Some weeks ago, I wrote a depressing entry about the University of Chicago’s apparent plan to dismantle its Urban Teacher Education Program (UTEP). As one of the founders of the program my reactions are clearly biased, but I consider this a grievous and short-sighted decision, particularly at a time when we are facing unprecedented teacher shortages and a generally demoralized work force. UTEP presented a model of teacher education that has had an outsized impact on the entire field of teacher education. (See my earlier blog for a description of the program’s design.)
In response to my report, one of our alums, Jeannie Kim, drafted a letter of protest in which she invited our 400 graduates to sign and to add their own comments about the impact the program has had on their lives as teachers and as members of other education-related fields. I don’t expect anyone to read all the attached comments which continue to arrive at the time of this posting, but I invite you to dip in to get a sense of what it will mean for this program to disappear. I have little hope that the efforts of the alums and an upcoming letter from representatives of teacher education programs around the country will convince the university to change course, but the institution needs to be aware that its decision has been noticed and that the voices of those who know the program best have not been silenced.
Dear Dr. Alivisatos, October 2022
We are educators, current students, and alumni of the University of Chicago’s Urban Teacher Education Program (UTEP). We are writing to voice our strong disappointment at the possible dissolution of the teacher education program that has made a profound impact on our personal and professional growth as teachers and the larger landscape of teacher education in Chicago and beyond.
Since its inception in 2003, UTEP has graduated nearly 400 educators, who work at over ____ public, private, and charter schools across Chicago and other cities, such as Boston and San Francisco. In its recent Illinois Education Preparation Profile scorecard from the Illinois State Board of Education, UTEP received exemplary designation overall and on multiple indicators, including the number of diverse graduates of the program, demonstrated teaching skill, retention, and placement of graduates in high needs schools.
The program has a unique design developed by Dr. Kavita Kapadia Matsko, Dr. Marv Hoffman, and Dr. Anthony Bryk, past director of the Urban Education Institute. In fact, parts of the program’s design have been replicated at other institutions across the country because they go against the grain of fast-tracking teacher education. In the first year of the program, cohorts of students engage in classes to examine their own identities, participate in field work to gain understanding of local school contexts, and tutor students as they learn literacy development. In their second year, or residency year, students are placed in two different classrooms and school communities to learn from experienced teachers, create and implement curriculum, and build relationships with students. In addition, graduates are provided with individual coaching for the first three years of their career, which is a critical time for more support.
Graduates of UTEP are passionate, thoughtful, resilient, and advocates for their students and school communities. They are committed teachers in it for the long haul, many of whom become mentor teachers for UTEP or instructional leaders within their schools. They are recipients of Golden Apple awards, National Teacher of the Year awards, fellowship grants for action research, and other accolades. They become school coaches and administrators, non-profit leaders, PhD candidates, activists within their local school communities, and writers who document their experience as teachers. UTEP alumni are committed to “being the change” by envisioning and working towards a more equitable education system.
University of Chicago prides itself in supporting K-12 education in Chicago through its investment in many community-based initiatives and programs. Disinvesting from such a fundamental piece of the education system that is teacher preparation would be a huge loss to the overall work that the University is doing to transform education. At a time when there are many policies leading to the nationwide teacher shortage and devaluing of the profession, cutting off an important pipeline for well-prepared teachers in Chicago is unwise. In addition, the University’s possible withdrawal of leadership within teacher education spaces and from the deep connection within communities that UTEP has developed seems antithetical to the University’s goals to more fully engage and partner with the surrounding communities and city.
We request that you commit to a series of conversations with alumni and current and former UTEP staff about the future of UTEP. We hope that the University decides to invest in UTEP through financial resources and staffing required to maintain the graduate level courses and programs in place and eventually grow the program. We also believe the University can support UTEP’s marketing and recruiting efforts to bring in diverse cohorts of future teachers in Chicago.
We thank you for your consideration and look forward to your response.
