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. Reach out to the Educator Recognition Programs Coordinator, Ann Kapustiak at akapusti@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

If you are an organization that would like your educator awardee recognized, please reach out to Jeff Seiler, Educator Outreach Coordinator at jseiler@isbe.net.​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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.


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