Three members of the same family are graduating from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Education on Friday night, each of them picking up an advanced degree from the Chicago campus they want to use to lift up students — especially in the black community.
Eddie, Evan, and Kara Taylor form a tight-knit group that loves to laugh and help each other juggle work and school. Evan and Kara — who are married — already teach in Chicago public schools in Roseland and Hyde Park. Eddie, Evan’s older brother, has been teaching part-time and working as a lab tech at the University of Chicago.
“A lot of times, we try to do things on our own and see what we can do with our own power and with our own locomotion,” Eddie said. “Then, we tap into the power that our family instills in us, and then, we begin to go much further.”
Eddie, 29, completed a master’s in science education. For Evan, 26, it’s a master’s in language, literacies and learning. And Kara, 27, earned a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction. Kara hopes to become a college professor training teachers one day. And Evan and Eddie are getting master’s degrees to become better teachers.
Kara found her passion for teaching early on after watching her mother nurture young people as a CPS teacher. Kara herself graduated from Jones College Prep, a Chicago public school.
For the brothers, it took a while to land on teaching, but a similar mission pulled them in.
African-American students make up about 37 percent of CPS’ population. But black teachers are just 22 percent of the teaching staff. Compare that to white students, who make up 10 percent of CPS, but white teachers are 50 percent of the district staff.
Eddie says he got into teaching because the Black Lives Matter movement inspired him to work with kids in his community. He hopes to teach science at a predominantly black Chicago public high school in the fall.
“If I can reach my people in a way that they can actually see that science isn’t this abstract, far thing, but it’s part of what I do everyday … they can actually look into possible careers in science,” he said.
His younger brother, Evan, wants to be an example for students of color, showing them they can be whoever they want to be. He prides himself for being eccentric, decking out in Hawaiian shirts and a Peppa Pig keychain hanging from his pocket.
“It’s okay to want to be a skateboarder, just because you don’t see it in your community doesn’t mean you can’t be that,” Evan said. “You can be black, you can like basketball, but you can also like to play Fortnite. You can be this complex person.”
The brothers first crossed paths with Kara when she was a teaching assistant for one of their master’s courses. At the time, her last name was also Taylor, but she wasn’t related yet. Kara says it wasn’t until she and Evan worked on the same literacy research project that they really noticed each other.
“I was able to see him teaching and see how he interacts with his students. And I don’t know, I fell in love,” she remembered.
Kara asked him on a date, and Evan planned the evening.
“Taylor Made Pizza on Taylor Street and both of our last names are Taylor. I had everything set up,” Evan said.
Unfortunately, the pizza place was closed, but that didn’t matter. Evan and Kara got married last summer.
Susie An is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her on Twitter @soosieon.