Clare Buckley Flack, UTEP Cohort 1, Research Associate, The Research Alliance for New York City Schools, New York University
Erica Keto, UTEP Cohort 1, Kindergarten Teacher, Longfellow Elementary, Oak Park D97
Margret Pilat-Chiyeni, UTEP Cohort 1, Lead Instructional Coach & Former UTEP Induction Coach, Dvorak Elementary, CPS
Evelyn Pollins, UTEP Cohort 1, Doctoral Student, University of Illinois Chicago
Nicole Yakes Constantinidis, UTEP Cohort 1, Instructional Support Leader, Network 11, CPS
Katherine Hove, UTEP Cohort 2, Board Member, Chicago Free School
Alexander Fishman, UTEP Cohort 2, Technology Teacher, Campbell Hall
Jeannie Kim, UTEP Cohort 2, Co-Founder of Be the Change Collaborative
Kayla Vigil Nuguid, UTEP Cohort 2, Site Director, Amplify Tutoring – Chicago
Kyla McCartney, UTEP Cohort 3, 4th Grade Inclusion Teacher, Patrick J. Kennedy Elementary School, Boston Public Schools
Sonia Wang, UTEP Cohort 3, Co-Founder of Be the Change Collaborative & Executive Director
of New Community Outreach
Janet Granados, UTEP Cohort 4, World Language Specialist, CPS
Robert Welch, UTEP Cohort 4, Professional Learning Specialist, CPS
Shula Bien, UTEP Cohort 5, Teacher, Elmhurst United Middle School, Oakland, California
Deena Heller, UTEP Cohort 5, Academic Intervention Specialist, Harlem Link Charter School, New York
Alexa Lee-Hassan, UTEP Cohort 5, Doctoral Candidate and Lecturer, University of Illinois Chicago
Joanna Wax Trost, UTEP Cohort 5, 7th Grade ELA and S.S. Teacher, Acero Marquez
Rosalie DeFino, UTEP Cohort 6, Assistant Professor in Educational Studies, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Casandra Gonzalez, UTEP Cohort 6, Science Education Specialist, Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education
Michael Havazelet, UTEP Cohort 6, Doctoral Student, Vanderbilt University
Ashley Haywood, UTEP Cohort 6, Senior Director of Humanitarian Initiatives, Kepler (NGO and College in Rwanda and Ethiopia)
Lindsey Acuff, UTEP Cohort 7, 5th Grade Teacher, Gunsaulus Scholastic Academy, CPS
Mari Altshuler, UTEP Cohort 7, Teaching Assistant Professor, College of Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Angelica Alvarado, UTEP Cohort 7, Math and Reading Intervention Specialist, Innovation Scholars
Maggie Claudy, UTEP Cohort 7
Beth Fioritto, UTEP Cohort 7
Hemang Srikishan, UTEP Cohort 7, Math Teacher, Lindblom Math and Science Academy, CPS
Kenji Mori, UTEP Cohort 7, 8th Grade STEM Teacher, Lincoln Hall Middle School, District 74
Danielle Zablocki, UTEP Cohort 7, 1st Grade Teacher, Saucedo Scholastic Academy, CPS
Kathie Ang, UTEP Cohort 8, Science Teacher, Walter Payton College Prep, CPS
Kathryn Hottinger, UTEP Cohort 8, Biology & Chemistry Teacher, Woodrow Wilson HS, Beckley, West Virginia
Nick Limbeck, UTEP Cohort 8, Bilingual Teacher, John Barry Elementary School, CPS
Jasmine Marshall-Butler, UTEP Cohort 8, Senior Associate Director of Fieldwork and Coaching, Urban Teaching Apprenticeship Program, University of Pennsylvania
Brita Strub, UTEP Cohort 8, Early Childhood Special Educator, Denver Public Schools
Annemarie Thilmont, UTEP Cohort 8, Elementary School Teacher, Gunsaulus Scholastic Academy, CPS
Jessica Nixon, UTEP Cohort 8, Founder & CEO, CARE Education Partners, NFP
Ivy Abid, UTEP Cohort 9, STEAM Program Manager, North Grand High School
Derrick Asante, UTEP Cohort 9, Elementary Teacher & Horizon’s National Campus Director, UChicago Charter School
Alli Bizon, UTEP Cohort 9, Lower Elementary Teacher, Suder Montessori Magnet School, CPS
Lauren O’Gara, UTEP Cohort 9, Bilingual Teacher, CPS
Caitlin Reusche, UTEP Cohort 9, Early Childhood Teacher, Suder Montessori Magnet School, CPS
Chad Robertson, UTEP Cohort 9, Teacher, Los Angeles Unified School District
Lauren Szymanski, UTEP Cohort 9, Learning Specialist, Wolcott College Prep
Peter Dzubay, UTEP Cohort 10, Partnership Lead, Microsoft Philanthropies TEALS Program, Microsoft Philanthropies
Jordan Reece, UTEP Cohort 10, Middle School ELA Teacher, Christopher House Elementary
Claudio Martinez, UTEP Cohort 10, Assistant Principal, Evergreen Park, CPS
Rebecca Zisook, UTEP Cohort 10, 3rd Grade Bilingual Teacher, Peirce Elementary School, CPS
