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From Student Teacher to Change Maker

As a student teacher studying at the Chicago Center in the '90s, Kevin Hough, FA’99, was exposed to the realities of teaching in an urban setting. Encouraged by his experience in Chicago, he became a teacher in Chicago Public Schools and called the classroom home for more than a decade before moving on to the Chicago Teachers Union. Now an advocate for teachers’ rights across the city, Kevin is out of the classroom and in the driver's seat, creating change for teachers and students.

CC: What can you tell us about the first time you learned about the Chicago Center and what drew you to the program?

KH: I first learned of the Center in 1998, from a professor in my education program at Illinois College and another student and friend who participated in the Student Teaching semester in the prior year. Both had nothing but positive reviews of the Center and its programs, and the student found a job in Chicago Public Schools that following fall. Being from the Chicago area, I knew I wanted to return back to the area after graduation. Clearly, the student teaching experience I would have received while an on-campus student in downstate Illinois would not prepare me for the realities and challenges of teaching in an urban classroom. The Center was a natural capstone to my undergraduate experience.

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"While I've been out of the classroom for several years now, I still consider myself an educator. Instead of teaching history, I'm working to inspire our members to demand more than the status quo. That means working to inspire first year and veteran teachers that if we want a more socially just society, we have to be the ones to lead and demand that change."

All About Me

CC: Tell us about your semester with the program. What sticks out as the most impactful moments of your experience?

KH: There is so much to say. Arvis's neighborhood bus tour....I still have a copy of his nearly 10 page resume. During orientation, we were assigned a community mapping experience and I still remember nervously walking 75th and Stoney trying to make our way to Army and Lou's for lunch. Nearly 25 years after my time as a Center student, my experience in the Student Teaching Residence Program was one of the most formative times in my life. The Fall of 1999 was my first time living as an adult in Chicago and the support of the resident life staff, and my housemates, all of whom were fellow student teachers, made the transition from college life to adulthood much more manageable. Based on our shared experiences of student teaching in Chicago, and most of us having spent our college life in the rural Midwest, I quickly bonded with my housemates. We were there to share in each others' classroom triumphs as well as the many, many daily challenges experienced in an urban school. House dinner nights and dollar shake nights at U of C were our therapy.  Many of us stayed in Chicago after the program and became teachers or administrators. A few found other ways to impact their communities through education. While we don't keep in touch as much as we'd all probably like, it's been extremely rewarding to see each of us succeed in our endeavors. 

CC: Catch us up on what you’ve been up to since leaving the Chicago Center in 1999?

KH: After the program, I moved back home to my parents, who had moved out to Crystal Lake, IL. Since it was mid-year, finding a full-time position was challenging, so I signed up to be a Substitute Teacher while I waited tables in the evenings. That summer was hired on as a Summer School Teacher and they offered me a position in the fall for a teacher on a leave of absence. In 2001, I found my way back to Chicago Public Schools and taught History at Lincoln Park High School and Roberto Clemente Community Academy. Along the way, I found myself drawn into action with my Union as a way to support advocacy for my students. Then in 2012, I was invited to apply for a position as a Field Representative with Chicago Teachers Union, which is my current position. In my current position, I represent CTU members with contractual or disciplinary issues, serve on our Strategic Bargaining Committee which directly bargains with CPS over member or school-based issues. In 2017, as CTU moved to unionize charter school teachers, which no other teacher's union had been able to accomplish, I took on roles as lead negotiator for ASPIRA and YCLA charter schools.

We asked Kevin about his favorite...

restauranT in chicago

Antiprima in Andersonville


Hyde Park will always hold a special place in my heart from my time at the Center, but my path led me to Rogers Park, which has a lot of the same characteristics of Hyde Park.

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

Hands down, Lou Malnati's with sausage and garlic. But any true resident knows we only eat Deep Dish when our friends come to visit. Otherwise, it's all about the thin crust, for some of the best, J. B. Alberto's in Rogers Park, just east of the Morse Red Line stop.

CC: Can you give us behind the scenes insight into your work?

KH: CTU is the third largest local teacher's union in the country, after NYC and LA, serving over 25,000 members, yet with only a staff of 60. Needless to say, each staff member has to be willing to be flexible and take on challenges as they come up. While the work is demanding, particularly during a strike action, it is incredibly rewarding as you can see the direct effect of collective action on the city of Chicago and our schools, which has a direct impact on our students and our communities. While I've been out of the classroom for several years now, I still consider myself an educator. Instead of teaching history, I'm working to inspire our members to demand more than the status quo. That means working to inspire first year and veteran teachers that if we want a more socially just society, we have to be the ones to lead and demand that change. It's not going to come from politicians. While the public side of this work often requires public demonstrations of opposition, behind the scenes, we are also working to improve collaboration and compromise. Some days that means trying to explain to a powerful attorney at the Board of Education, who most likely has no experience in education, why it is important for educators to have safe and clean working conditions. Other days it means getting a teacher to realize the principal isn't always the enemy.

CC: What advice would you give to future Chicago Center student teachers?

KH: Do it. It will change you in ways you have yet to realize, even if you are from the local area, like myself. The Center has a way of presenting the City as a classroom unlike any other program in the City. The relationships and experiences you gain while a Center student will remain with you for the rest of your professional and personal life.

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