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Maryville Jen School staff sets goals for new school year

Maryville Jen School Principal Anne Craig, third from left, inspects a pumpkin while chef Zachary Greer (in blue shirt), teacher Matt Yaeger and a student (foreground) look on. The Jen School Garden produces fruits and vegetables that are served in the school cafeteria and sold at the Jen School Farmers Market on the Des Plaines campus.

Maryville Jen School’s new school year that started quietly Monday, Aug. 16, ushered in its 15th year as a leader in providing career and vocational instruction to students with special education needs in Illinois.

Principal Anne Craig said it was a quiet first day, but it was contrasted by her staff’s excitement in seeing the students in person.

“There was a lot of ‘great to see you,’ ‘I missed you,’ or ‘wow, you look great’ heard in the hallways of Jen School,” Craig said. “While new students were welcomed with ‘we are so happy you are here’ by staff.”

Craig described it as a seamless transition from summer break back into the routine of a new school year. She said she always looks forward to it because it is full of promise.

“As educators, August is a time of renewal and new beginnings. We get the opportunity to once again positively impact our students’ lives,” she said.

Craig is motivated and excited to see her four goals come to fruition this school year. These goals are:

• Expanding curriculum opportunities for students in the core content areas, as well as in Career Technical Education.

• Continuing to build partnerships with school districts and community.

• Expanding the CTE program opportunities for students.

• Having fun and enjoying the experience with students and staff.

“We have a great deal to be proud of in terms of the type of programming we provide and the direction we are going with the expansion of our Career Technical Education instruction,” she said.

Heather Lischett, assistant principal for vocational ed services, feels this school year started on a more hopeful note than last year with having everyone in person. She said they are still following mitigations, masking and worrying about symptoms and exposure.

“While COVID is still a very real threat, the students who returned this year are excited and motivated to continue their high school journey on the path to adulthood,” she said.

Lischett looks forward to the new school year, particularly Jen School’s CTE Extension program.

“It will have a new look and feel this year as we move students around for more hands-on experiences in a wider variety of job sites,” she said.

The program will follow a new curriculum for college and career preparation, according to Lischett.

“We are excited to expand this program and hopefully add more Career and Technical Education courses to our catalog very soon.”

Lischett said she is happy for every day that she, her colleagues and students can be together in person.

Jen School Counselor Kathleen M.L. Samuelson said staff could not be happier.

“It’s been a long time coming. Building and maintaining connections with our students is our top priority,” she said. “We are looking forward to getting back to business.”

Samuelson said that remote learning created challenges.

“We are excited to return to regular programming, allowing us to integrate experiential learning, social emotional learning and academic instruction that are meaningful and student-focused,” she added.

Craig, who is Maryville’s director of educational services, added that her faculty has been working hard conducting curriculum audits, reviewing and selecting materials suited for students and the school.

“I look forward to seeing our collective and measurable progress as we work together in meeting our goals to ensure our students’ success,” she said.

About Maryville Jen School

Maryville Jen School in Des Plaines is recognized as a National Association of Special Education Teacher (NASET) School of Excellence for eight consecutive years.

Maryville was founded in 1883, and has child care and social services facilities in Chicago and the suburbs.

For information on Jen School, visit www.jenschool.org

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