Sarah Reu, UTEP Cohort 11, Intermediate Math Teacher, Caldwell Academy, CPS
Yeimi Valdes, UTEP Cohort 11, Manager of Youth Tour Programs, Perez Art Museum, Miami
Skye Black, UTEP Cohort 12, Humanities Instructional Coach, University of Chicago Woodlawn
Quetzalli Castro, UTEP Cohort 12, 7th Social Science Teacher & Union Delegate/District Organizer, CPS & Chicago Teachers Union
Andrew Chenohara, UTEP Cohort 12, Kindergarten teacher & Chicago Teachers Union Area Vice President, Gillespie Tech Elementary, CPS
Louvina Davis, UTEP Cohort 12, Academic Interventionist/MTSS Lead, Countee Cullen Elementary, CPS
Marley Kleiman, UTEP Cohort 12, Teacher, Academy for Global Citizenship
Joseph O’Hara, UTEP Cohort 12, Chemistry & Physics Teachers, Lindblom Math and Science Academy, CPS
Molly Bennison Slater, UTEP Cohort 12, 2nd Grade Teacher, Portland Public Schools
Elaine Svatos, UTEP Cohort 12, Teacher, CPS
Samantha Symon-Rabicoff, UTEP Cohort 12, Middle School Science Teacher (currently on childcare leave)
Maggie Brockland, UTEP Cohort 13, Multilingual Learners Teacher, Roosevelt Middle School
Hannah Gomez, UTEP Cohort 13, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator and Educator, Gulliver Preparatory Academy
Lindsay Singer Kalt, UTEP Cohort 13, Math Teacher, Detroit Prep
Caleb Wagner, UTEP Cohort 13, Teacher, The Montessori School of Englewood
Brian Krause, UTEP Cohort 14, Instructional Technology Coach, Learning Technology Center of Illinois
Sean Murphy, UTEP Cohort 14, 6th-8th Grade Science Teacher, Fiske Elementary, CPS
Haley Ross, UTEP Cohort 14, Teacher, Hamline Elementary, CPS
Maya Ruiz-Stanbary, UTEP Cohort 14, Teacher, Brentano Elementary, CPS
Crystal Givens, UTEP Cohort 15, Education Advisor for Educational Talent Search, Roosevelt University
Loie Hasler, UTEP Cohort 15, 1st Grade Teacher, McMahon Elementary School, Holyoke Public Schools
Erin Hodess Fettner, UTEP Cohort 15, Kindergarten Teacher, American Cooperative School of Tunis
Heather Pedziwiatr, UTEP Cohort 15, 2nd Grade Teacher, Perez Elementary, CPS
Rajanee Redmond, UTEP Cohort 15, Communications and Special Projects Associate, Vocal Justice
Ambria Taylor, UTEP Cohort 15, Candidate for Chicago City Council
Layla Treuhaft-Ali, UTEP Cohort 15, 5th/6th Literacy Teacher, Bronzeville Classical School, CPS
Esmeralda Barajas Bennett, UTEP Cohort 16, 6th Grade Science & S.S. Teacher, Jorge Prieto Math and Science Academy, CPS
Evelyn Beard, UTEP Cohort 16, 2nd and 3rd Grade Math and Science Teacher, Sor Juana Elementary, CPS
Nia Moreno, UTEP Cohort 16, Middle School ELA Teacher, Ryder Math and Science Specialty School, CPS
Kayla Forcey, UTEP Cohort 17, Kindergarten Teacher, Village Leadership Academy, CPS
Torchell McFarland, UTEP Cohort 17, 2nd Grade Teacher, Carter G. Woodson Elementary, CPS
Catherine Carnes, UTEP Cohort 18, 7th & 8th Grade ELA Teacher, St. Clement School
Laura Pulido, UTEP Cohort 18, Teacher, Nobel Elementary, CPS
Adrienne Cole, Elementary School Teacher, Detroit Public Schools Community District
Dr. Marvin Hoffman, Associate Director (retired), Urban Teacher Education Program, University of Chicago
Kavita Kapadia Matsko, Associate Professor & Associate Dean for Teacher Ed, School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University
Patrick Rabbitt, Math Teacher, CPS
Polly Ulichny, Director of Elementary Teacher Education (retired), Brown University
I would simply add that, in comparison to my friends and family who have gone through “traditional” teacher prep programs, I was vastly more prepared and capable during my first years teaching, thanks entirely to UTEP’s intensive program design and social justice focus. This higher level of preparation positively impacted not only me, but also the hundreds of middle school students I taught in my first 3 years. There need to be MORE UTEP graduates in Chicago schools, not fewer.
~Joanna Wax Trost
As someone who has been in educational leadership for almost ten years, I can tell that the caliber of teachers produced by UTEP is the exact reason why this program needs to continue. In my vast experience working with teachers, I have not found one teacher education program that prepares its teachers so rigorously for the complexities of urban teaching as UTEP. ~Margret Pilat-Chiyeni
