Each month, we’ll be introducing you to a new School on Wheels staff member so you can learn more about the people who make our programs run successfully! This month, we’ll highlight Shalyn Getz, our Program and Communications Specialist. Although some people haven’t met Shalyn, many people recognize her name because she sends out Chalk Talk, our monthly enewsletter. Read on to learn more about her, how she balances working on both the program and communications sides of School on Wheels and her Friday lunchtime program!

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What is your role at School on Wheels?
I do so many different things! As the Program and Communications Specialist, I split my time between programs, where I design curriculum for the iPads andTutor Toolkits, and communications, where I manage our social media, website and email communications. If you don’t like/follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, you should! I am also the Program Coordinator for the STAR (Striving Towards Academic Readiness) lunchtime program for kindergarten and first grade students at IPS 54.

What did you do before you came here?
I was in college – I studied religion and sociology at Middlebury College in Vermont. I also worked in a childcare center, which is where I found out that I love working with young kids!

Why did you decide to join the School on Wheels team?
When I was in college, I completed a Summer VISTA term at an organization called Chicago HOPES, which provides tutoring services to students living in Chicago-area homeless shelters. Working at Chicago HOPES was a fantastic experience that helped me realize what I’m truly passionate about – leveling the playing field and making sure each student has a quality education. As I was applying for VISTA after college, I saw a position open at School on Wheels, talked to some of the staff, and knew it would be a great fit for what I wanted to do.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?
I love working with the kids at ALL of our different locations and watching them grow – especially my STAR kids. It has been a great experience to have some of my students start the program last year in kindergarten and watch them grow as people and as students this year in first grade. They’ve come so far in such a short time! I also love being part of our communications team here at School on Wheels. Spreading the word about our programs and sharing stories about the individual successes of our students is one of my favorite things to do.

Can you share one of your favorite tutoring stories?love
Even though I’ve been working at School on Wheels for four years, I think one of my all-time favorite moments at tutoring happened this year. I feel like I tell this story to everyone. One of first graders, a very quiet, reserved little girl in the STAR program, came up to me when I went to pick up the kids in their classrooms and gave me a card that read, “You make me want to go to school. I love you.” It made me want to cry, but at the same time, it reaffirmed for me why the relationships that we build with children in our programs are so important. They are going through so much, and being a constant person that they know will show up every week gives them a bit of stability.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?
I have a HUGE sweet tooth! It’s so bad. Sometimes, all I want to eat is ice cream and cookies. I have to restrain myself because I really am a healthy person!

What is the biggest project you are working on right now for School on Wheels?
Well, I have a few big things going on right now. On the program side, I am wrapping up the second year of our STAR lunchtime program.  It’s been such a great year – the tutors at IPS 54 have worked so hard to create relationships with our students and help provide them stability. And next year, we’re expanding the program to second grade! It’s all very exciting. Over the summer, I will also be working on creating new videos in our Tutor Tips series, including some brand new videos covering some of the most popular iPad apps at tutoring! On the communications side, we are getting a brand new website that will help us better communicate about our programs and homelessness in general. I am really excited about it!

Can’t wait until next month to learn more about our staff? Check out our other Meet the Staff blog posts here!