School District 54 has been recognized as a model Professional Learning Community (PLC) for its sustained success in raising student achievement. PLCs are schools and districts in which educators recognize that the key to improved learning for students is ongoing, job-embedded learning for the staff who serve those students.
District 54 was one of 13 districts in the United States and Canada to be selected as a 2017 model PLC based on strict criteria, including demonstration of a commitment to PLC concepts, implementation of these concepts for at least three years, and clear evidence of improved student learning over that period. As a recognized model PLC, District 54 appears on www.allthingsplc.info, a website to share implementation strategies, structures, and performance with other educators interested in improving their schools.
The District 54 PLC journey began in the summer of 2005, when all administrators read Whatever It Takes and attended staff development on PLCs. The first step to forming collaborative teams is having all staff members involved in drafting the mission, vision, collective commitments and goals. A Board Goals Committee was created during the 2006-07 school year to write such a document, which continues to be updated.
The new mission became the foundation for the next steps. A Goals Communication Committee was formed to ensure that all staff members, parents and students were aware of the new mission, vision, collective commitments and goals. The mission of a school district is essential to its success – however, that only holds true if all stakeholders understand and embrace that mission. As part of this process we also adopted three goals for the district. One of these goals was that “At least 90% of all students will meet or exceed standards in reading and math as measured by both district and state assessments.” As more of our schools have met, or are on their way to meeting this goal, they have participated in audits which have shown that District 54 is succeeding in providing PLCs that have positive impacts on students and staff. Each audit offered some suggestions for improvement which staff has embraced to better support students.
District 54 is the largest elementary school district in the state of Illinois featuring a diverse collection of 28 schools. Prior to the implementation of PLC principles, there was tremendous variance in schooling experiences for students across the district. PLCs have been instrumental in bringing the entire school system into focus and in providing students with the educational experiences they truly need in order to be successful. Today, more than ever, District 54 is living up to its credo of “Ensuring Student Success.” PLC implementation has been the number one factor in our success, and District 54 continues to focus on collaborative processes with 10 successful years of PLC implementation. District 54 continues to be recognized as an All Things PLC district, one of 13 in the United States, and has been visited by many districts from across the country and around the world for our cross-cutting work in the areas of PLCs, School Improvement Processes, STEM, Dual Language, Inclusion, and the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.
On the web site, allthingsplc.com, District 54 details how it has achieved success through three PLC concepts:
1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.
District 54 administers the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment to students in kindergarten through eighth grade three times each year in mathematics and reading. This adaptive, computerized assessment precisely identifies a student’s strengths and areas where he needs further assistance. Teachers receive immediate feedback (within 24 hours), allowing them to provide appropriate instruction for each child. By administering MAP three times each year, we can measure a child’s growth over the course of the year. The results help us tailor instruction to the individual student, and also provide data for the school and the district to evaluate programs and curriculum.
2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.
In 2008 District 54 adopted its Response to Intervention (RtI) plan. The key to RtI is simple: If we provide quality instruction, with all of our personnel supporting all children, and do this early, we will meet our District 54 goal of getting all students to grade level in reading and math. Each school has set two 30-minute intervention and extension blocks each day (one or two periods for junior high students) for every grade level. During this time, students across a grade level are regrouped based on the instructional needs identified by the data from common assessments and from other reliable data. Students in need of additional support work with teachers in small group settings who have the training and expertise to accelerate learning for our most struggling learners. Students who have mastered the identified skill receive extension from gifted or classroom teachers.
3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.
District 54 dismisses students 30 minutes early every Wednesday so that staff can have additional time to meet to monitor student progress, develop common assessments and discuss appropriate interventions and enrichment. In addition, each school was charged with creating a master schedule that allowed for team collaboration.
Collaborative teams in District 54 focus on the four key questions of the PLC.
- What do all students need to know and be able to do?
- How will we know if they learned it?
- How will we intervene for students who don’t learn our essential outcomes?
