To match the caliber of dedication each educator gives to their students, school district, and community, the Regional Office of Education each year creates a spectacular event to honor our Educator of the Year nominees on May 1. During the ceremony, educators will be able to see their nomination books on display; read compilation of heartfelt letters from their fellow teachers, students and parents that supports their nomination.
Part of the office’s nomination process is capturing each nominee’s passion for education, and the ROE does this by visiting each school and administrative building to film an interview. Interviews take less than 20 minutes as interviewers ask questions about the teacher’s journey to success, and those videos will be part of the ceremony.
“Meeting these inspirational leaders in education is the highlight of the the our year, and we want to thank everyone for their participation,” Regional Superintendent Patricia Dal Santo said.
Darlyne Dwyer from Blackberry Creek Elementary School – Nominated for Pre-School Teacher of the Year
Even during her high school years, Darlyne had an interest in learning sign language to assist deaf people. As a camp counselor, babysitter for those with special needs and supervisor of a deaf person, Darlyne decided to pursue a college degree in deaf education and early childhood special education. According to her nomination materials, Darlyne spends countless hours modifying her lesson plans to each student’s specific needs and is always accepting suggestions on how she can better cater to her students. She has served on the special needs PTA as well as led special needs Bible study groups. She is regarded as essential to her students’ success and her elementary school.
Martha Behlow from Geneva Community High School – Nominated for High School Teacher of the Year
Like many of our nominees, Martha’s career as a French teacher does not pause during the summer months. She is active throughout the year, planning workshops and conferences for other faculty while creating international travel trips to Europe so her students can “live the language.” Many of her nomination letters comment on her hands-on approach to education, from culinary lessons to singing and dancing. “Martha is an inspiration to us all,” one of her nominators notes. “She is a natural born leader whose well-placed humor works like a ‘spoonful of sugar’ for academic material.” Many mention her loyalty as a friend and staff member, and that her talents define what an outstanding teacher looks like.
Jessica Weir from Lincoln Prairie Elementary School – Nominated for Elementary School Teacher of the Year
Enthusiastic and fun are the adjectives mostly used within Jessica’s nomination book, but the examples that accompany them provide insight as to why Jessica is nominated this year. She views her teaching as “a joy-filled journey” and ensures that “every student has the materials they need for class, despite the family situation.” Jessica attends her students’ outside activities, including dance recitals, soccer games and Pinewood Derby events because she wants them to know that as their teacher, she is invested in them. She believes that when students come into her classroom, they must be active participants in their learning, and if it’s worth learning, “it is worth celebrating.”
Michelle Lage from Alice Gustafson School – Nominated for Educational Service Personnel of the Year
Michelle is described of having devoted “17 years to her students, staff and parents of her school.” As a paraprofessional, her responsibilities include working with struggling students and developing strategies to help them with the curriculum. Her elementary school, Alice Gustafson, had a mascot named Gus the Gator. She suggested that the school use GUS as an acronym to describe the targeted student behaviors of: giving respect, using safety, and sharing responsibility. Years later, her nomination book describes her creativity having impacted hundreds of students with the GUS slogan. Within her nomination book, many students also commended Michelle on her success. A fourth-grade student shared this quote in her nomination booklet: “She is a great person to talk to if you’re sad or feeling down. She is great at dealing with special-needs kids because she is so gentle and caring. Ms. Lage is an overall great person!”
Christina Morton from Aurora East Early Childhood Center – Nominated for Pre-School Teacher of the Year
Like many of her young students, English is Christina’s second language, as she was born in Berg, Switzerland, and moved to St. Charles in seventh grade. She spoke Swiss-German and German in her family, and when she started at Haines Middle School, she couldn’t even introduce herself in English. “I am an English language learner, just like so many of my little students. Because of my experience, I do everything in my power to make sure that the youngest English language learners never feel lost or confused,” Christina shares. Not only does Christina speak English fluently now, she has made it her personal goal to learn Spanish, as well. “Her motivation to communicate effectively in many languages serves as a warm welcome to many Spanish-speaking families starting their children at Aurora East Early Childhood Center,” said one of her colleagues. Christina is regarded inside and outside the classroom as being one of the most caring and considerate people in her school.
Alicia Honnert from Thompson Middle School – Nominated for School Administrator of the Year
“I must continue to be a student, to learn, in order to ensure that I support others to achieve,” reads Alicia’s biography in her nomination book. She began her teaching career in special education, and then became a middle school social studies teacher. After displaying her leadership capabilities, Alicia was hired as assistant principal of Thompson Middle School. Passionate and compassionate are two of the most recurring adjectives in Alicia’s nomination book. Her colleagues share that it is not unusual for Alicia to spend weekends in her office so she is available for her staff and students during the week. As the district coordinator for Advancement Via Industrial Determination, Alicia established a program that supports students for college placement and success, just one of the examples of high expectations and rigor within her school.
- This article was written by Ellen Kamps of the Kane County Regional Office of Education, made possible by Regional Superintendent Patricia Dal Santo.