For Immediate Release
Monday, May 20, 2024

ISBE hosts 50th Annual Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year Banquet

​Event celebrates excellence in education, honoring 488 exceptional Illinois educators 

Bloomington-Normal, Ill.– The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) celebrated the 2024 Illinois Teacher of the Year Cohort and Those Who Excel awardees at a banquet in Bloomington-Normal on May 18 with more than 1,000 guests. The program included acknowledgements from Governor JB Pritzker, State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tony Sanders, ISBE Board Chair and 1998 Illinois Teacher of the Year Dr. Steven Isoye, 2023 Illinois Teacher of the Year Briana Morales, and 2024 Teacher of the Year Dr. Rachael Mahmood. Dr. Lindsey Jensen, the 2018 Illinois Teacher of the Year and state coordinator for Educators Rising Illinois, emceed the evening's festivities.

The annual Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year Awards Banquet, sponsored by ISBE for honorees and their guests, recognizes the incredible work happening in and around Illinois schools and celebrates the exemplary educators who go above and beyond to make positive impacts in their school communities. Honorees include outstanding classroom teachers, administrators, teams, volunteers, educational service personnel, and school support personnel.

View the list of this year's awardees. See photos of the event. See Gov. Pritzker's official congratulatory message.

“To all of our educators, thank you for listening to the voice in your soul that calls you to build a career around students,” said Dr. Sanders. “A career in education can involve some late nights – coaching sports, sponsoring clubs, making phone calls home. The annual Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year Banquet is our opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to Illinois’ exceptional educators, who shape lives and influence students’ futures in profoundly positive ways. There is truly no better profession than education, and we celebrate Illinois’ educators for the remarkable impact they make.”

“The annual Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year Banquet is not just a one-night celebration but a gateway to new opportunities,” said Dr. Isoye. “The Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year program holds deep significance because it fosters lifelong connections and opportunities for growth. We are honored to recognize remarkable educators from across Illinois who form the collective heartbeat of the education profession, igniting students’ minds and building bridges to brighter tomorrows.”

“And as I stand here today, surrounded by fellow educators who have left an indelible mark on the educational landscape, I am reminded of the true measure of our success,” said Dr. Mahmood in her remarks at the banquet. “It's not the grand initiatives or projects that define us, but the moments of transformation we witness in our students — their journey from doubt to self-belief, from struggle to triumph.”

ISBE received a record number of nominations and applications for the 2024 Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year Awards. Dr. Mahmood, a fifth grade teacher at Georgetown Elementary School in Indian Prairie Community Unit School District 204, was among 488 Illinoisans from all parts of the state who were honored at the 50th annual banquet. Comfort Agboola, a middle school teacher in Chicago Public Schools who received the prestigious 2024 Milken Educator Award in February, was honored for that achievement as well.

Dr. Mahmood will share her knowledge and expertise with an even larger audience via a state-funded ambassadorship beginning in July. 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.

Learn more about the Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year program on the ISBE Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year webpage​.