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Chicago CTO Believes In A Collaborative Work Environment

Jennie Magiera is the chief technology officer at Des Plaines School District 62. The district is just north of Chicago O'Hare Airport. District 62 serves about 5,000 students K-8 across 11 buildings and about 500 additional students at the Early Learning Center.

(Photo Courtesy of Jennie Magiera)

Magiera graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, NH then went on to attain dual degrees in psychology and history from Columbia University in New York, NY. After beginning her teaching career in Chicago, she achieved her master's in teaching mathematics from University of Illinois-Chicago.

What are the scope and responsibilities of your current role?

"As the chief technology officer, I support our district's teachers, students and staff to leverage innovative tools for transforming teaching and learning. I work collaboratively with these individuals to explore how to create new and better opportunities for our kids. For example, we are currently building MakerSpaces in our libraries - places where students can tinker, fail in a safe space, iterate and problem solve."

What is your favorite part of your daily duties?

"I love working with teachers and students. My favorite part of my role is being in classrooms, learning and exploring with our kids. They inspire me and remind me why I do what I do. As a district level administrator, it's important for me to keep focus on my background as a classroom teacher. Teachers spend the most time with our students and have the greatest impact on their growth. Spending time in classrooms with students and teachers keeps me honest about our work and the direction we take as a district. Plus, it's downright fun."

Do you feel your education prepared you for your current role?

"Yes and no. My experiences in school allowed me to research and learn more about systems, policies, psychologies and philosophies. This knowledge has helped me make decisions, analyze situations and understand needs. However, my experiences in the classroom as a teacher most inform my daily work. I am constantly putting myself back in the role of the teacher to ask if what we are doing is creating better opportunities for our students or just change for the sake of change. If I can't confidently say, from the point of view of our teachers and students, that a new initiative will improve our classrooms, then we don't move forward. This experience also helps me better interact with and engage our district teachers and students to solicit their ideas and feedback in this process."

Do you have any advice for people who desire to pursue a similar career?

"First, become a teacher. Fall in love with the art and science of education, working with students and supporting your community. Ask lots of questions, share out loud and remember that we are always students - even when we're teachers. Never stop learning and growing. Be humble and be curious. Know that teaching is one of the most challenging, yet most rewarding professions. I see myself, even as CTO, as a teacher. I hope never to lose sight of this."

Michelle Guilbeau is a writer, reviewer, teacher and business owner. She also has experience in school administration, literacy coaching and is proud founder of and Michelle enjoys sharing her knowledge of cities, food, travel, education and parenting issues with her readers. Her work can be found on

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