Teachers, Staffers Lauded for Excellence

Awards of Excellence to be presented at April 11 ceremony; two residents also to be recognized for community service.

The 20th Annual Awards of Excellence, honoring 30 educators and staff members, will be held at 7 p.m. April 11 at .

Nearly 90 nominations were received for 70 District 202 employees, according to a media release issued by the district. A committee of three board members and the board’s community ambassador picked this year’s winners. 

The board will also present special awards recognizing two residents for their community service.

The Ira Jones Award will be presented to Plainfield native and Plainfield High School graduate Victoria Matway. Matway is a member of the Advisory Board and has co-chaired its annual fundraiser for five years.

The Ira Jones Award, created in 1986, is named for Richard Ira Jones, the proprietor of Jones Hardware, which was located in downtown Plainfield for many years. Jones was a school board member from 1936-1972, including the last 15 years as president. He also served as a member of several other public boards, including the fire district and various community service organizations.

The Elizabeth “Bess” Eichelberger Distinguished Service Award will be presented to Plainfield resident, attorney and former school board member Robert Smith, who continues to donate his time and energy to the community in various ways.

The Elizabeth “Bess” Eichelberger award was created in 2009 to honor those who embody Eichelberger’s spirit of community service.

Eichelberger, a Plainfield-area icon who died in February 2009, was renowned for her passion for volunteerism. She served nearly 26 years on the Board of Education, then continued as one of two board ambassadors until her death.

The 2011 Awards of Excellence winners are:

-- Speech/Language Pathologist Kelly Alsip a parent wrote,My child will move on this year from high school but the efforts of people like Kelly Alsip will be with him for a lifetime. She has truly made a difference in many children’s lives, especially mine. I will miss her a great deal and will forever appreciate her abilities, passion, dedication, patience and persistence.”

-- teacher Katie Arbogast – a parent wrote,Ms. Katie has been my son's teacher for the past two years and I'm in awe of her commitment to her students as well as their parents. She is an incredible teacher which my son (tells me) everyday with a big smile on his face stating that he had a great day.”

-- language arts teacher Dr. Amber Bechard – a parent wrote, “My son came into JFK this year for 8th grade.  Dr. Bechard has made the transition very comfortable and easy.  She has gone out of her way to welcome him and take interest in his adjustment to public school.  In addition to that, she has finally taught him or inspired him to write! Dr. Bechard not only brought out his abilities, but also made him feel confident of them.”

-- Thomas Jefferson Elementary School 4th grade teacher Angela Blank – a coworker wrote, “Angie Blank is a rare find in the teaching world. She is extremely passionate about the students that she works with. Kids will look back and surely remember her as their favorite teacher, coach, and mentor.  She is very humble and would never seek out the recognition that I know she deserves. She embodies what this award is all about, and it is only her 5th year in education.”

-- Wesmere Elementary School special education teaching assistant Betty Booras – a coworker wrote, “Betty has educated herself on the disabilities that she works with.  She goes above and beyond her assigned duties to help children as well as staff.  She thrives on being busy and learning new things. Betty… is always happy and smiling and has kind words for everyone she comes in contact with.”

-- Plainfield South High School Catalyst program facilitator Andre’ Bouey – a parent wrote, “(the impact Mr. Bouey had on her son) signifies an individual who truly cares about his students, one that likes his job and wants to make a positive impact. Mr. Buoey displays excellence in how he mentors his students at PSHS and in the compassion he shows to those who need his assistance and guidance.”

-- third grade teacher Cecilia Buddy – a coworker wrote, “even though the mentor program has been cut from District 202, Cecilia has taken on the challenge of being a mentor to me and other first-year teachers here at Freedom. She has a wealth of knowledge and shares it with me to guide me in the direction of becoming the best teacher I can be. She puts in many extra hours of work to make sure I get the support I need.”

-- Ridge Elementary School speech and language Sheri Duenser – a coworker wrote, “Sheri is always cheerful, yet professional. She's always seeking out ways to make things better for students and staff at Ridge. Sheri is amazing and someone we are very lucky to have at Ridge!”

-- Creekside Elementary School 4th grade teacher Denise Finch – a parent wrote, “Not only is she beloved by her students but also by their parents. She is also very involved with the community (running numerous charitable programs). She is not only a beautiful person on the outside but also on the inside!”

-- Meadow View Elementary School secretary Lori Fitzgerald – a coworker wrote, “Lori goes above and beyond what is expected of her in everything she does, without any complaint or recognition. Lori is here for the students more than anyone else. Lori is truly a kind person. She doesn’t let things get in the way of making Meadow View a better place.”

-- sixth grade math teacher Heather French – a student wrote, “She brightens up everyone’s day. She also makes math fun! She explains everything very well! Whenever I need help she is always there. She also helps me whenever I need someone to talk to. She is like a 2nd mom! She’s a wonderful teacher.”

-- Plainfield South High School special education teacher Lisa Jett -- a student wrote, “She is caring, helpful and understanding. Mrs. Jet has also helped me bring my grades up when they were bad. She has also helped me with family and girlfriend problems by giving me advice. I appreciate everything Mrs. Jett has done to make my time at PSHS better.”

-- Crystal Lawns Elementary School special education teacher Barbara Jurlow – a coworker wrote, “Barbara is a teacher who never gives up and is passionate about preparing her students for a successful life. She meets the needs of her students so well that they often outscore regular education students on state assessments.”

