- For the 41st annual Educator of the Year ceremony, 29 nominees will be honored in a super hero-themed event on April 29 at the Q Center in St. Charles. Follow the excitement on social media using #41EOTY.
Real super heroes do not wear capes. Within education, they lead, assist and inspire young minds through teaching.
For the next four weeks, the Kane County Regional Office of Education will be highlighting the 29 inspirational nominees. In addition to Educator of the Year, awards presented on April 29 will include the categories of Elementary Educator, Middle School Educator, High School Educator, School Administrator, Student Support Personnel, and Educational Service Personnel.
The following educators, administrators and support staff have been nominated and recognized as leaders in their education-related fields by their students, colleagues and supervisors.
Ryan Robinson from Central High School — Nominated for High School Teacher of the Year
If you ask most educators about their first year of teaching, not many can say that they created their own program from scratch. But in 2008, Ryan Robinson did exactly that.
Robinson was invited to Central High School to launch and charter a new agricultural science program that would grow to include 440 students. As the former Illinois president of the Future Farmers of America, Ryan credits his success to his own agricultural science and FFA teacher in high school, Mr. Lockwood.
“These moments all happened because I had met Mr. Lockwood, and he saw potential in what I could become,” Robinson said. “It is my hope that I can provide these same moments for my own students and athletes in agriculture, basketball and golf programs at Central High School.
“Watching students grow and mature into wonderful young men and women is the most rewarding experience, and it is what drives me to continue being the best educator and coach I can be.”
Rebecca Carver from Fred Rodgers Magnet Academy — Nominated for Early Career Educator of the Year
After volunteering for four months in a small village in Vietnam, Rebecca Carver realized that she was meant to be a teacher. She was working in the commercial photography industry at the time, but after volunteering with orphans and creating programs in journalism, puppetry and photography, she decided she wanted to contribute to society in a bigger way.
“I wanted to do something more meaningful; something that contributed to humanity more than just consumerism,” Carver said in her nomination materials.
So Carver went back to school and received her bachelor of arts in elementary education.
“I was interested in everything, and I realized that if I became a teacher, I could learn and grow right alongside my students,” she said.
Rebecca teaches sixth grade math and science at Fred Rodgers and feels that it is the perfect place for her.
“My teaching is constantly influenced by the experiences that are molding my understanding of students’ development, diversity and individual needs,” she said. “I hope to ignite a desire to learn in all of my students that will last for a lifetime.”
Betty Borg from Kaneland High School — Nominated for Educational Service Personnel of the Year
Betty Borg has been spreading kindness and helping others at Kaneland High School within the Special Education Department since 1998. She has played an integral role in implementing the life skills program, a position she considers her dream job.
“I have a passion that everyone has the potential to be a productive member of society. The KHS Special Education Department has provided me with the opportunity to fill this position,” Borg said.
Through this program, Borg helps students with job coaching and pairs them with internships and permanent job placement at businesses like McDonald’s, Casey’s, Merra-Lee, Jewel, Jimmy John’s and Lion’s. With a bachelor of arts in theater, Borg has been able to volunteer for four years through the Penguin Project in DeKalb, a program that helps children with disabilities perform on stage.
“Through the years, I have had the good fortune to incorporate all my loves together,” Borg said. Within her nomination materials, her supporters say she makes each student feel comfortable and confident.
“Betty infuses her vast experience in teaching, theater and public speaking with her wonderful sense of humor and deep respect for each and every student,” shared one of her nominators.
Argelia Luna from Oak Park Elementary School — Nominated for Early Childhood Educator of the Year
Argelia Luna, or Vivi, as her community affectionately refers to her, is a true East Aurora Tomcat. She attended elementary school, middle school and high school in East Aurora, and now has brought her talents and love of education back to Oak Park Elementary.
“My mother emigrated from Mexico to Aurora with hopes that I would learn English,” she said. “Now, years later, I am the one that is teaching the little ones of Aurora how to speak English.”
