District 54 is proud to announce the following recipients of the 2013 Illinois State Board of Education’s Those Who Excel Awards.
- Robbin Masters, an English language learner (ELL) teacher at Stevenson Elementary School in Elk Grove Village, won an Award of Excellence in the early career educator category
- A team of teachers from Mead Junior High School won an Award of Merit in the team category.
- Instructional Coach Becky Lopez won an Award of Recognition in the student support personnel category.
- Maintenance Supervisor Mike Mostacci won an Award of Recognition in the educational service personnel category.
- Assistant Superintendent Karen Hindman won an Award of Recognition in the administrator category.
- Michelle Burke, the Project Lead the Way teacher at Addams Junior High School in Schaumburg, won an award of Recognition in the classroom teacher category.
- Special Olympics Coordinator David Luzwick and Mindi Turf, an early childhood teacher at Frost Junior High School in Schaumburg, won an Award of Excellence in the team category as part of the Special Olympics of Illinois Project UNIFY Youth Activation Committee.
Masters was nominated for the passion she brings to her job of working with English-language learners. She teaches them how to read, write and speak fluent English, while at the same time showing a genuine interest in their lives. In the nomination, one of her colleagues wrote: “Robin’s motto is to teach to the whole child. She understands that a child needs to feel safe, fed and cared for before he can learn.”
Toward that goal, Masters organized a volunteer breakfast club for low-income students and raised money to fund the breakfast through donations and grants. Even during the breakfast club she never stops teaching, reviewing the upcoming day’s material with students while she dishes out breakfast food.
As an ELL teacher, Masters is also focused on the District 54 goal of closing the achievement gap. At Stevenson, she developed an extended-day kindergarten which provided 50 minutes of literacy and math instruction in a small-group setting for ELL and at-risk kindergarten students.
Mead Junior High School nominated a team of four employees who sponsor and support the Mead Interact Club and Mead Rotary Prep Club – Melinda Andrews, Elizabeth James, Amelia Reimel and Lynn Pahl.
The mission of Mead Rotary Prep is to develop and facilitate leadership opportunities in the school and community for at-risk students. Pahl and Reimel inspired students to become active in after-school projects, such as organizing and planning fundraising opportunities, sorting and stocking the District 54 Food Pantry and planning for whole-school assemblies.
Interact Club is a worldwide organization for youth interested in service and international understanding. This year, with the support of Andrews and James, the Interact Club raised funds for medical support in Haiti, organized a walk to find a cure for juvenile diabetes and held a food drive to help the disadvantaged families of District 54.
In 2007, District 54 set a goal that students who have attended District 54 schools for at least one year will read at grade level upon entering third grade. There were some who did not believe all students could learn. Hindman, as the assistant superintendent for special education, championed the cause of the students she served.
She introduced District 54 to MAP (Measures of Academic Progress), an assessment that measures academic growth over time. She also introduced RtI (Response to Intervention), demonstrating that all students could show growth through high-quality instruction combined with interventions and enrichment based on individual student need. She noticed that students were sometimes being given Individualized Education Plans and labeled as special education students, when they showed signs of not making sufficient progress academically. Under the RtI Framework, students are now getting the help they needed without being labeled as a special education student.
Burke has been an integral part of the team involved in bringing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education to District 54. She accompanied district leaders on a visit to a school district in Syracuse, N.Y. to learn how to implement the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) curriculum in District 54.
She has also demonstrated her leadership skills when she was the science department chair at Addams Junior High School. Her reputation for leading the department as a Professional Learning Community (PLC) led the science teachers at the other five schools serving seventh- and eighth-grade students to visit the Addams science team in order to improve their instruction. Burke was described as “a leader among leaders and a teacher among teachers.”
Lopez taught students with emotional and behavioral difficulties in a self-contained classroom at Fox for 11 years. She was involved in co-teaching with general education teachers before it was a district priority. She would often bring her students from the self-contained classrooms into the general education environment before that was the norm in District 54.
For the last two years she has served as a special education instructional coach. Principals, teachers and support staff often comment on the impact she has had in helping them serve their most challenging students both academically and behaviorally.
Mostacci was nominated for his role in creating an environment in all 27 District 54 schools which is conducive to student learning.
In one example of putting student needs first, last year District 54 welcomed a new student who has an allergy to fluorescent lighting. Mostacci researched the allergy and alternative lighting sources and led the change of the entire classroom lighting from fluorescent to LED lighting. He made the change quickly, so this child could attend the first day of school like everyone else.
David Luzwick and Mindi Turf
Luzwick and Turf were part of a group of educators who support the Special Olympics Illinois Project Unify Youth Activation Committee by facilitating youth involvement in promoting inclusion of students with disabilities in their schools.
Youth Activation Committee members provide leadership to Special Olympics, Project UNIFY and school districts by participating in events, providing advice on how to reach other youth, engaging in and promoting Special Olympics activities in their schools and districts, communicating and networking with other educators and youth around the state, and reviewing Project UNIFY materials for innovation and viability.
The Illinois State Board of Education will honor all District 54 representatives during its 39th annual Those Who Excel banquet on Oct. 19 in Normal.