One of the things I’ve missed most in 2020 has been access to the amazing museums in Chicago. Chicago has some of the best museums in the world, and they have so much to offer in terms of entertainment, but also education! If anyone knows how I feel, it’s Stacy Stec. Stacy is a Chicago Public School teacher, mom of two young kiddos, and the new Director of Communications for the Museum of Illusions to boot. She seriously does it all!
After quite a while without the museum experiences we’ve come to know and love, the Museum of Illusions opens TODAY to give us all a taste of that museum experience again, but with a serious twist. Their whole purpose is to challenge people to see things differently as the museum unveils the mechanics behind mind-bending illusions. It’s goal, which attracted Stacy, is to give us all a little bit of “edutainment” when that’s been seriously lacking recently.
If you haven’t been to a museum or done a family outing in a while, I totally get that, and that’s why I made sure to talk to Stacy about the safety precautions the museum has in place. They’re opening their doors with lots of safety measures and procedures in place that are in accordance with CDC and local government guidelines, including mandatory face masks and temperature checks, limited capacity and timed ticketing, the latest HVAC air purifying technology, and more. Stacy and her team are always working so hard to keep your family safe, educated and inspired. She is first and foremost an educator after all! Keep reading to learn more about the museum, and all the ways Stec still hopes to teach Chicago’s children…
When did you first know you wanted to work with kids?
I come from a family of educators – my mom was a PE teacher and my dad was a school administrator. I remember my mom picking me up from my school at dismissal time only to rush me over to her school so she could coach after-school sports. Seeing my mom interact with her students in such a positive way really had an impact on me and it didn’t take long for me to realize I wanted to work with kids, too.
How did your work at Chicago Public Schools shape who you are?
I’ve been in CPS for over nine years and it has shaped me as an educator and as a parent in so many ways. But the one thing I learned very quickly when I started teaching in CPS, was how close-knit each of these Chicago neighborhoods are. I could feel the sense of community immediately; neighbors looking out for each other, friendly faces greeting you on the sidewalk. It made me want to raise my children in the city. And now that my children are school-aged, I couldn’t be happier with that decision!
And how did it lead you to your role at the Museum of Illusions?
Education is part of who I am. That’s why I was drawn to the Museum of Illusions and the concept of “edutainment”. When I visited the MOI locations in NYC and Dallas, all I could think about was how much my students would LOVE to experience a museum like this. When you fuse learning and fun together, it makes for a much more memorable and meaningful experience. As an educator, this is what we’re always trying to do.
What is your definition of “edutainment”?
Edutainment is quite simply education + entertainment. The goal is to make learning enjoyable and fun!
What can people expect from the museum?
The Museum of Illusions is like no place you’ve been before! Guests will experience over 80 mind-bending illusions ranging from tried and true classics to the never before seen. The best part, is that in some exhibits you can actually become part of the illusion. Illusions challenge us to see things differently and they reveal a lot about how the brain interprets reality. You’ll walk away with new knowledge about the brain and perception as well and some really great Insta-worthy photos.
How will it be set up in a Covid-safe way for families?
As a mom of two little ones, I understand the need for families to get out of the house and safely enjoy themselves. We’re trying to give our children experiences to grow their little minds (okay, and maybe we’re also trying to tire them out before bedtime). But I also understand the need to be safe. My daughter, much to my displeasure, has been known to pull gum off the floor of the Philadelphia airport and eat it. As parents, we have to look out for the health and safety of our children more than ever now. And that’s our top priority at the Museum of Illusions.
Opening up the museum in a COVID environment gave us the unique ability to be proactive and plan with a pandemic in mind. From very early on, we ensured a one-way flow throughout the museum to increase social distancing and we prioritized the installation of an HVAC continuous air purification system. In addition, we use a timed ticketing system to keep capacity low, temperature checks, hand sanitizing stations, and our staff is constantly cleaning and sanitizing frequently touched surfaces.
Why is the museum so important, especially this year?
Because we’ve all finally realized the value of in-real-life experiences. As soon as we’re able to safely go out and do the things we used to do with our friends and family, we’re going to appreciate it a little more than we used to.
Aside from the museum, what are some of your favorite family-friendly activities in Chicago?
Like many families, COVID has put a bit of a damper on our normal fun. But, we’ve managed to make the most of it! We’re members at Lincoln Park Zoo and loved that we could continue our Zoolights tradition over the holidays last year. Now if you asked my 5 year old son this question, he would 100% tell you that any of our visits to JoJo’s Shake Bar on Hubbard have been hands-down the best! I don’t disagree. ?
What advice would you give to someone looking to get into the world of education?
Make sure you’re going into teaching for the right reasons. Teaching is about helping children learn to believe in themselves and reach their fullest potential. I feel lucky to have had some great role models in my life, both in and out of the classroom. I pursued a career in education because I wanted to be that positive role model for each and every one of my students.
How do you see our education system, both local and national, changing in the coming years?
For a long time, school has been a very “one size fits all” kind of model. The average school day and a typical classroom really hasn’t changed that much over the years. But the arrival of COVID really made schools and teachers pivot in a way that’s never been seen before. I can now see how this might affect the school day and the way classrooms are set up, especially for older students. Technology and new online learning tools have really transformed teaching and learning – and I don’t see those going away anytime soon.
What is your professional five year plan?
I’m the type of person that embraces change. I’ve taught three different grade levels in 12 years by choice – as well as to give myself a challenge. I can’t be certain that I’ll still be teaching in CPS in five years, but I can be certain I’ll still be working with children and schools in some capacity.
And what is the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
Working moms are pulled in so many directions and sometimes we can’t help but feel guilty. When I have to get to work crazy early, I feel guilty that I’m not there to get my kids up and ready for the day. When I’m home with my family I feel guilty about leaving a few tasks unfinished at work. The best advice I received was to forget the guilt. I try to remember that all the time!
For more events to check out in the city, and other local brands to support, check out the rest of our Chicago posts!