The highest demographic rates for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) are students of African American descent (39.3 percent) and of Hispanic origin (45.6 percent). For aspiring teachers who want to get involved in the CPS system, programs like University of Chicago’s Urban Teacher Education Program (UTEP) come in handy. UTEP addresses how race, language, class and culture affect classrooms.

(Photo Courtesy of Joy Ippolito)

(Photo Courtesy of Rob Zalas Photography)

For researcher and professor Joy Ippolito, working with UTEP was just up her professional alley.

“This is my third year teaching for them,” said Ippolito. “I’m teaching all of the graduate students in both the elementary and secondary cohorts for UTEP about how to understand the social and emotional growth, and identity development of students.”

Ippolito is no stranger to advancing her own education. She holds four degrees: a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in biology from Loyola University, a master’s degree in social work from the University of Chicago, and an Ed.M. and an Ed.D. both from Harvard University.

Her research work doesn’t end with UTEP and the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall though. Her studies also include looking into youth trauma, studying administrative records from the Department of Children & Family Services, monitoring the implementation of a teen pregnancy prevention program, and interviewing youth and administrative staff directly.

“I think the tipping point was the social work degree that I got. I was a school social work intern for a year. I saw a lot of different educational issues that I really wanted to have an impact on, but I started to realize that I felt like I could have a greater impact if I went into a more practice-based research model rather than working at the level of being at the school.”

Although mentoring and youth programs for volunteers also have a positive affect on young people, Ippolito confirms that traditional education gave her a better grasp of how to help both adults and students in the educational realm.

“The UTEP program is fantastic in that they take [educators] out into the field to visit different schools. They show them different teaching and learning models so its students can kind of figure out, ‘Where do I feel like I align best?’ I think when you’ve decided to further your education, that’s when you get to be exposed to those different ways. Know what you’re good at.”

Shamontiel L. Vaughn is a professional journalist who has work featured in AXS, Yahoo!, Chicago Defender and Chicago Tribune. She’s been an Examiner since 2009 and currently writes about 10 categories on Examiner.com.