Celebrating Illinois Teachers’ Dedication

08 May 2024 10 min read
Sam Fishel
Sam Fishel
Digital Content Manager, Learning Technology Center


As the school year winds down, Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6-10, 2024) serves as an annual celebration of our schools’ beating heart – its teachers.

Teachers are role models, mentors, and champions of discovery rolled into a single, dedicated person. Through their effort and passion, they strive to provide all students with access to learning opportunities that’ll shape them into skilled, thoughtful community members. 

But as any teacher will tell you – all that effort isn’t limited to just one week. Across Illinois, teachers have been striving and achieving throughout the current school year – and our team has taken notice.

Our RETCs and instructional technology coaches work alongside teachers everyday, so they’ve seen firsthand the patience and dedication their teachers demonstrate daily. To honor and celebrate those teachers, here are a few special recognitions and shout-outs shared by our team:

Teacher Appreciation Week Shoutouts

Sarah Bird at ECHO Joint Agreement

from Patricia Ferris, Instructional Technology Coach

Sarah Bird is a special education teacher at ECHO Joint Agreement in South Holland, IL. Her students have multiple learning disabilities, including physical and medically complex impairments. Ms. Bird refuses to let limitations hinder her students’ access to technology and recognizes their unique abilities and talents!

Currently, Ms. Bird’s students are learning about machine learning, with Google’s Teachable Machine. They learn about artificial intelligence and training models to recognize and differentiate between yoga poses. This project intertwines with their therapeutic journey; by collaborating with occupational therapists, Ms. Bird’s students have been working on holding correct yoga positions. These movements are not about mastering yoga. They serve a deeper purpose. Students work on proper posture to improve their ability to sit comfortably in chairs, hold writing utensils, and type on their computers.

Through the machine learning project, Ms. Bird nurtures an understanding of technology and cultivates essential life skills. Her students learn perseverance, problem-solving, and that there are no limits to what they can achieve. In a few weeks, Ms. Bird’s students will present their project at the State Capitol in Springfield during Students for Innovation Advocacy Day.

Ms. Bird embodies the true spirit of education, where every child is given the opportunity to thrive regardless of challenges. She is a testament to inclusivity and empowerment!

Lostant Grade School Teachers

from Amy Graham, Instructional Technology Coach

The teachers at Lostant Grade School have been working tirelessly to increase student engagement and achievement by implementing technology through the SAMR model. A round of applause to you all! I can’t wait to see what an impact this has next school year.

Amy Roach at Lostant Grade School

from Amy Graham, Instructional Technology Coach

Amy Roach is an upbeat, kind-souled math teacher at Lostant Grade School. She routinely utilizes technology for fun reinforcement activities and to increase student engagement and excitement within her lessons. Her kindness is unmatched in the field!

Julie Jenkins at LaSalle Peru High School

from Amy Graham, Instructional Technology Coach

Julie Jenkins is a phenomenal art teacher at LaSalle Peru High School who utilizes technology daily through assessment, portfolios, and digital creations. Her patience and dedication to teaching are one to be honored.

Kristie Witte at LaSalle Peru High School

from Amy Graham, Instructional Technology Coach

Kristie Witte is a dedicated transition house teacher at LaSalle Peru High School. Her kindness shines through as she utilizes Google tools within their coffee house business. I am so proud of her hard work and dedication as she prepares these sweet-hearted students for work life.

Tim Karth at Streator Township High School

from Amy Graham, Instructional Technology Coach

Tim Karth is my inspiration for entering into the education field. He was my band director at Streator Township High School. In the years that I had him, the band was more than just an extracurricular; it was family. He made everyone feel a part of something bigger than just a class.

The pride and support we felt when with him was something I knew I wanted to continue when I stepped foot into a classroom. I am so proud to say that I am a former student of Mr. Tim Karth!

Dawn Lepper at Payson CUSD 1

from Lisa Schwartz, Regional Educational Technology Coordinator

Dawn has taken numerous new STEM resources and utilized them skillfully with her students. Her impact on these students is clear in the ways they continue to strive and succeed in their scientific ambitions.  To her credit, several of those same students competed in the Illinois Science Olympiad Regional and State competitions this year. 

For these reasons and more, Dawn’s dedication to these young scientists cannot be overstated!

Kim Hahnenkamp at Pana CUSD 8

from Lisa Schwartz, Regional Educational Technology Coordinator

A teacher for 35+ years, Kim has demonstrated the dedication it takes to remain a successful elementary educator. Even as she approaches retirement, she hasn’t stopped helping current and upcoming teachers find their footing. She is always willing to learn new skills and help other teachers develop new ideas and resources. 

Without question, generations of Pana students and teachers have been positively impacted by Kim’s tireless efforts.

Pam Evans at Shiloh CUSD 1

from Lisa Schwartz, Regional Educational Technology Coordinator

Pam demonstrates the mark of both a good student and a great teacher – she is always willing to learn and she isn’t afraid to ask questions. I got to know Pam several years ago through a certification workshop and continue to be impressed at how her passion for continuous growth has helped her classroom thrive.

Frank Shaw at Beardstown High School

from Lisa Schwartz, Regional Educational Technology Coordinator

Recently, Frank opened his Social Studies classroom to cross-curricular experiences – including STEM learning. I appreciate Frank’s willingness to embrace this new curricular direction, and commend him for staying open to new ways of engaging his students’ curiosity.

Ben Herriot at Mahomet-Seymour CUSD 3

from Holly Kelly, Regional Educational Technology Coordinator

Observing Mr. Herriot’s classroom over the past year has given me great insight into a class that offers a refreshing glimpse into what modern, dynamic, and joyful elementary education can look like.

Mr. Herriot is not just a teacher; he is a catalyst for joy and engagement in learning. Each visit to his fifth-grade classroom reveals a vibrant environment where education comes alive. Under his guidance, students are not merely seated at desks but are actively moving, discussing, and collaborating. The classroom buzzes with laughter and chatter as students work in groups or stations, clearly thriving in an atmosphere that fosters communication and active participation.

What sets Mr. Herriott apart is his exemplary ability to blend technology with traditional teaching methods. He employs technology not as a substitute for teaching but as an enhancement to his educational repertoire, allowing students to choose how they express their ideas and thoughts. This approach not only supports diverse learning styles but also empowers students to take ownership of their learning experiences.

Mr. Herriot’s impact on his students extends beyond academic success; he instills a love for learning in them. His infectious enthusiasm and the genuine joy he brings to each class resonate deeply with his students, making them look forward to every school day. It is evident that they enjoy learning — a testament to Mr. Herriot’s effectiveness and dedication as an educator.

Sam Fishel
Sam Fishel
Digital Content Manager, Learning Technology Center

Sam leads and supports the execution and growth of LTC services through the development and creation of innovative, impactful, and timely digital content.