I am truly saddened to hear that UTEP is on the chopping block. In my years of teaching, graduate study, and my current role with a state department of education, I have come to understand how rare my experience was. UTEP provides a solid experience for educators who go on to value social justice and the humanity of their students. We are experiencing a crisis of burned out teachers and it is not surprising given the bare bones preparation most education programs offer to teacher candidates. UTEP’s model, which in contrast incorporates critical coursework around the institution of public education, meaningful classroom experiences leading to a full year of residency, and induction coaching, should be lauded as a model – not shuttered. ~Casandra Gonzalez
The coaching I have received since graduating is what drew me to UTEP and what has kept my love. I would have been absolutely floundering without the excellent and intentional coaching I’ve received. When I heard that there were talks of UTEP dismantling but I still had a year of coaching left, I knew I would still hire my coach as a “teaching consultant”. It has been so valuable to me to have coaching as a teacher. I can’t recommend it enough. ~Evelyn Beard
I feel profoundly grateful for my experience and time within UTEP. Because of the thoughtfulness in the planning of the program, I was prepared for tackling the tasks of an urban teacher with the right skills and mindset. I thank the program for building my metacognition and reflective practices. By framing the work within the evolving socio-political context, I was better equipped to address and advocate for the needs of my students. My mentor teachers didn’t share what to teach but how to teach, shaping my understanding of what it means to develop a democratic classroom. ~Alli Bizon
I would not have become a teacher without UTEP, and would not still be teaching 10 years later without the training, mentors, and friends that this program gave me. I am not always sure that I want to be a teacher, but I know that I owe my endurance and competence in this profession to UTEP. I still frequently think back to my instructors, my student teaching residencies, and my induction coach for perspective and guidance. I am heartbroken to think that the University of Chicago would prioritize their bottom line over a program devoted to nurturing educators, students, and communities. ~Kathryn Hottinger
I owe much of my understanding of the contextual factors affecting the public education system in Chicago to UTEP. This continues to impact my work as I guide 28 schools in various neighborhoods with the implementation of a high impact tutoring program. ~Kayla Vigil Nuguid
I wouldn’t still be teaching without the foundation and years of support that UTEP has given me. Now, 13 years into my career and in a different city, I STILL talk about UTEP – how the staff and program nurtured me, challenged me, fueled me, taught me … and I STILL hear from administrators how impressed they are with the teachers that emerge from UTEP. During this massive teacher shortage the country needs UTEP more than ever. ~Deena Heller
My time at UTEP was an invaluable experience for me both personally and professionally. As a white woman who was raised with considerable privilege as well as considerable ignorance to that privilege, its day to day, institutional, and generational effects on me, I truly fear the type of teacher I may have become had I not attended UTEP. And I worry about every white teacher who goes through a program other than UTEP and becomes a teacher. UTEP shook me in way I do not believe any other teacher preparation program would have. UTEP prepared me to be critical of every system, as well as self-critical. These skills have been essential to my success as a teacher for the past decade, and have therefore indirectly helped the hundreds of students I have served to reach their full potential in my classroom.
