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O’Fallon Township High School teacher among nominees for teacher of year


From Illinois Business Journal news services

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education has announced the 10 finalists for the 2016 Illinois Teacher of the Year, who will be named during the “Those Who Excel” banquet in October.

Rebecca Merrill, who teaches chemistry at O’Fallon Township High School in O’Fallon Township High School District 203, is among those in the running. She is the only nominee from Metro East.

The state’s annual educator recognition program will acknowledge the contributions and accomplishments of more than 250 educators and school personnel from throughout the state and honor one individual as the Illinois Teacher of the Year.

“This program gives us the opportunity to meet outstanding teachers at every level and recognize leadership and achievements in classrooms throughout Illinois,” said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. “They are an inspiration to all of us and we are pleased to publicly recognize the educators who are making a difference in students’ lives every day.”

A selection committee composed of administrators, teachers, and representatives from educational service personnel, student support personnel, and past Illinois Teacher of the Year winners reviewed 252 nominations this year.

Steve Elza is the 2015 Illinois Teacher of the Year. Steve teaches automotive technology to students in grades 9-12 at William Fremd High School in Township High School District 211.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed representing Illinois’ amazing, talented teachers this year,” Elza said. “I have been fortunate to have had several opportunities that highlighted students and promoted the important role of career education within our schools. Having the chance to talk, share information and ideas with students, other teachers, and administrators has made this an exciting and rewarding time.”

The 2016 Illinois Teacher of the Year will be announced during the Those Who Excel banquet Saturday, Oct. 17, at the Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Normal. The Teacher of the Year will represent Illinois at NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., and in the Council of Chief State School Officers’ National Teacher of the Year Program.

Here are the remaining finalists:

– Candice Cortese is a math teacher at Hononegah Community High School in Hononegah Community High School District 207.

– Valerie Gabriel teaches first grade at Germantown Hills Elementary School in Germantown Hills School District 69.

– Shiela Grant is a special education teacher for students in grades K-2 at Memorial Elementary School in Paris School District 95.

– Pamela Phelps is a biology teacher at Oswego High School in Oswego Community Unit School District 308.

– Paul Rausch teaches music/choir at Woodstock High School in Woodstock Community Unit School District 200.

– Kimberly Thomas is an eighth-grade math teacher at Woodruff Career and Technical Center in Peoria Public School District 150.

– Pamela Wandersen teaches third-graders at Indian Trail Elementary School in Summit Hill School District 161.

– Dianne Washburn teaches art to students in grades 5-9 at Pleasantdale Middle School in Pleasantdale School District 107.

– Jennifer Woodrow is a choir teacher at North Ridge Middle School in Danville Consolidated School District 118.

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