Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School Media Specialist, Heather McCarthy, of Oak Lawn, has been selected as a finalist for the 2023 Women Changing the World Awards. (Supplied photos)

Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School Media Specialist, Heather McCarthy, of Oak Lawn, has been selected as a finalist for the 2023 Women Changing the World Awards. (Supplied photos)

OLHMS educator nominated for Women Changing the World Award

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By Kelly White

Heather McCarthy is constantly inspiring her students at Oak Lawn-Hometown to be everything they can be. As a woman and an educator, she believes all goals are obtainable.

It was no surprise to her staff members or students at OLHMS, 5345 W. 99th Place in Oak Lawn, that McCarthy, of Oak Lawn, has been selected as a finalist for the 2023 Women Changing the World Awards.

“This is a great reminder for all of us that our gifts of time and service in our field of education do not go unnoticed,” Sean McNichols, OLHMS Principal, said. “Mrs. McCarthy is highly skilled at connecting with all people, especially our young leaders to creatively explore their passions. She consistently inspires our scholars to impact our school community and world in a positive manner to exemplify our school mission.”

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Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School Media Specialist Heather McCarthy, of Oak Lawn, has been selected as a finalist for the 2023 Women Changing the World Awards. 

The Women Changing the World Awards celebrate and recognize women achieving outstanding success in areas such as sustainability, humanitarian work, leadership, advocacy, tech, product development, education, health and innovation. The awards are designed to recognize the growing number of women who are leading the way in making the world a better place for us all and inspire other women to answer the call to take action.

“Recognizing women leaders in today’s world is critical for achieving gender equality, promoting diversity and inclusion, and driving innovation,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy earned a Bachelor Degree in Elementary Education from Elmhurst College, before going on to obtain a Masters of Curriculum and Instruction from National Louis University and a Masters in Middle School Specialization from Walden University. She also received a Media Specialist Endorsement from Chicago State University.

She has been working at OLHMS since 2005 currently working as the school’s Media Specialist and as a librarian for the past two years, previously teaching English Language Arts (ELA). From 2002 to 2005, McCarthy worked as an ELA teacher at Heritage Middle School in Berwyn.

McCarthy is described by her peers as an educational leader who uses her passion for literature to spread the message of love, empathy, and equality through service-learning projects with her students.

For more than 20 years, McCarthy has been inspiring young children to create a brighter future for their community, nation, and world. Heather leads by example volunteering locally, nationally and on a global scale. Her work is brought back to the students motivating them to serve others in need.

For nearly ten years, she has been organizing the district’s Feed6 Meal Packaging event, where students, families, teachers, and staff gathered together to package fortified meals to be delivered to local food pantries, just in time for the holidays.

Raising money for clean water projects in Africa, sewing dresses to bring hope to children in poverty, packaging meals for the hungry, and creating book projects for the local children’s hospital are among the numerous service-learning projects she has led.

“I have always had the passion to help others and I have also always had a passion for literature,” McCarthy said. “Combining these two, I knew I wanted to be an educator, specifically using my love of literature to create a more empathetic world for the future generations. My own children and my students are my continual inspiration to create positive change and transform the world into a brighter, better place for everyone.”

McCarthy has also been named the Most Inspirational Educator for Illinois, and has won numerous awards including the Distinguished Women of Excellence Award, and the Dr. Tererai Trent Award for humanitarian work.

The Women Changing The World Awards are a global awards program that recognizes women changemakers globally.  They are designed to acknowledge success in business, sustainability, leadership, health, education, product development, innovation and technology. McCarthy is unsure of who nominated her for the prestigious award, but she is humbled.

“Under the awards category of Education, there are finalists from Zimbabwe, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Zambia, United Kingdom, and Pakistan,” McCarthy said. “These are women who are developing new ways to engage children through coding and technology, educating young South African women in STEM, and activists who advocate for girls’ education and transform lives through their non-profit organizations.

To be a librarian from a suburb in the United States and included on this list of exceptional women is unimaginable. The nomination shows how no act of kindness or act of service is too small. The seemingly small community service projects my students complete are proving to be seen as worthy of global recognition. The nomination will help my students see that their actions create a ripple effect of goodness. Their voices matter, their actions matter, and they are making a difference in the world.”

Under the Education category, there are eleven finalists, including McCarthy. The winners will be chosen by a panel of judges including, Dr. Tererai Trent, and will be announced at the Women Changing the World Awards ceremony on April 18 in London.

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