District 54 students, staff named INSPRA Distinguished Service Award recipients

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.

The three studentsMia 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.

The parent educatorsParent Educators
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 Durschlag works with two members of the school's Press ClubLori Durchslag
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.

Scott Ross visits a class and speaks with studentsScott Ross
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 and Barb are ready to greet Hoover visitorsTeri 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 honored in PTA Reflections program

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:

Musical Composition

Alexander, Far Away, grade 3, Hoover


Aaron, “Change” which “Redesign,” grade 4, Churchill

Visual Arts

Monika, Two Sides, grade 7, Mead

District 54 Early Learning Center receives second Award of Excellence

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

“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 receives five Those Who Excel Awards

District 54 is proud to announce the following recipients of the 2016 Illinois State Board of Education’s Those Who Excel Awards.

English Learner Instructional Coaches
EL Coaches

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
Lisa Garza

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

Magali Williams

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

Mytych Family

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

Jillian Sagan

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.

ELC receives Award of Excellence

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