I scoffed at former finalists when they said, “Nothing would ever be the same.” Turns out, they were right! Since being recognized as a Regional Teacher of the Year, it feels like doors have been removed from hinges. It's not that my power of influence has changed, but rather, I feel confident enough to use my voice to fight for changes. What surprised me the most was that people want to listen.

Brandon Thornton, 2021 Regional Teacher of the Year

Being an ISBE TOY Finalist has been a wonderful experience. I've met the most selfless, hardworking, and dedicated teachers through the ILSTOY and NNSTOY family. I’m now able to be a voice for many of our teachers that are not seen or heard. Thank you ISBE for this wonderful opportunity!

​Precious Allen, 2021 Regional Teacher of the Year

An ILSTOY award is not a trophy that collects dust – it is an invitation to continue elevating your practice in a community of creative, committed teachers.

Aaron Sitze, 2021 Regional Teacher of the Year

Taking the leap of faith and deciding to go through with the application process was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. I have met so many amazing people and there are so many doors that have been opened for me to advocate for my students and other teachers. I will never forget the feeling of being announced as 2021 Illinois Teacher of the Year.

​Justin Johnson, 2021 Teacher of the Year

Being selected as the first Special Education Teacher of the Year in Illinois has been an incredible honor. It’s exciting that many more special education teachers will be awarded in the future, and this recognition can raise awareness of all the phenomenal special education teachers fighting for students with disabilities every day.

​Katie McGarvey, 2021 Special Education Teacher of the Year​
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Successful students are a by-product of exceptional educators. The Elevating Educators page is dedicated to the promotion of these educators throughout Illinois for their efforts both in and out of the classroom. The following programs are dedicated to the recognition of these individuals and teams. Click on any one of the following links to find out more about how to recognize an outstanding educator you know!​​

Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year​

Since 1970, the Illinois State Board of Education has sponsored the Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year program to honor educators who have made significant contributions to our state's public and nonpublic elementary and secondary schools. Awards are presented in seven categories: classroom teachers, early career educators (teachers 1-4 years), school administrators, student support personnel, educational service personnel, community volunteers, and teams. Application materials are evaluated by a selection committee composed of individuals who represent a variety of educational organizations. All awardees are honored at an annual banquet in the Spring. Send a message to awards@isbe.net​ if you have questions about the program.

Illinois Excellence in Education

The Illinois Excellence in Education luncheon, sponsored by IEA and IFT, is dedicated to honoring many of Illinois’ top educators nominated for awards by an organization tied to education throughout Illinois and nationally. These educators may be representative of their specific content field, grade level, or region in which they teach.

2020/2021 Illinois Excellence in Education

Send a message to awards@isbe.net​​ if you have questions about the program.​

Gilder Lehrman National History Teacher of the Year Award

Each year, one outstanding educator will represent Illinois in the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History National History Teacher of the Year Program. The program is open to any Illinois full-time educator of grades K–12 who teaches American history (including state and local history) either as an individual subject or as part of other subjects, such as social studies, reading, or language arts.

Sign up to receive SOAR: ISBE’s Educator Recognition Newsletter

This​ newsletter will highlight stories of educator success across the state and share information about awards, honors, and other opportunities for recognition in all educational fields. Subscribers will also be able to submit stories from their schools or communities to be featured in future issues. To subscribe to this newsletter, select "Educator Recognition Newsletter"​ and enroll your preferred email address. Join ISBE in celebrating the accomplishments of our amazing educators today!

Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) Award

The purpose of the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award is to recognize and promote the commitment and excellence exhibited by full- or part-time classified school employees who provide exemplary service to students in pre-kindergarten through high school. ISBE and the Illinois Governor's Office select the 2 RISE Award nominees from top-scoring Those Who Excel awardees by November 1 annually. Those state nominees may be selected by the Secretary of Education to receive the RISE Award for that school year by the following spring. Check out the RISE Award celebratory video​YouTube Video Link from the U.S. Department of Education.

2024 National RISE Award Recipient: Mario Diaz Albarran

View photos from the 2024 Surprise Announcement.​

Previous Illinois RISE Award Nominees:

Eligible staff members should submit applications in the next available Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year awards cycle to be considered for RISE Award nomination. Please submit any questions to awards@isbe.net​.


The Green Ribbon Schools program recognizes schools that are leading the way to promote sustainability and environmental education. Illinois Green Alliance, working in partnership with the Illinois State Board of Educa​tion, annually reviews applications from schools that integrate best practices in energy, water and waste management, healthy school environments, and environmental education. Winning applications for the Illinois Green Ribbon program demonstrate progress and achievements in each of the three pillars:​

  • Reduce environmental impact and costs;
  • Improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and
  • Provide environmental education, which teaches many disciplines, and is especially good at effectively incorporating STEM, civic skills, and green career pathways.

Find more information on the Green Ribbon Program Page and reach out to awards@isbe.net​ with any questions.​


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