- For the 44th annual Educator of the Year ceremony, 36 nominees will be honored in a Marvel/Avengers themed event on May 3 at the Q Center in St. Charles. Follow the excitement on social media using #EOTY44. Tickets for the event can be purchased by contacting your local school district office or contacting the Kane County ROE.
It’s Week 1 of #EOTY44! We begin this three-week series with 12 amazing educators within Kane County to kick off the Educator of the Year fun and excitement.
Below you will find nominees from St. Charles District 303, and District U-46 — teachers, administrators and support staff who have been nominated and recognized as leaders in their education-related fields by their students, colleagues and supervisors.
Sandra Borgstrom from St. Charles East High School – Nominated for Student Support Personnel of the Year
Sandra Borgstrom represents the best of all D303 seeks to embody: passion, commitment, and a student-first focus doing whatever is needed on behalf of a student.
Beyond St. Charles East High School, Borgstrom is instrumental in the district’s planning and delivery of parent information that is beneficial to supporting students at home. Students and staff approach Borgstrom for support, hope, and simply encouragement to ensure everyone does their best work.
“The ways teachers work with students are inspiring to me as they’re always looking for new ways to engage with students,” Borgstrom said. “When you take a step back, you realize that everyone is doing their part in making the students’ lives a lot easier.”
Karen Kobler from St. Charles East High School – Nominated for Educational Service Personnel of the Year
Karen Kobler wears many hats at East – program designer, event planner, calendar manager, ticket seller, student advocate, club coordinator and service project leader.
Students learn life lessons from Kobler, and she models giving back to the community. She is not a problem admirer, but someone who comes up with solutions and focuses on what can be done for students, teacher, parents and her fellow support staff members each day.
“I enjoy where I work and I have a philosophy to be the person that I would want to work with”, Kobler said. “It’s great to see the students evolve over the years as they come into the office with a more delightful mindset and I feel like I was able to help change that.”
Anthony Cerqua from St. Charles East High School – Nominated for Early Career Educator of the Year
Anthony Cerqua has dedicated a tremendous amount of his personal time toward the successful implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards as a member of the Curriculum Design Team.
Cerqua makes his classes fun with the addition of “Keepin it Real Physics Phridays” and other “geeky” characters and references throughout his instructional materials. His students relate to him and enjoy his classes.
“One thing I really like to drive home with the students is the scientific engineering practices,” he said. “That is something I’ve really attached to in my teaching as it’s a practice that can be transferable to other subjects and in their day-to-day lives.”
Deanna Benson-Bressler from St. Charles North High School – Nominated for Educational Service Personnel of the Year
Whether through identifying books to enhance a student’s interest, building a cart with titles to complement a teacher’s curriculum, or talking a student through a technology challenge, Deanna Benson-Bressler is ready to assist.
Benson-Bressler continues to make herself available to students to provide ideas and solutions to their educational needs. She is knowledgeable in her field and has worked hard to supplement their knowledge over the years, but more importantly, she has a genuine concern for every student who enters the LRC.
“One of the things I really strive students to learn is the Dewey Decimal System,” she said. “I feel like if students are able to understand that then they should be able to conquer anything in the world!”
Tanis Simoncelli from St. Charles North High School – Nominated for Student Support Personnel of the Year
Tanis Simoncelli’s patience, passion and perseverance disarms feelings of frustration and confusion. While exploring new tools and increasing the role of technology can be intimidating, Samoncelli works side-by-side with teachers to expand their understanding and build confidence.
Simoncelli will always make herself available to meet with staff and students to help them find new and different approaches to instruction, learning, office work, presentations any anything else that can be improved.
“We need to take a step back and think of the good we can do with all of our social media platforms,” she said. “Just because 5 percent is bad, doesn’t mean the other 95% of good should be missed and I make sure to focus on the good over the bad.”
Denise Leatherman from St. Charles Norther High School – Nominated for High School Teacher of the Year
In the classroom, Denise Leatherman strives to create lessons that promote life learning through projects or activities that are authentic, require students to make connections to the world or work and develop soft-skills when working collaboratively or interviewing.
Lifelong learner is one way to define Leatherman. She eagerly participates in courses in the district and beyond, focused on strategies to expand her instructional influence and establish cultures of learning within her classrooms.
