LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Julie Ahern

Position: Second Grade Teacher
School: Andrew Cooke Magnet School
School District: Waukegan Public Schools
City, State: Waukegan, IL

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Music that Describes Julie

Julie Ahern was nominated by her colleague, Veronica Perkins.

"I have worked with Julie Ahern for 20 years at Cooke School," said Perkins. "During my first ten years, we worked side by side as third-grade colleagues before she was switched to second grade and I was moved to kindergarten. She may come across as a quiet individual who appears to be listening and not speaking up. This is a cover, however, for someone who sees or hears about a need at our school and will do whatever it takes to bring what is needed, or to help a student."

Mrs. Ahern is a master of crowdfunding. Her classroom is an oasis of peace and calmness (no one has ever heard her raise her voice) that also has a constant buzz. Her students are well-versed in current technology with 1:1 Chromebooks, 3D printers, VR headsets, the latest ed-tech programs, and various robots for programming. Mrs. Ahern's students are able to log in independently and can navigate to where they need to go from the first day. They are also more focused on completing lessons and will persevere through difficult tasks. Mrs. Ahern keenly feels the need to prepare students for jobs that may well be technology-based so they don’t get left behind. She also shares her funding expertise with all staff members and has brought many materials and other experiences to almost every classroom in the building. 

Mrs. Ahern has the uncanny knack of securing donations for her school community. In the last five years, she has been picking up monthly donations from a local national chain craft store, including art supplies, decorations, furnishings, and more. These items have made such a difference for her fine arts magnet school. She also has a partnership with a recognized shoe/boot store and picks up the footwear that was either slightly damaged or used as display models. These go to the students. 

"More often than not, when I see Julie in the hallway, she is deep in conversation with a student or receiving a hug. She makes real connections with the students at our school. They know they are loved and cared for," said Perkins. "One former student was feeling down, so Ms. Ahern contacted another former student, who is an actor in LA. He is now mentoring the first student with encouraging emails and pictures. There is also a constant stream of students who spend recess in Julie’s room playing with and coding the classroom robots. They earn a pass by meeting academic/social goals in other classrooms. While they are there, Julie checks in to see how their lives are going and offer advice if needed."

Mrs. Ahern is a unique and driven educator. Her students do well with her alternate ways of teaching. When they meet a particular reading level goal, she will stand on a chair, sing a certain song, and hand them a recess pass. The students dearly wish to make Mrs. Ahern proud and work hard to meet goals and create dreams for their lives. She is in touch with many former students on social media who share what they are up to in their adult lives.

"Once, we were out in front of our school, and I witnessed a young man dash across the street saying, 'Mrs. Ahern, Mrs. Ahern!' He gave her a giant and enormously sweet bear hug," said Perkins. "Then, he shared what a difference Julie made to him when he was in her class. And that is what I most often hear - that she Ahern noticed each student, brought out what was special, and truly listened."

Below is a piece written by Mrs. Ahern for National Life Group's Main Street Blog:  

Comments (34)

Aracelis Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Ahern is a wonderful teacher . Both of my kids have been blessed to be her students. She is an inspiration to other teachers , her students and her students‘ parents . She has a genuine heart of gold . Mrs Ahern is Caring in nature and is one of the most patient people I know . She is dedicated to her students , by reaching them individually and enriching them with knowledge. My kids thrive in her classroom . We appreciate Mrs. Ahern and all the great things she does for others ! Congratulations

Janie Vester Posted over a year ago

Julie has always been a tireless champion seeking to provide experiences and resources that will improve and create educational opportunities for her students. Always a humble trailblazer, who seeks new ways and experiences to keep them engaged and excited about learning, she is a precious gem!

Dorothy Evenhouse Posted over a year ago

In the 23 years I worked with Julie, I was always impressed by her quiet determination to get things done, and by her love of books and reafing

Charlotte Callahan Wozniak Posted over a year ago

Congratulations, Mrs. Ahern. You are a very dedicated and creative teacher, who is always looking for opportunities to bring new, exciting experiences and resources to your students. One way you do this is by applying for the School Foundation's annual grant opportunities. This entails extra effort beyond your regular duties. Each year you have to come up with a new idea for a classroom project, create a plan, work out a budget, apply and compete for the grant. You often receive these grants. Your willingness to go the extra mile for your students is appreciated by your students and their parents. My son, Matt, was your student nearly 20 years ago. I still remember him, as a small child, struggling to do his journal. You would be proud to know that he now likes to journal and does it as a form of bringing his life and thoughts into perspective. Thank you for all you do.

