CHICAGO — A Chicago Public Schools teacher who has publicly called for more resources is up for a big national honor.
Erika Wozniak, a fifth-grade teacher at Oriole Park Elementary School, 5424 N. Oketo Ave., is up for the "Everyday Hero" award through the American Federation of Teachers. Wozniak is among five finalists across the country in the teacher category.
Growing up in East Grand Rapids, Mich., Wozniak attended "excellent" public schools, which was one of the reasons she felt compelled to teach, according to a commentary she penned for the Tribune.
When Wozniak began her CPS career in 2004 she quickly discovered that the city's public school system lacked resources.
"When I first started working in CPS, I was sad to see things that I hadn't expected," she wrote. "My classroom had asbestos in it, so I called my dad one day after school sobbing because it was beyond me that my students were spending five long days a week in a hazardous classroom."
So she volunteered to be a Chicago Teachers Union delegate and "fight" for her students even though it was only her first year as a teacher.
"I am in love with my job. I love getting up in the morning and going to work. I love being at school. I love my students, past and present. I love my colleagues. I love having the amazing honor of being a teacher, my dream job since I was 3. That will never change," she wrote.
"What I do not love is the system that I work in, the lack of attention to our students, the fact that we have to fight for our students to have neighborhood schools. That we have to fight for our students to have basic necessities such as clean classrooms, and for our students to have social workers, nurses, counselors, art, music, library, P.E. and sports programs."
Wozniak has become a force in CPS. She has also publicly called for her alma mater DePaul University to hand over naming rights money to CPS students.
To vote for Wozniak, visit the American Federation of Teachers website. Votes will be accepted through May 29.
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