CCR Session at Chicago Public Schools Community Immersion Institute

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is a large school district that manages over 600 public elementary and high schools in Chicago, Illinois. CPS is currently the third largest school district in the United States, with more than 400,000 students enrolled. The community immersion institutes run by CPS were designed to help connect teachers with the communities where they teach and offer them support in developing curricular projects that link their curriculum to the community.


CCR provided an important reflection session that bridged community experiences with the pedagogical process. Through the lens of the short story, teachers were able to see the process of educating through a new lens and that set the stage for an introduction to various community-based pedagogical strategies.


--Jon Schmidt

Service-Learning Manager, Chicago Public Schools

Audience Focus

Approximately 80 Chicago Public School teachers who were attending week-long community immersion institutes.


  1. Help teachers to develop innovative and creative strategies to connect their curricula to the communities they serve.
  2. Strengthen relationships between teachers, students, and families.
  3. Help teachers develop empathy and respect for their students' cultures and communities
Chicago Public School teachers sit and face front of room

Project Description

The Chicago Public Schools Community Immersion Institute was developed to bridge the gap between teachers and the neighborhoods where they work, helping teachers to better understand the history, culture, and resources in the communities they serve. As John Schmidt, CCR Advisory Council member and Service-Learning Manager at Chicago Public Schools, says: "I would be shocked if we had even 15 to 20 percent of teachers living in the neighborhoods where they [teach]."

As part of the Community Immersion Institute, the Center for Civic Reflection was invited to facilitate reflective discussions and brainstorming sessions with CPS teachers. The discussions and sessions helped teachers to explore connections between their curricula and the communities they serve, think more empathetically about their students and where they come from, and identify future partnerships with neighborhood and community organizations to deepen learning both inside and outside of the classroom. The opportunity to think, talk, and listen with other educators helped the teachers to reflect upon their relationships with their students, schools, and communities, develop ideas for community-based pedagogy, and strategize for the year ahead.


  1. On a scale of 1-5, scores for the institute's effectiveness ranged from 4.55 to 5.
  2. Teachers displayed increased understanding of student and community needs.
  3. Deepened teachers' commitment to community-based pedagogy, ultimately leading to the development of several curricular projects throughout Chicago Public Schools.
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