ANDERSONVILLE — Kaitlyn Carro is a second-year special education teacher at Helen Peirce Elementary School in Andersonville, where she is still adjusting to the new profession while also having to teach in an era of social distance learning.
Luckily, Carro has a familial support system at the school — both literally and figuratively.
Carro graduated from Peirce, 1423 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., in 2010. She now works at the school alongside her mother, Lynn, a clerk, and her former 6th grade teacher, Irma Puente.
In fact, Carro and Puente are partners, as Carro assists students during two of Puente’s language arts classes.
Working at her alma mater and alongside her mother and former teacher, Carro said she is lucky to have such mentors early in her career while being able to help kids just like her.
“Peirce has been like a second home to me,” Carro said. “I was lucky to be presented with an opportunity to go back and teach in the same community that shaped me.”
Carro saw her old school was hiring after she graduated from Benedictine University in 2018. She knew Peirce would be a perfect fit. In addition to being a student there, she worked recess and lunch at the school and also conducted her school clinicals at the school, Carro said.
After getting the job, Carro learned she would be working with Puente.
“When I first got my schedule, I was a little nervous,” Carro said with a laugh in a joint interview with Puente. “How would I come into her space and suggest things, give opinions? But it was the opposite. She is hands down the easiest person to work with.”
Puente said she was “tickled pink” to be working with a former student. Puente’s teacher instinct might have kicked in during the pair’s early days or working together, but the two have grown to have a great working relationship.
“Initially, I was telling her what to do,” Puente said. “Then I pulled back. She has this natural instinct to help kids learn. It’s become more of a partnership than a mentorship.”
That strong relationship has helped the 6th grade team at Peirce transition to distance learning, both teachers said. As a special education teacher, Carro sits in with other teachers to help kids needing extra assistance. That is still the case with online learning, as Carro will break off with smaller groups to help with Puente’s instruction.
“It’s been a smooth transition,” Carro said.
After 35 years as a teacher, Puente is retiring at the end of the school year. Puente said she would prefer not to leave under such circumstances. But with a new crop of teachers like Carro, she knows the school will be in good hands.
“I’m a little sad I won’t be with this class to physically say goodbye,” Puente said. “But I’m fortunate. This team has been so lovely to work with.”
Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.