At 12 years old, Vivi knew she wanted to teach and loved working with preschoolers. She feels that her greatest contribution to education is helping students’ families each school year to realize that they play a vital role in their child’s education.
“I believe that teaching is best when done in collaboration with the students, parents, school and community,” she said. “Mutual respect, open communication, interdependence and transparency will help a child reach their full potential.”
Raney Good from Kaneland Harter Middle School — Nominated for Middle School Educator of the Year
The continuation of education and giving back to the community are the driving forces behind Raney Good’s exceptional leadership as a sixth–grade English teacher.
With a master’s degree in Christian education, Raney began her career working with the United Methodist Church. After her children entered elementary school, she began volunteering in the classroom and found more joy participating as a volunteer. After going back to school and receiving her master’s degree in teaching from Aurora University, she has been teaching in District 302 for 11 years.
“Attending to the social-emotional development of 11- and 12-year-olds is something I focus on daily in the classroom,” Good said. She introduces her students to community involvement through working with the local food pantry, a homeless shelter, a nearby senior living facility and a home for developmentally disabled.
“The experience is more than making little gifts, cards or decorations,” she said. “It becomes an opportunity to help students understand differences among us and to help them share compassion with people.”
Jessica Weibler from Kaneland Harter Middle School — Nominated for Early Career Educator of the Year
Although she has only been teaching for three years since graduating from Illinois State University, Jessica has been recognized as an organized leader with refreshing ideas. Like many teachers, Weibler spends long evenings after school preparing her curriculum, but the job brings her so much enjoyment that she could not imagine having a different career.
“Being able to witness my students become better writers from rough drafts to their final pieces makes me feel like I am making a difference,” Weibler said.
Weibler’s supporters describe her as patient and positive.
“Her attitude is absolutely contagious. It is difficult to walk away from an encounter with Jessica without feeling more positive than before the encounter,” shared one of her nominators.
As a sixth-grade language arts teacher, she actively shares her love of writing and encourages her students to explore writing too. She has pioneered an after-school program called the Knight Writers, an opportunity for students to meet once a week to improve their literacy.
Linda Kleiner from Lakewood School — Nominated for Middle School Teacher of the Year
With leadership roles in the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, the Boys and Girls Club, Camp Fire USA, and as a soccer coach, it was obvious to Linda Kleiner’s friends and family that she was a natural-born teacher. Although she always had a love of learning and children, when she was in high school, her counselor discouraged her in pursuing a college education.
Kleiner was shocked by this suggestion, and against the advice of this school counselor, pursued a degree bachelor of arts from Northern Illinois University. Today, she prides herself on instilling confidence within her sixth-graders, and it is obvious within her nomination letters from students that they enjoy learning.
“I found from my earlier experience with the counselor that learning and college is possible whether you struggle in school or if you are the first to go to college in your family,” Kleiner said. “One thing every student knows when they leave my classroom is that they have the power to learn anything and pursue their dreams even if they didn’t think it was possible.”
Beth Wood from Carpentersville Middle School — Nominated for Middle School Teacher of the Year
As an orchestra director, professional development as a musician and as a teacher are essential for growth. Beth spent several years as the conductor of the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra while also teaching seventh- and eighth-grade students; it’s no wonder that her colleagues consider her a mentor.
Wood developed a program that ensures instruments are available to students that have a desire to perform, no matter their financial situation. Every year, she takes her students to the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, which is often the only opportunity for her students to see a live orchestral performance. So moved by her leadership and ability to teach music, many of Wood’s students have gone on to pursue music education after graduation.
Supporting Wood’s nomination was 1999 Educator of the Year Mark Bettcher, director of orchestra and jazz at Dundee-Crown High School.
“In addition to her attentiveness to the needs of her students, Beth cares deeply about her own continued progress,” Bettcher said. “She exhibits a knowledge base, work ethic and maturity that is truly rare.”
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.