WITS at 30: Rochelle Lee Teacher Award

Erin ToaleInside WITS, Mission & Outcomes, Teachers

Working in the Schools (WITS) began in a single classroom in 1991. The founders’ intent: to provide in-person, one-on-one literacy mentoring to Chicago students. A second similarly-missioned commitment, spearheaded by Librarian Rochelle Lee, bolstered the efforts of WITS by ensuring support and continued education opportunities for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teachers. What started as the Rochelle Lee Fund became a formalized initiative under the name Boundless Readers. This program provided literacy-based professional development resources and programs to CPS teachers. This WITS program provides teachers with the training and resources needed to foster a love of reading in students. In 2015, these two organizations merged to create a holistic approach to literacy support in WITS classrooms. Rochelle Lee also became the namesake of the Rochelle Lee Teacher Award (RLTA).

What Is RLTA?

The Rochelle Lee Teacher Award is a professional development program for CPS teachers. The program has several facets, all focused on developing balanced literacy instructional practices in classrooms. The RLTA alumna network consists of over eight thousand teachers committed to developing lifelong readers in the classroom. RLTA Study Groups are school-based professional learning communities. Study groups develop a goal to guide their learning throughout the school year. They meet monthly to discuss instruction and push their practice to reach their goal. Study Groups allow teachers to have a school-wide impact on student literacy instruction.

Having access to mentorship and professional development is career changing for teachers. According to The Learning Policy Institute, one of the top three strategies for improving teacher effectiveness and retention is to increase access to mentoring and professional development. The Rochelle Lee Teacher Award (RLTA) provides mentorship and professional development opportunities for CPS teachers by offering programming for teachers to learn from their peers. Read more in this blog: The Importance of Mentorship for Teachers. The RLTA application is open from mid-December through early March.

WITS at 30

As we look back over the past 30 years, we are so grateful for all the teachers we’ve had the opportunity work and learn with. To learn more about WIT’S 30th Anniversary year visit: WITS at 30: It Began in a Classroom.