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Acero - Esmeralda Santiago

About Us » Principal's Message

Principal's Message

Melissa Sweazy, Santiago Principal
B.S. Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Ed.M. Elementary Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Ed.M. Educational Leadership, Teachers College, Columbia University
After growing up in a rural, impoverished area in southern Illinois with two educator parents, Melissa Sweazy knew at a young age she wanted to advocate for those underserved and misrepresented. When given the opportunity to found Esmeralda Santiago in 2011, she leapt at the chance to affect change on a grander scale. In her seventh year as principal, Ms. Sweazy and her team continuously challenge themselves to redesign the typical school day and equip students with the confidence and social political consciousness necessary to exercise their voice in school, community and beyond. The students and staff at Santiago pride themselves on working hard, playing hard and loving even harder. This love for learning and for each other is at the foundation of all they do. Ms. Sweazy enjoys collaborating with teachers and seeing the smiles on students’ faces as their confidence grows, achievement levels rise, and ultimately, they disrupt the status quo.
Contact information: 312-455-5410   [email protected]
Principal's Message

Dear Students, Staff, Parents, & Visitors,


Welcome to the 2023-2024 school year! I am honored to serve as the founding principal of Esmeralda Santiago and am eager to see what brilliant insights and accomplishments our students and teachers have this year.


In the last few years, our Spartans have achieved one of the highest attendance rates in the city of Chicago, landed in Chicago Magazine (Fall 2016) as the number one charter elementary school in the city, and continue to amaze us with their positivity, dedication, and love of learning.


While our students and teachers have a record of success, they also value innovation and are dedicated to continuously striving to be even better than before. At Santiago, we personalize the learning for each and every one of our students. As a manifestation of our school’s vision, mission, goals, and our core values, the following set of outcomes guide Santiago into the future.


  • Academically Competitive: Students will embody their academic readiness by demonstrating confidence and mastery in their application to top educational institutions. They will use the tools they have gained through their learning experiences at Santiago to excel in all future environments.
  • Parental Engagement: Parents will understand that they are an integral part of their child’s educational success. They will increase student urgency and accelerate learning in flexible learning environments.
  • Habits of Success: Our students will employ the habits of success in order to better determine personalized learning goals and the routes they choose to achieve them. They understand the learning occurs in all environments, and that decisions they make about their learning will be carried throughout their lives. Respect Self-regulation Empathy Self-advocacy Growth Mindset Digital Citizenship
  • Student Agency: Students understand that through dedication and personalized learning pathways, they will be in the driver’s seat of their learning and success in school and life. They choose to challenge themselves and persevere through these challenges to meet and exceed their goals.
  • Holistic Development: Santiago Spartans are supremely aware that academic and emotional intelligence are equally important. They are developing self-awareness using our academic, social-emotional (Calm Classroom, RULER, personal reflections) and personalized learning pathway tools to connect their learning in all areas of learning exploration.


Our ultimate goal at Santiago is to increase individual student growth and achievement levels at an accelerated rate, increase student ownership and investment, and ultimately equip our students with the desire and skills necessary to be successful in whatever path they may choose.


We look forward to ensuring this is every Spartan’s best year yet and hope you will both challenge and support us in this endeavor!



Ms. Sweazy