This educator’s philosophy is anything but textbook

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CHICAGO — She has been called a pioneer and a trailblazer with innovative ideas for education.

Phyllis Lockett’s philosophy steers students away from the old-fashioned classroom setting and puts them on a path for a brighter future.

The daughter of CPS school teachers, Lockett ironically isn’t a teacher. She studied engineering at Purdue University and received an MBA from Northwestern University.

While working in corporate America, she made a visit home to Chicago that had a profound effect on her.

"Conditions in the community had not gotten better," she said. "They had gotten worse."

Wanting to give back to the communities she grew up it, Lockett left her corporate job and set her sights on providing quality education.

“I’ve had the opportunity to have access to great education and to have exposures beyond what I could imagine,” she said. “I want that for every single child that looks like me, and decided that instead of complaining about it on the sidelines, I would jump in. So I left corporate America and started to pursue a way to give back to the communities I love.”

Henry Lee Elementary is among the 120 Chicago Public Schools that have adopted the philosophy of “personalized learning” or “learner focused education.” It is an idea that caught the attention of Lockett and a team of educational experts.

In 2014, Lockett founded Leap, a nonprofit organization that trains educators in personalized learning. The innovative technique is anything but "textbook."

Lockett said the key to success for children today is recognizing kids' individual strengths and tailoring learning to students’ interests.

Phyllis Lockett is one of Chicago’s Very Own.

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