EDGEWATER — Senn High School is a long way from the southern Mexico state of Guerrero where Luz Andreu was born.
But it's the place she calls home.
"I love Senn," the Spanish language teacher said from her third-floor classroom Monday. "I love coming to work."
And Andreu has been coming to work at Senn for 16 years.
In her time there she has mastered how to teach the Spanish language — which is evidenced by her students earning the city's best scores on both the International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement tests, said Susan Lofton, the school's principal.
Lofton, who's been principal for the last two years, said Andreu "pushes" her students, stays late to tutor and volunteers "left and right" for other school programs.
"She has a very intelligent, elastic mind," Lofton said. "We've done major changes of curriculum. She's kept up with all of it. It's a testament to a lifelong learner."
Andreu immigrated on a student visa when she was 19 to study at Northeastern Illinois University as an exchange student. After graduation, she landed a gig teaching at Senn.
The 44-year-old, who refers to her students as her "heroes" and hasn't written a disciplinary referral for a student in seven years, said she doesn't plan to leave the school until retirement.
She lives near O'Hare Airport with her husband and three boys, ages 7, 12 and 18, but said she doesn't mind the hourlong commute to work.
"The first time I came to Senn, I fell in love with it," she said. "You have to do this with passion and love."
Andreu likens teaching to cooking — the textbooks, assignments and activities are like ingredients to a dinner dish.
When she heard her students had bested all other Chicago public schools, she told her husband, "I made the most delicious soup in Chicago."
Darnell Flowers, 21, spent his Monday afternoon at Senn asking for letters of recommendation from his former teachers. He said he was applying for colleges.
He popped into Andreu's classroom to say hi to a woman he called "the best teacher ever," even though he only had her for half a semester before transferring to another school.
"Do you remember Spanish?" she asked.
"Poquito," he replied with a grin.