Educator of the Year

#40EOTY Week 4: Meet 6 Mind-Blowing ‘Educator of the Year’ Nominees

The ROE has revealed six more nominees for Educator of the Year, and they hail from District 300, St. Charles District 303, Aurora East 131 and Geneva 304.

The winner will be announced on Friday, May 1, at the award banquet — traditionally a pretty spectacular show, which features a few new twists in 2015.

“With hundreds of people in attendance, our objective is to involve the students who these educators have impacted during their career.” shared Regional Superintendent Patricia Dal Santo. “We’re excited to announce that the color guard from East Aurora will be opening our show. The participants are part of the Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and with nearly 900 students enrolled, it’s the largest NJROTC program in the world.”

Music will be provided from a Kane County high school for the event and will be named in next week’s reveal, when the ROE announces six more nominees.

There are 19 educators to feature in the next three weeks. Who has your vote? Join the conversation on social media using #40EOTY. 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.

James Hawkins James Hawkins from St. Charles East High School – Nominated for Student Support Personnel of the Year

As a part of the College and Career Readiness Department and assistant coach for the girls varsity basketball team, James encourages students to extend themselves by taking rigorous courses and pushing them to reach their full potential. When talking to James, one can ascertain that helping students is his true passion, but with a degree in business, he did not realize that truth about himself immediately. “He graduated with a business administration degree from Augustana College, but his wife encouraged him to enter the field of education because she knew something was missing from his professional life,” reads his nomination materials. For the past four years as a counselor and coach, James had made a positive impact on his students’ lives in the classroom and on the court, and has been developing a student-leadership program to grow tomorrow’s leaders.

Kim MundtKim Mundt from East Aurora High School – Nominated for Educational Service Personnel of the Year

Kim began her career in banking, but 27 years ago made the decision to come to East Aurora High School because it was down the street from her house and she loved kids and always loved school. In her nomination book, she mentions playing school with her siblings and neighbors: “I’d tie my wagon to my bicycle and head back to my school the first day of summer break to dumpster dive for unused worksheets and old school books. These items weren’t trash, they were gold!” To her colleagues and the parents and students who come through the doors of EAHS, her love for academics and the community is apparent. Because she has been a part of her school for so many years, she has also had to evolve from using electric typewriters and paper and pencil, to current computer systems. “I intentionally strive to be flexible and adaptable as policies and systems frequently change so that others around me will be encouraged to do the same,” she said.

John BairdJohn Baird from St. Charles District Office 303 – Nominated for Administrator of the Year

As the assistant superintendent for operations, John’s quality of work allows all the schools of St. Charles to run seamlessly. From grounds-keeping to building remodeling to equipment replacements to food service, John and the well-oiled machine that is St. Charles operations work together with the students and faculty in mind. In his book, many letters of recognition comment on his ability to put parents at ease with his extensive knowledge of security and safety protocol of each school. Principals and teachers also rely on John for peace of mind when facing an obstacle, but they know that John is “always there to ride in on his white horse to save the day!” Another fabulous quote in his book: “John’s litmus test for every decision he makes is ‘Will it benefit kids?’ If the answer is yes, he will move heaven and earth to make it work. Every district needs a John Baird.”

James BuckwalterJames Buckwalter from Cambridge Lakes Charter School – Nominated for Early Career Educator

When reading James’ nomination book, it is difficult to believe that he has only been teaching for four years. From colleagues, parents, and students, his letters of recommendation describe his enthusiasm and motivation that lead Cambridge Lakes to success. One of the quotes from his book puts into perspective the determination James has to be a quality educator: “I believe the highest praise that you can give a teacher is saying that you wish that person could teach your own children. He is not the best new teacher that I have encountered, he is one of the best teachers, period.” It is evident that James truly listens to the feedback from his students, one instance being the creation of the first student council organization at his school. “He is a master of engaging students in learning. All activities are differentiated to address individual student needs.”

Ann JansonAnn Janson from Harrison Street Elementary School – Nominated for Educational Service Personnel of the Year

Although she began her career in 1998, it was not the first time Ann stepped foot into Harrison Street Elementary School. As a Geneva-native, she attended Harrison Street from kindergarten through fifth grade and graduated from Geneva High School to pursue a degree in elementary education. Known for her patience and love of children, she is described within her nomination materials to have a calm and nurturing demeanor; the ideal qualities of an instructional aide in an elementary school. Her administrators mention her as the best accessory to her classrooms and to prove their point, created the most stylish nomination book of all 44 nominees. Her committee created, out of plywood and covered in bright pink fabric, a nomination book made to look like a Coach purse.

Ken GerkKen Gerk from East Aurora High School – Nominated for High School Teacher of the Year

Celebrating his 13th year as a social studies teacher, Ken has established positive relationships with his colleagues and students over the years. He is the adviser of student council and the senior class, allowing him to connect with students, many of whom are not in his classroom. In addition to other student-focused clubs and activities, Ken has led EAHS to be one of the top producing high schools for Heartland Blood Center. His students rely on him for advice, scholastically related or not, as do his supervisors, current and past. One letter of recommendation from a former principal mentions that Ken is still her go-to person. From “curriculum revisions to mentoring to district trainings, I am confident in Ken’s leadership and teaching abilities to provide support whenever and wherever.”


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