#EOTY42 Week 3: Meet 9 Brilliant Educators from St. Charles, East Aurora, and Kaneland
- For the 42nd annual Educator of the Year ceremony, 44 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.
That’s right, it’s Week 3 of #EOTY42! The Educator of the Year Awards is less than three weeks away now. Make sure to contact your local school district office for tickets to the event.
Below you will find nominees from St. Charles 303, East Aurora 131, and Kaneland 302 — teachers, administrators and support staff who have been nominated and recognized as leaders in their education-related fields by their students, colleagues, and supervisors.
Over the past 25 years, Lucy Johnson has worked in a variety of positions at District 303, supporting students and staff. When asked how she got her start working at Thompson Middle School, Johnson mentioned that she was volunteering so often at the school that her husband joked that she should probably get a job there.
But her involvement doesn’t start or end with her job. Johnson is involved in the Builder’s Club, Theater Department, and Cheerleading team at Thompson. Her energy comes from the excitement of working with so many students in so many ways.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with the different groups of students,” she said. “None of it seems overwhelming, because I slowly took on these additional responsibilities and took my time to make sure I could do the best in each of the additional areas I volunteer in.”
Any time you walk into Angellica Ahng’s classroom, you can see her teaching students more than just basic science principles. She’s also teaching them how to become good citizens and helping them build good foundations for their educational lives.
Ahng has been teaching seventh-grade science at Cowherd Middle School in East Aurora for the past three years. One reason she loves teaching middle school is that she has the opportunity to help students grow in a major part of their lives.
“I want them to explore and think big-picture,” Ahng said. “I want them to understand that science is not just black-and-white, but that there are a lot of gray areas, too, where so many new discoveries can be made.”
As Cindy Miller walks down the hallway at Kaneland High School, you might hear students call out her nickname — “Mother Miller.” It’s a moniker of affection, of course, and an accurate description of a teacher who cares so much about her students and helps them grow during their high school years.
Miller has been an educator for 22 years and has spent a majority of those years at Kaneland High School. She spends much of her time mentoring her students and helping them prepare to enter the world as adults.
“I learn from the students and they learn from me as well,” she said. “When you can step back and say that you learned something new from your students, that makes a successful teacher —and helps make successful students, as well.”
Amy Boynton from St. Charles North High School — Nominated for Student Support Personnel of the Year
When asked about her job, Amy Boynton made a comparison that you may not hear too often. She said school nurses are similar to detectives. When a student comes in with symptoms, her job is to find out what’s is causing those symptoms, solve the mystery and maybe even find a happy ending.
Boynton has been working as a school nurse at St. Charles North High School since 2003. She is part of a team that has more than 120 years of nursing experience. Each day, she can be seen caring not only for the students in the building, but her fellow staff, as well.
“Caring for people’s children is a big deal,” Boynton said. “They are priceless to their families, and we as a nursing staff make sure that we treat them as priceless individuals.”
We often think of our students as the future problem-solvers of the world, and for Shaista Kahn, that’s more than a cliche or hypothetical outcome. That’s because Kahn actually teaches problem solving in her class at Fred Rogers Magnet Academy in East Aurora.
Kahn has an excellent curriculum vitae, teaching not only at Fred Rogers but at Cowherd Middle School in East Aurora and internationally at several schools in England. Her colleagues know her for her passion for teaching and for her ability help children develop skills that will help them make a difference in the world.
“I love teaching the students because I feel like their energy levels boost my own energy,” Kahn said. “They have so many ideas, and it is so rewarding to understand their thought processes and help them organize their ideas.”
Many people remember turning in the first draft of a paper to a teacher and being disappointed when they receive it back with multiple pen marks. But Amy Pifer says it’s these marks that show the great potential of a student’s writing.
For the past 12 years, Pifer has taught at Harter Middle School in Kaneland as an eighth grade English teacher. Each day, she comes in ready to help students become better writers and learners.
“Developing the potential in students and helping them see their potential, and meet their potential is something I love about teaching,” she said. “I let my students know that it’s not just about their grade. It’s about what they learn and how they grow, too.”
You would think that an English class would be dry and boring, focusing on sentence-structure esoterica such as when to use an Oxford comma. But if you walk into Alice Froemling’s freshman or sophomore English class, you can see students engaged in a variety of activities that are anything but boring.
Froemling has been teaching English and Language Arts at St. Charles North High School for eight years. She is always looking for new ways to make English engaging, whether it be through writing prompts, scavenger hunts, or assignments based off her students’ interests.
“I think it all comes back to the relationship with the students,” Froemling said. “If I see a student with their head down or not engaged in the lesson, I make sure to touch base with them to talk about what’s going on outside that might be affecting them in the classroom.”
Since she was a little girl, Ivonne Serrano knew that she wanted to be a teacher. She vividly remembers her Kindergarten teacher and the way that teacher got her excited about learning.
Today, as a preschool teacher at O’Donnell Elementary School in East Aurora, all Serrano wants to do is pass on that excitement to future generations.
Serrano has been working at O’Donnell Elementary for the past seven years. Each day she walks into the building, she is driven to help her young students connect with one another and lay the foundation of their education.
“At the beginning of the year, we do a unit on family and talk about how we have a family at home and at school,” Serrano said. “We talk about ways to be loving and caring to our families and that helps build a strong connection with my students.”
Chances are that you know at least one person that can be best described as a helper. They are always willing to drop what they are doing to help another person. Joan Rule is one such person, and that trait is one thing that makes her great at what she does.
Rule has worked at Harter Middle School for the past eight years as the principal’s secretary and book keeper. Each day for her is different, because she may be doing payroll, interacting with students in the hall, or organizing an event.
“It just gives me great pleasure to help other people,” she said. “I enjoy being able to help others. It fulfills me very much in my job and makes every day well-rounded.”
Checkout the other nominees:
- Week 1: Meet 9 Amazing Educators from Geneva, East Aurora, and U-46
- Week 2: Meet 8 Great Educators from West Aurora, D300, and U-46
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.