Alumni Profile: Heather Frankfort

Editor’s note: Last fall the Rockford Register Star published an article about Heather Frankfort (M.S. Early Education, ‘09) that we thought might interest you. The story, written by reporter Corina Curry, is re-published here with the permission of the Rockford Register Star and

Heather Frankfort
Heather Frankfort

It takes only a few minutes with Brookview Elementary School teacher Heather Frankfort to a. want your child in her third-grade class or b. wish she could have been your third-grade teacher.

Maybe it’s the enthusiasm in her voice when she talks about using primary sources to teach history. Maybe it’s the community-service projects she uses to teach her students about making a difference. Maybe it’s that she simply radiates a love for teaching and children.

“I want to expand children’s worldview. I want them to discover the beauty in cultures other than their own. I want them to be excited about learning and look forward to coming to school,” she says. “I also encourage students to give back to their community. They need to know that society cannot just sit around and let other people make change happen. They need to get up and change society for the better.”

Five years into her teaching career and Frankfort is winning competitive grants and landing spots in elite teaching programs. She used a grant to buy snow shovels and gloves for her 25 students and challenged them to help clear snow from 100 driveways to learn about simple acts of kindness. Last year, her students participated in a community art project, painting old compact discs and attaching them to a chain-link fence in the shape of a tree. Students will redecorate the tree when seasons change. Every year, she takes them to the Northern Illinois Food Bank for a day to volunteer.

This summer, Frankfort went to Washington and participated in a one-week institute at the Library of Congress. She learned how to incorporate primary sources — personal letters, photographs, newspaper clippings, diary entries, maps and legal documents — into her classroom. Frankfort is particularly interested because of the way her students react when she pulls them out.

“It grabs their attention so much more than just telling them about it or them reading about it in a textbook. It’s so much more interesting because it’s first-person perspectives.”

Frankfort remembers the first time she pulled out a copy of a naval telegram announcing the attack on Pearl Harbor and let her students pass it around and try to figure out what it is. It brought history to life for them.

At the Library of Congress, Frankfort built an entire lesson plan on the Great Chicago Fire using primary sources. […]

“I feel so lucky to have been able to be there and do what I did,” she said. “I can’t wait to come back and share it with my students and other teachers.”

Frankfort, 32, is a California native. She got her bachelor’s degree (major in anthropology, minor in Africana studies) from the University of Arizona and a master’s degree in early-childhood education from Northern Illinois University.

She and her husband, Tanner, live in Rockford with their three children: Sam, 6, Max, 5, and Zoe, 3.

Outside the classroom, Frankfort likes to paddleboard, hike, read, travel and learn about different cultures.


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