Teacher Spotlight: Yvonne Glenn at CICS Prairie in Illinois

Yvonne Glenn doesn’t have to search far to find motivation each day.

No matter the obstacles that appear in her way, Glenn begins every morning as a middle school math teacher with an optimistic attitude and a smile on her face. Her source of inspiration has never changed.

“It’s the kids,” Glenn said. “It’s always been about the kids. They deserve great teachers. They deserve to come into the building and have someone who knows their name.”

Of course, Glenn does so much more than simply learn their names. In her 18 years of teaching at CICS Prairie in Chicago, Illinois, Glenn has shown a sincere interest and made a difference in all aspects of her students’ lives. 

“I wear many hats around here, and I enjoy every bit of that,” Glenn said. “I’m a part of their community. I want them to understand that, yes, in the classroom I’m Ms. Glenn and we’re talking about math, but I do care about what’s happening outside of the classroom as well.” 

Glenn is the latest educator to receive Summit Learning’s monthly “Teacher Spotlight” honor, which celebrates those who go above and beyond to provide meaningful learning experiences for their students. Upon hearing the news, Glenn deflected the recognition as best she could while crediting her success to those teachers who helped shape her as a child living in the South Side area of Chicago.

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, from the time I was in elementary school,” Glenn said. “I loved my teachers. I loved doing the work. And I wanted to be a teacher so that, regardless of who was sitting in my classroom, they could have the same experiences that I had while growing up in the inner city.”

Glenn has a profound love for her hometown and is honored to have the chance to positively impact her city’s youth through her work at CICS Prairie, a Distinctive Schools member and part of the Chicago International Charter School network. 

Glenn began teaching kindergarten at CICS Prairie, a K-8 school in Chicago’s South Side, before moving on to higher grades. She quickly realized that seventh and eighth grade fit her teaching style—and humor—the best. 

“My jokes go over the heads of some of the younger students, but in middle school they understand and I’m able to totally be me,” Glenn said. “Plus they can talk about what’s happening in the world and I love that. I get excited because every day is different. I get excited because every day is a challenge. Some days are great, some days are not so great. 

“But my students know that when they come into my room, you’ve got to be ready to work. I expect nothing less.”

Glenn, who is also an Assistant Director at CICS Prairie, enjoys using real-life examples in her teaching to illustrate how “math is everywhere and math can be fun.” Glenn also infuses joy into her classroom through the occasional song-and-dance break.

“And I’m a bad dancer,” she said, laughing. “But if we need a pick-me-up, I’ll throw some music on and dance. If I’m in the middle of a lesson and I see that their attention is drifting, will I stop and do a two-step? Yeah, because they don’t expect it, you know? It’s not like they’re always looking for me to sing or dance, but it’s something unexpected to keep them going.”

Glenn also brings three decades of parenting experience to her strategies of how to engage students. As the proud mother of seven grown children between the ages of 21 and 32, Glenn is well-versed on overcoming the myriad of small problems that arise in students’ lives while keeping their focus on achieving larger goals.

“It was a struggle at times, but the lessons I instilled in my kids are what I’m instilling in my students,” said Glenn, who has four sons and three daughters. “It’s okay to not have all the answers right away. It’s okay to take time to think about things and work through problems and not have to immediately respond to every little thing.”

Two of Glenn’s children followed in her footsteps and are now educators, and she always loves hearing from former students who do the same. More importantly to her, though, is that everybody leaves her classroom with a passion for gaining knowledge.

“My goal is for them to have that love of learning and to be lifelong learners,” Glenn said. “For them to know that anything is possible, but it takes hard work. I learned a long time ago that if the students don’t like you, they won’t respect you, and if they don’t respect you, they won’t learn from you. There has to be a happy medium.”

Glenn’s message to her students at the start of every school year is straightforward and heartfelt.

“I have high expectations and I want you to rise to the occasion,” Glenn said. “It’s going to be a process, but I’ll get you there.”

Do you know a Summit Learning teacher who is going above and beyond to support their students? If so, please nominate them to receive the Summit Learning Teacher Spotlight through this form.

About the author

Summit Learning
Summit Learning is a research–based approach to education designed to drive student engagement, meaningful learning, and strong student–teacher relationships that prepare students for life after graduation. Created by teachers with experience in diverse classrooms, Summit Learning is grounded in decades of research about how children learn. With Summit Learning, students gain mastery of core subjects like math, history, English, and science, while also carefully developing the skills and habits of lifelong learners. Summit Learning is independently led and operated by the nonprofit, Gradient Learning.