Pre-school teacher focuses on community

She turned her classroom into a miniature community so her pre-school students could learn first hand about life in the big world. It's an idea that's earned Sierra a top educational honor.

"I wanted to create a community for the children … a safe haven for them an area where they can engage they extract they can build social skills as well as language skills," said Marisol Sierra, award-winning teacher.

The McKinley Park Elementary schoolteacher was selected as one of five winners of a Kohl McCormick Early Childhood Teaching Award. Francis Garcia is McKinley Park's principal.

"She is a jewel, a true jewel for education. My program has flourished so much. So much writing," said Garcia. "I (am) just honored to have this type of teacher in my school."

The room has a miniature doctor's office, bank, fire station, grocery store, post office and garden. The neighborhood concern focuses on violence.

"We decided what should we do- that we promise, basically, we're never going to touch real guns. And we're not going to touch real knives and we're not going to talk to gangbangers and we're not going to be in a gang," said Sierra.

Sierra has two sets of pre-schoolers in and out of her classroom.

"I feel very proud because as a teacher I feel I'm contributing to their education. I am building a foundation, a positive foundation. I am building their self esteem," said Sierra.

On June 3, Sierra and the other Kohl McCormick Early Childhood Teaching Award winners will be honored at a luncheon at The Westin Chicago River North.

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