Forever Ours in Civics

Last Friday marked Dr. Shawn Healy’s last day as the Director of the Democracy Program at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. Shawn will still be involved in Illinois Civics, but in a different role as the senior director of state policy and advocacy at iCivics. In this new role, Shawn will take the lessons learned from his leadership in all things civics in Illinois to strengthen civic learning for K-12 students across the country.

While Shawn took the opportunity to reflect on his role in putting #CivicsInTheMiddle in Illinois classrooms in his blog post titled, Forever Yours in Civics, we would be remiss if we did not take space to reflect and share the impact Shawn has had on educators and classrooms throughout the Land of Lincoln. Shawn’s legacy is indelible and he is “forever ours” in civics.

As a result of Shawn’s tireless work to encourage civics education, educators have a more comprehensive understanding of the importance in addition to the tools to bring civics into the classroom. Our students are being prepared to be engaged as thoughtful, well-informed citizens and our schools have become places where democratic institutions are flourishing. He will be missed, but certainly, take his tremendous knowledge and leadership to a new level with iCivics.

—Alia Bluemlein, Prairie Ridge High School

Shawn’s leadership and guidance have transformed Social Science education in Illinois. His leadership on the Illinois Social Science Standards task force, which created new K-12 social science standards, changed how social science is taught in classrooms. He continued his efforts by bringing civics education to the forefront making it a priority in classrooms across the state. Shawn’s hard work, dedication, and advocacy have resulted in increased student interest, knowledge, engagement, and activism. Shawn will be an asset to iCivics, where he can spread his passion, expertise, and leadership with other educators and students across the nation.

—Corie Yow, Glenwood Intermediate / Ball-Chatham CUSD 5

Shawn has been a great mentor to me when it comes to civic education, and I have been able to reinvigorate my entire department thanks to what I have learned from him. Over the years, he has been a good friend, but more importantly a great example of the impact one person can have in making a difference in an entire field. He will be missed, but his influence will always remain, as a testament to his life’s passion.

—Jim Vera, Oswego East High School

Shawn is truly an inspiring advocate for teachers and students of Social Studies in Illinois. He empowers others to utilize best practices to help students find their civic voice. His work and influence will remain in the state. On a more personal note, his intelligence, quick wit, love of the Packers, and dedication to his and others’ craft will be greatly missed.

—Tracy Freeman, Normal West Community High School

Shawn is the consummate leader when it comes to all things social studies education and civic education. I first became familiar with Shawn’s work through the James Madison Fellowship, but I really got to see his excellence in action when he helped our school host a regional professional development session for faculty after the state law on civic education changed. Prior to this PD, many social studies education faculty had felt like 2nd tier content teachers. Shawn’s work did more to remind administrators and the public regarding the importance of grooming citizenship in our youth than any other policy decisions in my 27 years in education, but more importantly, it helped reinvigorate that pride that civics teachers felt in the work they did. Shawn gave us permission to leave the textbook chapters behind and find more time to facilitate the behaviors of citizens, not just “mastering” the content of a Constitution test.

—Heather McCurdy, Reavis High School

Shawn’s work on behalf of Illinois schools is so difficult to measure because many of the schools probably don’t even realize the positive impact he has had. Personally, Shawn helped guide ACHS to Democracy School status and was a great mentor to me as an Illinois Civics Mentor. I frequently use our mission, with Shawn’s leadership, as an example of how civic action can create change, but it requires a lot of work that Shawn was ready and able to put in. Most importantly, Shawn is a great person. I thoroughly enjoyed talking about politics, college basketball, and a variety of other topics with him.

—Grant Murray, Antioch Community High School

Shawn has made an incredible impact on students across the state in ways we can not yet fathom. His passion for government and for civics is unmatched and this has spread to those of us who have been privileged to work with him. Shawn’s understanding of political content is unmatched and his ability to combine issues with data in an understandable way makes learning civics fun and engaging. On a personal note, Shawn has reignited my passion for civics and government and his knowledge has helped me feel comfortable tackling this tough topic. I will miss his energy and compassion in the Illinois Civics group but know his skills will be put to use in his future job.

—Chris Johson, ROWVA Jr./Sr. High School

For the last year and a half, I’ve had the pleasure to learn from Shawn’s work via the webinars and meetings and have greatly appreciated his guidance as I’ve adjusted to my role as a regional instructor for Civics. As I got to know Shawn I found a kindred spirit who similarly felt a passion and obligation to help make civic education important again. I am excited for him in his pursuit of other opportunities and wish him the best of luck in this new chapter.

—Matthew Wood, Leman Middle School, West Chicago

I always look forward to hearing from Shawn in webinars – such rich and deep political knowledge. He has really helped me, as well as teachers everywhere, process events and election matters of the past year. I also appreciate all of Shawn’s stewardship of civics education in Illinois – so excited that in his new work, he can bring his passion for civics education to an even bigger audience.

