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Nominees for Those Who Excel awards were 
recognized at the May 9 District 161 school 
board meeting.
(Provided photo)

Flossmoor School District 161 last week saluted nominees for the annual Those Who Excel awards, sponsored by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

The nominees were announced and applauded at District 161’s May 9 board of education meeting. They include volunteers, teachers, administrators and support staff.

ISBE annually sponsors Those Who Excel to honor individuals who have made significant contributions to elementary and secondary schools in Illinois. Excellence, Meritorious Service and Special Recognition awards are presented in seven categories: classroom teacher, school administrator/principal, student support personnel (licensed), educational service personnel (unlicensed), school board member/community volunteer, team and early career educator.

Winners, including the Illinois Teacher of the Year, will be announced at the Those Who Excel banquet in October.

Blessings in a Backpack was nominated for the Team Award, including members Ashley Somer, Deb Hausmann, Susan Gasbarra, It’s A Service Thing, Suburban Service League and Flossmoor Service League. The program was started at Serena Hills School during the 2014-15 academic year and provides support to 20 selected families. The team has held fundraisers to support the program. Each week, Blessings in a Backpack sends home two snacks, an entrée and breakfast options to the families.

Elisabeth Reed, a school psychologist, was nominated for the Student Support Personnel aAard.  According to the nomination, Reed is a “go-to” person in the district and works to meet the needs of students, parents, teachers, administrators and staff.

“She wears many hats and is by far, one the most professional, flexible, well-rounded and hard working individuals in our district,” the nomination states.

Phyllis Ryan, a paraprofessional for two special education students, was nominated for the Educational Service Personnel Award.  According to the nomination, Ryan makes the classroom better every day.

“She makes announcements, sends emails and brings treats in on Fridays,” the nomination states.  “She makes sure every luncheon is decorated and showers and wedding celebrations are extra special.”

Patricia McCraven, the principal of Flossmoor Hills School, was nominated for the School Administrator Award.

According to the nomination, McCraven “embodies all the qualities of a principal who truly makes a difference in the lives of the students.  She inspires others to give 110 percent and have a ‘whatever it takes’ team mentality.  Her leadership style has created a family at Flossmoor Hills, where the focus is on students being the number one priority.”

Tiffaney Washington was nominated for the Classroom Teacher Award.  She is a teacher at Parker Junior High School. According to the nomination, Washington brings a distinct passion to teaching, as well as a sincere dedication to her students and to the process of building relationships with them.

“She demonstrates great patience in working with students who struggle, challenging them to grow both as learners and young citizens,” Washington’s nomination states.

Carli Raisutis, a special education teacher at Heather Hill School, was nominated for the Early Career Educator Award. According to the nomination, Raisutis works closely with her students, their families and often goes above and beyond her job responsibilities advocating for her students and ensuring they receive the support they need.

“She possesses a wonderful ability to connect with her students being both firm and friendly,” the nomination states. “She manages to keep control in the classroom and present simple and complex concepts that address all academic levels of her students.”

Those Who Excel winners will be chosen by a selection committee made up of representatives from statewide educational organizations. The committee will convene this summer to score the nominations.

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