How did Karen Lewis die? Former longtime Chicago Teachers Union president passes away at 67

Lewis served as president of the teacher’s union in Chicago until stepping down in 2018. She also served as a former King College Prep High School and Lane Technical High School chemistry teacher


                            How did Karen Lewis die? Former longtime Chicago Teachers Union president passes away at 67
Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis holds a press conference (Getty Images)

Karen Lewis, a former Chicago Teachers Union president, has passed away on February 07, 2021, following a long battle with brain cancer. Lewis served as president of the teacher’s union in Chicago until stepping down in 2018. She also served as a former King College Prep High School and Lane Technical High School chemistry teacher. Former Chicago Teachers Union spokesperson Stephanie Gadlin confirmed in a statement that Lewis has passed away at 67. In a lengthy statement, Gadlin praised Lewis for all the hard work she did towards the upliftment of the nation.

Gadlin said: “For her tenure as president of the Chicago Teachers Union, she was the architect of today's fight for education justice. As her spokeswoman, I cannot tell you how inspired I was by her leadership as well as her vulnerability as she navigated the treacherous terrain of Chicago politics. I cannot count how many times we shared tears over the plight of students and people who have been marginalized for years, or the bellows of laughter due to her biting sense of humor. Karen was my homegirl. She rocked. Our city has lost a great voice. I send my heartfelt condolences to her loved ones, friends, and to the 25,000 members of the CTU. May her memory reign for all days to come, and she find rest in the bosom of God.”

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Who was Karen Lewis?

Lewis was born on July 20, 1953, in Chicago, Illinois. She attended Kenwood High School and later attended Mount Holyoke College. In 1972, she transferred to Dartmouth College and was the only African-American woman in the class of 1974. At Dartmouth College, she graduated with a degree in music and sociology. She later earned her Master’s Degree from Northeastern Illinois University in Inner City Studies. Lewis had been a member of the CTU since 1988. In 2010, she gained control over the CTU by winning 60 percent of the vote in a run-off election.

In the CTU circle, Lewis will be remembered for the famous 2012 strike. In 2012, she led the Chicago Teachers Union on a 10-day strike. Following the strike, the union revised the teacher evaluation system that prevented the instituting of merit pay and also helped the veteran teachers who were working in phased out schools. In one of her earlier interviews with Dissent Magazine, Lewis talked about the impact of strikes on students.

“Children don’t do better when schools close. They lose anywhere from three to six months on their learning or at least on their testing,” Lewis said.



 

Lewis was all set to run for the mayor of Chicago in 2015, but she later dropped the plan after getting ill and was later hospitalized for a brief period. In October 2014, a source close to Lewis confirmed that she had been diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. She stepped down from her role as president in 2018, serving the union for 30 long years.

The current CTU President Jesse Sharkey has shared her condolence and said, “may her memory be a blessing”. Other than Sharkey, several others have paid a heartfelt tribute to Lewis, who dedicated her entire life to reform the education system.



 



 

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