This month’s blog post is written by Brett Bottorff. Brett is the School Principal for Chaddock’s Satellite Special Education School based in Carthage, Illinois.
When I began working overnights at Leathers Cottage, I only planned on making Chaddock a temporary stop on my way to becoming an English teacher: that was 25 years ago. Instead of leaving Chaddock, I moved from overnights to evenings in order to work more closely with the kids. I then began to coordinate the cottage programming, check medications, and oversee medical appointments for residential students.
While working more during the daytime, I began to gravitate toward the school where I helped develop a therapeutic intervention classroom. I then began teaching middle and high school students outside of Chaddock as I furthered my education. It was during that short period that I realized how impactful the skills I developed at Chaddock were for students with emotional struggles. These students seemed to sense my background and would come to me after school. Looking back, I believe it was the safety and respect that I projected, developed from my years imbedded in the Chaddock culture.
Upon finishing my education certifications, I began a new chapter in my Chaddock career in the classroom. My prior roles had allowed me the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time with each of the teachers and staff, and this gave me a clear vision of how I wanted to run my classroom for our special population. After many years of teaching, I am now in the third year of leading and developing the Chaddock School in Carthage. I am proud to say that we are now starting the second year of school in the Carthage location.
I could tell story after story about the children Chaddock has impacted and how they have healed relationships and achieved things they would have never dared to dream. I could tell stories about each graduation ceremony where staff and students truly reflect on the tremendous progress they make during their Chaddock journey. However, I’d really like to highlight the culture among Chaddock staff and leaders. We are an important but short journey in the lives we serve, however the culture of curiosity, openness, acceptance, playfulness, kindness, understanding, and expectation lives on through the staff at Chaddock. This culture is the foundation of our mission but cannot be fully understood unless experienced. I knew it would be an important challenge to foster this culture in a new location. To my surprise, I found many people in and around the Carthage community who are excited to be a part of the Chaddock culture and joyfully face the challenging work every day.
The staff continue to recognize that we do something different at Chaddock. It is something unique that can’t quite be described and is backed by 170 years of mission-oriented individuals.
To say that the culture at Chaddock is unique is an understatement, and to believe it you can’t just see it, you have to experience it. Driven by a mission based on relationships, faith, caring, responsibility and learning, our staff work hard to embody these values on a daily basis within their interactions with children and families. We pride ourselves on your ability to feel this as you encounter us in our work.
This type of culture does not simply appear overnight. It has taken years of refining through a continuous process of growth, reflection and learning but this journey never stops. There is great excitement that comes with expanding our reach and knowing we have the opportunity to bring our mission to more children and families but the work of ensuring that the culture we create throughout our entire organization will never be complete. This ever-present understanding is what makes us always strive to not only make this our culture but our way of being with those we serve.