Serving Student Needs: A Three-Step Snapshot
“My sister is my hero,” says Emily Feltes, principal of North-Grand High School in West Humboldt Park. Growing up, Emily spent summers tagging along to her sister’s summer school job to “hang out” and watch her teach classes to middle school students. Emily was inspired by her sister’s teaching, but also realized during those summers that “not everyone grew up with equitable access to high equality education.”
Emily’s passion for education− and for ensuring all students have the opportunity for a high quality educational experience− never diminished. She graduated in 2006 from Miami University and taught English for five years before making her way to North-Grand in 2012. “I am most proud of the growth and transformation in the past five years,” reports Emily, who served as curriculum director and assistant principal before taking on the role of principal in the fall of 2016.
Here are three ways Emily has used her autonomy as principal improve the student experience at North-Grand:
The first thing Emily did as principal was move money around and hire a fourth counselor, reducing each caseload by 90 students. Reducing caseload size means each counselor can spend more time with students to ensure they receive individualized support and attention. She says it is important that teachers and administrators work with the counseling, attendance and discipline teams to ensure there are “the right resources in place to tackle some of these major issues that kids are going through.”
Second, Emily is focused on creating an inclusive school culture. “I really feel like we are a school who can serve any student who attends here no matter the challenges they may face,” Emily says. At North-Grand, 25 percent of students are diverse learners, which can make serving everyone at the individual level a challenge. It helps that Emily’s students are, in her words, “exceptionally inclusive of their peers.”
As principal, she works to support the special education population. A highlight is the Owl Buddies program, which pairs general education students with peers with a wide range of disabilities to learn and grow together both academically and socially. Additionally, students in North-Grand’s cluster programs whose disabilities range from moderate to severe are fully integrated into arts and physical education courses.
Third, Emily integrated that inclusive attitude into North-Grand’s efforts on post-secondary success. The school is home to three elective programs: Allied Health, Project Lead the Way and Culinary Arts. These special curricula each have a post-secondary focus that Emily knows is beneficial to the continued education of her students. It’s clear that she is “focused on not just supporting [students] here and now, but also on giving them the skill set they need to be successful when they graduate and making sure that support fits each student.”
“I’ve got a thousand babies in here,” Emily says. It’s clear she is well on her way to ensuring all of them have the quality education they deserve.