UTEP also has a reputation in the city of Chicago. Administrators know about us, seek us out, hire us, and trust us. Colleagues recognize us for our leadership, dedication, and self awareness. Alumni find each other, stay in touch, gather, and continue to learn and grow together in community.
If the University of Chicago does away with UTEP, the questions remain to haunt us: What programs are you keeping? What do you as an institution value, and why are teaching and learning not included in those values?
UTEP has made me the teacher I am today. I would not be a great teacher were it not for my classes, placements, and cohort conversations about teaching every child at their level. While I didn’t stay in Chicago, I have been able to apply my learned skills about working with different populations of children to my international teaching. I loved every second of my time at UTEP and wouldn’t have wanted to complete my masters anywhere else. ~Erin Hodess Fettner
I am currently in my 16th year as a classroom teacher, including years spent in Chicago, New York City, and Boston. I am still grateful to UTEP for the exemplary preparation it gave me. I speak often to other educators about the UTEP model and how its thoughtful, intelligent design prepared me for the classroom better than any other program I have seen. Changing or dismantling the UTEP program would be an enormous loss for the University and public education. ~Kyla McCartney
I’ve never had professors like that. Incredibly brilliant, caring, and committed to shaping us into critical thinkers and leaders inside and outside the classroom. UTEP is one of a kind. ~Nick Limbeck
Without the residency, post-graduation coaching support, and community of my cohort I would have felt I was failing and left the profession after a year or two. Teaching in general is so challenging, and teaching in schools with extra challenges feels nearly impossible for someone who really cares about being the best teacher for their students. Having been in the profession for multiple years now in multiple states, I can see a difference in teaching (and coping) skills for people who have had this kind of support and rigorous, critical academics and those who have not. Teacher retention is at a critical point right now. The answer is to provide programs (and support more) like UTEP that provide the support for teachers to keep trying, not ditch them. ~Samantha Symon-Rabicoff
At a time when public education and teachers are under attack, the decision to end the best teacher preparation program available in Chicago has huge implications for the terrain of education in Chicago. Pedagogy must be taught as a critical and scientific practice that is located within a social, political, and economic terrain. Without UTEP, I’m not sure to what extent any local teacher will have the opportunity to learn about teaching in that framework (unless they move to California). UTEP is small but mighty and its alumni are influential and respected and this program could continue to produce teachers who have a deep impact on education. That impact is deeply necessary for our shared future. The loss is not quantifiable. Please reconsider. ~Ambria Taylor
As a proud UofC alumna both as an undergrad and UTEPer, when I decided to return to school for a PhD I wanted to be able to finish my terminal degree as a Maroon. But unlike other Top 10 Universities that UofC always wants to compare itself to such as Stanford and Harvard, we don’t have a graduate school of education. This was bad enough, but the fact that soon there will be no way to get any kind of degree in education from UofC I think is downright irresponsible. UofC has often been accused of being isolationist and walling itself off from the city that surrounds it. The fact that the school wants no part of either researching education in the city it serves or preparing people to serve the city through education just compounds this isolationism. As you weigh the “cost” and “value” of a program like UTEP I’d like you to ask yourselves, “What is the purpose of a university? What is our responsibility with respect to pedagogy and knowledge? Can we uphold that responsibility without teachers?”
