For Immediate Release
Monday, August 27, 2018

Meet the 2019 Illinois Teacher of the Year finalists

​State Superintendent to name 2019 Illinois Teacher of the Year Oct. 20

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) today announced the 10 finalists for the 2019 Illinois Teacher of the Year. The nominees transcend heroism: a social studies teacher who redefines who “belongs” in Advanced Placement history; a poetry teacher who shows students the world, figuratively and literally; a special education teacher whose students operate the most popular coffee shop on the block. ISBE will name one individual from the 10 finalists as the 2019 Illinois Teacher of the Year during the Those Who Excel banquet in October. 

“Our Teacher of the Year finalists are heroes,” said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. “They represent the best in the profession and the very best of Illinois. These educators make each student feel known and cared for. At a time when some would harden our schools, these educators build the relationships that make our communities whole and strong.” 
A selection committee composed of administrators, teachers, educational service personnel, student support personnel, and past Illinois Teacher of the Year winners reviewed 214 Teacher of the Year nominations this year. The state’s annual educator recognition banquet and program acknowledges the contributions and accomplishments of more than 200 extraordinary educators and school personnel from throughout the state. 

Lindsey Jensen represented Illinois as the state’s 2018 Teacher of the Year. Jensen teaches English at Dwight High School in Dwight Public Schools District 230. 

"The Illinois Teacher of the Year is gifted with an incredible platform to advocate for teachers, students, and equity,” Jensen said. “It has been my great honor to fiercely and unapologetically advocate for education in Illinois." 

ISBE will announce the 2019 Illinois Teacher of the Year during the Those Who Excel banquet on Saturday, Oct. 20, at the Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Normal. The Teacher of the Year will represent Illinois at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., and in the Council of Chief State School Officers’ National Teacher of the Year Program.

The 2019 Illinois Teacher of the Year finalists are listed below. ISBE will highlight one finalist per week in the Superintendent’s Weekly Message leading up to the banquet in October.

Lindsay Adams teaches chemistry, physics, forensic science, and unified science at Gallatin County High School, located in Junction, in Gallatin County Community Unit District 7.

Roger Baldwin teaches chemistry, physics, physical science, and theater/drama at Clinton High School, located in Clinton, in Clinton Community Unit School District 15.

Susan Converse is a special education teacher at Edwardsville High School, located in Edwardsville, in Edwardsville Community Unit School District 7.

Richard “Rick” Coppola teaches language arts at South Loop Elementary School, located in Chicago, in Chicago Public Schools 299.

LoriAnne Frieri, Ed.D., is a social studies teacher at William Fremd High School, located in Palatine, in Township High School District 211.

Stephanie Lerch teaches fifth-grade math and science at Red Bud Elementary School, located in Red Bud, in Red Bud Community Unit School District 132.

Benjamin Luginbuhl is a vocal music/chorus teacher who also teaches AP music theory and American popular music at Normal Community High School, located in Normal, in McLean County Unit School District 5.

Sara Magnafichi teaches first grade at Admiral Byrd Elementary School, located in Elk Grove, in Community Consolidated School District 59.

William “Bill” Polasky is a social studies teacher in grades 9-12 at Stillman Valley High School, located in Stillman Valley, in Meridian Community Unit School District 223.  

Katherine Whitington, Ph.D., teaches English, dual-credit philosophy, Advanced Placement English literature, and composition at Percy L. Julian High School, located in Chicago, in Chicago Public Schools 299.

For photos and more information about the finalists, please contact the ISBE Office of Communications at (217) 782-4648.