Glenbard East High School social studies teacher Gariecia Rose was inspired by her own high school experience to bring humanity to her class, and that humanity led to being named 2023 Outstanding Early Career Educator by the Illinois State Board of Education.
Rose attended Evanston Township High School where Corey Winchester taught a class about social studies and the students’ value as humans. She was energized by Winchester’s take on humanity, a philosophy that has driven both of their careers. And those careers have been mirroring each other for years.
When Winchester received his Golden Apple in 2019, Rose was named a Golden Apple Scholar. She received notice of the honor as an attendee supporting Winchester at his request at his acceptance event. And the similarities go on. Winchester was up for the Outstanding Early Career Educator award early in his career in 2013 but instead was recognized in the Excellent Recognition category, he said.
“She really has a special place in my own career as an educator,” Winchester said of Rose. “What I really understand and know about teaching and what’s made mine and now her work visible to others is that this is relational work. It’s humbling to see how she has talked about that, and I can only imagine the way she’s connecting with people in her classroom.”
One way Rose is connecting with her students is through daily anonymous check-ins during which she invites them to rate how they are feeling on a scale of one to five. If a student rates a day lower than a two, Rose makes a point to talk with that student and determine what is going on in their life so that they know she cares and can be trusted.
This is Rose’s second year teaching and in that time she has adjusted her check-ins to fit her students’ needs. Her inspiration for the idea came from social media, but she adapted it to fit her classroom’s needs, she said, including finding a way to make the check-ins anonymous so students feel more comfortable being honest about their feelings each day.
“Sometimes it takes students a while to warm up to expressing themselves or they’re not used to someone checking in on their lives, so they have to learn how to do this, too,” Rose said. “You have to put energy into building those relationships and making sure they know that no matter what, I still care.”
Rose said she sees the impact her effort makes in her students’ lives, from grades to attitudes. Beyond that, she knows personally from being a student in Winchester’s class that having a teacher value you as a whole person and not just as a student is impactful beyond words.
Winchester made her feel seen, Rose said, and that helped her succeed in her high school years. Ironically, Winchester said, Rose also made him feel seen and that is why he knows she has earned this award and is making a difference every day in her students’ lives.
“Students want their humanity to be valued and that is how my teachers transformed my life, too,” Rose said. “It’s extremely, extremely meaningful to me to be able to do that now for my students and to be recognized for it with this award.”