Nine outstanding school staff in Homewood District 153 were honored with “Those Who Excel” honors awarded by the Illinois State Board of Education.
The recognition was presented at a banquet Oct. 20 in Normal, Ill.
Deb Havighorst was honored with an award of recognition in the school board member category. In the nomination, Superintendent Dale Mitchell said, “Deb is a bright, kind and compassionate person who leads by example and is genuine in the mission to serve all students, staff and community members. Deb’s even-keel demeanor permits her to balance her passion for educating all kids at high levels with the economic realities facing our community and state.”
Havighorst, director of the Prairie State College Foundation, has served on the board for 10 years. She and her husband, Peter, have two children, now in college, who graduated from District 153’s James Hart School and Homewood-Flossmoor High School.
Carla Hildreth, a secretary at Willow School, received an award of merit in the education service personnel category. District 153 recognized her as someone with whom Willow School parents know as the school’s unofficial welcoming committee. “She is generally the first person one would see, and be there to sooth parents when they left their children for the first time at school. She was the supplier of Kleenex,” the nomination stated. “She disseminates information to parents in a manner that is understandable and respectful.”
Hildreth has been with the district since 2001.
Adrienne Olsen, general music teacher and choir director at James Hart School, won the award of merit in the classroom teacher category. In the nomination, Mitchell said, “Adrienne’s leadership with our five full-time music teachers has been instrumental to the group working collaboratively and ensuring a healthy music program.” She also directs students in the annual musical presentation at Hart. Olsen has been on the teaching roster for 18 years.
All 2,000 students in the district take a general music class. In addition, orchestra and choir are offered to fourth graders, and orchestra, choir and band are offered to fifth graders at Churchill School and band, choir and orchestra are offered for sixth, seventh and eighth graders at Hart.
Kathy Schaeflein, director of curriculum and instruction, received an award of recognition in the school administrator category. In the nomination, Mitchell said, “We continue to improve every year due to her leadership and expertise in the areas of curriculum development, professional development, classroom engagement, mentoring, etc.”
Each year Schaeflein organizes teacher committees to lead changes in the district.
She selects a particular area that needs updates and works closely with faculty in selecting the latest materials and new approaches to teaching, including incorporating more online learning. Under her leadership, the district has recently updated its language arts, science and math curriculums. And during the summer, she spends time leading teachers in new strategies for teaching and learning. Schaeflein has been with the district for six years.
Jori Tarjan O’Connor, a speech pathologist at Willow School, received an award of recognition in the student support personnel category. In the nomination, the district described her as “a change agent” and someone who has innovative ideas and attention to detail that helps students and staff. Tarjan O’Connor has been with the district for three years.
In the team category, the award of recognition went to school social workers Beth Hackett, Tanya Duplessis, Mike Segal and Lynn Calhoun. The team is recognized for its collaboration and support of students, teachers and administrators, as well as District 153 families.
“Everyone depends on the school social workers for their dedicated listening ears, and to help them problem-solve through a perceived crisis,” the nomination read.
Hackett has been with the district since 2006; Segal since 2004 and Calhoun since 1985.Duplessis was with the district from 2004 to June 2018.