Educator of the Year 2015

Sherry Douglas of D300 Is Kane County Educator of the Year

Sherry Douglas, a science teacher from Westfield Community School in District 300 has been chosen as Kane County Educator of the Year 2015. She, along with eight other educators representing schools from Pingree Grove, Geneva, Aurora, Hampshire, Kaneland, St. Charles and Batavia, were honored Friday at the Regional Office of Education‘s 40th Educator of the Year ceremony at the Q Center in St. Charles.

The night began with an arrival of over 800 educators and supporters while the Batavia High School’s string quartet serenaded the ballroom during social hour. The East Aurora Naval Junior ROTC began the evening’s festivities by presenting the colors and introducing the hosts for the evening, Regional Superintendent Patricia Dal Santo and Director of Technology Phil Morris.

With seven weeks of promotion leading up to the Regional Office of Education‘s 40th Educator of the Year ceremony, Twitter was charged with excitement throughout the night with participation using #40EOTY.

Along with educators, State Reps. Linda Chapa LaVia, Bob Pritchard and Steven Anderson, Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen and Kane County Board members Deborah Allen, Joseph Haimann, Mike Kenyon and T.R. Smith attended the gala event to support education in Kane County.

Were you able to attend Educator of the Year? If not, Batavia Access Television and Aurora Community Television will both be airing the recorded event next week.

And the winners are…

Sherry DouglasSherry Douglas, a science teacher from Westfield Community School in District 300 was chosen as the Educator of the Year 2015.
Her profile from week 1: Like many of the nominees for the Educator of the Year, Sherry is the first to enter the school in the morning and one of the last to leave in the evening. Her dedication as a science teacher to her students is remarked as tireless. Not only are her science labs and curriculum intriguing, but Sherry is noted to be extremely involved with assisting students outside of the classroom. She goes to great lengths to find resources for students in need, like winter clothing, and health care and mental health programs. Sherry also sets the bar high by sharing lesson plans and leaving encouraging voice mails for her co-workers and staff. She is described by her nomination booklet as being dependable, a solid resource, and a pleasure to work with on many levels.

James BuckwalterJames Buckwalter, a middle school language arts teacher from Cambridge Lakes Charter School in District 300 was named Early-Career Educator of the Year. His profile from week 4: “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.”

Martha BehlowMartha Behlow, a French teacher at Geneva Community High School in District 304 received the Regional Superintendent Award. Her profile from week 2: 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.

SueZ BrunoSue-z Bruno, a 4th grade teacher from Gates Elementary School in District 131 was named Elementary School Teacher of the Year. Her profile from week 5: It is not unusual to enter Sue-Z’s fourth grade classroom and see a Fermilab scientist, a Peace Corps volunteer from Zambia or a Nobel laureate sharing their lives with her students. By bringing the real world to her classroom, the students become well-rounded citizens of the world. Within many of the letters of recommendation, former students sign their name “Bruno’s Kid,” emphasizing the impact that Sue-Z leaves. As she encourages her students to be active citizens, she too is invested in her community as one of the founding members of Culture Stock, a board member of the Aurora Public Library, an active participate in legislation in Springfield and earlier this year was recognized for her excellence in education by the League of United Latin American Citizens.

Steve RenneSteve Renne, a history teacher from Hampshire Middle School in District 300 named Middle School Teacher of the Year. His profile from week 6: Many principals and superintendents spend decades in the classroom as teachers before moving forward to tackle the administrative side of education, but our nominee Steve completed things a little differently. After teaching for nine years, Steve served as an administrator for 20, and then came back to teaching middle school history in 2004. With outstanding leadership and attention-to-detail as Steve’s strengths, he has used his wealth of experience to serve as a team-leader for his fellow teachers. “His proactive approach has resulted in efficient meetings, effective team planning, and positive outcomes for both students and teachers. He is always lending his insight and perspective in a polite and professional manner,” noted a colleague. Steve’s philosophy of education is grounded in the concept that learning is a natural state of being for any living organism. “All living things must learn to adapt, change, and modify in order to survive. For humans, this includes the overt act of learning and using new information and data to thrive and grow,” Steve wrote in his nomination book. “When the classrooms promote learning as a natural occurrence and part of the process of being alive, students respond with interest, curiosity, and a natural understanding of how learning allows them to grow and thrive.”

Bryan KunstmanBryan Kunstman, a choir director from Kaneland High School in District 302 was named High School Teacher of the Year. His profile from week 5: “Instead of teaching students numbers, writing skills or chemical formulas, Bryan is tasked with teaching his students how to feel and understand music. Unlike many high school teachers, Bryan has many of his students for four years as they develop their understanding of music within the fine arts. His standards for learning are high and his choir’s quality is demonstrated in the top honors they have received internationally. With 15 musicals, 65 evenings of madrigal dinners and more than 100 madrigal performances under his belt, Kaneland’s choir has served as an example for music education programs at Northwestern and Northern Illinois University.”

Alicia HonnertDr. Alicia Honnert, an assistant principal from Thompson Middle School in St. Charles District 303 was named Administrator of the Year. Her profile from week 2: “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.

Janice FinkeJanice Finke, IT Specialist from St. Charles North High School in District 303 was named Student Support Personnel of the Year. Her profile from week 7: “Raised in a family of third-generation furniture movers, a strong work ethic was emphasized as Janice grew up and graduated from Larkin High School in Elgin. With a professional background in IT, Janice joined District 300 as the computer lab assistant, was promoted to computer technician, and now is the computer specialist and technician for North High School. Understanding technology is one thing, but the ability to convey a variety of concepts to staff and students takes the patience and dedication that Janice possesses. Described as “St. Charles North’s technology ninja,” there are countless stories within Janice’s nomination book that describe her hardworking attitude. “Also like a ninja, Janice’s day starts and ends long before and after everyone else’s. She repairs computers, she trains staff, and she manages all fax machines and copiers. After she installed over 100 new phones in the summer, she insisted on testing each phone to ensure they would be ready for the first day of school.”

Michelle LageMichelle Lage, Paraprofessional from Alice Gustafson School in Batavia School District 101 was named Service Personnel of the Year. Her profile from week 2: “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!”

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