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!
The 2nd Annual OnWord Writing Competition presented by the American Writers Museum (AWM) is now open for entries through June 15, 2021. The free writing competition is part of the AWM’s efforts to motivate and inspire the young writers of tomorrow. When students are at the museum or on a virtual field trip, they start to better understand why writing matters, and how they can make a difference through their own writing. The AWM is inviting teachers to submit entries from their 3rd-grade to 12th-grade students on how they would use writing to create change they want to see in the world, and explore it in any form of writing that works for them: an essay, a short story, a poem, a play, a song. Prizes from $500 to $2,000 will be awarded to two winners in each grade category. Complete details and instructions on how to enter can be found here.
Explore the AWM’s educational offerings here.
Thursday, May 6, 8:15-9:15 a.m.
Waters School- You can't miss it!
WatersToday is THRILLED have "Billy" the Firecakes Donut Truck visit Waters on Thursday, May 6th to celebrate our teachers and parents! Stop by for a coffee and a sweet treat, on us. Thank you parents and teachers for all of your hard work, patience, and flexibility this year.
It’s Carrie Frieswyk time! Our beloved Kindergarten teacher, who’s been in education for nearly 20 years (5 of them at Waters), has a duel certification in general and special education. Before gracing us with her presence, she spent 10 years in a Pre-K/Kindergarten Deaf and Hard of Hearing Cluster program, followed by 7 years teaching Kindergarten and 1st grades at Ray Elementary School in Hyde Park.
(Pssst: The questions for this super fun edition of Teacher Feature are courtesy of our adorable Kindergarteners!)
Kindergarteners: Are you Ms. Novak's sister?
Ms. Frieswyk: YES! Just kidding! No, we are not sisters, just friends.
Do you have any pets?
Yes. I have a dog named Oreo.
Do you have any kids?
George – 10 years old
Cora – 13 years old
What makes you really scared?
Squirrels – I know it is silly, but I just don’t like them.
What makes you really happy?
Being with kids! Kids have intrinsic joy that is contagious!
Do you have any allergies?
What do you do when you’re not in school?
I do my second job – being a mom! My kids keep me busy with their lives and activities. We like to go on bike rides and hikes together, skiing in the winter, and Movie and pizza on Fridays, and I also drive them around to where they need to be. I like to go to the gym, and after a year of taking a break for Covid because of restrictions, I am finally back. I also read every night before I go to bed.
Have you ever driven a Power Wheel?
I have not!
Have you ever been to Paris?
Have you ever been to Florida?
Yes. We have family there, so we go almost every year. I love the beach, it is my favorite place to be. I love the Florida Keys especially, the drive is so pretty.
Do you like to stay up late and watch movies and eat popcorn?
Sometimes, but more often than not I am in bed and asleep by 9:00. I wake up early usually, so ready for bed by then. BUT if there is a good show, sometimes I will binge watch. J
Do you like cold weather or hot weather?
Both! I love to ski in the winter with my family, but also love being outside in the warm weather to go swimming, walking, sitting on my deck, etc. That is why I like living in the Midwest, we get a little bit of everything.
What is your favorite sport?
I don’t watch any sports. I always root for the Tigers though because I grew up near Detroit and they were always on in my house.
Where do you like to go on vacation?
We go to MI a lot because that is where we are from. We love going to the beaches there and hiking. Every summer I go camping with my family, this summer we are going to go to Interlochen with our extended family for 4 days, it is so pretty up there!
What do you do after you go to the dentist?
I try to smile a lot to show off my pearly whites!
Have you ever seen a ghost?
No. I don’t believe in ghosts, but it is fun to pretend at Halloween time and to go through haunted trails and haunted houses.
Have you ever seen a skunk?
I have! We have a lot of skunks in my neighborhood and once a skunk walked right in front of me one night (It almost ran over my toes, it didn’t see me sitting there!) when I was sitting on my front porch.
Have you ever been sprayed by a skunk?
No, but my dog was sprayed by a skunk once and it took a really long time and lots of effort to get the smell out!
WOULD YOU RATHER…
Have a pet dinosaur or a pet dragon? Dragon
Be super strong or super fast? Fast
Get stuck in a room filled with spiders or snakes? Spiders
Live in a world made out of Legos or Cartoons? Legos
Eat a whole bottle of hot sauce or a fried cricket? Fried cricket (I have tried them!)
Live in a tree or a cave? Tree
Have a million dollars or a million pieces of candy? Definitely candy, as long as there is some dark chocolate thrown in there.
Have 5 cats or 5 dogs? Dogs (but only if it comes with a dog walker)
Be able to fly an airplane or drive a racecar? Airplane
Live inside Target or live inside Aldi? Target (I sort of already do – love that place!)
So much fun! Thank you for indulging our Kinder crew, Ms. Frieswyk!!! (And thank you for your creative questions, kiddos!)
Donations Due May 1
Big Night 2021 is around the corner and we are in need of items for our online auction. Do you have a talent or a connection? Do you happen to have a best friend who owns a restaurant who might donate a gift card or a tasting? Do you work for an amazing company who will donate a gift? Are you an artist who would like to donate a piece of work? Have a favorite salon or spa that wants to donate a service? Do you belong to a CSA farm that can donate some veggies?
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to donate to the auction or have a connection. We would love to hear from you!
Here’s a Few Party Ideas, but Ultimately-It’s Up to You!!
