CPS Teacher Feature: James “Fitz” Fitzgerald 

November 14, 2014

For thousands of students at Hubbard High School, James Fitzgerald has been more than a teacher. He’s been a mentor, a cheerleader, and a father figure.

Known to all as “Fitz”, this Law teacher is one of the longest serving educators in CPS, having recently started his 49th year at Hubbard.

“the only thing that’s changed in all that time is last names,” said Fitz of his students. “When I started at Hubbard, my students were Polish and Lithuanian. Today, they’re predominantly Latino. But other than that, they’re the same – young adults who want to achieve more than their parents and have a better life.”

Fitz can relate to this goal, as he was the first in his family to attend college.

“My father died when I was in eighth grade, and by the next year, I was basically on my own,” he said. “I didn’t have anything or anyone to help me, but I went to college and have a Master’s Degree. So I always tell my students, if I can do it, you can do it.”

And they have. Many of Fitz’s Law students have achieved impressive successes, including arguing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and reaching elected office.

“Fitz’s Law class changed the trajectory of my life,” said Brandon Loggins, an attorney now running for Chicago alderman. “In one class, he had me watch The Lion King, then assigned me to defend Scar for the murder of Mufasa. That was the beginning of me finding my passion and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life.”

In addition to shaping legal minds, Fitz has coached everything under the sun at Hubbard, including football, cross country, and even one season of cheerleading. He has also led the school’s competitive mock trial team since 1974.

“Having Fitz as a teacher is pretty great,” said Efren G,. a senior at Hubbard who has been inspired by Fitz to study criminology in college. “He’s really loud and likes to joke around, but he makes us get serious about our work. He’s the best teacher I’ve had in my four years of high school.”

Fitz’s classroom is laid out like a court of law, with a judge’s bench, a witness stand, and a jury box. But instructing them in the rule of law barely scratches the surface of his influence on students. His lasting impact is far richer.

“Fitz is like a father figure to me,” said Kyana A., also a senior at Hubbard. “He’s so himself that he makes me feel like I can be myself. I hope I can grow up to be as confident and understanding as he is.”

Once they graduate, Efren and Kyana will likely be among the hordes of former students who maintain relationships with Fitz. He hosts an annual reunion attended by hundreds of his former students, has stood up in five of their weddings, and has been there for them in times of trouble.  

“I had my daughter when I was a senior in high school,” said Fabiola Serrano, a former student who now teaches alongside Fitz at Hubbard. “Fitz was one of the few teachers who took me aside and told me to let him know if I ever needed anything. That was a hard time for me, but every time I wanted to give up, I thought of Fitz. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.”

To his students, Fitz is known for his discipline, his structure, and his insistence on perseverance and high standards. And like in the case of Fabiola, they know they can always come to him for guidance and support.

“All of my students have my phone number when they leave,” he said. “I want them to know that they’re a part of my family, and that as long as I’m alive, I’ll be there for them.”

Click here to see how Fitz has inspired his current and former students.

Page Last Modified on Friday, February 20, 2015