#40EOTY Week 6: Meet 6 Dynamic Kane County ‘Educator of the Year’ Nominees
With less than a week and a half until the big reveal and a $3,000 grant towards for one of Kane County’s school districts, below are six profiles full of inspiration within our public education system.
“With nominees hailing from Kaneland 302, East Aurora 131, District 300, St. Charles 303, and Geneva 304, we’re excited to share with your interesting stories from all over our county,” said Regional Superintendent Patricia Dal Santo.
Sharon Marcellis from Harter Middle School – Nominated for Middle School Teacher of the Year
Sharon has been teaching math for 10 years, and prior to joining Kaneland’s Harter Middle School, she worked for almost 10 years within the manufacturing and quality assurance industry. “‘The long and winding road’ would probably best describe my journey as an educator,” Sharon describes within her nomination materials. Although it may have taken her awhile to end up as the engaged and enthusiastic math teacher she is today, Sharon has always held educators in high regard. “Growing up in the small town Wyoming, IL, my father was a high school business teacher, guidance counselor, and coach, while my mother also taught high school Spanish.” She graduated as valedictorian of her high school, and through her “long and winding road,” loves every minute of being a sixth grade math teacher. “My current goal is moving to a flipped learning model,” Sharon notes. A flipped learning model is when students watch instructional videos on the lesson, and complete their worksheets in the classroom with help from Sharon and other students. “In my short 10 years in education, I’ve seen the widespread impacts of advances of technology and significant changes in student interests in the ways they learn.” View Sharon’s YouTube channel KHMS Math 6 here.
Maureen Sauter-Taylor from Dieterich Elementary – Nominated for School Administrator of the Year
“Moe,” as her colleagues affectionately refer to her, has been serving as the assistant principal for four years, but has been in education for 33. As a bilingual educator, the parents, students and teachers of Dieterich describe her as an essential asset to their school and the community. “She is often at school late, calling parents to discuss their child’s choices during the day. You will often find a student in her office completing work or taking a time out from the classroom, and she also assigns herself to give sensory breaks to one of our autistic students – and considers it the best part of her day,” shared a colleague. In the summer, Moe spends time in Mexico teaching students and donating hundreds of meals to families in the area on behalf of her church. “In addition to her dedication to all that she wants to achieve, Moe is a quality human being. As a result, she has earned the respect of both her peers and colleagues who have had the opportunity to work with her.”
Steve Renne from Hampshire Middle School – Nominated for Middle School Teacher of the Year
Many principals and superintendents spend decades in the classroom as teachers before moving forward to tackle the administrative side of education, but our nominee Steve completed things a little differently. After teaching for nine years, Steve served as an administrator for 20, and then came back to teaching middle school history in 2004. With outstanding leadership and attention-to-detail as Steve’s strengths, he has used his wealth of experience to serve as a team-leader for his fellow teachers. “His proactive approach has resulted in efficient meetings, effective team planning, and positive outcomes for both students and teachers. He is always lending his insight and perspective in a polite and professional manner,” noted a colleague. Steve’s philosophy of education is grounded in the concept that learning is a natural state of being for any living organism. “All living things must learn to adapt, change, and modify in order to survive. For humans, this includes the overt act of learning and using new information and data to thrive and grow,” Steve wrote in his nomination book. “When the classrooms promote learning as a natural occurrence and part of the process of being alive, students respond with interest, curiosity, and a natural understanding of how learning allows them to grow and thrive.”
Bethany Herrera from St. Charles North High School – Nominated for High School Teacher of the Year
As a previous student of St. Charles High School, Bethany was inspired by her psychology teacher and brought her passion as she returned to the district to share her knowledge and love of the content with students. Described as an angel by her pupils, Bethany’s investment in her students’ success academically and personally expands beyond the classroom. In addition to AP Psychology, Bethany is remembered teaching proactive listening skills, such as “eye contact, smiles and nodding are the best things you can do when someone is presenting.” By waiting near the entrance of her classroom before each class, she develops an unmistakably genuine rapport with her students, which translates into a quality learning environment. “I believe it is my privilege as an educator to promote an environment of lofty expectations, coupled with a safe place that provides students with the courage to make mistakes in order to grow as an individual,” notes Bethany. “Bethany not only engages her students, but spends a significant amount of personal time enriching lessons and high-quality learning experiences. She is an essential member of the St. Charles North team, and works diligently to support the school,” explained her colleague.
Cindy Bullis from Meadowdale Elementary School – Nominated for Educational Service Personnel of the Year
Seen as a staple of Meadowdale for nearly 30 years, Cindy has served as the secretary for five principals, been present during two remodels to the building, and has touched the lives of thousands of children who have gone through the doors. Cindy is also noted for serving as the school cheerleader for all staff members. “She greets them in the morning, keeps up on their families and is willing to share advice. Our substitutes love working with her because she treats them likes a regular staff member, not a stranger. Cindy is the reason many of our substitutes come back, because of the welcoming environment we have here, and we owe that to her,” shares a staff member. In addition to juggling substitutes, overseeing the school budget, placing purchasing orders, acting as a gatekeeper, substitute nurse, sideline coach and surrogate mom, she brings her perspective to the job as a parent, employee, volunteer, and taxpayer. She is described as thoughtful, not reactive, which allows her to wear so many different hats. Although she is consumed with the organizational tasks of the school, she always finds time to spend it with the students. “I have children reading to me every day,” said Cindy. “After the students go to interventionists for reading help, they’ll send them to me, and I’ll read with them.”
Lorrie Ruh from Heartland Elementary School – Nominated for Student Support Personnel of the Year
With a bachelor of science and master’s in civil engineering, one might question why Lorrie serves as the library and media center director. When asked about her career transition from ocean engineer of coastal resources for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to director of the library at Heartland Elementary School, Lorrie believes the common thread that has been woven through her meandering path is that of an educator. “In every avenue, I have sought the role of a teacher in order to facilitate learning on a variety of levels. As an engineer, I was the environmental health and safety course instructor. As a math tutor, I worked one-on-one with students struggling through difficult coursework. Currently, I teach library skills, Internet safety, and literacy awareness in a way that will hopefully inspire students to become lifelong learners with an unquenchable spirit of inquiry.” Her colleagues describe her ideas as fresh, innovative, and appealing to young people. “She brings a depth and breadth of life experiences into students’ daily lives. She’s a shining example of being a woman of integrity, determination and possibility,” shared a supporting teacher. Another component of Lorrie’s involvement includes the school’s broadcasting club where students learn how to interview, film, and edit footage.
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This article was written by Ellen Kamps of the Kane County Regional Office of Education, made possible by Regional Superintendent Patricia Dal Santo.