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Della R. Leavitt, Ph.D., was awarded a 2021 Newberry Library short-term fellowship to continue to write her historical novel-in-progress Beyond Maxwell Street: 1911-1956.  

The ficitonal family saga follows two generations of intersecting Russian Jewish immigrant clans who settled on Chicago's West side. It springs from oral histories and Della's late father's written chronicle about his family's businesses in the heart of Chicago's Maxwell Street market. The themes of the novel center on women's struggles to claim autonomy in times of limited reproductive choices and economic opportunities.


Della Leavitt's unpublished novel, The Measure of a Teacher  is upmarket, contemporary women's fiction that tells the story of Betty Reifman, a white woman who leaves a tech career at mid-life to teach math at a Chicago high school in 2001 that is resisting an inevitable racial transformation.

BIO: Della Leavitt lives in Chicago with her lspouse. Their son attended the Chicago PUblic Schools from Kindergarten through his high school graduation. Della serves as volunteer board secretary for the 75 years-running  Off-Campus Writers' Workshop.

After a full career as a rare female in the early years of the computer and telecommunications industries, Della became a Chicago teacher and educational researcher in Chicago and New Jersey. She earned her PhD in 2010 from the University of Illinois at Chicago with an urban ethnography entitled“Meek, but Not Weak!”: A Resilient Black Female Mathematics Teacher Composes a Purposeful Life.  

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Becoming a Chicago teacher could terrify many Nice White Ladies, but Betty Reifman is determined to make a difference. In 2001, Betty leaves a successful career in the male-dominated computer industry to teach at the fictional Jericho C. Taunton High School.  Betty is willing to assume the challenging job as a math teacher for underprepared students, but is stunned when she finds hostility from an Old Guard who resent the transformation of “their” formerly all-white school to a diverse student body. Overwhelmed by mounting family needs, Betty is increasingly isolated at the high school until she forms an alliance with young Black colleague, Erika Wilson, who steers from any White Savior delusions but endorses Betty's support of Louis Carter, a Black star athlete, who is harrassed by the Old Guard. Louis is an important truth-teller of life inside the high school as he and others observe Ms. Betty Reifman's fall and rise.  


Awarded Honorable Mention judged by

Northern Illinois University professor

and author, John Bradley



Leavitt, Della. (In press, 2021). Repeal! Turning Points: A Short Story Anthology from the

Off-Campus Writers’ Workshop. Chicago, IL: Windy City Press.

Leavitt, Della. (October, 2020). Chicago Literary Hall of Fame guest blogger.



Leavitt, Della  (2020).  GameChangers documentary film, Essay contest winner. Remembering the 1965/1966 Marshall vs. New Trier match ups.

Leavitt, Della. (2019). The Week that Was. In J.Rehak (ed.) A reason to be here: Tales from the writers convention. A collaborative novel from the Off Campus Writers Workshop (pp. 100-105). Chicago: Windy City Publishers.


Leavitt, D.R. (2017). Where I am from. Vitae Scholasticae: The Journal of Educational Biography. Special Issue: Family Methodology. 34(2), 28-31. 

Leavitt, Della. (2017). Honorable Mention. The Return of the 17-Year Locusts. Word of Art 3,

InPrint Writers, Rockford, IL.

Leavitt, D.R. (2017, December). Becoming and teaching: Currere in context. Currere Exchange Journal, 1(2)34-40. Retrieved from

Leavitt, D.R., Palius, M.F., Babst, R.D, Donegan, R., Lampkin, J.L, Smith, M., & Whitford, P.A. (2013). Teachers create a Professional Learning Community to be a place of their own. Mid-Atlantic Education Review, 1(1)3-16. Retrieved from

Leavitt, D. R. & Washington, E. N. (2013). “I teach like you are all gifted:" Leading lowest-track students to become confident mathematics learners. In A. Cohan & A. Honigsfeld (Eds.), Breaking the mold of education: Innovative and successful practices for student engagement, empowerment, and motivation (4th in a series) pp. 171-178. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Retrieved from


Razfar, A. & Leavitt, D. R. (April, 2011). Developing meta-discourse: Building mathematics discussions in an urban elementary classroom. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 11(2), 180-197. Retrieved from:


Leavitt, D.R. (2010). "Meek, but not Weak!" A Resilient Black Female Mathematics Teacher Composes a Purposeful Life. University of Illinois at Chicago. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. ProQuest: 3417385. 

Leavitt, D. R. (2010). Inquiry as Stance: Practitioner Research for the Next Generation, Book review. i.e: inquiry in education, 1(2), Article 7. Retrieved from:

Leavitt, D. R. & Ahn, C. M. (2010). A middle grades teacher’s guide to Model Eliciting Activities, In R. Lesh, P.L. Galbraith, C.R. Haines, & A. Hurford (Eds.), Modeling students’ mathematical modeling competencies: ICTMA 13 (pp. 353–364). New York: Springer. Retrieved from

2015, 2010   University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada: Narrative Pedagogy as Social Justice.

Partial scholarship awarded by Canadian Mahatma Gandhi Foundation for World Peace.

Leavitt, Della Ruth (2010)  Doctor of Philosophy, University of Illinois at Chicago

   College of Education   Unpublished dissertation:  Copyright 2010 by ProQuest LLC. UMI 3417385

   Meek, but Not Weak!: A Resilient Black Female Mathematics Teacher Composes a Purposeful Life


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