Picket line, downtown CTU rally a ‘teachable moment’ — for strikers’ own kids

Many teachers brought their children with them to the first major walkout since 2012.

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Thousands of striking Chicago Teachers Union members and their supporters rally outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters before marching through the Loop, Thursday afternoon, Oct. 17, 2019.

Thousands of striking Chicago Teachers Union members and their supporters rally outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters before marching through the Loop, Thursday afternoon, Oct. 17, 2019.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Chicago Public Schools employees on strike Thursday said they brought their children to the downtown rally at CPS headquarters to show them the power of collective action and to demand a bright future for their students.

Gabrielle Odom, 12, said she was amazed by the size of the crowd at the rally, which was estimated to be in the thousands.

“I was expecting it to be smaller. A few people holding signs. This is so many people,” Gabrielle said.

Gabrielle Odom, 12, with her mother, Erin Matthews, a social worker at two CPS schools.

Gabrielle Odom, 12, with her mother, Erin Matthews, a social worker at two CPS schools.

Matthew Hendrickson/Sun-Times

Her mother, Erin Matthews, works as a social worker at two schools, and said she often goes home feeling guilty that she wasn’t able to provide enough support to the kids she wants to help. She said she felt a duty as a parent to bring her daughter and show her that by coming together, teachers can demand change.

“So many kids have trauma and they really need someone to listen to them,” Matthews said. “If they don’t get help from us, they don’t get help.”

Matthews said she has to split her time between both schools and can only spend two days a week at each. She hopes that if CPS hires more social workers, she’ll be assigned to a single school and work full-time there.

Gabrielle said she was proud of her mother.

“She’s part of this whole movement that will help me and will help other people,” she said.

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Halle Quazada, a teacher at Boone Elementary School, carries her friend’s 4-year-old daughter as she joins thousands of striking Chicago Teachers Union members and their supporters march through the Loop.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

At her school, Blaine Elementary, Gabrielle said she has computers in her classroom, a technology lab that includes a 3D printer and that her school recently got a new sports field. She will occasionally go to work with her mom and said the differences between her school and the ones her mom works at is “annoying.”

“You look at the other schools and they don’t have that,” Gabrielle said. “They need a lot more and it’s not fair.”

Irma Lara, a third-grade bilingual teacher and former CPS student herself, brought her 2-year-old to the Chicago teacher strike rally downtown on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019.

Irma Lara, a third-grade bilingual teacher and former CPS student herself, brought her 2-year-old to the Chicago teacher strike rally downtown.

Matthew Hendrickson/Sun-Times

Their concerns were echoed by other parents at the rally and on picket lines earlier in the day.

Irma Lara, a third-grade bilingual teacher and former CPS student herself, said she brought her 2-year-old with her because he’ll soon be a CPS student and she wants to give him the resources he needs.

“This is about the students,” she said. “We’re in the classrooms every day. We see what [students] need. We are speaking for them.

“I want to make sure he has everything he needs when he goes to school to make him successful. That means social workers and nurses and librarians and music teachers. They should have that.”

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Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The lack of nurses at schools was a point that strikers raised often for their reasons for rallying.

Molly, 12, a sixth-grader at LaSalle Language Academy, said she came with her mother, a special education teacher at Benito Juarez High School, because her school needs nurses.

Molly said her school only has a nurse on Tuesdays.

“I guess we’re not supposed to get sick any other day of the week,” she quipped.

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Matthew Hendrickson/Sun-Times

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