- How will we extend for students who already know our essential outcomes?
District 54 is one of only 13 districts listed on the website, www.allthingsplc.info. In addition to being listed as a district, there are five District 54 schools on the site as well: Enders-Salk, Hanover Highlands and Muir elementary schools and Eisenhower and Keller junior high schools.
Dooley Principal Beth Erbach and District 54 School Board President Mary Kay Prusnick surprised staff and students with the announcement during an all-school assembly, which kicked off a week of activities and events celebrating the award with Dooley students, staff and families.
“Dooley is an awesome place to be because of our parents and all the support they give us, the staff here and at the district office, and finally you – our students – because you work so hard here every single day,” Erbach told the students. “This is a very special award and a very high honor.”
The National Blue Ribbon School Program honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools where students achieve at high levels or where the achievement gap is narrowing. Dooley was chosen as a school whose students are high performing. Dooley offers a comprehensive education for students living within the school boundaries, and is also home to students from throughout the district who enrolled in the Japanese-English Dual Language and Early Instrumental Music (violin) programs at Dooley.
“It is my privilege to congratulate the Dooley staff, students, parents and the whole community on this tremendous distinction,” School Board President Mary Kay Prusnick said during the assembly. “We are so proud to say that in its 50th year, Dooley’s academic excellence and exciting programming is proof positive that Districts like ours can offer our families choice within a rigorous and outstanding public school setting.”
Click here to view a video of life at Dooley School, which was shown at today’s assembly.
Seven other District 54 schools have previously received the Blue Ribbon Award. They are Mead Junior High School, Collins Elementary School, Armstrong Elementary School, Stevenson Elementary School, Link Elementary School, Frost Junior High School and Fairview Elementary School.
Before selecting National Blue Ribbon Schools, the Department of Education asks for nominations from the top education official in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Department of Defense Education Activity and the Bureau of Indian Education. The schools are then invited by the U.S. Secretary of Education to submit an application for possible recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School.
In its 35-year history, more than 8,500 schools have received a National Blue Ribbon award. The U.S. Department of Education will recognize the 2017 National Blue Ribbon Schools at a conference and awards ceremony Nov. 6 and 7 in Washington, D.C. A list of the 2017 National Blue Ribbon Schools is available at http://www.ed.gov/nationalblueribbonschools.
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.
District 54 has been recognized as a national District of Distinction for its Targeted Assistance Program (TAP), a 10-week program that supports English Learner students in developing their writing skills.
Districts of Distinction is a national annual recognition program created by District Administration Magazine to “honor school districts that are leading the way with new ideas that work,” notes the District Administration website. Click here to read District 54’s recognition on the District Administration website.
TAP was developed by the District 54 Department of Language and Culture after a review of assessment data from the spring of 2015 indicated that writing is the area of greatest need for English Learner students. The program was launched in the 2015-16 school year for second- through eighth-grade students. More than 1,200 District 54 students participated in TAP in 2016-17.
TAP is connected to science and social studies content and concentrates on independent writing, with a focus on expository writing in the early grades and opinion/argumentative writing in sixth through eighth grade. TAP meets meet after school twice a week for 10 weeks beginning in early October. Students focus on one particular topic at a time, such as weather.
“The students are very interested in learning and writing about these topics,” said Danette Meyer, assistant superintendent of language and culture for District 54. “The design allows students extended time for writing. They build their stamina throughout the program and by the end they are writing for 50 minutes at a time.”
TAP directly supports the district goal of getting every student to their grade level academically, and is aligned with the Traits Writing program and English Language proficiency standards. More than 100 teachers have been trained to deliver Targeted Assistance and provided with interactive flipcharts, lesson plans, videos, visuals and student reflection pages to support planning and instruction. The structure of the lessons and the training the district provided these TAP teachers has benefitted many classroom teachers, as TAP teachers share ideas during Professional Learning Community (PLC) planning meetings that can then be incorporated into classroom writing lessons.
