WOODRIDGE, Ill. — She’s been on the job for just three months and already her students think she’s a star. Erin Cohoon teaches language arts at Thomas Jefferson Junior High in west suburban Woodridge, where she makes sure her students know they matter.
“The way she teaches you can tell she puts passion into the way she works," said nominating student Natalie Lamar.
“I’ve only been teaching since the start of this school year," Cohoon said.
You could say Erin Cohoon is off to a pretty good start.
“So as a middle school teacher it was my goal for them to come into this room and know it’s positive, that there are things that show how much they matter in the world. So they know this is a place where they are always welcomed and loved," Cohoon said.
And well read.
“She makes each classroom read 100 books so her three classes together we’ll ready 300 books together and get a prize at the end of the year. My vocabulary has really opened when she’s given me more time for reading," Lamar said.
“It’s been really cool seeing their love of reading grow, but I know that throughout the year one of my big goals is to get their love of reading to be the same as their love of writing," Cohoon said.
“She helped me a lot with writing, and I love writing and the way she taught me character traits and synonym sheets and other helpful things we have on our tables. It was really helpful for me, and I think that really opened my eyes to her teaching," Lamar said.
It’s just one of the reasons Lamar nominated Cohoon for WGN's Teacher of the Month – an honor that took the recent hire by surprise -- it was just five years ago one of Miss Cohoon’s high school teachers received the very same award.
“It’s so overwhelming and very humbling knowing that I’m able to do as much good in the world with my students as he was doing with us," Cohoon said.
Award sponsor Ken Allen was on hand to present Cohoon with $1,000, money she plans to put toward expanding her classroom library.
“This summer I did a lot of going around to garage sales and goodwill just because I wasn’t sure if I was going to be provided with any, but luckily Jefferson gave me a lot of books, too," Cohoon said.
For all the lessons she shares with her students, at the end of the day of our visit, it was Cohoon who learned something new.
"No matter how new you are in a career, especially with teaching, you are going to make a difference no matter what. And just always put your heart into everything you do because at the end of the day if you try your best somebody is going to be positively affected by that," Cohoon said.