#EOTY43 Week 1: Meet 8 Stellar Educators from East Aurora and Kaneland

#EOTY43 Week 1: Meet 8 Stellar Educators from East Aurora and Kaneland

  • For the 43rd annual Educator of the Year ceremony, 41 nominees will be honored in an Olympics-themed event on May 4 at the Q Center in St. Charles. Follow the excitement on social media using #EOTY43 and #leadassistinspire. Tickets for the event can be purchased by contacting your local school district office.

Each year, the Kane County Regional Office of Education holds an awards ceremony celebrating education and the educators nominated by their peers for their active role in education. For the next five weeks, the ROE will be highlighting the 41 inspirational nominees for the 43rd annual Educator of the Year awards.

In addition to Educator of the Year, awards presented on May 4 will include the categories of Elementary School Teacher, Middle School Teacher, High School Teacher, School Administrator, Private/Parochial Teacher, Student Support Personnel, and Educational Service Personnel.

Below you will find eight nominees from East Aurora 131 and Kaneland 302.

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.

Michelle Lapacek from Cowherd Middle School — Nominated for Student Support Personnel of the Year

Chances are that you’ve heard the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and that is something Michelle Lapacek gets to see in action each day she works with students.

Lapacek has been working in East Aurora for nine years and has spent the past six years at Cowherd Middle School as a school counselor. She works with students, parents, and school staff each day to help students succeed in both school and their everyday life.

“My philosophy for counseling is building relationships,” she said. “This is the time where we start building the blocks to get the students through high school.”

Kyle Ahlmann from Harter Middle School — Nominated for Early Career Educator of the Year

The work that you do has the power to inspire the next generation to pursue your profession, and that’s what exactly happened with Kyle Ahlmann. He saw the ways his father impacted students as a teacher and knew that’s what he wanted to do, as well.

Ahlmann teaches sixth-grade social studies and English/language srts at Harter Middle School in Kaneland and has been teaching there for four years. His greatest reward is seeing his students taste success.

“I try to make it fun an engaging when I try and teach,” Ahlmann said. “It’s not the easiest thing to hype up a research essay, but I think I can bring energy and a passion for it while they are learning, then that passion will rub off on the students.”

Michelle Wargo from Cowherd Middle School — Nominated for Middle School Teacher of the Year

Do you remember the various math formulas you learned in algebra class to solve problems? Teaching and applying these memorable formulas for problem-solving is what Michelle Wargo does each day.

Wargo has been a middle school math teacher at Cowherd Middle School in East Aurora for 13 years. To many students, she is not only a teacher but, also a role model on what a problem solver looks like.

“I think why so many professions need algebra for problem-solving,” Wargo said. “It teaches students to be more than a complainer and to become a problem solver.”

Denise Michels from Harter Middle School — Nominated for Student Support Personnel of the Year

Being a school counselor gives you the opportunity to encourage and motivate students, and that is Denise Michels’ favorite part of each day. Seeing the smiling faces of students that she encourages is something that drives her.

Michels has been a part of the Kaneland community for 13 years as a sixth-grade teacher and now as a middle school counselor. She was driven to counseling by her desire to support her students’ social-emotional well-being.

“Middle school is a crucial part of a child’s life,” Michels said. “There are so many areas that they need guidance, and you get to be that person that helps guide them.”

Armando Rodriguez from Dieterich Elementary School — Nominated for School Administrator of the Year

What can be done to make a school more of a family atmosphere? That is the question that Armando Rodriguez asks himself each morning he goes to school as he looks for ways to best serve the students and staff at Dieterich Elementary School.

Rodriguez is an assistant principal at Dieterich in East Aurora and has been a part of the East Aurora School District for 28 years in various roles. Students and staff are inspired by his contagious excitement for school.

“I make it a point myself to always be out there each morning to greet the students,” he said. “I try to engage the students right away so that they have a positive experience to start out their day.”

Christy Kukovec from Harter Middle School — Nominated for Middle School Teacher of the Year

We all know the saying that math is used every day, but even subconsciously we use math without even realizing it. That’s something that Christy Kukovec teachers her students, giving practical examples such as shopping for the best deal or figuring out what time to wake up on a busy day.

She has been teaching for 17 years, with a majority of the years being sixth-grade math at Harter Middle School in Kaneland.

“The highlight of my day is seeing kids going from not understanding a concept to seeing it click for them,” she said. “I like to have conversations with them about how they understood it and help them find the way that works best for them.”

Axa Marquez from East Aurora Early Childhood Center — Nominated for Educational Service Personnel of the Year

Organization is the name of the game for Axa Marquez each day she walks into the school building. Each day she works to help parents understand the process of getting their child ready for their very first day of school.

For seven years, Marquez has been the program secretary for the Early Childhood Center at East Aurora. Her expert organization skills help her process more than 1,100 families a year that go through the process of placing their children in an early childhood program.

“It’s really great to see a family go through the preschool program,” she said. “It is exciting to see them evolve from the student’s first day of school to their first day of first grade.”

Mona Fergus from John Shields Elementary School — Nominated for Educational Support Personnel of the Year

Who doesn’t remember sitting down for read-aloud time during their years in elementary school? Mona Fergus enjoys read-aloud time so much that she often finds herself eating lunch with students and continuing to read with them.

Fergus has been involved in the Kaneland School District for the past nine years and is the LRC library secretary at John Shields Elementary School. She loves reading to students and finding new incentives to get them to be reading more as well.

“The library is where it all starts,” Fergus said. “It’s so important that we start early and really foster that love of reading as they become independent thinkers and leaders.”

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 FacebookTwitter and by signing up for the semimonthly newsletter.