Karen Moore is a special education teacher in Illinois at the Harvey School District 152. She is an active member of the Harvey Education Association (HEA) and their state and national affiliates, the Illinois Education Association (IEA) and the National Education Association (NEA). She is on the Board of Directors and the Vice Chair of the Black Caucus in the NEA and sits on the State Board of the IEA.
How long have you been a teacher and what got you into teaching?
I’ve been a teacher for 26 years, in the same district for all that time. I got into teaching because I fell in love with my 4th grade teacher and wanted to emulate her. She supported us and set high expectations for us. She fostered my desire to help my peers and a love for the process of learning. I’m a proud product of Chicago public schools and the union teachers that taught there.
Have you noticed any ways in which your school building has struggled to handle the climate crisis and the effect that has on you, your students, and your coworkers?
The building we’re in now is an old building, built in 1955. When the heat is on, it’s sweltering for some classrooms, but others rooms are still very cold and stay cold until it’s time to go home for the day. Also, the A/C doesn’t work in every classroom, so similar to the heat, it’s cool in some classrooms and sweltering in others during the hot months. The intense heat during the summer causes issues like nose bleeds because the kids get overheated. I myself started to go home with headaches because of the heat. If it’s too hot, it’s hard to focus, same thing if it’s too cold. The extreme temperatures make things much more difficult for the students and the staff. A lot of the school buildings are like this, even newer ones built in the 2000s, not just mine. One side is hot and one side is cold, no matter what we need.
Why is being a union member important to you?
I eat, sleep, and breathe the union. Being a card-carrying union member is one of the best choices anyone could make. I’m lucky to be in a space where I can voice concerns I have—where I speak on the behalf of my students, my community, and my coworkers in the pursuit of justice. Being in a union is like having a muscle, if you don’t work it out, it doesn’t grow. I like to flex my union muscle.
You’re involved in the Carbon Free Healthy Schools campaign in Illinois, can you talk about why this campaign is important?
Once, while in an IEA meeting, I saw a presentation about the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA). It prioritizes the school district I teach in and it spoke volumes to me that this bill was aiming to create a better school environment in this high-poverty area through solar energy, electric buses, HVAC improvements, and energy efficiency. Better school environments make better learning conditions and better working conditions. It’s important to create a safe and healthy environment for our students to learn and thrive in.
This interview has been condensed and edited for content and clarity.