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Local Judges Empower District 47 Students in Civic Education

District 47 has partnered with local judges to provide students with real-world lessons in civic education. This collaboration supports the social science curriculum, focusing on topics such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the US government. The judges offer first-hand accounts to help students understand how our nation operates and is governed. 

McHenry County Circuit Judges Justin Hansen and Jennifer Johnson are addressing 7th-grade students from Hannah Beardsley, Lundahl, and Richard Bernotas Middle Schools. These interactive discussions allow students to delve into the concepts of justice, individual rights, and the responsibilities of citizenship.

Students from Bernotas were given exclusive tours of local courthouses to gain insights into the workings of the judicial system and various branches of government. They were provided with practical examples of laws and their impact on everyday life. 

“It’s so important to provide students with context for their learning, illustrating how these concepts are applied in the real world,” said Elise Dean, District 47 Director of Literacy. “By connecting them with local experts and offering educational experiences beyond the classroom, we are fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation for the subjects they are studying."

Additionally, the judges took the opportunity to engage with younger students, presenting to Husmann Elementary Kindergarten, 3rd, and 5th-graders on the role of judges in our court system and our community. 

“When we step out of our courtrooms and into the classroom, we can engage with students and help them understand how civics is at work in their own community. They’re not just learning about concepts and ideas – they’re learning about a system that is active in their community and impacts them,” said Judge Hansen. “We hope they see that and then recognize their potential to effect positive change within our community.”

This is the fourth year in a row that Judge Hansen and Judge Johnson have met with the District 47, 7th grades.  Judge Mark Facchini and Judge Robert Zalud assisted with this year’s tours, along with the invaluable team from Court Administration and Court Security.  This work follows in the footsteps of other judicial colleagues who have spent time in local classrooms. It meets the objectives of organizations like the Illinois State Bar Association and the Illinois Judges Association, that encourage attorneys, judges, and court officials to engage with the public, their local communities, and their local schools to build a broader understanding of the U.S. judicial system.