She practically raised the community’: Teacher Geraldine Pace honored with street name


Illustration by Shannon Tyler and Lily Ogburn

The section of Main Street between Pitner Avenue and Grey Avenue will soon be called “Geraldine Pace Way.”

Kate Walter, City Assistant Editor

After 48 years teaching at the Infant Welfare Society of Evanston, Geraldine “Geri” Pace will be honored with a street sign.

City Council voted May 8 to designate a section of Main Street between Pitner Avenue and Grey Avenue as “Geraldine Pace Way.” The segment will honor her decades of work in Evanston with early childhood education.

IWSE operates two full-day facilities in the community: the Baby Toddler Nursery and Teen Baby Nursery, both of which offer child care and early education programs.

Established in 1996, the Honorary Street Name Sign program gives Evanston residents the opportunity to honor individuals for their service to the community.

At IWSE, Pace worked with toddlers for most of her career before moving into the baby room. Both of her own daughters attended the IWSE nursery.

A woman in a purple shirt looks at the camera
Geraldine “Geri” Pace has worked at the Infant Welfare Society of Evanston for 48 years. Now, a street sign will be named after her in Evanston. (Courtesy of Geraldine Pace)

One of the most rewarding parts of her job is receiving visits from her former students, Pace said. She said she recently ran into a former student, now an adult, from her toddler class.

“It’s one thing for a child to remember you, but a grown man? That just made my day,” Pace said. “He came out of the car and hugged me, and he said, ‘I’ll never forget you.’”

She added that her “calm, laid-back” personality has served her well as a children’s teacher. Her only regret, Pace said, is not writing down what former students have said to her in the classroom.

“You always have to have patience, and you treat them with respect, all children,” Pace said. “I treat my own children and classroom children with love, respect, kindness, hugging and high fives.”

Pamela Staples — the site director at IWSE’s Baby Toddler Nursery, the oldest operating infant toddler child care center in the state — said she started working with Pace in 2003. She said Pace was one of the most welcoming staff members she has met at the organization.

Over nearly five decades, Pace has become a fixture in the Evanston community, according to Staples.

“She has practically raised the community,” Staples said.

Stephen Vick, the executive director of IWSE, submitted the request for the street name change with Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd).

Both Vick and Staples called Pace the “toddler whisperer,” for her experience in helping them control their emotions.

“She’s just very, very caring and nurturing and focused on educating children and working with their families so kids build a great foundation for their future education,” Vick said.

Vick said he hopes the installation of the street sign will occur sometime this summer.

After nearly half a century, Pace said her time caring for and nurturing children has gone before her eyes.

“I took care of half of Evanston. I thought I’d never be here this long,” Pace said. “Years go by so fast. You look up one day, and it’s been 48 years.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @katewalter03

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