About The Director-Margaret Small, PhD

Dr. Margaret Small is a founding Director of the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School of Chicago (YWLCS). She joined the staff of YWLCS in 2000 as the co-director and has overseen the founding of the school with 150 6th and 9th graders to a fully-enrolled middle and high school serving 340 girls in grades 7-12.

Here I am in room 102 at YWLCS

Dr. Small at YWLCS

Dr. Small brings a remarkable breadth of experience to her position. She did her undergraduate work at Duke University, majoring in Political Science, spent a year as a community organizer in the Durham area, and then moved to Buffalo and received Masters of Arts degrees in both History and Women’s Studies from SUNY Buffalo.

Taking a hiatus from the educational world, Margaret worked for 8 years as a machinist, first in a shipyard in San Diego and then at several manufacturing plants in Chicago. As good manufacturing jobs began to leave the Midwest, she returned to school to become a high school mathematics teacher, receiving her Master of Science in Teaching Mathematics from the University of Illinois, Chicago. Certified to teach math, United States and World history, and computer science, Margaret became involved in efforts to improve mathematics curriculum and teaching in the Chicago Public Schools.

After 12 years of classroom teaching, first at Dunbar Vocational High School and then at Lake View High School, Margaret became co-principal investigator of a National Science Foundation grant, providing professional development to high school math teachers throughout the Chicago Public Schools. She spent 3 years working with teachers at several CPS High Schools supporting the implementation of the Interactive Mathematics Program (IMP), an award-winning problem-based curriculum. During that time she completed work on her PHD in Curriculum and Instruction from UIC which she received in May 2001.

Margaret was honored by the University of Illinois Alumni Association with the 2006 City Partner Award, which recognizes “those University of Illinois alumni who have gone on from UIC to contribute to the vitality of the Chicago metropolitan area in a special way”.

Under Dr. Small’s leadership, YWLCS has become an agent of transformation for both the girls who attend the school and for the public school system. YWLCS has become a pipeline for creating teacher leaders – eight faculty have received National Board Certification. YWLCS is recognized by its peers as a school to learn from and YWLCS is a mentor school within the Coalition of Essential Schools, an organization supporting educational innovation nationally. YWLCS ranks in the top 20% of both selective and non-selective Chicago Public Schools in terms of high school graduation rates and college attendance rates.


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