Education, Feature

Retirees 2024: Ingrid Vann finishes 29-year career at Serena Hills

After 29 years, teacher Ingrid Vann is leaving Serena Hills School in Chicago Heights for the last time this month.

Ingrid Vann, right.

“I have so many friends and teacher colleagues. It will be so bittersweet. That I will miss,” she said. “I’m unsure what life without Serena will look like. My whole adult life I’ve been here. It probably won’t sink in until the fall” when she will no longer be preparing class materials.

Vann came to District 161 from Michigan where she taught for two years. At Serena she’s taught third, fourth and fifth grades for 26 years. Her first classroom was a split, half third graders and half fourth graders. Looking back, she wonders how she managed that job.

Three years ago, when the federal government provided monies to districts to help with tutoring and enrichment classes to help students catch up with what they lost during the pandemic, Vann transitioned to a math specialist position.

“I love math. I’ve always loved math,” she said. Vann earned a master’s degree in math instruction in 2002 and admits “it’s always kind of been my dream job to just teach math all day long.” She got her wish the past three years after interviewing for the new position and being selected as the math specialist.

Vann works a full day, with the majority of her time in small group instruction with maybe three or four students at a time. She’s helping students kindergarten through fifth grade with math. Sometimes she’ll co-teach a class with a classroom teacher.

Vann uses a variety of techniques to show students how math works. She’s used blocks or tiles to help with counting. Those concrete models help students understand the math concepts that are eventually presented as numbers on paper.

“I like making it into a game,” she said. “I look at it like a challenge or a puzzle.” The intervention approach is great for small groups. Vann said unlike a classroom setting, the students meeting with her will “feel at ease to say they don’t get it.”

Her approach is to “acknowledge that this is hard. It’s OK if you don’t get it the first time. I always say it’s always hard until it’s not. Eventually it always clicks.”

Because of her long tenure at Serena Hills, Vann has taught children of children in her first classes and it means she’s developed relationships with the families. And through social media, Vann has kept up with several former students and their successes.

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