Jane Ferry Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Ahern is an amazing person. She has a passion for teaching and preparing her students for the future that is rare. She researches how to acquire donations of and for robotics, 3D printers and other advanced technology to give her students a head start in the new economy. Her students, who are in a lower socio-economic community, get hands on experience with cutting edge technology! Imagine how empowering that is! She understands how to reach out to businesses, organizations and individuals to keep her classroom and the school also stocked with supplies for art and more. Mrs. Ahern conveys the need but also the compelling reasons community members must invest their time, talent and treasure in her classroom, the school and the school district. Her dedication, passion, and understanding are unmatched.

Irene Alvarez Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Mrs. Ahern your nomination is very well deserved. We were thrilled when we found out my granddaughter was going to be in your class for 2nd grade last year. All I ever heard was wonderful things about you in class with the students and everything you do for our school. My granddaughter began to struggle a little in math but with your caring self and positive vibes that you install in the kids my granddaughter gained so much confidence in herself and got back on track. You go way above and beyond for your students present and past. You also bring so much not just to your classroom but the whole school. May you continue to teach for many years and hopefully my kindergarten and preschooler will be in your classroom when their time comes. May you continue to be blessed with the kind heart and passion for teaching that you have.

Wendy Siegel Posted over a year ago

Great person and a very good teacher. Julie makes every student feel worthy.

Nan Posted over a year ago

I was Julie Ahern’s former Principal at Andrew Cooke Magnet School. She was a kind, generous and dedicated teacher, and passionate about student learning as well as our school. Julie has always been an excellent team player and well respected by her colleagues, requested as a classroom teacher for their children by parents, and loved by her students!

Nancy Garza Posted over a year ago

Congratulations on the nomination, Ms. Ahern. I was elated when I found out my daughter would be in your class this school year. I had heard nothing but the best about you as a teacher from parents whose children have been in your class in previous years. You are such a kind and caring individual who advocates for the entire school. I am grateful for teachers like you. Thank you for all you do!

Cecilia cano mata Posted over a year ago

Thank you Julie for taking the time to bring in all the Joann goodies. I try and follow your example by paying it forward. Your warm smile greeting inspires me. It's no surprise you have been nominated for an award. You deserve this and so much more. Thanks for all you do.

Teresa Pimentel Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Ahern was an amazing teacher to my daughter when she had her in the second grade! She really cares about the student as a whole not just academically. My daughter who is in middle school now still talks about her fondly and looks forward to visiting her whenever she can. This is true for many of her former students. She leaves a footprint in her students hearts that they carry with them for years to come and that, is a life changer!

Emma Posted over a year ago

Ms. Julie Ahern, it’s a great teachers. We had the opportunity to have one of my daughters been in her class and it was awesome. She has the pasion to help the students to succeed to the next grade level. She has a lot of patience with the kids. I hope she stays at Cooke Magnet for more years so she can be the teacher of my 2nd grade daughter. Awesome teacher! She loves her students and loves to teach!!

Karen VanH. Posted over a year ago

I've known Julie over 10 years and she's always been a caring woman with a heart of gold. I was recovering from spinal surgery in a nursing home when I received the best gift ever. It was a package of homemade get well cards from Julie's class! Markers, glitter, stickers everything you can think of was made available to the children and they put their hearts into it. Julie had used our friendship as a learning experience for the children to understand that they can make a difference in someone's life, even someone they don't know, just by doing an act of kindness. I have those cards and pictures and reread them often. The love and personalities of those students shine through and is a reflection of Julie. She's a one-of-a-kind.?

Wendy Trevino Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Ahern is one of our many top notch teachers. She’s is very dedicated to her students, always looking to improve and enhance her students’ learning. She is very helpful to her colleagues, coworkers and all who come across her. She is very kind and really approachable. This is the third year that I’ve had the pleasure of working with her, but I realized this from the first year. You are awesome Mrs. Ahern! Keep up the good work ??????

Krystal Medina Posted over a year ago

My daughter was moved to Mrs Ahern’s class. She was at a point where she hated school, she didn’t want to learn. Since the move she is a new little person. She is happy - She is excited to get back to school after the weekend. My daughters change is all because of Mrs Ahern, she has brought back that sparkle into her life. By encouraging and having the patience that some teachers simply don’t have. Bella has not only changed at school, but at home! It’s incredible how much of a positive impact Mrs Ahern has had on her. She is so calm, understanding and back to her happy self. Not only has she improved academically but she now has graduated from Check In and Out - a program that helps keep track of behavior throughout the day! She has not had one bad day since she’s been with Mrs Ahern! Mrs Ahern is truly a life changer - an Angel in our eyes! And I am beyond thankful she has helped my daughter so much! THANK YOU MRS AHERN!!!!

