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March 26, 2021

Tch of the Week: Bradwell School of Excellence’s Lindsey Siemens

Ms siemens

If Nate Silver could adapt the PECOTA Algorithm to forecast Ms. Siemens’s value to the Bradwell School of Excellence, her ratings would be off the charts!  Plain and simple, you’d want Lindsey to teach your children. Her energy and positive spirit fill her classroom so completely that her 5th graders can’t help but smile as they learn.

If she’s not developing and delivering lessons that give her students the opportunity to build their own habitats or examine a dictator’s impact on a nation’s stability, Lindsey’s sitting down with her residents to debrief lessons, practice, or just give a pep talk. At some point in the day, you’ll also find her walking the third floor halls with an arm around a student who’s having a tough time.  It is in these moments that you so clearly see the single thread that runs through everything she does: compassion.  And it’s because of this compassion that her classroom is a place where students and residents feel safe taking risks and making mistakes.  Needless to say, this openness to error is the catalyst for all the learning that happens in Room 306.

Amidst all the planning and preparing and teaching, you’ll find any number of teachers filtering into Lindsey’s room.  They often come  to borrow this device or that tool, and she always answers their requests with the same level of generosity you’d expect from a neighbor who you’ve just asked for a cup of sugar.  Beyond her classroom, Ms. Siemens offers Bradwell’s ILT valuable and concrete direction in addition to planning and facilitating monthly Special Education Team meetings.

This year, Lindsey was awarded an 18-month fellowship with Teach Plus, a national organization that has identified the need for teachers across the country to be part of education policy discussion and decisions.  Through her work with the organization and her cohort of CPS and Charter teachers, Ms. Siemens not only hopes to explore how the Common Core State Standards are being implemented in Illinois, but also focus specifically on how Special Education students are impacted.  She says, “There hasn’t been a lot of discussion around how CCSS impact Diverse Learners, and I’m very interested in being part of conversations that will drive what Special Educations teachers do in their classrooms and how their students learn.”

One of my favorite Ms. Siemens moments happened a couple months back in December when Lindsey’s resident, John Devine, wrote a song to the tune of Queen’s We Will Rock You.  He wanted to get his students amped up about multiplication, which we all know isn’t an easy thing to do.  To make matters even tougher, Mr. Devine, like so many other residents, was still searching for his teacher persona. On this particular day, though, and thanks in part to Ms. Siemens’ mentoring prowess, Mr. Devine channeled his inner Freddie Mercury and brought a room full of students to their feet as he performed We Will Multiply.  Here’s the opening stanza:

Gotta Break it down, make those big numbers small

Gonna make a square that’s called an array

Start with the tens place, then the ones place

Multiplying double digits all over the place

We will, we will multiply

We will, we will multiply

As the scene unfolded, I filmed the lesson and beamed with admiration as students recited the lyrics with confidence and conviction. And there was Ms. Siemens, at the rear of the room, drumming at a student’s desk and singing along.  So, what did I learn on this day?  Spend enough time with Lindsey, and you too will leave feeling like the lead singer of Queen.

For me, there’s only one real reason to be in the classroom: students.  Politics and solving school level issues isn’t what drives me because if that becomes the foundation for what we do as teachers, the work can become stifling.

Here’re a few more interesting details about Bradwell’s Ms. Siemens:

Why did you become a teacher?

“After being a Social Worker and working with adults and children with disabilities and seeing how their educational experiences were less than ideal in many situations, I began thinking about becoming a teacher.  My mom was a Special Ed teacher and throughout my life she had always encouraged me to enter the field.  Before she passed away, one of our last conversations revolved around my struggles with Social Work and the value of education.  Ultimately, this conversation was the reason I entered the profession.” Lindsey adds that, “Having a brother with moderate to profound disabilities has in many ways normalized the experience of living with special needs, but in realizing that this wasn’t always the case for many students, I wanted to create a space within my own classroom where that perspective would be a reality.”

Who inspires you?

 “My students.  I know, it may sound cheesy, but it’s true.  It’s interesting, I was sitting Teach Plus meeting recently and the facilitator asked ‘why are you all still in the classroom?’  For me, there’s only one real reason to be in the classroom: students.  Politics and solving school level issues isn’t what drives me because if that becomes the foundation for what we do as teachers, the work can become stifling.  On the other hand, when students are the foundation, we can all accomplish so much more.”

What advice do you have for your fellow TchAUSL community members?

“Maintain a level of humility around who you are as a teacher.  This year, as a first-year mentor, the mirror’s been in my face, but I recognize that we’re constantly changing and growing as professionals.  Because of that, I’m able to develop my residents and students, while communicating that we don’t always have to have all the right answers.  Instead, we can learn alongside each other and develop the deepest kind of knowledge that is grounded in mutual respect.”


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