The Illinois State Board of Education named a second-grade teacher from Sandwich Community Unit School District 430 as the 2014 Illinois Teacher of the Year. One of 11 finalists, Pam Reilly of Woodbury Elementary was announced as this year’s top educator Saturday during the 39th annual Those Who Excel/Illinois Teacher of the Year banquet in Normal.
In Maryland, Sean McComb, an English teacher at Patapsco High School & Center for the Arts in Baltimore County, was named the 2013-14 Maryland Teacher of the Year. Governor Martin O’Malley and State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M Lowery made the announcement during a gala on Oct 11. Among those in attendance were Sen Paul Sarbanes, Rep John Sarbanes, Comptroller Peter Franchot, Attorney General Douglas Gansler, and state board Vice President Mary Kay Finan.
Ms Reilly of Illinois
“Pam’s passion for teaching and her enthusiasm for helping her students succeed is so genuine and sincere that students are immediately drawn to her,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A Koch. “She really inspires her students, their parents and her colleagues and I’m confident Pam will be an excellent representative of Illinois teachers.”
Now in her 12th year of teaching, Pam is recognized as a collaborator and a leader by her colleagues in the Sandwich district, home of six schools serving more than 2,300 students in northern Illinois. She seeks advice and guidance from teachers in the higher grades so that she can help her students be prepared for the challenges they will face after they leave her classroom.
Colleague and third grade teacher Doni Morgan says Pam is “the perfect blend of light heartedness and commitment.” Pam stresses that students are in control of their own learning and that although she may do the planning and preparation for the school day, it is the students who are doing the important work.
Pam understands the importance of addressing a child’s social, emotional, and academic needs. She advocates for hungry students, those with absent parents, financially stressed families and students who need to be more challenged. Pam believes that all children, regardless of their circumstances, can thrive and learn.
A graduate of Aurora University with a Bachelor of Science in education, Pam also holds a Master of Education from National-Louis University. She is a continuous participant in all types of professional development and is constantly researching and planning engaging and relevant lessons.
During reading exercises, Pam likes to use different voices and personas for specific characters and books. Her students instantly recognize which book they are about to read based on Pam’s voice and they get ready to learn.
A former second grade student describes Pam’s teaching in this way: “She kept us focused so we wouldn’t think of the things we didn’t need to know. She taught us the things we do need to know,” the student wrote in her nominating letter. “Mrs Reilly also kept us motivated. She made us very intelligent.”
More than 180 nominations for Those Who Excel were reviewed and scored three times by a selection committee comprised of administrators, teachers and school board members. Principals, faculty, parents and students submit letters on behalf of candidates as part of the nomination process.
The 11 finalists for Teacher of the Year were interviewed and videotaped, and those interviews were scored again before going to State Superintendent Koch for a final decision.
As Illinois Teacher of the Year, Pam will have opportunities to share her knowledge and expertise outside the classroom. Beginning in the 2014 spring semester, Pam will be available to speak at teaching workshops, educational conferences and community meetings. She will represent Illinois at the NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., and in the National Teacher of the Year program sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers, ING and Target. She will also receive products from SMARTer Kids.
Mr McComb of Maryland
“Maryland schools have been ranked #1 by Education Week magazine for five years in a row because our teachers are the nation’s very best,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “Sean McComb is a shining representative of the many great educators who dedicate their lives to working with our State’s students. Maryland continues to invest in public education to ensure Sean and all of our educators have the resources they need to educate Maryland’s next generation of leaders. Our children are in very good hands.”
Dr Lowery agreed that Maryland schools receive national recognition largely on the strength of its teachers. “Sean personifies the cutting edge Maryland educator,” she added. “He is an energetic instructor, making certain his students set goals, commit to those targets, succeed, and move forward toward college or career. His passionate work reflects well on our state’s education system.”
Mr McComb focuses on creating critical readers, strong writers, and judicious thinkers. As coordinator of the school’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, helping hone student work habits and academic skills. He also teaches the value of service, working on projects with students that help feed the hungry in the community. Mr McComb serves as a system curriculum writer and as an adjunct teacher at Towson University. He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, where he also received a Master’s in Education degree, and is currently pursuing School Leadership certification from Goucher College.
“Our schools must provide the opportunity for any individual to become educated and economically competitive,” he said. “My teaching is built on the belief that relationships and engagement can turn challenges into opportunity for excellence for all students. As we embrace the truth, we create citizens who can live the American dream.”
The decision wasn’t an easy one for the judges, as seven finalists were announced at the beginning of September. Mr McComb will receive a cash award, technology equipment, national travel opportunities, and the gift of a 2014 Kia Forte valued at over $25,000, which is donated by the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association.
The Maryland Teacher of the Year goes on to compete for the esteemed National Teacher of the Year Award, to be announced next April. The winner will also spend the coming year as a speaker and adviser in Maryland. He will be honored by the president at the White House next spring, participate in several national meetings and conferences, as well as in National Space Camp with fellow state Teachers of the Year.
Presenting sponsors of the Maryland Teacher of the Year Program are Comcast, the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association, McDonald’s Family of Maryland, and Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems. Platinum sponsors are Bank of America, BGE, Lockheed Martin, Maryland Public Television, NTA Life, and Whiting-Turner Contracting Company.
Maryland Teacher of the Year is a program of the Maryland State Department of Education with major underwriting provided by corporations and other organizations. The program is an affiliate of the National Teacher of the Year Program. All Maryland local school systems participate, and all 24 semi-finalists are engaged throughout their selection year in learning and recognition programs and also as advisers to the state superintendent. Selection of the Maryland Teacher of the Year is made by a blue ribbon panel of judges that represent teachers, administrators, parents, and higher education. The Maryland Teacher of the Year goes on to represent teachers throughout Maryland and also competes for the title of National Teacher of the Year. Each year, the Maryland Teacher of the Year is named at a Teacher of the Year Gala. The year 2013 marks the 23rd anniversary of Maryland’s Teacher of the Year Gala.
A question-and-answer session with Mr McComb was posted by the Baltimore County Public Schools, here.
Please see our interview, question-and-answer style, with Ms Reilly, here.