LAKEVIEW — Last year was a whirlwind for Blaine Elementary third-grade teacher Angela Brito.
Chicago Public Schools officials said in April that her previous school, Mary Mcleod Bethune in West Garfield Park, might be closed. She went on maternity leave in May, and two days after she gave birth to her son, the official news came out — Bethune would not reopen the 2013-14 school year.
"Last year was a busy year," she said.
But the closing pushed Brito to look for different opportunities. She already knew about Blaine and had worked with Blaine Principal Troy LaRaviere before.
Bethune's closing ended up being Blaine's gain.
"She is all around a great teacher and team player," LaRaviere said.
Brito, a Milwaukee native, moved to Chicago about five years ago after teaching in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Madison, Wis., in urban and private schools. It's her 12th year teaching, she said.
She's known for sharing what she knows with colleagues, LaRaviere said. Brito's only been at Blaine for this school year, but LaRaviere said she's already organized workshops for literacy intervention strategies and worked with primary teachers on curriculum enhancements.
One of her strategies: the use of learning centers, a nationwide practice that helps organize students with varying needs.
Brito's math and reading classes range from students who are at a late second-grade level to students who need fourth- or fifth-grade materials to support them, she said. She divides them into groups and rotates between them to individualize the lessons.
"I feel like I'm reaching my kids more," she said. "I can watch the processes going on with all the kids at the table and give them the immediate feedback that they need."
That individual attention makes her a team player with parents, too — which is "a lost art in teaching these days" due to overcrowding at CPS, said Stacy Boyle, parent to a Blaine third-grader.
With the competition to get into high school, Brito always makes Boyle feel confident that her son Holden is in good hands for a strong education, Boyle said.
"If you talk to any of her parents, she makes each one of the kids feel special and each one of the families feel like she's there to answer questions and help in any way to work as part of the team," Boyle said.
Brito sees her work as going beyond school hours. She tries to tutor students before school a couple days a week to reinforce what's learned in class.
"I don’t think my job starts at 8 and ends at 3," she said. "If my kids need me, I’ll do more."