The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) presented awards to the winners of the 2023 Those Who Excel and Teacher of the Year awards. District 161 staff and community members were honored in several categories at a May 20 event in Bloomington-Normal. The awardees were recognized a second time at the district’s May 22 Board of Education meeting.
Haley Marti received a meritorious service award in the administrator category. She was honored for work in her role as principal of Flossmoor Hills School. At the May 22 meeting, the Board of Education voted to approve Marti as Director of Human Resources for the district. Marti has been an employee of District 161 for the past 15 years. In her time there, she has served as a principal, assistant principal, instructional coach, classroom teacher and crisis coordinator.
Anathayee Heyward was nominated for the community volunteer category. Heyward served on the District 161 leadership team as the Sr. Building Chair for the Parker Junior High PTO. She received a meritorious service award. Heyward gave a heartfelt statement at the beginning of the May 20 meeting to express her appreciation for personal support from the D 161 board and community during a trying time for her family.
Tracy Reed received a meritorious service award in the educational support personnel category. Reed is a Special Education Paraprofessional at Parker Junior High.
The Western Avenue Alpha Wolves parent volunteer group received special recognition in the team category.
Sarah Rudenga, Media Center Coordinator at Parker Junior High, received an excellence award in the Student Support Personnel category.
Jillian Jendra, a kindergarten teacher finishing her second year at Heather Hill, was nominated in the early career educator category and received a meritorious service award.
Receiving special recognition in the teacher category was Emily Nicotra. Nicotra teaches seventh-grade English/Language Arts at Parker Junior High.
“I don’t know if I have ever been more proud,” said Superintendent Dana Smith. “As I sit there and I see the people that go across that stage, I know what’s going on in those classrooms. I know what’s happening with young minds and I am just so thrilled.”
Since 1970, the ISBE Those Who Excel and Teacher of the Year awards have recognized the outstanding contributions of educators in Illinois. The awards are given in seven categories: classroom teachers, early career educators (teachers 1-4 years), school administrators, student support personnel, educational service personnel, community volunteers, and teams.