State Board of Education honors 'Those Who Excel'
Eight Woodstock Community Unit School District 200 employees and one volunteer were honored Saturday, Oct. 20 by the Illinois State Board of Education at its Those Who Excel/Teacher of the Year banquet in Normal.
The Those Who Excel program recognizes individuals who’ve made outstanding contributions to their schools and communities. This year, 214 educators were recognized by a committee of statewide educators and former award winners.
For more than a decade, Debbie Schweihs has been the masterful matriarch of the District 200 band program instilling a passion for music from the first time students pick up an instrument in fifth grade.
Fifth-grade Olson Elementary teacher Katie Jacobson has worked with Schweihs, whom the ISBE presented with an Award of Merit, both as a colleague and as Schweihs’s band student.
“Mrs. Schweihs goes above and beyond to promote the love of music for all students, including those with special needs. She works incredibly hard to ensure that all students reach their fullest musical potential,” Jacobson wrote in a recommendation letter.
Schweihs has been teaching band for 27 years. She also performs with a saxophone quartet and with the Woodstock City Band and as an educator has been focusing her expertise on beginners.
‘I believe this was where I was meant to be,” Schweihs said. “As a band director, I believe all students deserve the opportunity to experience playing an instrument and explore their musical abilities.”
District 200’s team of Lit/Tech Coaches was also presented with an ISBE Award of Merit, largely for its excellent work in guiding the District’s 1-to-1 technology program where each student is issued a laptop computer used for instruction in addition to driving many educational initiatives.
The team is comprised of Kristen Sauber, Courtney Heeren, Shanon Laidig, and Marti Frisbie.
“They truly have made the best laid plans of our District come to life in the form of quality instruction,” Superintendent Mike Moan said. “The coaches are true partners with our teachers and work to impact lessons in positive ways and support our students and our teachers through any and all problems that arise.”
Heeren, Sauber, Frisbie and Laidig are assigned to particular elementary or middle schools and come from varied teaching grade level and dual language or monolingual backgrounds.
“Their support is never evaluative, but rather is supportive and student focused. They’ve worked beside teachers through changes in curriculum and implementation of devices for learning,” said Olson Elementary School Principal Diana Frisbie.
Ryan Logsdon, head custodian at Verda Dierzen Early Learning Center, was also presented with an Award of Merit for his tireless work at one of the district’s largest schools that houses its smallest students.
“Ryan has the most positive attitude, and he is exceptional in dealing with the students, who love ‘Mr. Ryan.’ His door is covered with artwork given to him by the children,” said Michelle Martin, assistant principal at Verda Dierzen.
Logsdon, who has been with District 200 for seven years, is also a 1994 Woodstock High School graduate and is a gifted musician.
“Mr. Logsdon takes great pride in his role as our head custodian, and it shows in his relationships with the staff and students and in his devotion to the upkeep of the school,” Verda Dierzen Principal Tricia Bogott said.
Cristina Aguilar, a second-grade dual language teacher at Mary Endres Elementary School, also earned the ISBE Award of Merit this year as an early career educator. Aguilar attended District 200 schools before attending college to pursue her education career.
“A natural ability to relate to children has made it easy for Cristina to develop a positive rapport with her students,” Mary Endres Principal Kery Pala said. “She puts forth her best effort every day and makes a huge difference in her students’ lives.”
Aguilar was also selected this summer for an all-expenses teacher training trip to Spain for her exemplary creativity in teaching her students about the work of Spanish artist El Greco during only her second year of teaching. “She is a delight to work with, as she always has a smile on her face and a kind word to share,” fellow Mary Endres teacher Nicole Kunde said. “Cristina is an extraordinarily reflective teacher who is always looking to improve every aspect of her teaching.”
Amy Perry, a school psychologist at Creekside Middle School, was presented with an ISBE Award of Recognition for her work with Creekside’s wide-ranging student population including many students with special needs and disabilities.
“Having a child who struggles in specific areas, whether academically, behaviorally, socially or emotionally, can be hard on families. Mrs. Perry works to develop a relationship with parents and takes their perspectives into account when delivering information,” Creekside Principal Michael Wheatley said.
Perry, who spent her early years in education with a special education cooperative, said that experience helped foster her preparation for her work with staff, parents and most importantly students at Creekside.
“While working with students, Ms. Perry interacts in a way that makes kids feel valued and important regardless of mental or physical impairment,” Creekside Assistant Principal Francesca Favero said. “She validates feelings while motivating everyone to problem solve and achieve.”
District 200 also had a community volunteer recognized with a Those Who Excel Award of Excellence. Roger Oberman, a retired District 200 teacher, spent three to five hours a day assisting in first-grade classrooms at Dean Street Elementary.
Oberman, who retired from teaching business at Woodstock High School in 2012, volunteered in his wife Susan Oberman’s classroom for six years.
“No matter what role Roger has played in the District, his ability to work with people, care about and teach children, and always keep our students first has made him invaluable to our District and, most importantly, to the children of our community,” Superintendent Mike Moan said.