"We Are D97" is a monthly profile series that will highlight the tremendous work being done across the district to advance our vision, achieve our goals, and create a strong sense of community and belonging.
Monica Collins, Social Worker
Mann Elementary School
Monica Collins' career in social work began in child welfare and hospital rehabilitation programs, where she worked with and advocated for children and families in crisis. During that time, she realized she could have a more meaningful impact in a school setting where children are developing their social-emotional skills.
That realization led Monica to District 97, where she has been a school social worker since 2005.
"School social work allows me the opportunity to proactively work with children in their natural setting to reshape their social, emotional and educational experiences," she said.
Over the past 14 years, Monica has formed strong relationships with countless students, families and colleagues, and has taken on leadership roles on a number of committees that are working to advance the district's goals around equity and inclusion.
In 2018, she was honored with an award of excellence from the Illinois State Board of Education in conjunction with its Those Who Excel program, which recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the state’s public and nonpublic elementary and secondary schools.
What Monica Enjoys Most About Working at Mann:
"There are so many things to enjoy about working at Mann. I love the sense of community that exists among the kids, staff and families. Our principal is amazing. She just really helps make Mann a better place every day. I feel like the leadership, coupled with the wonderful teachers and the great families we have here, makes it a wonderful place to work on a daily basis. I also truly believe that Mann’s special education team is top notch. I’m proud to say that we were one of the initial teams to implement full inclusion in District 97."
Favorite Memory from Working in District 97:
"Social-emotional work is hard to quantify, but my favorite moments are when I see students blossom into happy, confident, socially-independent students at home and at school. Watching students find a sense of self and develop a sense of self–those are my favorite moments."
On Both Living and Working in Oak Park:
"When I see greatness happening at Mann, I know that my kids are experiencing similar opportunities across town, and that gives me a sense of peace. I am 100 percent invested in Oak Park, personally and professionally. I believe in its excellence and it's a privilege to work and play in the same backyard."
Mann Principal Faith Cole:
"Monica Collins is a dedicated social worker who provides our students with access to a dynamic, innovative, child-centered experience that enriches their lives both in and out the classroom. Her energy, enthusiasm and collaborative spirit has been exhibited throughout her time at Mann. It is because of this hard work, tireless commitment and passion for our students that she has been able to build positive relationships and help students reach their full potential."
"I often have conversations with students about growth mindset and I use myself as example. I am working on developing a growth mindset when it comes to swimming. All my students know that I am terrified of water. I've had 5-year-olds offer to give me swimming lessons. They think it's really hilarious."