For Immediate Release
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Statewide “Those Who Excel” honorees announced

State Board to name 2018 Illinois Teacher of the Year at annual banquet for top educators Oct. 28​

NORMALThe Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced today the statewide recipients of the 2017-18 Those Who Excel awards. The Those Who Excel awards honor outstanding classroom teachers, educational leaders, and support personnel for their invaluable contributions to their schools and communities.  

State education officials will honor 235 outstanding Illinois educators at the sold-out 43rd annual Those Who Excel/Teacher of the Year Banquet. Honorees will include the 10 Teacher of the Year finalists, one of whom the State Board will name the top Illinois educator for 2018. Find a complete list of this year's recipients at

“It's a great time to be an educator in Illinois," said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. “The Those Who Excel award recipients show us how educators can unite communities and change students' lives. These educators showcase the dynamic work happening in schools across Illinois –from the high school principal helping students run their own technology business to the middle school teacher harnessing her own story of fortitude to inspire leadership in her students. Their efforts make the difference for students. I cannot thank our educators and educational leaders enough." 

Local school district leaders and members of school communities nominate candidates for Those Who Excel recognition. A committee of peers, organized by ISBE, chooses the award winners. The committee includes representatives from statewide education organizations, as well as former award winners. 

ISBE will honor the outstanding educators at the banquet on Saturday, Oct. 28, at the Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Normal. The 235 honorees will receive recognition on three levels – Recognition, Merit, and Excellence – and across multiple categories, including classroom teacher, school administrator, and student support personnel. 

The 2018 Teacher of the Year will serve as Illinois' ambassador for the teaching profession during the 2017-18 school year and will represent Illinois in the National Teacher of the Year program sponsored by VOYA Financial. Ricardo “Ricky" Castro, who teaches English as a second language, language arts, and Spanish at Elk Grove High School in Township High School District 214, served as Illinois' 2017 Teacher of the Year and ambassador for teaching during the 2016-17 school year. 

“It has been an honor to share how teachers today are everyday leaders who foster the social development, self-actualization, and academic growth needed to thrive in a diverse democratic country," said Castro. “I have been humbled throughout the year as I have observed the dedication, compassion, and excellence that Illinois teachers continuously display."  

For more information on ISBE's Those Who Excel program, please visit