is, but is also excited to see it passed down to Mrs. Meyer who will be teaching the course next year and making it her own.

“My mentors are all of my English department colleagues and all of the people in other departments that I’ve worked with because I’ve co-taught biology. I co-taught U.S. history for many years. I co-taught world history. I’ve co-taught economics. I’ve co-taught a bunch of classes, and even my colleagues in other departments that I’ve taught with. I teach with Mrs. Bristow now. I’ve taught with her for many years. She’s a wonderful colleague and mentor and all of my English department people are wonderful,” Alderson said. “I’m proud of where Junior English Honors is at now because whenever you start teaching a course you kind of use what was done before you and then gradually you keep tweaking it and making it more your own, and now I feel like the curriculum of Junior English Honors is pretty much the way I like it. And now I won’t be able to teach it anymore, but Mrs. Meyer is going to teach it next year. And she’s going to do a great job, and she’s going to make it her own too. And that’s the way it should be. I’m proud of the curriculum and where it’s gotten to at this point, and I’m just proud of all my students and my colleagues for their successes,” Alderson said.

Alderson was able to influence many students throughout her years of teaching, but she is still looking forward to moving on to a new portion of her life. The free time that she has will be focused on exercising more, volunteering, and being able to write more. She is extremely excited for new experiences with her and the people in her life after she retires.

“It’s getting very bittersweet even though I know I’ll be happy when I’m retired. I’m really already missing my students even though you guys are still here because I know I’m going to miss being with students and being with my colleagues every day. I’m hoping to do some sort of volunteer work where I am with young high school-aged people because I really enjoy it. During retirement I want to travel. I want to write. I want to exercise more, and I want to volunteer. I have a whole list on my phone of things to do,” Alderson said.