~Evelyn Pollins AB’04, MAT’05
I already had an education degree when I applied to UTEP. I felt that my undergraduate experience did not prepare me for teaching, largely because the program I attended skirted around foundational topics related to identity in teaching, as well as literacy and ELL support. I also had a very unsupportive student teaching experience, and desired for a better residency experience. I sought out UTEP specifically for its intentionality to explore and unpack how the identity plays a role in the classroom, as well as for the very structured and long-term (3-years is a lot) support that the program promised. I am an educator only and because of the support UTEP provided. I am disheartened by the university’s politics over the recent years, and hope that our collective pushback can establish a change in their (very poor) decision making. UTEP should continue to exist. Despite its imperfections, it’s a pedagogical bastion that serves a national purpose. Money is not the bottom line. The future of our country’s education is. ~Lauren Szymanski
UTEP was the single best educational and vocational training experience of my adult life. I can’t imagine that my career path and adult contributions to my community would be as rich or as fulfilling without the education and relationships gained through UTEP. ~Katherine Hove
I remember as a first-year teacher and UTEP graduate, the stark contrast in how I felt compared to how all of my friends across the country in their first year teaching. I felt prepared, confident, and emotionally ready to do the deeply emotionally exhausting work of supporting hundreds of teenagers. UTEP’s unique holistic model of teacher development is demonstrably a model for the country. I cannot imagine a better designed preparation program for this in-demand and rewarding profession. ~Ivy Abid
I truly appreciated my UTEP experience and still reflect on the ways it has shaped me as an educator all these years later. 1) I am still in the classroom 2) I was given the foundation to be thoughtful about my practice as an educator 3) The steps we went through to build our capacity as educators was invaluable. I know what it takes to be good at this work because I was given the time, space, and tools to really develop into someone who could impact children’s educational lives in a real way. ~Adrienne Cole
UTEP shaped my perspective that has led me to become a person and educator that leads by my personal inquiry, empathy, and respect, all of this honed while in UTEP. In a world that is filled with hate, division, and uncertainty, our UTEP family is one of continual prosperity and innovation, and I want that feeling to be there for educators for years to come. ~Brian Krause
UTEP connected me with a community dedicated to thinking deeply and meaningfully about the most pressing issues facing public education and equipped me with the tools to take action to face and challenge these, inside and outside of the classroom. I use the robust training that I received through UTEP every day. The loss of this program would represent the loss of the kind of justice-centered pedagogical foundation and wraparound support that are especially needed in this moment of crisis when educators are feeling at their most disempowered and least supported. ~Yeimi Valdes
I had the incredible honor to be a part of UChicago UTEP during various points of my life. As an Undergraduate student at UChicago, I worked as a student assistant in Chapin Hall, at the Center for School Improvement, now UEI, where I helped with UTEP’s inception, making copies and picking up books at the Reg library. It was while I was making these copies, that I realized the important work that Kavita Kapadia and Marv Hoffman were doing. As a Latina student from the south east side of the city, I often felt like an imposter in my classes at the University. I did not know what I was experiencing was something very common experienced by minority students until UTEP. UTEP nurtured me in a way that the College at the University never did. UTEP gave me the confidence, the knowledge to MAKE and BE the change.
