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Chute creative drama teacher Jenna Temkin was recognized at Monday night’s Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Board meeting as winner of a major award from the National Artist Teacher Fellowship program.

She was selected to receive a $5,500 fellowship that comes with an additional $1,500 grant to Chute Middle School to support her post-fellowship activities at the school.

Purpose of the NATF grant program is to support the artistic revitalization of arts teachers, offering them the opportunity to immerse themselves in their own creative work, interact with other professional artists, and stay current with new practices.

As part of the application process, Ms. Temkin had to submit a project proposal designed to re-inspire the artist within the teacher.

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Her proposal included traveling to Northern Ireland and London to work alongside the noted Theatre of the Oppressed company, The Cardboard Citizens, to examine their work highlighting and resolving community-based issues with the regional homeless population, many of whom are immigrants and/or refugees.

“Due to the influx of English Language Learners to our district,” Temkin said, “I am seeking fresh, new theatrical approaches to working with these children as well as providing a safe space where they feel connected to the community in which they currently live.”

While abroad, she saw the end of The Cardboard Citizens tour and was able to connect with producers and directors to get logistical and artistic perspectives on the work they do with homeless youth. She also met with theatre practitioners while in London and participated in a rehearsal and workshop with homeless youth and young actors.

This October, she visited The Graduate School of Education at Harvard University to present her project and participate in Master’s classes alongside other art teacher fellows.

“This type of work will be hugely beneficial to our rising refugee and immigrant population in Evanston as well as further supporting the Community Schools program at Chute,” she said.

“In addition, this project has also provided additional tools to further reach those students who are otherwise oppressed within their own community,” she added.

Superintendent Paul Goren, at the board meeting, commended Temkin “for her desire to learn and to continue to grow.”

Addressing her, he added: “I want to thank you for everything you do for all of our students, including my son, Kip, from a couple of years ago.”

Temkin is currently making arrangements to bring in a special guest artist who she will work alongside to help shape the spring production at Chute featuring the school’s English Language Learners and her advanced drama class.

The NATF selection committee awarded fellowships to 17 outstanding arts teachers from more than 80 applicants, representing 15 schools from around the country that have demonstrated a commitment to using the arts to improve student engagement and achievement. 

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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