Chicago’s Very Own: Bob Schwalb and HEART

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Kids at Stockton Elementary in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood are definitely listening when Bob Schwalb is at the front the class.

“When he tells you about it, I feel like i can do anything,” said 8th grade student Brittany Smith.

Scwalb is teaching these8th graders how to be humane. And how he does that is through a curriculum he put together for HEART — an acronym for Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers.

“Engaging someone’s heart is like empathy and compassion which is like the cornerstones of our programs,’ Schwalb said. He’s the program director for HEART in Chicago.

HEART, a national program,  sends instructors, like Schwalb into inner city schools and non-profits,  across the country. He’s been here at Stockton for four years.

Working closely with kids to help them focus on human rights, animal rights, and how to respect the environment. In other words, it teaches them to be kind.

“The Dali Lama said when we teach the children’s brains that we do not neglect to educate their hearts,” he said.

And through HEART, Schwalb has seen kids overcome their circumstances. For some it’s homelessness, others it’s poverty. But through humane education, students are embracing their differences.

Eighth-graders Brittany Smith and Isaiah Rials have been heart students since 6th grade. They are now project leaders.Chicago`s Very Own: Bob Schwalb and HEART

“The name just reflects on you. To have a heart is a big thing and to show that you care about something,” Rials said.

He has seen distinct changes among his fellow students. Especially when it comes to the way they treat each other.

“After what we’ve learned, I see how it reflects on them. It shows a big difference on how they were before and after,” Rials said.

Schwalb addressses taboo issues head on. Things like homophobia,  bullying and sweat shops become common themes for projects.

“Some of the kids admitted to being homophobic. At the end of the project, they realized these individuals were still people and they deserved respect and compassion so they saw them differently,” Schwalb said.

“No one bats an eye if we talk about things like gay marriage. The kids are so more accepting of things and definitely more compassionate,” said Stockton Elementary School teacher Anita Zajac.

HEART is offered to public schools at no extra cost. It’s been in Chicago 4 years and worked with 44 different schools and learning centers in half the zip codes in the city.

And he’s having success everywhere he goes.

“You just need the confidence built in them when they do these things. They feel good about themselves. They feel good about what they’ve accomplished and they know that they can be change-makers,” he said.

HEART also inspires Schwalb. When he heard someone speak about the program, quit a high-paying job in the business world to get re-educated on humanity. He decided that teaching kids how to be kind to one another was a better reward than the fat paycheck he was getting.

“When I wake up everyday I know that I am going to be impacting the youth and I am going to be opening up their hearts and getting them to see the world through the lens of their values an that’s a feeling that i don’t want to ever give up,” Schwalb said.

Bob Schwalb and HEART: They’re one of Chicago’s Very Own.

For more information on HEART go to:

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  • Kyrah

    Why are we teaching our children to be accepting of what many of us across America do not accept? I am a Christian and my husband and I have taught our children that homosexuality is a sin. We do not treat others unfairly if they choose this lifestyle. However , why is it the job of our school system to teach that homosexuality is fine and just another choice? Bullying and any form of mistreatment is always wrong. However, teaching children to approve and embrace sin will never bring true joy, peace or happiness. Very concerned about this program.

    • Rick Karlin

      About 50 years ago there were many people that taught their children that black people were inferior. I'm certain that they were as self-righteous in their beliefs as you are. That didn't make them right and neither are you. It is the responsibility of public schools to teach children, not only the core subjects, but how to tell right from wrong, and prejudice and bigotry are wrong. If you feel otherwise, put your kids in private school or home school them. God forbid they should hear another point of view and actually make up their own minds.

    • dodie

      HEART teaches tolerance and treating others kindly within that tolerance…
      that's not teaching that homosexuality is ok, anymore than being religous is ok, or not believing
      in a religion is right… it just teaches kind behaviour withing the realm of respect of and for others.
      Can you understand the difference…??????? …. and I am trying to be tolerant here of the fact
      that we are trying to be tolerant of narrowmindedness also……..

      • Kyrah

        So far I have been called a bigot, self righteous and now narrow minded. Yet, I have not called or implied any negative names to anyone. Tolerance might need to start with each individual. There is a big difference between tolerance and acceptance. Unfortunately, our school systems are being pushed to teach acceptance by the homosexual community. I do understand that there are people who mistreat and bully. That is always wrong and I would never agree with mistreating others because of their sexual preference. I do disagree and take narrow minded ness as a compliment on never accepting homosexuality as being morally ok. God is very clear of His views and states them very clearly in His word. I think this country will become less and will decline because of all of our immorality and homosexuality is but one part of that problem.

  • markgil

    bravo Bob & HEART! the world would be a much better place if all schools would focus on teaching compassion, empathy and awareness instead of competition and the pursuit of the almighty dollar.

    Your beliefs become your thoughts,
    Your thoughts become your words,
    Your words become your actions,
    Your actions become your habits,
    Your habits become your values,
    Your values become your destiny.― Mahatma Gandhi

  • Rick Karlin

    About 50 years ago there were many people that taught their children that black people were inferior. I'm certain that they were as self-righteous in their beliefs as you are. That didn't make them right and neither are you. It is the responsibility of public schools to teach children, not only the core subjects, but how to tell right from wrong, and prejudice and bigotry are wrong. If you feel otherwise, put your kids in private school or home school them. God forbid they should hear another point of view and actually make up their own minds.

