A National Award-Winning Publication

Elisabeth Ocon Calderón


Elevating diverse students

Elisabeth Ocon Calderón

Age: 27

Title: Director of Diverse Learning

Organization: Excel Academy of Southwest

As a first-generation Latinx college student, advocating and pursuing educational equity has always been Calderón’s passion.

As a Chicago native and Chicago Public Schools graduate, she wanted to pursue a role in education where she could serve and elevate change for communities and students of color.

In 2018 she joined Teach for America. Her experiences and challenges within the education system pushed her to seek opportunities to support the highest-needs students in the city: diverse learners. She has helped lead the transition to a curriculum focused on culturally relevant pedagogy that acknowledges students’ stories, voices, and experiences. Her goal is for students to take their stories beyond the classroom and push boundaries set by the education system.

As a queer Latina, Calderón wants to create a space where the BIPOC community, which has been marginalized for so long, feels embraced when they walk into schools. She currently serves as director of diverse learning for Excel Southwest, an alternative option school contracted with CPS. The school serves students who have been removed from traditional schooling because of various barriers and challenges.

As a restorative justice practitioner, she believes that BIPOC communities need significant healing from harm created through generations by the education system. As an experienced interventionist, LSB1, and case manager for alternative secondary education, she will begin her next journey in policy and systemic change by serving in the inaugural class of leaders of color for systemic change with Teach For America.


Words of wisdom: Her mother used to tell her, Cuando mires vien no se puede ignorar (once you take a look, you can’t ignore it).

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