Madison Elementary

The school district covering Hinsdale and parts of Clarendon Hills is home to seven of the top ten elementary and middle schools in DuPage County. Among this cadre of schools that perform well on standardized tests, Madison Elementary has a campus tradition that sets it apart: the monthly all-school meeting.

This a flexible concept. It might include musical performances, the safety patrol explaining rules of caution, or a presentation from a class on its current studies. But it always entails everyone singing “Happy Birthday” to all students, teachers, and staff members who are celebrating that month. And parents and siblings are encouraged to attend the meeting, which is held during the school day. “It guides our sense of community,” says the principal, Melinda McMahon.

It also gives students the chance to practice public speaking, a skill McMahon feels every student should learn because it fuels self-confidence and helps make kids comfortable advocating for their own needs. Wanting students to participate in their own education isn’t enough, she says. “We have to give them every opportunity to do it.”


Photograph: Katrina Wittkamp