Feedback from students and staff after the first year of TAP was overwhelmingly positive, with 97 percent of teachers stating that their students were much better – and more confident – writers than when they began the program. In 2015, a total of 570 District 54 students met the State of Illinois’ English proficiency criteria as measured by the ACCESS assessment; in 2016 this number jumped to 707 students – 24 percent of District 54’s English Learner students, compared with 15.9 percent of English Learner students statewide.
“We are honored to be recognized for our Targeted Assistance Writing Program, which is a success due to the efforts of many people,” Meyer said. “This includes the English Learner instructional coaches Kristine Belt, Nicole Lumpp and Nancy Hellstrom who have developed quality curricular resources for our English Learners; more than 100 District 54 EL and classroom teachers willing to extend their workday to teach the program; the support and planning of our building principals; and most importantly the students who stay after school to continue working to become better writers each day.”
District 54 is proud to announce the following recipients of Distinguished Service Awards for 2017 from the Illinois chapter of the National School Public Relations Association (INSPRA).
- The District 54 Parent Educators – Dayna Prochaska, Jennifer Weisler and Erin Wolaver – won an Award of Excellence in the Team category.
- Lori Durchslag, a fifth- and sixth-grade magnet teacher and webmaster at Campanelli Elementary School in Schaumburg, won an Award of Excellence in the Faculty/Certified Staff category.
- Scott Ross, principal of Frost Junior High in Schaumburg, won an Award of Excellence in the administrator category.
- Teri Shoemaker and Barb Boeing, secretaries at Hoover Math and Science Academy in Schaumburg, won an Award of Merit in the Support Staff category.
- Mia Buttita, Juliana Klups and Katya Cangiano, fourth-grade students at Churchill Elementary School in Schaumburg, won an Award of Merit in the Student category.
The statewide Distinguished Service Awards program honors individuals and groups who have consistently gone above and beyond on behalf of their schools and whose efforts have enhanced education and conveyed its importance to the community at large.
Mia Buttita, Juliana Klups and Katya Cangiano
After Mia Buttita, a Churchill fourth-grader, told classmates Juliana Klups and Katya Cangiano about the Buddy Bench at her previous school, the three lobbied for one on their playground.
Buddy Benches encourage inclusiveness by providing a place where students can sit if they are looking for someone to play with. They can also be used as a place to problem-solve with a classmate. The girls said they see kids playing outside by themselves who seem lonely, and they want everyone to have a chance to make new friends. After successfully pitching their idea to their principal, the students created a presentation for District 54’s assistant director of facilities. Due to the girls’ enthusiasm, along with their research, the district approved the idea and committed to matching the amount Churchill raised so two benches could be installed.
Mia, Juliana and Katya worked with the school’s Make a Difference Club to raise awareness and financial support for the Buddy Bench through a four-week Penny Wars challenge. They hung posters, created a dashboard to track fundraising progress, visited classrooms to encourage students to donate, and shared information on the morning announcements. The benches will be installed this summer.
Parents are their children’s first teachers, and District 54 is fortunate to have a dedicated team of Parent Educators who work diligently to ensure that the parents of the youngest learners in our community are the best teachers that they can be.
Dayna Prochaska, Jennifer Weisler and Erin Wolaver serve as a resource to meet the needs of families in District 54 with children from birth through age 5, as well as expectant parents. Some families may be in need of one-to-one support. During these visits the Parent Educators focus on facilitating positive interactions and enabling parents to support their children. Other families are invited to events at District 54’s four Community Resource Centers, where the Parent Educators facilitate a variety of weekly parent-child interaction opportunities.
Dayna, Jennifer and Erin work tirelessly to determine the needs of the families they serve and connect them with resources in the district and through outside agencies. They do whatever is needed to support the families, even accompanying them to medical visits and assisting with job searches. The Parent Educators also model collaboration through their communication with other agencies serving the same families.
