Educator of the Year

#40EOTY Week 3: Meet 7 ‘Wow’ Nominees for Kane County ‘Educator of the Year’

The tension builds along with the appreciation and recognition of excellence, as the Kane County Regional Office of Education releases the names of seven more nominees for its 40th Annual Educator of the Year awards.

The ROE is releasing the names of nominees in batches this year, one batch per week, until the big announcement on Friday, May 1.

“Make sure to check back every Wednesday as we reveal a little bit more about our #40EOTY nominees,” Regional Superintendent Dal Santo said.

Each nominee will be recognized at the May 1 ceremony with an engraved plaque. At the end of the ceremony, one of the 44 nominees will be chosen as “Educator of the Year.”

In addition to being named Educator of the Year within a county of 8,289 staff members, the Educator of the Year will receive a $3,000 grant for her or his school district.

“In the past, the winners have used this grant money for technology-related school supplies for their students and classrooms,” Dal Santo said.

You can follow Educator of the Year announcements as well as additional, interesting facts about these nominees on Twitter, using the hashtag #40EOTY!

And this week’s seven nominees are …


Colleen KelsoColleen Kelso from East Aurora High School – Nominated for Student Support Personnel of the Year

As a guidance counselor, as with all of nominees at for #40EOTY, Colleen does not hesitate to go above and beyond to help students succeed. Growing up in the neighboring town of Montgomery, she has always been invested in her community and loves being a part of East Aurora High School. Just one of the amazing stories that she shared with us was when she noticed a female student on the first day of school, intimidated and confused in the hallway. She offered her assistance and quickly found out the student did not speak Spanish or English. Later she discovered that the student was a refugee from Somalia but only spoke some French. Colleen orchestrated an intervention between AP French teachers and students so that the new student could have a guide from class to class and interpret her homework successfully. Within her nomination book, Colleen is regarded as a guidance counselor even for those students she is not assigned to, making it her lifelong goal to mentor students whenever possible.

OfeliaOfelia Oliveros from St. Charles North High School – Nominated for Educational Service Personnel of the Year

Ofelia is described as the behind-the-scenes employee who typically allows others to take the spotlight. Proud of her St. Charles North family, Ofelia shared with us that although she comes to work before the sun rises, it is never a chore. “This school is my family. I do not feel as though I am coming to work, because this building is my home,” she said. With a population of more than 2,000 students, Ofelia keeps building operations running smoothly, from snow removal, moving furniture and making coffee for the staff. She is described within her nomination book as having “an enormous heart and dependability.” Some of her nomination letters describe her as being shy, and when asked about her demeanor during her interview, she shared that she “saves her words for important opportunities.” She forms close relationships with students and is always excited to lend a hand to faculty members.

Katie KellerKatie Keller from Batavia High School – Nominated for High School Teacher of the Year

In 1983, three days before fall semester began, Katie was hired as the PE teacher at Batavia high school and jumped right in to being the varsity girls basketball and softball coach. Her leadership as a department chair came from her long history as a fantastic athlete while she was in high school and college. It is worth mentioning that she was an All-American softball player in college, played on the men’s soccer team in 1980, and a year later created Aurora University’s first women’s soccer team. With these team-focused credentials, Katie’s success as an educator and student-advocate are well understood and appreciated. Her nomination letters state that she is “very knowledgeable of the school improvement process and has helped the PE department develop action plans to support the academic goals of the building.”

MelissaMelissa Jackson from Mid-Valley Special Education Cooperative – Nominated for School Administrator of the Year

Described as a solution-focused, approachable leader, Melissa serves as the program supervisor of 46 staff members and 190 students in Mid-Valley’s programs for students with autism, vision/hearing impairments, and speech-language challenges. With almost 30 years at MVSEC, she is regarded as the school’s historian because she remembers “every student, staff member and parent that she has ever encountered,” her nomination materials said. Within those materials, parent support letters jump out as being the bulk of her book. Many share heartfelt accounts of the support they have received from Melissa and that she has been their role model, friend and confidant. In her biography, Melissa shares that even though her work is challenging, she loves what she does. “I could not ask for better administrative colleagues than those I work with at Mid-Valley and in our member districts,” she said.

Craig CollinsCraig Collins from Geneva District Office 304 – Nominated for School Administrator of the Year

As assistant superintendent of human resources, Craig’s nomination committee describes him as the hardest working person they know: “No meeting is too late, no phone call is a bad time, no job is ever complete. He works tirelessly to support the teachers of Geneva School District 304.” Beginning his career as a social studies teacher in Minnesota, Craig has also served as assistant principal and principal of Geneva High School. He is a founding member of the Kane County Human Resources Consortium, a cooperative effort among the nine public school districts and the ROE to assist with recruitment, selection and professional growth of quality educators. Throughout his nomination book, Craig is described as putting the human in human resources by putting people first and helping educators develop and perform at the highest level possible.

JessicaJessica Dixon from John Shields Elementary School – Nominated for Elementary Teacher of the Year

Spending half her childhood in Aurora and half in Sugar Grove, Jessica is a native of Kane County. Growing up, she was challenged in school, but had exceptional teachers and parents that provided her the extra tutoring and support that she needed. After attending Aurora University with honors, and being the first in her family to graduate college, Jessica was hired as the kindergarten teacher of John Shields in 2001. “Now she is a role model for new teachers in the district, implementing unique curriculum ideas for learning opportunities,” her supervisors share within her nomination materials. Now as second grade teacher, she supports her colleagues as the elementary writing coach for creating new curriculum and is well-respected by the parents and students that are fortunate to know her.

AlmaAlma Auchstetter from Lakewood School – Nominated for Student Support Personnel of the Year

At Lakewood School, Alma serves as the family liaison and translator for many of the students and parents who walk through the doors. “She doesn’t only translate, she bridges the communication gap by allowing us to connect with our parents to best support our students,” her nomination booklet states. She can be found after school and during her lunch period assisting parents with Rosetta Stone and basic computer skills. Not only is she the point of contact for communication efforts, she also coordinates reduced lunch programs and works very closely with Northern Illinois Food Bank. She works diligently to make sure that 25 families a week receive a backpack full of food for the weekend, as many of the students qualify for free to reduced lunch. She is described as, “the poster child for excellence in the fulfillment of her duties,” and in addition to arriving first and leaving school last, she has donated her holidays by distributing Thanksgiving dinners.

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