-- economics teacher and wrestling coach Jim Kappas – a parent wrote, “He is truly a teacher for the students and encourages them to dream big.  He holds education in the highest standards and continuously helps students that don't believe in themselves and works with them so their dreams can become a reality.”

-- Thomas Jefferson Elementary School special education teacher Emily Keiner – a parent wrote, “Emily has taught my daughter how to grow by her patience and love for special needs children. She knows every child's needs and she shows so much caring for each child. I wish my daughter could have her in Middle School.”

-- Plainfield High School – Central Campus special education teacher Charlotte Kics – a coworker wrote, “Mrs. Kics is a teacher who inspires not only her students but the staff who are privileged to work alongside her in the classroom. She is a consummate professional.  Her classroom ethics and standards are of the highest order. Mrs. Kics not only encourages her students to seek excellence in all they do, she gives them a model of that excellence in the manner in which she purports herself in the classroom.”

-- speech and language pathologist Jennifer Koller – a parent wrote, “(My son) has had… numerous special education teachers and staff. Although each and every one had something to add to his ongoing enrichment, Jennifer, by far, has gone above and beyond her duties as a Speech Language Pathologist. She is truly dedicated to these kids and wants them to achieve to their greatest potential. And for that, I am eternally grateful.”

-- Creekside Elementary School second grade teacher Nicole LaBee – a parent wrote, “(Nicole) has demonstrated the compassion, sense of humor, knowledge, and up-beat personality that (all teachers) should all strive for. She truly cares for each student and adjusts her teaching style accordingly.  A lot of students want to be a teacher like her when they get older.”

-- Plainfield East High School/district behavior specialist Kevin Mueller – a coworker wrote, “Kevin Mueller consistently brings valuable input and advice to the table that works. He thinks outside of the box and is always willing to help wherever he is needed.  I look up to Kevin as a social worker and consider him a mentor.  I value his expertise and experience and I always learn new things from him that I can add to my ‘toolbox.’” 

-- special education teacher Megan O’Donnell – a parent wrote, “Ms. O'Donnell has been my son’s special education teacher going on three years now. My son was diagnosed with autism when he was two. He has been receiving therapy since. But Ms. O’Donnell has really changed my son. The progress he has made I never thought was possible. And I truly believe it is because of her.”

-- Lincoln Elementary School speech and language pathologist Gaylene Oesterreich – a parent wrote, “Ms. Oesterreich strives to connect Lincoln families to the school in an exceptional way. Through her creativity and passion to make happenings fun, she creates a bond between home and school. Feeling closer to our school makes me and many families want to be more involved at Lincoln.”

-- Wesmere Elementary School first grade teacher Lee Parrott – a parent wrote, “(Mr. Parrott) is an amazing teacher; full of creativity and a zest to teach all students to reach their potential. It's rare you meet educators that extend their hand beyond the classroom, but we have found that Mr. Parrott is the exception. He IS the teacher my son will remember forever.”

-- Plainfield East High School English teacher Meredith Petri – a coworker wrote, “Meredith is the kind of teacher who exudes creativity.  She is the kind of teacher who comes in early and stays late to work with students and put together lessons that are both engaging and challenging. She is the kind of teacher who comes in with a smile everyday and makes it clear to her students through word and deed that she loves what she does and feels lucky to be there in the classroom with them.”

-- Grand Prairie Elementary School teacher assistant Linda Polnik – a coworker wrote, When you first meet Linda, you don’t realize what a gem she is.  She is quiet, but soon you realize how loudly her actions speak for her.  Around our school, she is invaluable. If I were to list all she contributes in my classroom, this nomination would more closely resemble a novel.  She acts as a second teacher, sharing responsibilities for helping students reach their fullest potential.”

-- band director Steve Pyter – a parent wrote, “Mr. Pyter’s dedication and talent can be seen in the PNHS Band Department's growth and success over the last few years. Mr. Pyter spends many additional hours with his students and he is always willing to help them learn and grow.”

-- Plainfield High School – Central Campus special education teacher William Seidelmann – a coworker wrote, “Mr. Seidelmann juggles and balances so many things during the school day that I am always in awe. Mr. Seidelmann demonstrates patience, commitment and innovation in dealing with our students and he exemplifies everything a parent would desire in a teacher who is in charge of guiding their children. The students are fortunate to have someone like Mr. Seidelmann in their corner. He truly makes a difference.”

-- special education teacher Heather Viall – a parent wrote, “Ms. Viall has great passion, optimism, vision and a unique ability to turn (challenges) into a successful experience, despite any obstacles she encounters; she perseveres on toward the goal of success for the student. She is an exceptional individual who is dedicated, knowledgeable, caring, thoughtful, patient, kind and passionate.”

-- Central Elementary School 5th grade teacher James Woltman – a parent wrote, “Both of my children became bored with school in 4th grade.  Fifth grade changed all that and it was due in a large part to their wonderful teacher, Mr. Woltman. He knows exactly how to handle his class with just the right amount of authority – the students know that he is in charge, but they still feel comfortable enough to express themselves and to have fun while learning at the same time.”

-- Charles Reed Elementary reading specialist Sarah Mayer, and Ridge Elementary reading specialist Kimmi Sorg – a coworker wrote, “Sarah and Kimmi have put in countless hours in helping District 202’s current first grade intervention become established. They also support students through Guided Reading Plus, and they plan and implement professional development for the elementary reading specialists.”


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