Thinking Outside the Box

At Hawthorne Elementary, a principal on the roof is not an uncommon sight to see. Principal Nate Pietrini, a former Fund Educator Advisory Committee member, is known for his unconventional tactics that get kids excited about school.

Nate joined Hawthorne in 2012 after seven years of teaching within the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system. Currently, Nate is earning his EdD in Urban Education Leadership through the University of Illinois at Chicago, a selective program involving a full-year principal internship, as well as coursework and three years of on-the-job coaching. To Nate, his position as a principal at Hawthorne is a chance to fulfill his belief in education as a universal right for every student.

Around Hawthorne, Nate is known for thinking outside the box. Whether camping on top of the roof of the school building to promote a love for reading, or letting his students duct tape him to the wall as part of a reward for a fundraiser to combat leukemia, Nate has always valued unconventional tactics of modeling and encouraging student behavior.

“The idea behind [these methods] is that I want to set a challenge that is in response to a need,” he said. “One of those needs is to have kids who are readers. Not to just read out of compliance, but to have fun reading, to talk to others about reading, and to hear what everyone else is reading. I want people to say, ‘No, this is who I am, I’m a reader; it’s valuable to me.’ What are some things to do in response to that; we can model and encourage that behavior.”

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