Principal Raven Patterson-Talley leads Emmett Till Fine & Performing Arts Elementary in Woodlawn. Fifteen years ago, Raven’s passion for service led her to become a Chicago teacher following a career in the nonprofit sector. In her role as principal, Raven is deeply committed to making Till Elementary a safe and welcoming place for all students.
Raven first learned about The Fund while serving as assistant principal (AP) at Bronzeville Classical in the Bronzeville neighborhood. Early in her educational career, Raven’s principal, Nicole Spicer, encouraged her to participate in The Fund’s Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).
“I joined my first PLC, not knowing it would help propel me into my next career move,” Raven shared. Though Raven began her PLC as an AP, she was named acting principal at Reavis Elementary in 2021. Raven credits her PLC with helping her navigate this transition. She also developed strong relationships with school leaders across the city, which she continues to nurture while seizing additional professional development opportunities.
In the 2022-23 school year, Raven is participating in a PLC focused on effective approaches to cultivating a positive school culture and climate. Led by Principal Jasmine Thurmond, the school culture and climate PLC will create opportunities for participants to visit each other’s campuses and gain insight into how different schools build community. “I’m excited to see how others support students and staff, even if they are in a different part of the city; we have more things in common than not,” Raven said.
After the pandemic deeply impacted students, families, and staff in the community, Raven was motivated to build a strong culture and climate. She sensed a deep “feeling” of hopelessness in her school community; there was a clear need for resources.
Till Elementary provides essential services and support for many families. There are 331 students enrolled at Till Elementary, 96.7% of which are Black, 3% are Latino/a/x, 94.9% are low-income, and 17.5% are diverse learners. During the pandemic, families and local organizations volunteered to help Raven, allowing her to uncover new opportunities and talents within the Till school community. Raven’s participation in The Fund’s school climate and culture PLC will enable her to build on those experiences and re-establish a sense of connectedness among students, faculty, and families.
“I’d like to thank The Fund because this is a resource that not every district has,” Raven said, “It’s great that we have this in Chicago.”