Hundreds of teachers, principals, and school administrators packed the FamilyPlex last week in celebration of their commitment to education  and the start of a new school year at Chicago Public Schools.

The Educator’s Appreciation Luncheon, organized by the Garfield Park Youth Collaborative, brought together staff from West Side schools to create new relationships and partnerships, celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and share a meal with kindred spirits before grading homework becomes the norm.

CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson delivered the keynote address, in which she spoke on the need and value of successful students in communities of color. She asked the educators to keep pushing forward in their work to develop young minds, while assuring them that they are supported.

“We have extraordinary work to do,” Dr. Jackson said. “We have to make exponential gains, in particular in our communities of color, if we are really serious about making sure every, single student in this city has a shot at the American dream; has a shot sitting at tables like you are today; has the same shot as a little girl from 79th and Racine has to lead the third largest school district in the country.”

Dedicated teachers were honored for their service and grants were awarded to passionate teachers with innovative approaches to improving their classrooms. Examples of the awarded proposals included an art project display gallery for middle schoolers and “chair pockets” to help younger children keep up with their belongings.

Breakthrough Community Education Liaison Gynger Garcia said it is an honor to throw the event to celebrate important people and vital institutions in the community.

“This luncheon is an annual celebration geared toward commending local teachers as they kick off the new school year,” Garcia said. “Community organizations join forces and network so all are aware of available neighboring resources. It’s truly a time to gather and celebrate all the hard and dedicated work happening for the good of children in East Garfield Park.”

The luncheon was catered by Breakthrough’s Bridge Cafe, a favorite cafe spot for local educators, and teachers left with school supplies for their classrooms. The delicious spread and free resources will help these CPS leaders kick off an exciting new school year.