For Immediate Release
Thursday, May 2, 2024

ISBE names Dr. Rachael Mahmood of Indian Prairie Community Unit School District 204 as the 2024 Illinois Teacher of the Year

Board Chair Dr. Steven Isoye honors Mahmood during surprise visit to Georgetown Elementary School

Aurora, Ill. – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) today named Dr. Rachael Mahmood (pronounced “RAY-chel may-MOOD”), a fifth grade teacher, as the 2024 Illinois Teacher of the Year. ISBE Chair Dr. Steven Isoye, Indian Prairie Community Unit School District 204 Superintendent Dr. Adrian Talley, and Georgetown Elementary School Principal Jill Keller surprised Mahmood with the announcement at her school today. View photos from the event

State Superintedent of Education Dr. Tony Sanders selected Mahmood from 13 finalists from across the state. As the 2024 Illinois Teacher of the Year, Mahmood will share her knowledge and expertise by serving an ambassadorship beginning in July. Mahmood will take a state-funded one-year sabbatical for the 2024-25 school year. She will represent Illinois on the national stage in the National Teacher of the Year program sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers.​

“Amidst an incredibly talented pool of educators across our state, Dr. Mahmood rose to the forefront," said Dr. Sanders. “Despite never feeling like she belonged in school as a student, she became a teacher and found her calling. Her journey fuels her passion for making each of her students understand that they belong. She has passion for the craft of teaching and embodies the qualities of an exceptional educator and inspiring leader. I could not imagine a more qualified candidate to hold the title of Illinois Teacher of the Year and to serve as our ambassador for the teaching profession." 

Mahmood has taught since 2005 and has spent the last nine years at Georgetown Elementary School. She creates relationships with her students and their families that leave a lasting impression of care and support. She has a passion for designing curriculum that affirms students' identities and engaging instructional methods that nurture their love for school. If a textbook does not adequately represent her students' cultures and engage them in identifying with the content, she does not hesitate to redesign the curriculum. Her fifth grade students learn through exploration, hands-on projects, field trips to museums, and even by teaching kindergartners what they have learned, and find ways they can use that knowledge to better their own communities. 

“Our role as educators is to adopt an asset-based mindset, leveraging the strengths, funds of knowledge, and social/cultural capital that each student brings to the classroom," said Dr. Mahmood in her nomination materials. "By harnessing our students' natural gifts, we inspire them to see that their ability to be successful, both inside and outside of the classroom, already lies within them. As we move with the natural gifts of our students, don't forget they ride on the coattails of the strength and richness of their families and communities. We must not only partner with our communities, but also learn from them." 

“We are honored and joyful that Dr. Rachael Mahmood has been selected as the Illinois Teacher of the Year!" said Dr. Talley. “She is the first teacher in Indian Prairie to receive this honor, and we believe it symbolizes all the great work she does in support of our students as well as the work of her fellow teachers. Dr. Mahmood embraces diversity, inclusivity, and a strong desire to ensure all her students are heard and appreciated.  We know she will do an outstanding job next year supporting and learning from teachers across the state."  

“Dr. Mahmood pours her heart and soul into her work daily, and she is always looking for innovative ways to engage students and the community," said Principal Keller. “Her work has made a huge impact on Georgetown Elementary and District 204, and we are overjoyed to celebrate her hard work and dedication." 

Dr. Mahmood was recognized as a semifinalist for the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance Award for Excellence award in 2020 and was a Distinguished Alumni semifinalist at Elmhurst University in 2021. She was honored with the Michael Feldman Educational Leadership Award from Elmhurst University and the Rising Star Alumni Award from Benedictine University, both in 2022. 

Over her two decades in education, she has chaired equity teams and a diversity advisory parent group, facilitated dialogue circles, delivered professional development, and authored curriculums within her district and across the state.   

Beyond the classroom, Dr. Mahmood writes for educational blogs, sharing strategies for culturally responsive teaching. She organizes interfaith dialogues to connect people across differences and understand their shared identities.   
In 2020, she started an educational consulting business designing professional development frameworks for educators and shares them on multiple social media platforms, under the handle @equityteacherleader. 

Learn more about 2024 Illinois Teacher of the Year Dr. Rachel Mahmood and ISBE's Teacher of the Year program on the ISBE Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year webpage.​​