After UTEP I worked at, what was at that time, a very progressive charter school, where a new concept called, “Dual Language” was being implemented. UTEP gave me the tools, the leadership and confidence that I needed to learn more about Dual Language and to continue to improve the program. I continued my learning and when I was ready to move on from the classroom, I became an instructional coach.
When I came back to work for UTEP, as a Bilingual Induction Coach and Instructor in 2015, I was tasked with the awesome responsibility of creating a Bilingual/ ESL Course sequence for teachers. This sequence was meant for both our graduate students (to get them halfway to their endorsement) and for any teachers in the city seeking their Bilingual/ESL Endorsement (thus grating an additional revenue stream for UTEP). While I am incredibly proud of this work, it has been heartbreaking to see its neglect due to the lack of understanding by current UTEP Leadership. When UTEP’s previous directors were let go in 2019, the Bilingual/ESL Endorsement sequence for teachers in Chicago was ‘hibernated’. Since then, I feel like I have had a front row seat to the slow dismantling of the UTEP program.
I do not know what the future will hold, or if UTEP will survive, but I know that if UTEP does not survive, it will be a disservice for future teachers and their students, particularly teachers and students of color. UTEP has been a large part of my life, and has supported me in my career and I hope that future teachers will be able to experience the love, friendship and support that I have experienced through UTEP. ~Janet Granados
I can enthusiastically say that UTEP is a uniquely high-quality teacher preparation program. I was accepted to Harvard, Stanford, and several other graduate schools of education, but I chose the University of Chicago because of the robust design and progressive pedagogical stance of the program. In my four years as an educator, I can say that I have learned to teach using best practices and rigor because of UTEP. I am immensely grateful to the staff (both professors and coaches) who have a tremendous amount of expertise and experience. I think the university should be proud of such a stellar program in a moment where teaching is at the front of the free speech debate. The values this university claims to hold dear are severely undermined by the decision to dismantle UTEP without community input. ~Layla Treuhaft-Ali
Hearing of the dismantling of UTEP is so deeply saddening. It is sad for me as an alum because I value my experience with UTEP so highly, even after 17 years of teaching. UTEP made me who I am as a teacher. I do not like to think of a world without UTEP. But it is even more saddening because teachers NEED the kind of experience provided by UTEP and students NEED teachers with that kind of experience. The loss of UTEP is a loss for education in general, particularly during this unparalleled teacher shortage. It is now more than ever that we need rigorous and supportive teacher education programs. I take hope in the fact that I know, those who were touched by UTEP in some way will continue to spread and magnify its positive influence.
~ Erica Keto, AB ‘04, MA ‘05
UTEP’s impact on teaching and education extends far beyond the walls of the University of Chicago. My teaching practices and school leadership skills were honed from the extensive residency and academics provided by UTEP. This program, which has prepared hundreds of teacher leaders, is a necessary and vital part of Chicago’s education landscape, as well as school districts across the country where UTEP teachers like myself now work. I am humbled and inspired by the work of UTEP alumni who continue to push boundaries and advance education equity in their schools and communities. Losing this program would be a blow to teacher education everywhere. ~Molly Bennison Slater
Ending UTEP- and therefore the University’s commitment to contribute high quality teachers to our own city’s public school system- would be shameful for such a wealthy and high quality university. I attended the University of Chicago for my undergraduate degree, and at the time, I would not have become a teacher if I hadn’t encountered a teaching master’s program at an academically rigorous institution.
Every principal and school leader I’ve worked with has touted UTEP graduates, actively seeking to hire them. I still find that the training I received in UTEP 10 years ago was “cutting edge.” For example, I was trained in-depth on backwards design planning and inquiry-based teaching: methods that my principals have repeatedly wished all their staff knew and practiced. UTEP is a model program for other teacher preparation programs.
