District 54 announces five Those Who Excel Awards
District 54 is proud to announce the following recipients of the 2017 Illinois State Board of Education’s Those Who Excel Awards.
- Beth Farr, a social worker at the district’s Early Learning Center, won an Award of Excellence in the student support personnel category.
- Laura (Torpe) Robinson, a math teacher at Jane Addams Junior High in Schaumburg, won an Award of Excellence in the Early Career Educator category.
- District 54’s Digital Learning Coaches won an Award of Merit in the team category.
- Colette Bell, the principal of Anne Fox Elementary School in Hanover Park, won an Award of Recognition in the administrator category.
- Yessenia Medina Santiago, a kindergarten dual language teacher at Adolph Link Elementary School in Elk Grove Village, won an Award of Recognition in the classroom teacher category.
When District 54 began the journey to make Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS) an integral part of all 28 schools, Beth embraced the challenge. Beth has been a part of the executive PBIS teams at each of the three levels (early childhood, elementary school and junior high school), and helped others implement this proactive approach to establishing behavioral supports and positive social culture for all students with fidelity and integrity.
Beth and her social work department are leaders in connecting financially struggling families with resources available in District 54, including two food pantries and one clothing closet. Beth also organizes the district’s Clinical Assistance Program, which provides five free counseling sessions to families and students. She helps connect District 54 social workers with community agencies involved in this program and recently recruited another agency to join. Beth has been involved in a wraparound group that helped many families obtain needed services to help them get back to independent living by providing car services, furniture and medication, and she is currently involved with a multiple community organization called Positive Youth Development.
Laura (Torpe) Robinson
Laura (Torpe) Robinson, a math teacher at Jane Addams Junior High, believes that all students can learn, and she translates that belief on to reluctant learners while still pushing those that have a natural aptitude for mathematics. Laura balances a kind, caring approach with high expectations for achievement for all students. Through individualized learning, small-group guided instruction and much cheerleading, Laura enables students to learn more than they ever thought they could. Her genuineness is infectious, and students are excited each day to come to class, knowing they will be engaged in new and creative ways.
In her short time as a staff member in District 54, Laura has demonstrated a commitment to her profession and her colleagues. Within her department, Laura has taken on a leadership role and has brought new ideas and strategies to engage all students at Addams. She volunteered to be a pilot teacher for the district’s new Chromebook initiative and readily applied her new learning to her classroom. In doing so, she has become a resource for other teachers in her building and the district. Laura went above and beyond in researching new applications for Chromebooks and applied them seamlessly to enhance her instruction.
Last school year Laura took on the additional role of co-PBIS coordinator for Addams (Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports). She has been instrumental in many new ideas to keep students engaged in positive behaviors and in giving back to the larger community, and she helped to create many recognition opportunities around last year’s building theme of “Embrace the Target.”
Digital Learning Coaches
In a district of 28 schools serving almost 15,000 students, it is important for us to keep up with best practices and to make sure our students have the most relevant tools and resources to prepare them for college and career. Our five Digital Learning coaches, part of a new sector of our Department of Teaching and Learning, have their entire day blocked out to provide instructional technology support to departments, administration, individual teachers, and students district-wide. Teachers reach out to the Digital Learning coaches about using a technology tool for teaching and learning. The coaches research the technology and request a time to meet to discuss alignment to the curriculum and implementation. Each Digital Learning coach takes time to listen to what the teachers and students actually need, and they begin providing support by understanding the staff member’s technology skill set. This approach makes our teachers and students feel comfortable and willing to learn the new technology or strategy at hand.
The Digital Learning coaches played a key role in the successful first-year implementation of the Chromebooks in our junior high schools. They invested a great deal of hard work and time into creating Digital Citizenship lessons for our students, as well as appropriate Chromebook and Google training modules.
The coaches go above and beyond to stay connected to what is available for our staff and students. They meet weekly to discuss new strategies, and they also are part of a Professional Learning Network with neighboring districts and other instructional coaches.
Colette Bell, the principal of Anne Fox Elementary School in Hanover Park, is the living embodiment of believing all students deserve the very best educational opportunity. She views student success as both academic and social/emotional growth and achieves this growth by fostering trusting relationships with students, staff, parents and the community.
Every student knows they are loved, cared for and respected as part of the Fox community. Colette knows the needs of her students and partners with others to provide opportunities for support. Colette fostered the development of many after-school clubs where students remain in the safe environment of the school, while enjoying fun learning opportunities beyond the school hours.
Colette’s connection to the community is evident in the many events she develops for community outreach. She is seen knocking on the doors of students’ homes the day before school starts to let them know she and the entire Fox staff are excited for them to come back for another school year. She opens the school doors for many events that make families feel the school is an extension of their home. At a recent event celebrating reading and writing, there was a line of families around the school to enter because they know it will be a worthy event focused on their children. Colette creates this sense of community with a meal provided for all families and a central theme for the event that includes the involvement of every student. You can hear Colette at these events addressing families by name, including students that aren’t even of school age yet who attend with older siblings.
Yessenia Medina Santiago
Yessenia serves Link Elementary as the kindergarten dual language teacher, teaching half of the day in English and half of the day in Spanish. This position takes a uniquely qualified teacher. Yessenia is a gifted teacher in both languages, helping all of her students become bilingual. Each year, she has worked collaboratively to develop a meaningful curriculum that extends and enriches, as well as provides authentic opportunities for students to learn in two languages. Yessenia has committed herself to ensuring success for each student in her classroom, grade level and school and works tirelessly to find creative ways in which to best reach students.
Yessenia has also served the students in all grade levels as their bilingual teacher, working hard to help them transition from bilingual services. She has run numerous clubs, including a Spanish club for all primary students, and has served on the Link School Leadership Team for the past three years. Yessenia is a key contributor to Link’s annual Multicultural Night, a wonderful community event during which families can wander through the classrooms to learn about different countries, participate in traditional dances, listen to a wide variety of music and watch a skit performed in Spanish by students.
Yessenia has also joined district committees and task forces and has presented at our districtwide staff symposium, sharing her teaching expertise with District 54 employees from all 28 schools. She has also volunteered to present at informational nights for parents and translate for Spanish-speaking families at evening classes.
The Illinois State Board of Education will honor all District 54 representatives during its annual Those Who Excel banquet on Oct. 28 in Normal, Illinois.