Bridget Morrill Posted over a year ago

Julie taught 4 of my children. She has made such a positive impact on many young lives.

Jackie Spencer Posted over a year ago

I can affirm that all of the nomination statements are true and visible to anyone . I enjoy any time I can connect with Julie and appreciate her suggestions to reach a student. Three of my students see her daily for our tier support and return with a smile and benefit from her affirmations.

Emily Schwartz Posted over a year ago

Julie Ahern has always been tremendously supportive of her colleagues and students. She has worked tirelessly to get grants of various types for her class as well as Cooke School. She has mentored countless student teachers as well as new staff members. She constantly goes above and beyond for everyone.

Karen Fredrick Posted over a year ago

Beautiful lady!! We met in 1975, in our dorm at UW-Stout. Quiet, and reserved, with a wicked sense of humor. I was an education major. I was very pleased to hear of the change in her career path. She loves her students, and the impact she makes with their education is wonderful. Second grade, I feel, is when kids either fall in love with school or they fall into the cracks and get lost. Julie is sure to be their champion.

Ron Posted over a year ago

My kids are blessed to have & had Ms Ahern as a teacher! My 1st child wanted to become a teacher because she was so impressed by Ms Ahern, Thanks for such dedication Ms Ahern!

Henry Posted over a year ago

I believe in you Julie. You are doing great things for the children. You deserve this nomination and I'm praying this will take you to great places in your life.

Mrs. Baartz Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Ahern is amazing. Always there with a smile and ready to help! She is so great with the kids in the class, hallways, walking to the bus, etc.

Miguel Rivera Posted over a year ago

When I was a school board member of district 60, the students formers students always spoke very highly of Mrs Ahern and how much she cared and how good she reached, and as a board member I seen it for myself.

Barbara Erradi Posted over a year ago

All 3 of my kids had the great honor of firing through Mrs Ahern’s classroom. In 2001-2002 my middle child was in her classroom and due to the closeness and impact on my daughter and our family, in 2016 she was invited to and attended my daughters baby shower. ?????? We consider it a great honor to have had all 3 in her room. A great educator that makes a connection with her students in addition to teaching them.

Jim Lindemann Posted over a year ago

Julie Ahern is an asset to Cooke Magnet school. She is a quiet but powerful presence in the school. She is supportive of all. She is indeed a life changing influence on all with whom she interacts.

L. Booth Posted over a year ago

Words can’t express how much gratitude I have for Mrs. Ahern. I love that my daughter London, loves her teacher. Mrs. Ahern is so gentle and kind. We truly are grateful to have such a beautiful spirit that we will always remember forever. She’s a phenomenal school teacher at Andrew Cooke Magnet. Thank you so much Mrs. Ahern. We wish you the best of luck in winning this well deserved award!

Jada James Posted over a year ago

I had Mrs. Ahern as a teacher in 2007, and she was an incredible influence on my life and education. She is one of the kindest, most genuine teachers I’ve ever had, and she genuinely deserves this award.

Julia Posted over a year ago

Julie is an amazing educator. I went to visit her room one day and it was the best thing that could have happened. She introduced me to so many amazing educational opportunities for myself and my students that I had no idea about. She’s an educator at her core. She’s a great teacher and colleague. She is definitely a life changer.

Wendy Siegel Posted over a year ago

Julie Ahern is a dedicated teacher who always puts 100% into her students’ learning.

Maria Bailon Posted over a year ago

Ms. Ahern is a wonderful teacher. My son had a bad experience last year. But this year he is back on track and loving school again thanks to this wonderful teacher. She has a way with kids that all teachers should have.

Jennifer Garcia Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Ahern is a great teacher. Her kind and gentle demeanor make her students happy and comfortable. And her spunk and commitment drive her to constantly better her classroom, like with a 3D printer, and better the whole school.

Rhonda Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Ahern's talents are so versatile that our whole community feels her positive impact! She is loved and valued and her students feel the same way, for life!!! We are forever grateful for her persistence, her resourcefulness and her kindness!!

Rhonda Ziebell Posted over a year ago

Julie Ahern is a fantastic teacher. The patience of a saint. Both my girls had her in elementary school and to this day(they are both in high school now) she remains a favorite!

Yuri Lopez Posted over a year ago