—Dr. Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz, Eastern Illinois University

We will not know the entirety of Shawn Healy’s impact on civic education in Illinois for quite some time – the simple fact is he has worked tirelessly in ways many of us can’t imagine and spearheaded an effort to bring civics to the forefront of people’s attention. Passing legislation is one thing; making sure that legislation has the legs to stand on for a long time is something entirely different. Shawn has done both. I am incredibly proud to have been along for the ride.

—Jason, M. Artman, Mendota High School

Shawn has been the perfect person to lead the initiatives of the McCormick Foundation. He has been able to effectively bring their philanthropic intentions to life in our schools as teachers and administrators have found him to be a warm humble person who can effectively charm you with his vast knowledge. In short, he helped us really understand what quality civics means and that has changed the way our teachers teach. Our students are better prepared for their roles as a direct result of Shawn’s efforts and skills.

—John Pellikan, Prairie Ridge High School

Shawn has had a huge impact on civic education throughout the state of Illinois. I am particularly thankful for the work he did to bring the Democracy Schools initiative to Southern Illinois. The network and resources he and others at the McCormick Foundation have made available to our schools have been so valuable to our students and teachers. Personally, he has inspired me to be a better teacher and develop a passion for civic engagement that I truly enjoy sharing with my students. Shawn’s efforts will continue to show as the students in Illinois will graduate more prepared and equipped for their civic roles in our society. Best of luck to Shawn on his new endeavor!

—Andrea Seipp, Belleville East High School

Dr. Shawn Healy has been a tireless advocate for bringing civic education back into the spotlight in our schools. He brought voice to the concerns of so many educators who saw the impact that the minimization of the social sciences was having on our students and society. His work was also powerful in that he recognized the need educators faced in order to provide meaningful civics learning experiences to their students. He planned and delivered workshops that helped get educators up to speed on best practices, essential content, and skills so that in turn, they could bring meaningful learning opportunities to their students. By the way, did I mention that he provided this support to middle school educators implementing a new mandate in the midst of a pandemic and that he rocked it!? Thank you, Dr. Healy! We wish you the best as you begin an exciting new chapter in your career!

—Kimberly Heath, Skokie School District 69

I had the pleasure to work with Shawn at West Chicago High School and got to witness firsthand his dedication to civics education and most importantly to his students. While we were sad to see him leave the classroom, we have seen his dedication to civics education reach beyond our 2,000-student school to the tens of thousands of students in Illinois over his years with McCormick, to the hundreds of thousands he will reach in the future as he works to expand high-quality civics education for the country. It has been an honor to work and learn from him.

—Candace Fikis, West Chicago Community High School

I had the pleasure of meeting Shawn while still teaching at a prior school. My school had just become part of the Democracy Schools Network and I was able to talk with Shawn while attending a gathering for the network. I have been lucky to work with Shawn and learn from him while servicing as an Instructional Coach over the last year and a half. I thank Shawn for his dedication and look to him as an example due to his passion for civics education. It has truly been an honor to serve in this endeavor with him.

—Logan Ridenour, Dupo High School

After attending a multi-day workshop in which Shawn was presented with some of the Civics Mentors from the region, we discussed the need for a Civics Mentor in the region in which I live. He saw some potential in me that I wasn’t sure of at the time. His positivity at that point set me on the path to a nearly 3-year stint as a Civics Mentor and a workshop facilitator for Online Impact doing civics workshops. I have always admired his astute political mind and his analysis of the political world. He has worked tirelessly to design and implement a civics program in Illinois that is used as an example around the country. His dedication and impact is immeasurable and will be far-reaching as we head into the future of civics education in Illinois and the U.S. Thanks for all you’ve done, and continue to do, Shawn. God Bless.

—Mark Heffington, Pittsfield High School

Shawn gave voice and vision to a mission. Most of us teach because we believe in our students and their futures. We want them to develop their voices and to feel secure in using them. Shawn elevated that to a statewide cause. He worked for the research, then the legislation, then the implementation. In the process, we found a champion for something we believe and a colleague who supported our efforts to realize that belief. I am happy that he gets to continue that effort in an even broader platform, and I am selfishly also happy that his Chicago location and technology mean that he won’t be far away. Thanks, Shawn, for bringing your considerable smarts and energy to bear on the important work of civic engagement! Every best wish!

—Jennifer Conlon, Maine East High School

It is impossible to fully recognize all the ways Shawn Healy has impacted me and our work in Chicago Public Schools. Because of his tireless and visionary advocacy, hundreds of thousands of young people in Illinois will now receive the civic education they deserve. His unwavering support and belief in us and our shared vision have made all the difference – and his knowledge, partnership, support, and investment in our district is a model for what powerful partnerships look like and can accomplish. I know my colleagues and predecessors would agree that Shawn Healy was, and remains, a primary contributor to our success scaling innovative civic learning in CPS. Personally, Shawn’s partnership and friendship have meant the world to me – I am so very proud of him and cannot wait to see what the future brings in his new role.

—Heather Van Bethuysen, Chicago Public Schools

Do you have a story, memories or well wishes to share with Shawn Healy? Please comment below. Together, we can prepare all students for college, career, and civic life.