For Immediate Release
Thursday, February 2, 2023

ISBE honors 490 Illinoisans for extraordinary contributions to education across the state

​Awardees include 13 finalists for 2023 Illinois Teacher of the Year

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has honored 490 Illinoisans for their extraordinary contributions to education across the state through its annual Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year Awards. The awardees include 13 finalists for 2023 Illinois Teacher of the Year – the state’s top honor for classroom teachers. See full list of awardees.

The annual Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year Awards celebrate incredible classroom teachers, administrators, teams, volunteers, and school support personnel who have made lasting impacts on the students, families, and fellow educators in their school communities. ISBE will celebrate the awardees at a banquet on April 29.

“Illinois educators get up every day and perform one of the most difficult jobs in our state—and these excellent teachers, volunteers, and administrators honored by ISBE went above and beyond that already exceptional call to serve,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I’m thrilled to recognize teachers alongside librarians, custodians, volunteers, and other support personnel who all contribute to our students’ wellbeing. Just like Illinois as a whole, it takes many skills and roles to keep a school running and to build the next generation of outstanding Illinoisans. Congratulations to today’s honorees and on behalf of the State of Illinois, thank you for your service.”

“The Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year Awards recognize the people who make education in Illinois so incredible,” said interim State Superintendent of Education Krish Mohip. "Our finalists for Teacher of the Year are amazing. They are pushing the envelope in the classroom, empowering their students, and constantly striving to strengthen their craft. We are so proud to have these excellent educators, as well as amazing custodians, administrators, volunteers, counselors, librarians, and other school support personnel, delivering unparalleled excellence to our students every day.

Kim Radostits has represented Illinois as the 2022 Illinois Teacher of the Year and was recently named a finalist for 2023 National Teacher of the Year. She would be the first National Teacher of the Year from Illinois since 1968. She teaches high school Spanish at Oregon High School in Oregon Community Unit School District 220 and leads a freshman mentoring program known as Hawks Take Flight with the goal of keeping students on track for graduation in four years. ISBE provides the Illinois Teacher of the Year with a yearlong paid sabbatical to travel the state as an ambassador for the teaching profession.

“Serving as the Illinois Teacher of the Year has been the honor of a lifetime,” said Radostits. “The sabbatical has allowed me the opportunity to fully dedicate myself to making an impact as an ambassador to Illinois educators and advancing my goal of building systems that provide students with a sense of community where they feel valued and confident they can excel.”

The Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year Awards do not just recognize teachers. The annual awards also celebrate paraprofessionals, security guards, nutrition professionals, school nurses, librarians, school bus drivers, administrators, coaches, and volunteers who go above and beyond to make every student feel known and valued at school and who are essential to students’ success.

“It means so much to be recognized for being good at your job,” said Johnyell Owens, a campus security staff member in New Trier District 203. He was both a Those Who Excel honoree and an Illinois RISE Award nominee in 2022. “Being a support staff member, it is nice to see your work celebrated and valued in the community and at the state level. I feel how much I mean to my community.”

ISBE annually selects Regional Teachers of the Year and Bilingual, Special Education, and Early Childhood Teachers of the Year. Those with five or more years of teaching experience (indicated with an asterisk below) qualify as 2023 Illinois Teacher of the Year finalists. Each of these educators were notified of their selection by Dr. Ayala via surprise Zoom calls over the past week.

The 2023 regional and special subject Teachers of the Year are:

  • *Cook County – Anne Gray, music teacher at Franklin Elementary Fine Arts Center in City of Chicago School District 299
  • *Cook County – Sawsan Jaber, English teacher at East Leyden High School in Leyden High School District 212
  • *Cook County – Samantha Stearns, social studies teacher at Roosevelt Middle School in River Forest School District 90
  • *Cook County – Michael Ayala, Spanish teacher at John Hersey High School in Township High School District 214
  • *East Central – Katherine Bruemmer, English and career and technical education teacher at Heyworth Junior-Senior High School in Heyworth Community Unit School District 4
  • *North Suburbs – Amber Jirsa, English teacher at Batavia Senior High School in Batavia Public School District 101
  • *Northwest – Eugene Calingacion, special education teacher at Jones-Farrar, an International Baccalaureate World School in Freeport School District 145
  • *South Suburbs – Sara Szewczyk, English teacher at Summit Hill Junior High School in Summit Hill School District 161
  • *Southeast – Nicole Weh, special education teacher at Central Community High School in Central Community High School District 71
  • *Southwest – Briana Morales, English teacher at Gordon Bush Alternative School for Education in East St. Louis School District 189
  • *West Central – Madeline Wood, music teacher at United High School in United Community Unit School District 304
  • Bilingual – Ricardo King Jr., English and social studies teacher at Normal Community High School in McLean County Unit School District 5
  • *Early Childhood – Marcia Dodds, pre-K teacher at Prather Elementary School in Granite City Community Unit School District 9
  • *Special Education – Nicole McCormick, special education and employment/transition teacher at Forest View Educational Center- Specialized Schools in Township High School District 214

ISBE also awards one Outstanding Early Career Educator who has less than five years of experience and has demonstrated excellence and leadership beyond their years:

  • Outstanding Early Career Educator – Gariecia Rose, social studies teacher at Glenbard East High School in Glenbard Township High School District 87

ISBE received a record number of nominations and applications for the 2023 Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year Awards. A committee of administrators, teachers, educational service personnel, student support personnel, and past Illinois Teachers of the Year selected this year’s awardees. The Illinois state superintendent of education will select the 2023 Illinois Teacher of the Year from the finalists later this spring. The Illinois Teacher of the Year will represent Illinois in the Council of Chief State School Officers’ National Teacher of the Year Program.

Please visit the ISBE website​ for photos and bios of the 2023 Illinois Teacher of the Year finalists along with more information about the awards.