I urge you to continue the program and to recognize the University’s role as a well-resourced academic institution that has a responsibility to the city of Chicago, our own community. UTEP is an asset to the University. ~Alexandra Krueger
UTEP is necessary not just for the educational system but for society in general. The impact of cultivating teachers is necessary, and the University of Chicago should be supporting ,rather than dismantling, its advancement. ~Kandice (Washington) Cole
UTEP fundamentally changed the trajectory of my life for the better. I met lifelong friends in an environment and culture carefully cultivated by the staff. I had conversations I haven’t had and can’t have in many other spaces. I felt much more confident starting my first year of teaching after UTEP, and principals throughout CPS share that same confidence in UTEP alumni. Shutting down this program is actively stripping public school students of the most valuable resource they have access to: caring, determined adults. Shame on any institution that calls itself academic while perpetuating the ongoing neglect of the most vulnerable people’s educational needs. ~Tom Story
Having taught in CPS, Madison WI, and now Ca, being a parent of CA public school students, and being a representative on our local school council, I can attest to the unparalleled preparation, professionalism, and support the Urban Teacher Preparation Program provides for its students, alumni and the greater field of education especially in the city of Chicago. The success and impact of this program is something I’d like to see replicated not dissolved. I urge you to look closely at this program and reconsider your choices. ~Tracie Kenyon
UTEP not only gave me a phenomenal education, but a community of like-minded educators to network with and lean on for support. Without this community I might not still be teaching. I completed another teacher preparation program prior to UTEP and chose to pursue the second degree because of the unique emphasis on race, class, and social justice that UTEP offers. It is truly a one-of-a-kind program that prepared me to work effectively with the children of Chicago. We need passionate, dedicated teachers now more than ever, who are prepared to navigate the unique challenges of teaching in Chicago Public Schools. Dismantling this program would be a grave loss not only for the University, but for the city itself. ~Freddi Konefsky
Words can not express the impact UTEP has had on me in my personal and professional journey. It was one of the most prominent safe spaces cultivated as I reflected on my identity and story as I looked forward in understanding my teacher identity. The tools, knowledge, experience provided by UTEP has stated close with me in the leadership roles I have taken on – whether it was as a school administrator or currently as the executive director of a community based organization committed to restorative practice. The principles and skills I learned from UTEP is what I continue to bring into my day to day professional experiences. (Which is significant since I recently completed another program to receive my administrator’s license, which barely touched on the things UTEP offered in my teaching master’s program). All this said, the absence of UTEP will leave a significant hole in the education landscape in Chicago, speaking as a classroom teacher and administrator who did a lot of hiring. ~Sonia Wang
I have hosted several amazing educators in my classroom as a clinical instructor. I learned as much from them as they learned from the experience. The reflection and collaboration that happened was invaluable for us as educators as well as for the students we serve. UTEP’s supportive approach allows for community building and ongoing learning and development for all involved. ~Tonya Howell
UTEP prepared and challenged me to answer the call to be the change for my family, my communities and my city. The end of the program is a loss of incalculable measure to Chicago and the education field. ~Louisa Shannon
As an engineering student and professional engineer and as a woman and a Latina, I was underrepresented in every lecture hall, laboratory, design team, department, and company that I was a part of. My UTEP education has enabled me to support students of color on the north and south sides of Chicago and the western suburbs. My students have been able to see themselves in a teacher role. It was an opportunity I rarely had. My first Latino instructor was a teaching assistant at UIUC. I was very fortunate to have a Latino graduate advisor as I wrote my engineering master’s thesis at Vanderbilt University. When I launch my school year with my favorite problem solving I hear students comment this is going to be a fun year. My students jump 25 MAP math points from fall to spring because I incentivize and motivate them for the first time to try their best. My UTEP education made all this possible. Don’t walk away from your commitment to Chicagoland students of color. ~Gloria Huezo