Guest Blog: Democracy is a Verb

by John Pellikan, McHenry County Teacher Mentor

“Democracy is a verb”. I must have said that phrase over 100 times in the past couple of years. Each time I said it, I was usually engaged in some type of endeavor to mobilize others to take action. I told myself that my action was to get others to take action. Not necessarily an unimportant role, but, in many ways, I ultimately felt like a hypocrite. What was I really taking action to do? Holding an elected office was something I never really thought I would ever do. After all, who am I to be elected? Did I really want to go through the process of begging people for support?


When I found out that our local elementary school district (Dist. #47) had 2 open positions, I realized that this was my opportunity. Hence, I followed the lead of my friend and colleague Curt Wadlington (who actually ran for the same board 2 years ago) and joined with another friend and colleague Jonathan Powell to become certified write-in candidates. We have both been very fortunate to have won spots on the board and eagerly look forward to serving the community and our children.

We have passionate teachers and administrators in District #47 who work very hard to assure our students are receiving the best education possible. As a school board member, I will work to support teacher’s efforts and empower them to inspire their students to be curious, to take actions with those curiosities and to achieve significant growth in their knowledge and skills. I do feel, though, that there are enough people on school boards who are worried about test scores and other metrics of so-called academic achievement.


What we need are more people worried about the development of literate citizens. Ultimately, therefore, my biggest agenda item is to help our district grow in fulfilling the civic mission of schools. Our students need to become literate citizens who take action to answer the question ‘how should we live together?’ Schools across America need to work hard to achieve this mission and my hope is to work with the amazing teachers in D47 to develop justice oriented citizens emboldened by a rich civic education.

I have been very blessed in my professional career in that I get to work as a teacher, an administrator, and a civic education mentor for the McHenry County ROE. My hope is to extend these efforts to our local elementary school board and, therefore, have a wide-reaching impact on the field of education in order to help our schools best achieve the civic mission of schools. After all, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, “A democratic form of government, a democratic way of life, presupposes free public education” and our schools would do well to take note.

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