Lab teacher awarded for excellence in the classroom
N–2 educator Tracy Aiden was recently honored with this year’s Mary V. Williams Award for Excellence in Teaching, an honor bestowed upon one outstanding Lab teacher every year. Created to honor legendary Lower and Middle School teacher Mary Williams, the award recognizes a faculty member who shares Williams’ spirit, including a holistic teaching style and a deep respect for students’ individuality.
Another criterion of the award is for the recipient to possess “a personal immersion in projects for which the faculty member has a passion.” This describes Aiden to a tee; her passion for connecting students to literature that represents them has led her to start Royalty Reads, a collection of little free libraries specifically dedicated to children’s books featuring characters of color. When she’s not in the classroom, Aiden is maintaining 16 mini-libraries across Chicago, with plans to add more. You can learn more about Royalty Reads here and find out how you can get involved!
Aiden’s students have participated in her project as well, helping to decorate the libraries and deliver them to communities in the area. “I think that it’s important for kids to see the world outside of their classroom and their home,” Aiden says. “Our last cohort and their families were so open to really wanting to take care of communities, whether it’s their classroom or ESH or the Hyde Park community.”
While discussing her award, Aiden is quick to point out that she has had plenty of support in her time at Lab, noting her assistants and colleagues have cheered her on in her efforts. Her students, however, get the lion’s share of her admiration. “I always like to give those kids all the credit because I’d come up with all these ideas,” Aiden laughs, “but if they’re not excited about it, then it all goes flat.”
It’s clear that Aiden’s effect on her students and the wider community stem from her own personal pedagogical philosophy. “We talk about the ripple effect: when you put some kindness out, it ripples out into the world,” she explains. “I think it’s important for kids to understand the ripple effect of everything that they do, even as little people.” From her classroom in ESH, this award-winning teacher is not just creating ripples of kindness, equity, and compassion—she’s making waves.
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