Retiring El Sierra Principal Offers Advice for Parents and New Teachers

Veteran educator and retiring El Sierra principal Lucille Carney reflects back on a long and successful career on the second most important job next to being a parent.

Lu Carney, retiring principal of El Sierra Elementary School.
Lu Carney, retiring principal of El Sierra Elementary School.
Veteran educator and El Sierra principal Lucille Carney is retiring from a long career of inspiring students and colleagues in Chicago and Downers Grove. Mrs. Carney looks back at how much education has changed since she started teaching. As young child, she used to play school. Now she looks forward to playing with her grandchildren. 

PATCH:  How long have you been principal of El Sierra?

MRS CARNEY:    8 years

PATCH: Did you start out in the district as a teacher?  

MRS: CARNEY: No, I started out teaching in Chicago.

PATCH: How have education and teaching changed since you became a teacher and principal?

MRS. CARNEY: Education and teaching have changed immensely since I began teaching. We now have more technology to enhance the instruction for students and to help with their 21st century learning. Education is focused on problem solving and critical thinking skills and not rote memory of dates, facts, and rules. The focus is on helping children determine how to learn and acquire new skills (with teacher guidance) rather than telling the students what information they need to know.

PATCH: What advice do you have for parents on how they best help their child become a successful happy learner?

MRS. CARNEY: The best advice I can give parents is that they are their child’s first teacher. The formative years of children – birth to 5 years old are the most important time of their lives. This is when language, environment, experiences, etc. with parents increase the children’s knowledge. This prepares their children to be successful at school. Children need to be talked to, read to, and played with from birth-5 years so their brains can grow and develop skills.

PATCH: What advice do you have a young teacher starting out his/her career?

MRS. CARNEY: New teachers need to be knowledgeable, flexible, take initiative, be a team player, be technology savvy, and always put children first. There will be many hours in the beginning where they may feel overwhelmed but they need to ask questions and depend on their colleagues and administration for help to navigate the first couple of years.  Excellent teachers do not work alone. Teaching is a profession where it is essential to have teachers and their administrator work together for the common good of the children.

PATCH: Who was your most inspirational teacher?

MRS. CARNEY: Well I have two. The first is my mother. She was a special education teacher and I use to go to school and help her. I loved it and the students. The second is a high school teacher I had that was very caring, concerned, and honest about learning situations and how to problem solve them. She helped me and I will never forget her.

PATCH: What drew you to the teaching profession? Did you want to be a teacher as a young child?

MRS. CARNEY: I wanted to be a teacher since the third grade. Perhaps because my mom would take me to school with her some days and I would help students, correct papers, etc. Then when I reached third grade I would go to my school in the summer and volunteer to clean, put up bulletin boards, run off papers, etc. I loved it.

PATCH: What will you miss most about Dist. 58? 

MRS. CARNEY: I will miss the students and staff at El Sierra. The students are eager learners who bring joy to you everyday. Coming to see you and talk, going to the classrooms and wanting to share their work, talking about issues that are important to them and their constant thirst for knowledge.

The El Sierra staff is amazing! I am honored to have had the opportunity to work with such a professional, knowledgeable, and dedicated staff. In addition, we are truly a school community and everyone works well together. We are concerned about each other - their personal lives, problems, support each other when needed, and celebrate successes.

PATCH: How do you plan to spend your retirement?

MRS. CARNEY: I have two grandchildren 2 and 4 years old and I plan to play with them as much as I can. My nephew is in a group home and I would love to see him more often and volunteer support the residents and center.


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