Chicago Sun Times: Karen Lewis Is For Real

[The following profile of Karen Lewis is indeed revealing in the details of her background.  But those who have been reading Substance News and have attended CORE programs and meetings are not surprised.  And we’re glad to see that Sun Times readers throughout the city will have an opportunity to find out about Karen too.  One thing that we’d like to emphasize:  the hardest task is just beginning  — Lew Rosenbaum]

Chicago’s new ‘electric’ teachers union president

KAREN LEWIS | Never hesitated to switch gears to take a chance — and now comes her biggest challenge

June 19, 2010

BY ROSALIND ROSSI Education Reporter

The career trajectory of Karen Lewis proves that the route to the top does not always reflect the shortest distance between two points.

The president-elect of the Chicago Teachers Union left Kenwood High School in 1970 without a diploma, skipping right from her last day of junior year to a prestigious university, and eventually graduated — “thank-you laude,” as she puts it — from Dartmouth College.

Chemistry teacher Karen Lewis cleans up the Chem Lab at King College Prep High School.
(Brian Jackson/Sun-Times)

Karen Jennings Lewis (back row, second from left) is pictured in the 1970 Kenwood High School yearbook.


A pianist and opera buff, she began college with the dream of becoming a symphony conductor because, she says, “I liked being in charge.” A trip to Barbados changed her life, and she entered medical school intent on becoming a physician on the island paradise. She dropped out instead, turned to substitute teaching to support herself, and found her calling.

Funny, bubbly and even “brilliant” by some accounts, the 56-year-old Lewis is not afraid to switch gears to pursue a passion — to take a chance, to dive into a challenge. She has had more jobs than she has salmon-frosted, manicured fingernails.

On July 1, Lewis will begin the challenge of her life when she assumes the mantle of president of the nation’s third-largest teachers union. [Click here to read more]

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