Lori Durchslag is officially a District 54 teacher. Unofficially, she is the chief communicator, booster and supporter of Campanelli School.
Lori was hired at Campanelli in August 2012 and became the school’s webmaster in 2014. She regularly updates the site and supports teachers with developing classroom sites. She also runs a Press Club, allowing students to contribute stories and photos to the school’s website, providing them with authentic writing opportunities. Lori’s work was highlighted this summer when the district redesigned its websites. The district adopted a module design, giving school webmasters more flexibility and allowing them to prioritize the important content for their school. Lori added unique ideas that administrators encouraged other schools to include.
To further enhance communication, Lori started a Facebook site. To launch the page, students were given a “Flat Cody” (the school mascot is Cody the Cougar) and asked to post photos of Cody joining them on vacations and outings. This generated interest in the new Facebook page and kept the children connected to school last summer.
Frost Principal Scott Ross has two areas of focus for his communication: High Achievement and Positive Culture. He looks for ways to recognize those traits in his students and staff and regularly fills his newsletters with information about how High Achievement and Positive Culture are reflected in the daily life at Frost. During Scott’s tenure at Frost also launched a Spanish website, Facebook and Twitter. While a teacher posts routine information, Scott also regularly posts photos, responds to comments and uses Facebook Live to give parents a glimpse inside the classroom.
Scott’s interpersonal communication is what really distinguishes him as a communication leader. He knows that people do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care. Scott takes time to connect with his students, demonstrates a genuine interest in them as individuals, and thanks them for making Frost an amazing place to work and learn. With staff, he keeps an open door and spends most of his time in their classrooms and during their collaborative professional development meetings observing and supporting.
This year he embedded Shawn Achor’s research on positive psychology into Frost’s daily routine. At the start of each school meeting, Scott has staff send a gratitude message to a colleague. Teachers took that example and implemented it in their classes, spreading the positive impact to students.
Teri Shoemaker and Barb Boeing
The Hoover Math and Science Academy secretaries have established strong relationships with staff, students and our community to support student learning and social-emotional well-being. Teri and Barb’s children attended Hoover, so Hoover is not just a job to them. It is their community.
Barb and Teri are quick to assist families and answer questions. Often they are the first to welcome families to Hoover and provide information to ensure a smooth transition. Barb and Teri are also excellent listeners. They process feedback from parents and share that information with district office staff, looking for ways to enhance processes across the district while ensuring that changes align with school code and board policy.
When they notice a communication gap, they close it. This year they developed a flyer to remind parents to call the school when their student is out sick. This secretarial team supports staff by solving dilemmas, offering to lend a hand, and coordinating special staff events – such as the “Souper Bowl” luncheon – to create a positive school culture.
INSPRA will honor all District 54 recipients during its annual Distinguished Service Awards luncheon on May 5 in Bolingbrook.
District 54 students Sai Jasmitha and Clara qualified for the national level in Reflections, a PTA writing and fine arts competition. The theme of the 2016-17 Reflections program was “What Is Your Story?” District 54 students were able to submit an entry in any of the following six arts areas: film production, dance choreography, literature, musical composition, photography and visual arts.
Sai Jasmitha, a second-grade student at Churchill, qualified in the dance choreography category for her entry What is Your Story.
Clara, a second-grade student at Lakeview, qualified in the special artist literature category for her entry Clara and the Shot Adventure and in the special artist musical composition category for her entry 12 Days of Tsum Tsumness.
Other District 54 students received honorable mentions at the state competition. They are as follows:
Alexander, Far Away, grade 3, Hoover
Aaron, “Change” which “Redesign,” grade 4, Churchill
Monika, Two Sides, grade 7, Mead
The motto of School District 54’s Early Learning Center is “creating superheroes one child at a time.” The ELC’s dedicated, innovative approach to educating the district’s youngest learners recently earned the program its second Award of Excellence from ExceleRate Illinois.
