#EOTY42 Week 2: Meet 8 Great Educators From West Aurora, D300 and U-46
- For the 42nd annual Educator of the Year ceremony, 45 nominees will be honored in an ’80s-themed event on April 28 at the Q Center in St. Charles. Follow the excitement on social media using #EOTY42 and #leadassistinspire.
Below you will find eight Educator of the Year nominees from West Aurora 129, District 300, and U-46 — teachers, administrators and support staff who have been nominated and recognized as leaders in their education-related fields by their students, colleagues, and supervisors.
We hope you enjoy reading the bios of these amazing people who lead, assist, and inspire each day they walk into their school.
Lisa Bergbreiter from Independence Center for Early Learning — Nominated for Administrator of the Year
When you walk through the front doors of Independence Early Learning Center in U-46, chances are you will see Lisa Bergbreiter interacting with students, staff, and parents. She is always on the move and always connecting with her community.
Bergbreiter has been the principal at Independence for five years and has spent 20 years in the field of special education. As principal, she has focused on creating an environment that helps each child succeed at the next level and beyond.
“We are the front line of the educational system,” Bergbreiter said. “We get students that start at 3 years old and during their time before starting kindergarten, we work together to help set the foundation for the rest of their education.”
People often mention teamwork in the context of sports, but ask any musician or music teacher and they’ll tell you the flat-out truth: Band requires just as much teamwork as any athletic contest. And that focus on teamwork is one of the many reasons that Mike Storer loves his job.
Storer is the fifth-grade band teacher for District 300 and teaches at four elementary schools. He has been teaching for 16 years, and for him, each class provides a chance to tune in to where his students are succeeding and what he can do to help them improve.
“All of the music teachers talk to the students very early on to start promoting music in our district,” Storer said. “We all work together with the goal of giving students the opportunity to not only learn an instrument, but also an opportunity to work with others as a team.”
It’s easy to think of a librarian as quiet person who sits behind a desk. But Bruce Fraser of West Aurora High School is living proof that this stereotype is a bunch of baloney.
Fraser has been a library information specialist at West Aurora High School for the past 24 years, and is also the varsity tennis coach. On a typical day, Fraser can be found interacting with students and teachers, helping them navigate the library and the vast amounts of information it contains, while helping them with media literacy.
“Everything comes down to the student,” Fraser said. “It comes down to showing them that you care about them not just academically, but individually. Each day we get the opportunity to show students the value of education and how it can help them improve their lives.”
When approaching a new subject or project at school, a common rule of thumb is to relate the new information to something that you are already familiar with or interested in. Making that connection helps us engage with the new information and have an easier time remembering it.
Finding a student’s area of interest and relating it to the topic du jour is one of Dane Huseman’s great talents. Huseman has taught a variety of subjects at Cambridge Lakes Charter School for four years, and he has found that getting to know his students is the first big step toward academic success.
“The relationship you have with the students can really change how a lesson is received,” he said. “If you know what students are interested in, you can fill in the gaps and help make it a worthwhile learning experience for them.”
Laura Beatus from West Aurora School District 129 — Nominated for Education Service Personnel of the Year
Laura Beatus doesn’t teach students in School District 129, but she is still a teacher at heart. Beatus doesn’t work one-on-one with any single high school or grade school kid, but she is passionate about education and has a profound impact on the student population.
How can this be?
Beatus’ students are the teachers of West Aurora School District 129.
Beatus has been the professional development coordinator for District 129 for three years and is entering her 25th year as an educator. Collaboration with teachers is one of the many ways that she has made an impact in the district, with a focus on mentoring young teachers and continuing education through their own West Aurora University.
“I think that passion equals productivity,” Beautus said. “When we are passionate about what we do, then that is an automatic way to engage students, and they will thrive off that.”
Erin Tapins from Independence Center for Early Learning — Nominated for Early Career Educator of the Year
When asked about a memorable experience with a student, Erin Tapins shared that she had a preschool student who needed a walker just to get around the classroom. By working closely with the child and helping to encourage the student’s confidence, Tapins was able to see improvement — and not only in the student’s academics.
Within three months, her student had started walking.
It’s moments like these that drive Tapins to continue working to the best of her ability at Independence Center for Early Learning in U-46. She has been a special education teacher there for the past four years.
“There are a lot of skills that kids need as a foundation to help them be successful in their future,” she said. “Just being able to be a part of that foundation is very rewarding and why I love what I do.”
Shelley Nacke of District 300 makes a difference in students’ lives by helping their teachers become the best they can be.
Nacke is one of those administrators who never stops being a teacher. She has been working in District 300 for the past 17 years and has been the assistant superintendent for education services for the past six years.
Every day, her focus is on making her students’ lives a little better and making sure teachers have the resources and support they need to provide a quality experience for every child.
“We’re all in it for the mission, and the mission is the kids,” she said. “We want to help the kids become successful in life, and we are there to support the kids, support the families, and support each other.”
We all have those mornings when we walk into work and are having a bad day. Not so much for Kathy Kostos. Walking into McCleery Elementary School and seeing the students almost instantly puts her in a good mood.
That interaction with students having a chance to see the real joy they take in learning is one of the many things Kostos loves about being an educator.
Kostos has been principal at McCleery Elementary School in West Aurora for two years and brings 20 years of local and international educational experience to her role at McCleery Elementary. She has put a powerful emphasis on social-emotional learning and focuses on helping her students learn to problem solve and collaborate.
“First and foremost as educators, we have to be the good role models,” Kostos said. “We have to take the time to teach and model to them about what it looks like to be a good citizen. We get the opportunity to help students realize that they can accomplish things that they set their minds to.”
Checkout the other nominees:
About the Kane County Regional Office of Education
Led by Regional Superintendent of Schools Patricia Dal Santo, the Kane County ROE is located in Geneva and serves nine school districts. From teacher licensure assistance to professional development, the ROE’s mission is to advocate for education, provide leadership and perform regulatory functions. Learn more about the ROE’s offerings on Facebook, Twitter and by signing up for the semimonthly newsletter.