CHICAGO — As the school year winds down, WGN’s May Teacher of the Month is a special education teacher on the Chicago’s North Side. 

Parents call Mr. Chad a blessing. They say he’s big-hearted, patient and focused on the diverse needs of his students. 

Mr. Chad Kirkpatrick teaches children with special needs at McPherson Elementary School in Ravenswood.

He’s been at the school for more than 20 years. 

In his classroom, a dozen students work in small groups 

“They get all of their academic instruction in here. That’s reading and math, science and social studies,” he said. “But on top of that they also get independent functioning and social emotional work.”

The days are very structured.

“Each child has their own individual schedule that they follow,” he said.

But he’ss always ready to quickly switch gears when needed 

“Life is full of unpredictability,” he said. “You notice the table is broken in my classroom. I keep it that way because that teaches us that nothing is perfect and we have to work around the fact that the table leans like that.”

And Mr Chad leans on the help of several classroom assistants. They work as a team to support students.

Rachel and Rogelio Herrera say their 12-year-old son Martin has made tremendous progress over the years, since first connecting with Mr. Chad in kindergarten.

It is such a big relief, a very big weight lifted off your shoulders,” Rachel Herrera said. “I can know that I can go to work and do what’s necessary and Martin is well taken care of.”

And Mr Chad’s dedication was even more apparent during the pandemic. 

“(He) printed out everything the kids needed for the curriculum. And he went to their houses and dropped it off to make sure his students were prepared,” Rachel Herrera said. “And that’s what I mean of a teacher that goes over and beyond. There’s no words.”

The Herreras nominated Mr. Chad for Teacher of the Month. And award sponsor Howard Ankin donated $1000 for the school. 

“I really wish that were so many more teachers like Mr. Chad because every parent of a child with special needs even a typical child needs a teacher like Mr. Chad,” Rachel Herrera said.

“To hear those kinds of words is affirming, that I’m doing what I’m supposed to do and I am having an impact because it is about all of us working for the child,” he said.

And when students leave his classroom, he says he wants them to know, “that they’re valuable and they can do it.”