This year the ELC received the Award of Excellence for Preschool Teaching and Learning. Last spring the ELC received the Award of Excellence for the Inclusion of Children with Special Needs.
The District 54 ELC, which opened in 2014, currently serves 300 special education students ages 3 to 5 and 440 at-risk students ages 3 to 5. The extensive portfolio that ELC Principal Sue Mayernick submitted to ExceleRate Illinois discusses various aspects of District 54’s Early Childhood program that help to ensure student success. This includes hiring and training highly qualified and dedicated staff; creating nurturing, engaging classrooms and other learning spaces that encourage child-directed learning and play; scheduling time for staff to meet weekly in Professional Learning Communities to collaboratively plan and prepare lessons; and providing ongoing opportunities for parents to be active participants in their child’s learning.
“We are so very proud of our staff and the work we do together with District 54, our parents, and community to support our youngest learners,” Mayernick said.
For more information about District 54’s Early Childhood programs, visit https://sd54.org/resources/early-childhood/.
“This Award of Excellence demonstrates your program’s successful implementation of high-quality programming for preschool age children,” Cynthia Tate, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development wrote in a letter to Mayernick announcing the award.
ExceleRate Illinois is administered through the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (INCCRRA) under the joint direction of the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development, the Illinois Department of Human Services, and the Illinois State Board of Education.
District 54 is proud to announce the following recipients of the 2016 Illinois State Board of Education’s Those Who Excel Awards.
The District 54 English Learner Instructional Coaches won an Award of Excellence in the team category. More than 2,950 students received bilingual services in District 54 and another 1,300 students participate in the Spanish and Japanese dual language programs and Chinese immersion program. The English Learner Coaches serve the students and families in these programs, as well as the 76 teachers who support them in a variety of ways.
The team – Sonia Esquivel, Nancy Hellstrom, Rosie Hernandez, Seika Kobari, Kristine Wahlund and Rita Yao – first makes contact with many families at the District 54 Welcome Center. Every student new to the country or with another language spoken in the home is assessed by the team at our Welcome Center. Last year they assessed 1,359 students. They further support families by coordinating Adult ESL classes and working with the Bilingual Parent Advisory Council to plan a yearly Multicultural Event that draws more than 1,300 participants.
The coaches support teachers by providing professional development at schools, modeling lessons, planning with grade-level teams and problem-solving around students who are struggling. This team has also developed curriculum and selected materials in Spanish, Japanese and Chinese so that our dual and immersion programs align with the District 54 English/Language Arts and Social Studies curriculum, as well as developing the curriculum for after-school and summer programs for English Learners.
Lisa Garza, a behavior coach at the Muir Literacy Academy in Hoffman Estates, won an Award of Merit in the student support personnel category.
Lisa began her career in District 54 as a special services teacher, working to ensure not only the academic success of students but also their social and emotional well-being. In her current role, Lisa works closely not only with students, but with teachers to find the correct support each student needs.
Lisa builds strong relationships with her student’s parents/guardians, working collaboratively with families in order to achieve the goal of student success. When working with students, Lisa stays in frequent communication with parents regarding their child’s behavioral and academic progress.
Lisa is also a leader among her colleagues. Lisa meets individually with teachers to proactively develop strategies to ensure students are successful in the classrooms. Not only does she meet with teachers daily in this informal structure, but she also leads Muir’s problem-solving meetings to address identified areas of concern for students and develop manageable solutions for teachers. Her dedication to continual learning for both students and staff has been an immense benefit to the John Muir community.
Magali Williams, a fourth-grade teacher at the Muir Literacy Academy in Hoffman Estates, won an Award of Merit in the classroom teacher category. Magali is known in the community for her strong relationships with students and their families, as well as her collaborative, supporting relationship with colleagues. She began her career in District 54 as a bilingual resource teacher, working directly with students and their families and supporting other teachers who served bilingual students.
