Position: Resource Teacher
School: Serena Hills Elementary School
School District: Flossmoor School District 161
City, State: Chicago Heights, IL
Music that Describes Amy
Amy Sizemore-Green was nominated by her principal, Elizabeth Reich.
"I met Amy last August as I began a new principalship in Flossmoor SD 161," said Reich. "She not only looked at how she could adapt curriculum and it's accessibility for her students, but she was always improving accessibility to daily life for students in and out of her caseload at our school."
There are colorful "buddy benches" that pepper the hallways of Serena Hills Elementary. Ms. Sizemore-Green put them there. She painted them and placed them in the hallway so students would have a place to sit with a buddy. You will see students sitting on them chatting. It's a happy sight to see. One bench was placed outside of the Social Work office. It seems to be the perfect place for the buddy bench; sometimes, problems get solved on the bench without any adult intervention at all. Maybe Ms. Sizemore-Green knew this all along.
Ms. Sizemore-Green puts bags with secret clothes in lockers so students can have fresh, clean clothes. She hosts social group gatherings over lunch to let young boys bond and talk. She also volunteered to help a Pre-K student get much needed sensory breaks from his classroom, and she supports students who weren't necessarily "hers" but would benefit from her help. Overall, she's always looking at how she can support people in her community.
"Her support doesn't stop at the student level. She even came to my rescue this year," said Reich. "One day, I had a particularly rough case of 'New Guy Syndrome.' Amy appeared at my door and asked to speak with me. Her words were balm for my tender feelings and helped remind me that my efforts were the best for everyone. The next day, I came to work and found a small box containing a stone bracelet on my chair. 'Welcome to the club,' the note read. 'We care deeply for this school and can see you do, too. This is why we love this place so much. It's because we all care for our kids and we will do whatever it takes.' The note wasn't signed, but a quick walk down the hall confirmed who to thank for this kindness."
Families know Ms. Sizemore-Green's there, ready to help however she can, whenever she can. They have her cell phone number, and she's in constant contact with them about their child's academic and emotional progress. She sends messages of encouragement, praise, feedback, and most importantly, love. Her students know she cares for them deeply and loves them just like their families.
That has never been more apparent than the last few months. Ms. Sizemore-Green has been a fierce advocate for her students, pushing and pulling until she got them the resources they needed in order to be stable in a "learn at home" environment. She has secured devices, internet, paper copies of work, food, and nourishment. The last item is particularly important. She found that many of her students were at home 24/7 and experiencing food instability. She quickly led the charge to get these families food.
"We are a Blessings in a Backpack school, so she started using some of our stock we had at school, but she didn't stop there," said Reich. "She found out a local private high school was distributing hot meals from a local restaurant. She spoke with the restaurant and was able to pick up hot meals for many of our families. From there, she contacted some local organizations and food pantries and was able to not only provide the food from our Blessings stock, but groceries and items to make meals with. It's been amazing to witness. I've been moved to tears when I get a text such as, 'Is the building open? I just got a donation of 20 gallons of milk!' I didn't see this text until about an hour later. I sent a message back apologizing and telling her I would meet her at the building ASAP. In true Amy fashion, she responded by saying, 'Oh, no worries. I just went ahead and delivered them.'"
Ms. Sizemore-Green did all this in the middle of a pandemic! With the help of one other person, she delivered all of the food and meals to the families' homes. She dropped off every meal and gallon of milk, and she gave students a smile, a wave, and a familiar, friendly face who cares in the midst of a terrifying time. She talked to her students who were feeling the loss of not being able to go to school. Ms. Sizemore-Green helped her colleagues make sure students were safe and ok in this time of turmoil. Many of her students' parents are essential workers or were furloughed from their employment, and she made sure those families had one less thing to worry about.
"In education, we talk a lot about 'the whole child.' Amy doesn't just stop at the whole child," said Reich. "She makes sure the whole community gets what they need. That's her way. Whether it's extended time on a test, fewer choices in a word bank, clean clothes, a place to talk, or bread and milk, students get what they need in order to feel loved, safe, capable, nourished, and whole."