Teacher to meet with Jane Goodall
Donna Vickroy email@example.com | (708) 633-5982 September 23, 2011 11:46PM
Renee Covert, a sixth- and seventh-grade science teacher at O.W. Huth Middle School in Matteson, has won a contest to go to Los Angeles to meet anthropologist Jane Goodall. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
JANE GOODALL LIVE
Showtime is 7 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets cost $15. To buy online, visit www.fathomevents.com by clicking on Upcoming Events and then clicking on Jane Goodall Live.
Locations include Marcus Cinemas, 16350 S. LaGrange Road, Orland Park, (708) 873-1900, and Cinemark at Westfield Louis Joliet Mall, 3340 Mall Loop Drive, Joliet, (815) 267-8832.
Updated: November 24, 2011 12:28AM
When she was in high school, Renee Covert liked to hang out near the primate exhibit at Lincoln Park Zoo. One day, she happened to spy a baby chimp being delivered to the institution. She quickly snapped a picture.
Today, decades later, she still has that photo. She keeps it in a binder with the notes she took during a class on primatology at St. Xavier University.
The lifelong casual interest in primates became something to celebrate when Covert, now a science teacher at O.W. Huth Middle School in Matteson, learned she’d won a contest to meet famed anthropologist Jane Goodall.
She leaves Monday night for Los Angeles, where she’ll be part of a special live event commemorating the researcher’s half-century of work studying chimpanzees and hippos.
Sponsored by NCM Fathom and eventsmda, “Jane Goodall Live” marks the 50th anniversary of Goodall’s lifelong work in conservation and animal welfare, beginning with her maiden trip to Africa in 1960 to study the behavior of wild chimpanzees.
The one-night national in-theater event will be broadcast live via satellite Tuesday in nearly 500 theaters across the country, including Marcus Cinemas in Orland Park.
“I can’t even believe it’s happening,” said Covert, of Flossmoor.
While she was shutting down her phone in church a week ago, she noticed an email announcing that she’d won the grand prize, valued at $3,000.
“I thought it was some kind of joke or mistake,” she said.
But it wasn’t.
Covert, who frequently visits online research sites related to science, had come across a petition asking readers to sign a thank you card for Goodall in honor of her work in anthropology research.
There also was an option to enter a random drawing, sponsored by Care2.com, to meet Goodall during the live event.
Without giving it much thought, Covert entered.
She was told her name was pulled from more than 30,000 entries.
She departs from O’Hare International Airport after school Monday, accompanied by her sister-in-law Ann Covert, a fourth-grade teacher at May Watts Elementary School in Naperville. The women will get to go backstage Tuesday and meet with Goodall before the 7 p.m. broadcast.
Though the live event will feature appearances by Dave Mathews, Angelina Jolie and Pierce Brosnan, Covert said she is not a celebrity hound.
“I just signed the card and entered the contest without even realizing there was a live event. I’m not a celebrity-chaser at all,” she said.
She’s most interested in chatting with Goodall and forwarding some of the questions her students have suggested since she told them she was going to meet the woman who began her career in the jungles of Tanzania at age 26. The live broadcast will unveil never-before-seen footage shot during those early days.
In addition to studying primatology under Stan Boyer at St. Xavier, Covert said she also conducted an independent study project on primate conversation while she was an undergraduate. That project focused on whether or not primates can communicate and the kind of thought processes that go into their communication.
When she meets Goodall, she says she’ll ask some questions on behalf of the seventh-graders, and some that interest her.
“The kids want to know how she survived in the jungle,” Covert said. “They’re most interested in how Jane Goodall lived during the early years.”
Covert said she’s most interested to learn Goodall’s thoughts on the future of the species.
“I want to know if she has hope for chimpanzees and other primates. Can they survive with the increase in globalization and the decrease in habitat?” she said.
Covert said she’s certain there are people more versed in primate studies who would love the opportunity she’s been given.
“But then I have to remind myself of my own motto: ‘If not you, who?’ ” she said.
She might also take a nod from one of Goodall’s quotes:
“Every individual counts,” Goodall once said. “Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.”
For her part, Covert plans to bring whatever insight she gains from the experience right back to the classroom.
“This fits in well with the seventh-grade unit on classification, a state standard for life science,” she said.
It’s also a way to connect the youngsters who live in Matteson with a scientist who has earned more than 100 honors and awards from around the world.