01 about


Della R. Leavitt, Ph.D., was awarded a 2021-2022 short-term fellowship from Chicago's Newberry Library to continue her novel-in-progress On Maxwell Street: New Americans/New Beginnings (1912-1957).  

This fictional family saga of two intersecting clans springs from her late father's written chronicle about his Russian Jewish immigrant origins and Maxwell Street businesses. The focus of Della's novel is women's limited control over reproduction and economic opportunities.

Della Leavitt's unpublished novel The Measure of a Teacher (77,600 words) is upmarket, political women's fiction is the story of Betty Reifman, a white woman who leaves a lengthy tech career to teach math at a Chicago high school resisting racial transformation. Suprised to find unexpected hostility toward her and her students, Betty's failures and recovery is told by African American star athlete, Louis Carter, who is harrassed by faculty and pushed out before graduation.

BIO: Della Leavitt lives in Chicago and proudly serves as the volunteer secretary for the 75 years-running  Off-Campus Writers' Workshop.

After a career as a rare female in the early years of the computer industry, she became a Chicago teacher and educational researcher in Chicago and New Jersey. Della earned her PhD in 2010 from the University of Illinois at Chicago's College of Education with the narrative urban ethnography“Meek, but Not Weak!”: A Resilient Black Female Mathematics Teacher Composes a Purposeful Life.  

02 novel


Becoming a Chicago teacher could terrify many Nice White Ladies, but Betty Reifman is determined to make a difference.


Inspired by her child's dedicated Chicago teachers, in 2001, Betty leaves a successful career in the male-dominated computer industry to teach at the fictional Jericho C. Taunton High School.  Betty expects being a math teacher for underprepared students will be challenging, but is stunned to find 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's isolation at Taunton increases until she forms an alliance with a young Black colleague, Erika Wilson, who steers her away from any White Savior delusions. Betty's student Louis Carter, a Black star athlete, is harrassed by the Old Guard and Betty doesn't understand why.


Louis's voice and those of other students tell the story of Taunton High and of Betty's failures and recovery.


Awarded Honorable Mention judged by

Northern Illinois University professor

and author, John Bradley




1)   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.


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

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

4)    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

5)    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


 6)    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:


7)    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. 

8)     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:

9)     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


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