Thank you to all of the teachers, staff, students, donors, and volunteers who made Big Night happen this year! We are so grateful for the support from our community and we hope you had a good time!
Thursday, May 27, 6-8 p.m.
2617 West Wilson
Thank you for those who bid and won in the Big Night at Home Silent Auction! Auction pick up is on Thursday, May 27th. If you need to make other arrangements, please contact Abby Boyer.
We hope you will join us for the Big Night Livestream and pre-show on Saturday beginning at 6:45 p.m. Tune in on YouTube for a tour of the new annex, mystery teacher guests, and a surprise from Principal Kipp. It's free and open to all, so invite family and friends to tune in too.
Savant is proud to support Waters Elementary!
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Now Through May 22
Bottles & Cans
4109 N. Lincoln
Big Night is around the corner and there's no better time to stock your bar! Visit Bottles & Cans, mention Waters, and they will generously donate a percentage of sales to WatersToday!
Can't wait to celebrate with you on May 22nd!
We’re really excited about this week’s Teacher Feature—not only because we got to chat with the lovely Ijeoma Arachie, a 3rd grade teacher who’s been an educator for 7 years, 2 of them at Waters—but also because she chose this opportunity to drop some very exciting news….
WT: Ok, first question: Did you ever think you'd teach through a global pandemic?
Ms. Arachie: No, never! I'm usually organized and plan a lot, but teaching remotely during a pandemic has taught me how to be more flexible when it comes teaching and everyday life.
That’s been a silver lining for us, too. Pandemic aside, what's the best thing about teaching elementary school?
I enjoy teaching at this level because you can really see the difference that you make in the students. Seeing their academic and social growth throughout the school year is very rewarding! I was fortunate enough to loop with most of my students from last year, and I've seen a tremendous amount of growth in all of them.
How did your elementary school experience compare to Waters? Did you grow up here in Chicago?
I was born in Nigeria, but I grew up in Uptown, Chicago. I attended Walt Disney Magnet School. Disney was different in the sense that the classrooms didn’t have walls—instead, we had big open spaces separated by cubbies and chalkboards to distinguish the end of one classroom and the start of another. Each grade had about 6-8 classrooms, so it was very big. I had a great experience there, but since students came from all over the city it lacked a sense of community at times. One of the things I love about Waters is that it has such a strong sense of community. I can tell that families are very close with each other here because many students live in the neighborhood!
That’s definitely true. Ok, let’s switch gears: If you could have dinner with 3 people, dead or alive, who would they be?
Can I bring a plus one? I would have dinner with all four of my grandparents! Three of them passed away when I was young, so I never really had the chance to sit down and talk with them. I'd like to hear their life stories, accomplishments, and words of wisdom.
With an answer like that, how could we not give you a plus one?! So what do you like to do when you're not teaching?
I enjoy traveling and being with my family. I've visited many states and countries! Aside from the United States and Nigeria, two of my favorite places to visit are London, England and Dakar, Senegal. Both have lots of history and beautiful architecture.
You must be really looking forward to traveling again!
Yes, I haven't been on an airplane since January 2020, which is hard for me because I use to travel so often. I can’t wait to start crossing places off my bucket list again!
Do you speak any languages besides English?
Yes, I speak Igbo almost fluently—it’s a language that many southeastern Nigerians speak. I can understand more than I speak, but I've made it a goal to learn more so that I can speak fluently one day.
That’s amazing. You should just randomly start speaking in Igbo one day in class—the kids would love it! Is there anything else they’d be surprised to learn about you?
I actually do have a surprise...I am expecting my first child in November!
CONGRATULATIONS, Ms. Arachie! The Waters community is so excited for you.
The Waters' Big Night online auction is back! Bid early and often on some amazing items including sports tickets, a Merz gift basket, jewelry, home decor items and more.
Parent, Teacher and Family Parties will be available for online bidding beginning May 17th. Set a reminder to bid on these awesome items!
Please contact the Auction Team with any questions!
This week we chatted with Peggy Ballasch, a beloved middle school teacher who’s been at Waters for a whopping 29 years. This year, she’s teaching 7th grade science and 8th grade reading.
WT: 29 years at Waters, that’s really something! Have you taught anywhere else?
Mrs. Ballasch: I did my student teaching just north of here at Clinton Elementary School, but that’s it!
Wow. Do you have a favorite grade to teach?
Definitely Middle School! The students are becoming independent and are really developing their identities at this age. I love seeing students problem solve, think for themselves and begin to determine their influence on the world around them. They are full of curiosity and have a wonderful sense of humor.
What was your own elementary school experience like?
I am actually a CPS graduate! I went to Smyser Grade School and Steinmetz High School. I am from the Waters area originally, but grew up in and still live in Portage Park. My dad actually went to Waters (class of 1953) and my parents were married across the street. My grandparents remained in the area, so Lincoln Square & North Center have always been a part of my life. Just like my dad and my students, I grew up playing along the riverbank trail and at the playground at Horner Park.
So cool that your dad went to Waters! Have you always wanted to be a teacher?
When I was little, that was all I wanted to be! My grandparents gave me a small chalkboard and I would hold “school” with all of my stuffed animals lined up in rows. In fact, my grandmother is the one who originally encouraged me to be a teacher—and she saved for years to pay for my college tuition. I miss her immensely, but she will always be a part of who I am. As most kids do, I changed my career plans numerous times while growing up. At one point I wanted to be an archaeologist just like Indiana Jones, and I spent most of high school planning to go into graphic design. But by the time I entered college, I had returned to my first career choice of teaching. It really is the best job for me because it allows me to incorporate my many interests.
Speaking of interests, what do you like to do when you're not teaching?
I love photography! I love being able to capture the way light plays off an object, the way colors work together or being able to focus on details that we often miss in the business of life. And I love nature. If I had a day with nothing to do, I’d like to sit by a lake somewhere, listen to the water, and read a book or nap.
Sounds dreamy. So if you could take your students on a field trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?
This is a hard one! Can I give you three? The Amazon Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef because they are so quickly changing and Yellowstone National Park, because it is a pretty awesome place!
What about outer space? If NASA asked you to teach from space for 2 years, would you do it?
Probably not. I am quite partial to our beautiful Earth! However, I think teaching from either an oceanic research ship or under the ocean would be pretty cool.
It really would be. Is there anything else your students would be surprised to learn about you?
They already know I have a lot of pets, but my dream is to own goats!
How many pets is a lot?
A LOT a lot. We call our house The Ballasch Zoo. Currently we have 4 lovable mutts, 2 Siamese cats, 2 fancy rats, 3 frogs, 1 newt, 2 Russian tortoises, 1 box turtle, 1 Red-eared slider, 2 snails and a lot of fish! Some of the animals we have owned in the past have included multiple ferrets, poison dart frogs, a bearded dragon, crested geckos and even a Giant African Millipede! Before the pandemic, you could always find a small variety of these in my classroom as well. I can't wait to bring them back!
That is a lot—you weren’t kidding! Aside from the animals, what’s the one thing you’d want your students to remember about their time in your class?
I would hope they would remember the lessons learned, the activities we did, and the smiles we shared. But the one thing I would want them to remember is how valued they are as human beings.
It's Teacher Appreciation Week this week, so don't forget to thank the teachers and staff at Waters for all of their hard work during this challenging year. You can even use one of the templates (for younger students and older ones) to write a thank you. And stay tuned for more special ways to thank Waters teachers this spring!
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