Chicago Loses Its Most Famous Teacher

What a strange sight it was Monday night to see a long segment on Chicago Tonight, the local version of the PBS NewsHour, featuring Leslie Baldacci explaining why she was leaving her job as a classroom teacher.

Not exactly the Rhenquist announcement -- or even news on the latest City Hall scandal. And, no big surprise that a white, middle-aged teacher on the verge of being national board certified was leaving the classroom because she's tired and needs to earn more money and teaching is hard.
"These are different times, and different kids," she says about the lack of respect she experienced during her two stints teaching on the city's South Side.
Why was she on TV, then? The truth is that, over the past six years or so, Baldacci has become something of a celebrity teacher, writing about her classroom experiences in various Sun-Times articles and in a book.

If you don't count Jack Ryan, the Republican millionaire whose campaign for governor imploded when it turned out he tried to get his starlet wife to go to sex clubs, Baldacci might be Chicago's most famous former teacher.

Baldacci deserves credit for changing careers and sticking it out for as long as she did. She seems to be even-handed about the pros and cons of teaching, and candid in explaining why she left the job.

Most of all, a lot of people have probably learned more about the school system from reading Baldacci than they would have otherwise.

Still, it was a strange thing to have someone on to explain what is really a rather mundane failure, and there was always a whiff of self-promotion in Baldacci's teaching (I know, I know).

There are so many other folks they could have interviewed -- award winners, effective teachers, overachievers, people still in the system. So much more on the policy side that they could have covered.

As a teacher, the classroom changed my life Sun Times


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