March 8, 2022

District 54 is proud to announce that the following individuals were recognized with a 2022 Illinois State Board of Education’s Those Who Excel Award:

  • Scott Ross, principal of Mead Junior High School;
  • Ingrid Ackerman, the head lunch supervisor at Addams Junior High School;
  • Sonia McKenzie, a kindergarten teacher at Stevenson Elementary School;
  • Joni Beniacs, the Health Services Chairperson and a nurse at Einstein Elementary School;
  • Lily Moradi, a Chinese Immersion teacher at Campanelli Elementary School;
  • Einstein Lunch Supervisor and PTA Volunteer Kim Morrissey; and
  • A Keller Junior High School Team for their efforts with distributing food on Friday evenings to financially struggling families.

Ingrid Ackerman – Award of Excellence
Ingrid’s title is “head lunch supervisor” but she does so much more for the Addams community. She chaperones dances, works at registration and parent conferences, has been an active member of the Addams PTA, sells spirit wear, sponsors Club Unify and makes every student feel a sense of welcome and belonging. She leads with her heart, demonstrating she cares in many ways such as buying fun lunch for those who can’t afford it, helping students find a peer to sit with at lunch, and spending extra time with special education students.  She is described as a natural problem-solver, a mentor to new parents and a role model for both students and staff.  Ingrid Ackerman Highlight Video

Scott Ross – Award of Excellence
Scott embodies what it means to be a servant leader, and by modeling this behavior, inspires all Mead staff to do the same. He has a clear vision for Mead Junior High and looks for ways to celebrate students and staff who are demonstrating character, achieving success and showing “Mead Made” behavior. He knows whom to recognize because he has taken the time to connect and engage with all students and staff, whether through regular meetings with department teams or simply interacting informally in the hallways or during lunch periods. Even during the pandemic, he continued to maintain a sense of calm, create a positive culture and create a sense of belonging (which can be difficult in a school that students only attend for two years). Scott Ross Highlight Video

Sonia McKenzie – Award of Meritorious Service
Sonia is an exemplar teacher for myriad reasons. Above all, she strives to connect with her students and families on a personal level. Sonia’s kindergarten students know that she cares for them and that, above all, they are loved. She shares the same kindness and support with colleagues. Not only do those that work alongside her know they can rely on her for an encouraging word, but she has also been a supportive force for the Stevenson and District 54 community, serving on the School Leadership Team and District 54’s Equity and Inclusion Task Force. Sonia is described by her colleagues as a kind and empathetic warm-demander. Sonia McKenzie Highlight Video

Joni Beniacs – Award of Meritorious Service
Joni leads the nursing team that is responsible for the health and well-being of all the students and staff. During the COVID pandemic, she had the added responsibility of creating protocols and monitoring the ever-changing state and CDC guidance to help District 54 implement mitigation strategies that would allow students and staff to stay healthy and attend school. At the same time, she never lost sight of the district’s goal of meeting the individual needs of each child. Her work as a nurse extends beyond caring for the sick child at school, by seeking out community resources to support students and their families at home as well. Nurses who nominated Joni for this award also commented on her leadership, mentorship and excellent communication skills. Joni Beniacs Highlight Video

Keller Food Distribution Team – Award of Meritorious Service
Another team that was honored for providing support outside the school day is a group we call the Keller Food Distribution Team. When the pandemic started last spring, District 54 partnered with Willow Creek Community Church to support financially struggling families in our school community. On every other Friday, Willow Creek sends a truck filled with boxes of food to the Keller parking lot and volunteers from the school district put the boxes into vehicles. The these individuals have consistently volunteered to work on Friday evenings to support anyone in the District 54 community who drives through. They have provided the community not only food, but a sense of support so important during the pandemic. Keller Team Highlight Video

Lily Moradi – Award of Meritorious Service
Lily, a first-/second-grade Chinese Immersion teacher, was nominated for her work ethic, her creativity and her dedication to her students and colleagues. Although she is only in her second year of teaching, she has been praised by her colleagues for supporting them with technology, introducing new approaches, and putting in extra time to connect with her students and their families, to ensure the social and emotional well-being of each child. Lily is also already demonstrating leadership at the district level, promoting equity and diversity as a member of the District 54 Equity and Inclusion Task Force. Lily Moradi Highlight Video

Kim Morrissey – Award of Meritorious Service
Kim no longer has students attending Einstein Elementary School, but agreed to lead the PTA last year as a community member in order to ensure the continuation of this beneficial organization and the school wide experiences the PTA has long-provided for students. While Kim also works as a lunch supervisor at Einstein, she was nominated in the volunteer category for the many hours she spends outside of her work day ensuring students and their families have food, clothing and any other outside resources they need. In addition to supporting students, Kim demonstrates gratitude to others and fosters a positive culture whenever she is in the school. Whatever is needed, Kim goes above and beyond to make things happen. Kim Morrissey Highlight Video