Feb 20, 2024
Topic: My Why
“I love that every class is unique and special in their own way. Each class feels like a family to me that has private moments that only we share,” said Colleen Conley, kindergarten teacher at Kilmer Elementary School.
Conley has been creating these memories as a teacher for 17 years, but her time in District 21 actually began as a parent. “My own children went to Kilmer and I was very involved in the PTO and helping in their classes. I had been a writer and editor for the Allstate Corporation. I took some time off to raise my kids and didn’t want to go back to corporate work,” Conley says. Armed with her creativity and communications degree from Augustana College, Conley went back to school to earn her Master of Arts in Teaching from National Louis University and has been teaching in the district ever since. “My dream was to be a kindergarten teacher at Kilmer… and here I am! I love to dress up in costumes, decorate my classroom and laugh with my co-workers,” says Conley.
But the most important aspect she brings to the classroom is teaching social skills. “Since the pandemic, students are lacking in many ways. They need to learn how to interact with others, how to follow procedures, how to use their manners and be kind,” she adds. She focuses a lot of time on teaching social emotional skills and showing her students how much she cares about them. However, there were many kids that she hadn’t met in person until remote learning was lifted. “I welcomed them with a hug once we were able to. I want them to feel welcome and part of our Kilmer family.”
Conley loves to receive daily rewards, like cards and hugs from students. But it’s the bigger impact that’s more important to her. Conley remembers a particular student who had a difficult time at home and it affected his behavior at school. Over the years, she had wondered what had become of him until, one day, he showed up at Kilmer as an adult to pay her a visit. “I was so surprised and happy to see him. I loved that he was doing well and he felt Kilmer was a place that he wanted to return to. It made me realize that I had made a difference,” she said.
In her spare time, Conley coaches the varsity dance team at Buffalo Grove High School where she gets to see former students. She also likes to read, travel and make videos for the school, using her creative talents and expertise to bring the heart of the Kilmer family together and where she creates magical memories.