Veteran Chicago teacher named to national Hall of Fame

May 8, 2001

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Chicago – What you notice first about Dr. Emiel Hamberlin as he teaches his biology and horticulture classes at Chicago’s DuSable High School is the parrot occasionally perched on his shoulder.

But what you will remember is his remarkable ability to teach. To communicate to generations of students. To make young people feel special.

Hamberlin is one of five teachers nationwide being inducted this year into The National Teachers Hall of Fame. The Hall officially announces its annual list of inductees on National Teacher Day, which this year is May 8. The 36-year veteran educator was chosen from among 88 nominees chosen for this prestigious honor.

“Dr. Hamberlin is excellence in teaching personified,” said State Superintendent of Education Glenn W. McGee.

The State Board of Education has made high quality teachers one of its top education priorities. The State Board is committed to helping find, recruit, train and support excellent teachers for Illinois classrooms.

“It is inspirational to see such passion and dedication in a job with as much pressure as teaching, especially after 36 years in the classroom,” McGee said. “He is truly the kind of teacher we want and need to lead our students today, and The National Teachers Hall of Fame is right to honor him.”

The National Teachers Hall of Fame, located in Emporia, Kansas, has inducted five outstanding public and private prekindergarten through 12th-grade teachers annually each of the last 10 years. Today is National Teacher Day.

A 15-member selection committee comprising representatives of numerous education-related organizations chose this year’s inductees. Hall of Fame President David Jahn said all five finalists represent the best of the best.

“We know that by honoring these five, we are really honoring all the outstanding teachers across the United States,” Jahn said.

“Because of (Hamberlin’s) longevity I would compare him to a marathon runner,” he said. “He has gone the distance with style and class and touched lives of his students in a very unique way. He represents all that is good about teaching.”

Hamberlin’s professional accomplishments span his whole career. He was named the City of Chicago Teacher of the Year (1971); Outstanding Secondary Educator of America (1974); the Illinois Teacher of the Year (1977); an Illinois Master Teacher (1983); one of Newsweek Magazine’s 100 American Heroes (1986); Who’s Who Among Black Americans – Educators (1988); the Kohl Family Foundation International Educator (1992); and the winner of a Golden Apple Foundation Academy Fellowship (1992.)

Among many significant educational initiatives, Hamberlin was part of a group of teachers that worked with the Museum of Science and Industry to develop program ideas and educational programs to help teachers make the best educational use of the museum’s collections.

He and his students developed a landscaping club through which students were actually paid for producing public and private landscapes citywide.

But Hamberlin is best known for his work with DuSable’s award-winning Urban Ecology Sanctuary, which has home to various animals (including peacocks), assorted plant life and unique ecosystems, all housed in an enclosed campus courtyard. The sanctuary is being revamped to feature fish and plant life.

Hamberlin’s reputation precedes him, said Dr. Gloria Archbold, DuSable’s first-year principal. Archbold knew of Hamberlin years before she actually met him because of his many teaching awards, she said.

Archbold is required to monitor every DuSable teacher five times annually and often sees Hamberlin and his parrot, joined at the shoulder, as it were. “He is truly one of a kind,” Archbold said.

“He is one of those teachers that I like to show off to visitors. He is synonymous with DuSable,” she said, fondly remembering the first time she saw the peacocks strutting proudly through the sanctuary years ago.

More than once this year Archbold has relied on Hamberlin’s knowledge about students’ backgrounds and his sense of school history. Parents of many of his current students once also sat in his classroom, she said. Some of the school’s teachers once even were his students.

Such longevity can sometimes put pressure on a teacher, Archbold said. “He has had to continue to model a certain kind of behavior” for former students who come back to the school in one capacity or another, she said. “He’s always the teacher.

But Hamberlin is about more than just his classroom, Archbold said. He has a long, deep history of involvement in the DuSable community, including creating and running several small businesses.

And he truly cares about the young people he works with. Hamberlin also created the school’s “Sophisticated Ladies and Gents” program to teach students good manners and social skills, Archbold said.

“He is a pillar of this school and this community,” she said.

Hamberlin and the four other inductees will receive a $1,000 personal stipend; a $1,000 scholarship to give to a student of their choice entering teaching; $1,000 in school supplies donated to their district; and a customized ring.

Past Illinois inductees include Dr. Jean Damisch of Northbrook; Gary Swalley of  Caseyville; Dr. Larry Baran of Homewood; and Jim Jackson Sr. of Wauconda.