As a young child, Nicole Zumpano already knew she wanted to become a teacher. Her father served as School Board President of the elementary school she attended. She was taught early to value education, and early on decided to make it her career.
After pursuing a college degree in education, she applied for a teaching position with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and began teaching at May Community Academy, and 19 years later, she is still serving students in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood.
“I know it’s unusual for a teacher to stay at the same school for so many years, but since day one, I felt like I could make a difference here and was able to do a good job in this community,” said Zumpano. “This is a high-poverty area, and I’ve been able to expose the kids to a lot of things they aren’t exposed to outside of school.”
For 15 years, Zumpano taught the 4th grade, sharing her love of books and technology with her students, and building relationships that lasted long after her students graduated.
“So many of my former students are now in college and seeking me out through Facebook and email,” said Zumpano. “It’s very heart-warming when they say they remember learning and doing certain things in the classroom. It’s just awesome to see that they are in college and careers and succeeding.”
In 2008, May Elementary applied for a Federal grant through the Voluntary Choice Program to become one of the first Technology Magnet Clusters within CPS. Having always had an avid interest in technology, Zumpano jumped at the chance to chair the grant committee. Through her hard work and that of the team, May was awarded a grant in partnership with Spencer Elementary.
As part of the grant, Zumpano had the opportunity to pursue a second master’s degree, and, as a result, became May’s Lead Technology Teacher/Tech Coordinator. In this role, she manages all efforts to employ technology in the classroom. From helping teachers integrate technology into their curriculum, to managing the school’s iPad program, to helping maintain equipment--she is known widely as the school’s technology guru. She also started a blog for the school and encourages teachers to blog their lesson plans as a way to share important information with their colleagues.
When it comes to the many positive benefits of technology in schools, Zumpano can’t say enough. In addition to many tools being free and easily adaptable to the classroom, she sees the important ways in which technology supports students learning and achievement.
“There are so many creative technological tools we can use to reach kids and give them a voice,” she said. “Our students are very curious and eager to learn, and through these tools, we can provide them with greater access to literature, different cultures and other exciting learning opportunities.”
Last month, the Chicago Foundation for Education (CFE) surprised Zumpano with the 2011 Teacher of the Year Award, given annually to a CPS teacher who, among other criteria, goes above and beyond to enhance the classroom experience, provide effective instruction to students, seek out professional development opportunities, and share effective practices with colleagues. As part of the award – presented with help from her husband and 11-year-old twins at the CFE Annual Teacher Workshop – she received $1,000 for classroom materials or continued professional development, and a two year term on CFE's Board of Directors.
“Nicole was chosen for this honor because of her long and extensive involvement with the Foundation,” said Rupal Soni, CFE Program Director. “She is truly a teacher leader as a 10-time CFE grant winner and five-time presenter at CFE’s Annual Teachers as Leaders and Learners Workshop. She is a role model for educators everywhere and a gift to the CPS community.
“Receiving this award was such an honor,” said Zumpano. “I love being a teacher and look forward to many more years of sharing technology and a love of learning with students.”
CPS congratulates Nicole on receiving this award, and salutes her outstanding work at May Elementary and her dedication to CPS students!
Horatio May Elementary Community Academy offers its students a curriculum infused with technology through the Magnet Math/Science Programs. May features Internet access school-wide. The school partners include YMCA, Communities in Schools, Tishman Construction, Wildmann, Harrold, Allen & Dixon Firm, Terrell Group, World Vision and Hartgrove Hospital. May is enhancing learning to better serve the community.
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