“One of the thought methods I push across is how to prepare my students for the real world and how to balance life in general,” she said. “I am able to equate what I have on my plate as an adult to where they are at the student level and how to prepare for the next step.”
Stephen Morrill from Thompson Middle School – Nominated for School Administrator of the Year
It cannot be overstated that Stephen Morrill has a unique charisma that is contagious and influential. His core values and personality help support an environment where people feel appreciated, encouraged, and free to take risks that lead to improvement and enhanced student learning.
Morrill is without doubt a “top-notch” educator who is a role model for his friends, colleagues, and students. I would describe his reputation as one who “talks the talk and walks the walk.”
“Middle School is a societal secret because if you’re not here, people in the real work think there is no way I would want to spend time at that level,” he said. “More times than not, Middle School (years) were the most challenging times in your life, and we help grow their freedom and give them a longer leash. The teachers here really help facilitate that.”
James Kidston from Elgin Academy – Nominated for Private/Parochial of the Year
As Elgin Academy’s unofficial tech guru, James Kidston works with everyone on campus to improve the school’s technical abilities both inside and out.
Kidston’s collaboration with his fellow faculty members is endless. he explained his eagerness to collaborate this way:
“I hate not knowing,” he said. “I hate teaching something that I don’t fully understand, so I work with teachers to learn what I don’t know.”
All of his thoughtful teaching is even more impressive when you consider the fact that Computer Science hardly existed when he was in college.
“I’m proud every single time one of my students figure something out which they do regularly.” he said. “I figure the more the students figure out for themselves the better which is why my teaching method is to give them the bare minimum and work for it themselves.”
Lisa Mueller from Fox Meadow Elementary – Nominated for Elementary Teacher of the Year
Lisa Mueller works with students in grades K-6 daily and holds several key leadership roles within our building.
There are many qualities that assist Mueller in serving our students and staff excellently each day, including willingness to participate in extra-curricular work to assist students, organization and timelessness of communication with students, staff and parents, a focus on building-wide improvement, and leadership among colleagues throughout the district.
“My goal is to make sure my students love coming to school each and every day,” she said. “I like to build their successes and then move those to different applications and callback on previous success stories.”
Karen Osborne from Fox Meadow Elementary – Nominated for Student Support Personnel of the Year
Karen Osborne’s generous donation of time allows her to be in the classrooms on a daily basis so that students don’t see her as “the school counselor” but rather “the lady who can help you.”
Teachers in the building respect Osborne and her expertise on issues that confront students daily. She never turns anyone away, and always makes students feel as if they are the most important person in that minute, because to her, they are.
“The bottom line is that we’re here to help kids and sometimes they don’t have anyone else who can help them,” she said. “If you chose a classroom of 25 students and focused on one kid per week and called their family and said how great they were doing, nothing bad, then that would only take 25 weeks to make a change within a classroom.”
Lindsey Reynolds from Huff Elementary – Nominated for Student Support Personnel of the Year
Lindsey Reynolds’ passion for her students doesn’t end when the school day ends. She is the coordinator and head coach for School District U-46’s Special Olympics team “The BlueStars.”
Reynolds always has a smile on her face and can easily establish a rapport with her students, their parents, and school staff including teachers, para educators, other support personnel and custodians. She is always prepared, organized and works tirelessly in her efforts to transfer knowledge into practice.
“When I see things get tough for the kiddos, I realize that I am able to take that challenge on,” she said. “If we’re working on something challenging, in those moments, being able to laugh in those moments, having the trust of the kiddos really help make their days better.”
Patricia Briones from School District U-46 – Nominated for Educational Service Personnel of the Year
Patricia Briones is an exceptional member of the U-46 team charged with supporting families and children identified in need of support via the McKinney-Vento act.
Briones works tirelessly to support families by providing resources and direction to acquire transportation, housing, clothing, food and supplies. Co-workers say she exemplifies all the qualities of a leader among educational support personnel: She is responsible, committed, creative, caring, empathetic, and hard working.
“I try to make myself approachable in many ways and give the student the respect that everyone deserves,” Briones said. “It’s a tough job because it’s not all easy, but I just want everyone to be successful and it’s rewarding to help those who deserve a chance.”
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.