October 26, 2018 Blog, Personalized Learning

Personalized Learning Pioneer: Julie Hallums

When Julie Hallums first arrived at Funston Elementary School in Logan Square to serve as interim principal in the fall of 2015, she already had plans to change the school for the better. She describes a disjointed campus where teachers used different curriculum and lacked unity. After she was hired as the full-time principal, Julie committed herself to bringing cohesion back to Funston, beginning by standardizing the curriculum. In this search for curriculum, Julie discovered personalized learning and ever since, she has put in hours upon hours of work to develop Funston into a model for personalized learning.

The push towards personalized learning began when Funston was awarded a spot in Chicago Public Schools’ inaugural Personalized Learning Cohort. The school is now in Phase 3 of a “whole school redesign” encompassing support for classroom redesign, professional development, coaching and one-to-one technology. Leap Innovations has also provided teachers across all grade levels the chance to receive training tailored to personalized learning instruction.

Julie reports that “twelve classrooms have been completely remodeled,” which includes everything from fresh paint and new furniture to cutting edge education technology or “Ed Tech” tools. She can still picture the outdated overhead projectors and old textbooks that once filled the school; now she looks around and sees students working with the most up to date resources available. Students also got involved in transforming the school. They filled out surveys to select new classroom furniture and completed beautification projects indoors and out, giving them a new sense of ownership and initiative.

The shift to personalized learning is complete for all students in grades three through eight at Funston, and Julie hopes to expand it to the earlier grades too. Julie’s goal is turning Funston into a place where “personalized learning is wall-to-wall,” because it will help her and her staff best serve students’ social-emotional needs.

Julie even invested in Funston’s metamorphosis herself, purchasing couches and chairs that students now enjoy throughout the building. She knows there is value in “creating environments kids really want to be in,” and Funston’s incredible attainment growth serves as a solid proof point to her hypothesis. Julie is inspired by the growth she has witnessed so far, but remains focused on earning a Level 1+ rating for her school (Funston is currently a Level 2+ school).

The journey at Funston to deliver personalized education to all students was further supported by kCura, since renamed Relativity, which awarded Funston their Wired to Learn grant in 2016.  This $250,000 grant has allowed Funston to put a device in the hands of every student from Kindergarten through eighth grade and will also give teachers tools to integrate technology into their classrooms daily.

Julie is proud to be a principal in Chicago Public Schools, a district she believes is on the forefront of personalized learning. She is further encouraged by the recent $14 million grant Leap Innovations and CPS received to expand personalized learning. Julie hopes Funston can become a model for others looking to modernize their methods and would ultimately like to see it become a “destination for education” that draws students from all over the city. With her determination and passion, we are confident any student would enjoy the experience Julie has created at Funston.