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Mayor to put more teachers in libraries to help kids with homework

Updated: February 12, 2013 2:40PM

Struggling students will soon have an easier time getting one-on-one help with their homework at Chicago’s public libraries.

“Teacher in the Library,” a popular and privately funded program serving 58,000 kids each year at 57 libraries, is being expanded next fall to the 21 libraries without it, thanks to an innovative partnership with local universities forged by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

School of Education students at the University of Illinois at Chicago will be the first to fill the void, in exchange for community service credits they need to graduate.

But Library Commissioner Brian Bannon said they won’t be the last. He expects other local universities to join in, sparing Chicago taxpayers any additional expense.

That could pave the way for some Chicago Public Libraries now inundated with struggling students to have “teachers” in thelibrary — not just one teacher.

“We have certain neighborhood libraries that have 50 to 100 kids showing up and we have one teacher. There’s also neighborhoods where we have two or three kids,” Bannon said.

“What we’re gonna do is balance the needs…There’ll probably be a combination of getting the teacher-in-training with an actual certified teacher as well as getting [student teachers] into a site supported by a librarian.”

Teacher in the Library started in 2000 with a $60,000 contribution from the Chicago Public Library Foundation that was enough to pay for just six teachers. It’s now a $750,000-a-year program with 57 teachers at 57 libraries.

Emanuel announced the no-cost expansion to 78 libraries at Budlong Woods Library, 5630 N. Lincoln, where Mark Scheithauer is the teacher in residence.

Scheithauer, who sports a handlebar mustache, could not contain his enthusiasm for a program that has helped scores of students, many of whom barely speak English, get over the hump.

“Think back to third grade or sixth grade or eighth grade. Remember that science project you just didn’t get. Remember that long division with the decimal point that just threw you for a loop and you have nowhere to go because you didn’t want to be the dumb kid?” Scheithauer said.

“That’s what our kids are faced with every day at school. For every kid who doesn’t raise his hand, there’s nine other kids [who] don’t get it either. The really cool part of this program is that we address that.”

Scheithauer said he has used gestures and even jumped up and down to get around the language barrier with students in the English as a Second Language program. And he has gotten enormous gratification out of helping D students turn into A students after establishing a “bond of trust” that, too often, is missing in the classroom.

“They come to the library. They learn early on that I don’t give homework. I don’t give detention. I don’t make you stay after school. It’s strictly voluntary. You come in here for help. I am here to do everything I can to help you,” he said.

Emanuel unveiled the teacher-in-the-library expansion on the same day that he announced plans to infuse education into an array of public and private for kids summer programs.

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