  • Laura

    I've known Bob a long time and can honestly say that I've met few men who have as much integrity as Bob has. Chicago is lucky to have him teach compassion, empathy and awareness to its children. They are much needed lessons in these dangerous times in which we are living. Bravo, Bob! Bravo, HEART.
    I applaud you!

  • S. Ramakrishna, M.D.

    Kudos to WGN for running this story. As a pediatric psychiatrist, I strongly believe that teaching children to show compassion for others, no matter how "different" they are, promotes mental health and reduces the prevalence of violence in our society.

  • Kyrah

    I base my beliefs on the word of God. I am not a bigot. The color of a persons skin is not by choice. To compare the two is comparing apples and oranges. We will choose to see this issue differently, I might point out that I did not call you self-righteous or a bigot. The future will define us as to these decisions and choices. I know I will continue to teach our children to love and care about others around them but to know the truth of God's word. Our school system still has no right to teach our children to accept what God has said is wrong.

  • Jim

    The Media including WGN promote this repugnant idea of Homosexuality in SCHOOLS without Parental Consent? The intrusion of Democrat Political Doctrine now taught in schools is psychological manipulation of childrens minds violating the individual right to be free from GOVERNMENT INTRUSION , EITHER FOREIGN OR DOMESTIC as Stated in The U S Constitution that each person and self which means body and mind is INVIOLATE. Media attention and Democrat Political Theater are alot of EAR STUFFING and False Pretense to TRICK each Person into Giving Up YOUR INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS. Democrats have always been the GREATEST DETRIMENT of OBSTRUCTING AND DENYING YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS. IF YOU THINK THATS ALOT OF BULL, Why are Law Abiding Citizens always having to give up PERSONAL INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS for every DEMOCRAT LEGISLATION PASSED. Need an Example , OBAMACARE, Need Another, Airport unreasonalble search and Seizure, Need another, Heavy progressive Taxation, Need more, economic extortion, $4 a gal gas. Thats not Freedom, Exploitation and Extortion yes. Where does Obama and Democrats get all their good ideas, the United Nations Laws that Obama is using his executive authority to remove EVERY U S CITIZEN FROM UNDER THE PROTECTION OF U S LAW OR THE CONSTITUTION, Obama cannot represent both the United States and The United Nations.
    Gun Control Laws, Environmental Laws, Economic Laws are all UNITED NATIONS LAWS that are not subject to U S Law or Jurisdiction. The state of the economy is no happenstance event it is a planned program to further weaken the United States. Obama is acting as representative for the UNITED NATIONS interests, and George Soros, and by Obamas own admission has called fellow americans the enemy.

  • Kurt

    Bob Schwalb is a child molester of the worst kink molesting young children in their minds with his homosexual sodomy mindset. Sodomy is not a right or educational value it is an obscenity.

    • Shiann Chambers

      I am one of those students that was in the class and Mr. Schwalb is the best HUMANE teacher that you can have, I have had him for 4 years and I love his class that we do.. Dont every judge someone from what you think.. Dont Be a Jerk Off

  • Gail C.

    Great job, Bob – keep up the great work! Apparently, there are a few who weren't taught this lesson at a young age. Actually some of the negative commentary posted at this site goes a long way to demonstrate just how much this kind of work is needed! Your program is certain to make a difference in the level of compassion, understanding and wisdom of our current youth (future adults/leaders) which will lessen the level of vitriol we are sometimes subject to now.

  • Kelly

    I think this program is wonderful! I can't believe out of the entire segment, the only thing some people can focus on is the homophobic topic. It's about teaching children to be tolerant and respectful to ALL creatures- animals and human. Bullying is a huge problem in this country. What's wrong with teaching children to be tolerant. It's not saying they have to support gay marriage etc., it's just teaching them to live and let live.
    Clearly we also have an epidemic in this city with youth not respecting human life, the murder rate is out of control! Maybe this teaches them to have more compassion and empathy.
    I think all schools should implement this wonderful program! They should learn about the environment, respect for animals, respect for fellow humans and other social issues. Keep up the good work!

  • Jennifer

    A program that teaches children to be aware of the environment, to get involved and make changes, to have respect and compassion for all living things – how can this be anything but a great thing? Well done Bob and HEART!!

  • Shiann Chambers

    My School and the students in the program Love Mr. Schwalb.. When WGN Came to the class room everyone was happy about the segment. People really need to lay off. When Mr. Schwalb was talking about being Homophobic he was talking about a project that we did about LGBTQ CALM DOWN PLEASE

  • Provoked

    Wonderful message delivered by an enthusiastic and compassionate voice! We could use programs like this in every school. There can't be a more effective way to make a better world than to teach kids mutual kindness and respect for all others! Thank you HEART and Mr. Schwalb for making tomorrow a good place to be!