In addition to communicating with students during the school day, Magali frequently reaches out to their parents to share both their academic and behavioral progress. She values the connection with school and home and puts in many hours speaking to and meeting with parents/guardians in order to support her students. All of her interactions are solution-focused and work to build a positive working relationship with the school and home.
Magali also demonstrates leadership in all of her interactions with her colleagues. During her team planning meetings, Magali takes a leadership role in ensuring that the students are exposed to a rigorous curriculum with tightly aligned teaching strategies. She is an expert at guiding conversations to assist teachers in reflecting on their teaching and identifying action steps that can be taken to ensure the success of all students. Magali’s priority is all students, not just the students assigned to her classroom. She is often seen meeting with teachers on her own time to guide and coach them on topics such as literacy, classroom management, technology and overall professionalism.
Angela Mytych, a parent of two daughters who attended Collins Elementary and Frost Junior High School, won an Award of Merit in the volunteer category.
The Mytych family started volunteering at Collins when the oldest daughter began school in 2005. They held almost every PTA Board position at Collins, including chairing many committees that supported the students. Although the award was presented to Angela, her husband, Jeff, and her mother, Chris Jez, have also been supporting District 54 students for many years.
As their daughters moved on to Frost, the Mytych family got involved there as well. Angela served as the Frost PTA president from 2013 through 2015, and Jeff picked up the role during the 2015-2016 school year. In their roles over the past three years, both Jeff and Angela turned around a PTA that was in debt and struggling to gain members to a PTA that now has a surplus of funds and recently had the highest membership gain in School District 54. When the Frost PTA decided to provide hot lunch for our students once a week, Chris volunteered to facilitate the program. She planned the program, worked with vendors and arrived early every Friday to ensure the program runs efficiently. In her free time, she also oversaw picture days at Frost.
As if their service to the PTA wasn’t enough, the Mytych family also worked closely with the District 54 Special Olympics program. The entire family has volunteered over the years to work with our students with disabilities in a variety of sports.
Jillian Sagan, the principal Blackwell School in Schaumburg, won an Award of Recognition in the administrator category for her work as the principal at Mead Junior High School. Under Jillian’s leadership, the students at Mead excelled academically. Mead was identified as one of the top 20 middle schools in Illinois by the Daily Herald newspaper, with 72% of students meeting or exceeding standards on PARCC in 2015. In the last three years, Mead has continued to meet higher academic targets each year with more than 94% of students meeting our district MAP proficiency goal. This goal states that each school will perform at or above the 90th percentile (top 10% nationally) in meeting individual student growth targets in reading and math.
While celebrating these academic accomplishments, Jillian focused Mead’s School Improvement Plan goals on supporting students who required additional supports to reach their full potential. Her professional development sessions targeted differentiation strategies to meet the needs of all students.
While academics are important, Jillian also focuses on the whole student. An example of her ability to bring staff and students together around a common goal was a graduation ceremony she created for a student, who had been battling a terminal illness and was disappointed he would not graduate with his eighth-grade class. Jillian planned a commencement ceremony in mid-March which included the pomp and circumstance, band performances, speeches and other graduation rites of passage.
The Illinois State Board of Education will honor all District 54 representatives during its annual Those Who Excel banquet on Oct. 22 in Normal.
This month the District 54 Early Learning Center was recognized as one of three early childhood programs in the state of Illinois to receive the Award of Excellence for the Inclusion of Children with Special Needs.
Awards of Excellence are the highest tier awarded by ExceleRate Illinois, a statewide quality recognition and improvement system. The program recognizes early learning providers for adopting the best practices and research-based strategies which support the highest quality services for Illinois’ most high-need, at-risk children and families.
The District 54 Early Learning Center, which opened in August 2015, supports more than 740 at-risk and special needs children.
For more information about the award visit http://www.excelerateillinois.com/about/what-is-excelerate-illinois.