Next up: The lovely Erin Hooper, who began her career as a sub here at Waters nearly 10 years ago. Today, she teaches 6th and 7th grade social studies and 6th grade reading.
WT: Happy (almost) 10 year anniversary! What do you enjoy most about teaching at Waters?
Ms. Hooper: When I started at Waters, it felt like I was meant to teach here. The teachers welcome one another with open arms. The garden is an added perk, too— I love gardening in my free time, and it is such a great space for the students.
You must be so happy it’s finally spring! What else do you like to do in your free time?
I really enjoy hiking and doing anything outdoors with my dog, Ollie.
Did you always want to be a teacher?
Yes! I used to play pretend school when I was a kid and loved grading fake papers. Little did I know, that would be one of the things I like the least about teaching today, hehe. I also wanted to be a waitress and still do that in the summers.
Oh, fun—we'll keep an eye out. Anything else your students might be surprised to learn about you?
I used to work in production for music festivals in the summer during college. I worked directly with the film crew, and it was an amazing experience.
How cool! It says a lot about you that you chose teaching—junior high, for that matter—over anything else. How would you describe your own middle school experience?
It was tough. I had just moved from Arizona to Illinois, and making new friends was not easy. I had one good friend at that time, and I really struggled in school.
It sounds like you can definitely relate to a lot of the things your students might be going through. If you could go back and give your junior high self one piece of advice, what would it be?
That it gets so much better after junior high! You will meet friends that you connect with throughout your whole life, and you will learn what you are passionate about and will be able to focus on them in high school and college.
All true. Any advice for parents and caretakers? Helping kids navigate the social media stuff and intense social and academic pressure is one thing, but then you throw puberty into the mix and all bets are off.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a middle schooler today. My advice would be to be sure to take time for family activities without any technology around. Go on a walk, bike ride, camping, hiking, play games...talk! Your children might be mad about it at first, but in the end, those are the moments they will remember forever.
Totally—and we’d be remiss not to say how awesome this age group is, too. As a teacher, it must be very cool to watch them find their voices and begin that process of discovering who they are.
YES! This is truly what I love about teaching middle schoolers. They’re finding themselves and, yes, they can be cruel to each other’s differences at times, but they have so much to say and so many ways to make an impact on the world around them. Seeing them celebrate their uniqueness brings a smile to my face.
Before we let you go, is there any 2021 tween-approved slang we should know about? Last year, it seemed like everything was lit: "Wow, that outfit is lit." Is that completely uncool now? (How do you even keep up?)
I think “lit” is still cool. “On Fleek” maybe? Or is that old now? As you can tell it is hard for me to keep up, too— especially this year!
Thank you Ms. Hooper—your interview was (wait for it…) on fleek.
A message from Jamie Freedman from the Circle of Help
This month, thanks to a federal aid program, over 1 million Chicago Public School children will receive a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer card with hundreds of dollars on it for food purchases. This card is for EVERY Chicago Public School student, not just those in need. As a mom of three public school children, soon to be four (my youngest will enter kindergarten in the fall), I have been fortunate enough to not need food assistance throughout the pandemic. As a volunteer working with my local food pantry, The Friendship Center, I have seen firsthand how many households have been impacted by COVID and are struggling right now. After years of working within my local school community to develop a program to address basic unmet needs, I know how many were families were already food insecure before this all started.
This has been a long 13 months of virtual and/or hybrid school for every Chicago family. We’ve seen more of our children than ever. We’ve made them more meals than we can count. A lot of us are tired and can use some extra help. If these EBT cards are a needed boost for your family’s finances, then it’s doing what it’s supposed to do. But if your household doesn’t need the money right now, then there’s a real opportunity here to do some good. We can take our kids shopping for the food they like with EBT cards and then we can turn around and give the equivalent dollars back to those organizations that have been lifelines to those in need. With $450 a food pantry like the Friendship Center can source enough food to feed 18 families for an entire month.
If you are looking for a deeper involvement, go volunteer also! There are always boxes to be moved and they’ll be happy to have you there. But first, go use your EBT - buy your orange juice and lunch meats and cheerios - and then turn around and write a check. Believe me – you will feel fantastic for doing your part!
Read Jamie's whole letter here.
Gather your friends and celebrate our school! Party Packs for our annual Big Night event are now on sale! Learn more about Big Night and the party packs by visiting our website. Big Night at Home takes place May 22nd!
Special thanks to our Food & Beverage partners for making your Garden Party easy! L&M Fine Foods, Gene's Sausage Shop, Mrs. Murphy's and Sons, Lizzie J Cafe and Sazon Catering.
What is in this Party Pack? We are putting together all the things you will need to plan a great outdoor party. Items include compostable silverware and plates, napkins, candles, koozies, s'mores kit and more! You can purchase a Party Pack for 2 people or 10! Visit our website for more information! Party Packs go on sale on April 12th!
Wednesday, April 21, 4-5 p.m. for K-4
Wednesday, April 28, 4-5 p.m. for 5-8
Get ready for Waters Virtual Garden Party by joining Ms. V for a virtual art hour! Join our very own (and everyone's favorite) Ms. Vecchioni for an at home art project! We'll get you all the materials and all you have to do is join the virtual lesson and create something beautiful. Sign up here!
provides information about fundraising activities, news and events, and other Waters community updates. School News is posted on the Waters Elementary website.
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