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OPPY Award Winner 2014, Jeanne Walker

Jeanne Walker has been a Visual Arts Teacher for 15 years with eight years at Orr Academy High School as the Fine Arts Lead and Service Learning Coach. Jeanne is passionate about integrating Civic Engagement and Art, and teaching students to use the arts as a way to make changes and achieve social justice.

Making change is a big job and Jeanne learned long ago that to have a real impact, you need community partners and allies. She has encouraged her students to align themselves with partners, including Mikva Challenge, American Friends Service Committee, Youth Service Project and Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Over the years her art students have created beautiful and sophisticated mosaics and sculptures that add a unique quality to the Orr School’s main entrance.

Jeanne has won many awards, among them Golden Apple Teacher of Distinction, CPS Service Learning Coach of the Year and the Chicago Fund for Teachers Grant to co-lead an exchange in Rwanda. In 2013, she studied micro-credit and Social Business with Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. From this trip she learned that success depends on a positive mindset and positive peer pressure. Jeanne introduced a curriculum where students collaborate and support each other through creative problem solving.

Teaching in a high poverty high school offers many challenges, as well as opportunities to grow to become more compassionate and open hearted. Jeanne has learned so much from her biggest allies of all, her students, who have taught and given her so much insight and wisdom.