Teacher Highlights

Niamh Burke
Sidney Sawyer Elementary School


Fifth grader gifted teacher Niamh Burke knows the value of professional learning opportunities and swears by their positive impact they have on her teaching abilities and style. She has participated in all of CFE’s grant programs and has attended the annual Workshop several times.

As a frequent CFE Study Group Team Member, Ms. Burke has collaborated with CPS colleagues on topics such as special education, graphic novels, intrinsic motivation, and more. She finds the teacher-centric aspect of the Study Groups, or learning communities, incites a shared passion among the Team Members.

“As Team Members in a particular Study Group, we possess a common interest in the topic, and we bring our own experiences and perceptions about that subject to the discussions,” she explained. “I have found the Study Groups are an opportunity for me to take risks and collaboratively explore ideas that I may not have considered outside of the school environment. Study Groups always prove to be a safe space to ask questions, bounce ideas, and learn on many levels.”

Ms. Burke has gleaned ideas from her participation in all of CFE’s grant-based programs and Teacher Workshop. For example, at the Workshop, she learned about the purpose and benefits of flexible seating. This inspired her to submit a Small Grant proposal to purchase flexible seating for her classroom, and now she is considering applying to be a Study Group Coach, leading sessions about shifting and creating a classroom environment that meets the needs of students. Additionally, as a Study Group Team Member, Ms. Burke gained tremendous insights into the value of intrinsic motivation, which inspired her action research on mindfulness.

Ms. Burke finds that teaching is a difficult, but extremely rewarding profession. She feels CFE helps address professional challenges by encouraging community-building among likeminded teachers. She looks forward to reviewing this year’s Study Group topics and plans to apply for a Team Member Grant before the April 22 deadline.