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ISBE Announces Finalists for Illinois Teacher of the Year

Posted by Admin On September - 17 - 2016

2017 Illinois Teacher of the Year to be named Oct. 22


SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced the 10 finalists for the 2017 Illinois Teacher of the Year, who will be named during the “Those Who Excel” banquet in October. The state’s annual educator recognition program will acknowledge the contributions and accomplishments of more than 250 educators and school personnel from throughout the state and honor one individual as the Illinois Teacher of the Year.

“This program gives us the opportunity to meet outstanding teachers at every level and recognize leadership and achievements in classrooms throughout Illinois,” said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. “These dedicated educators inspire me every day and I am impressed by the relationships they create with students, colleagues, parents, and the community in order to give students the best learning opportunities available.”

A selection committee composed of administrators, teachers, and representatives from educational service personnel, student support personnel, and past Illinois Teacher of the Year winners reviewed 253 nominations this year.

Kim Thomas is the 2016 Illinois Teacher of the Year. Kim teaches math to eighth-graders at Woodruff Career and Technical Center in Peoria Public Schools District 150.

“It has been an honor and pleasure to share my passions for teaching and math. I am grateful to have met so many wonderful teachers across the state and from around the nation,” Thomas said when asked about her experiences as Illinois Teacher of the Year. “I have been blessed to learn from others who are living the dream of being a teacher so students can one day live their dreams!”

The 2017 Illinois Teacher of the Year will be announced during the Those Who Excel banquet Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Normal. The Teacher of the Year will represent Illinois at NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., and in the Council of Chief State School Officers’ National Teacher of the Year Program.

Here are this year’s finalists:

Ricardo Castro is an ESL, language arts, and Spanish teacher for grades 9-12 at Elk Grove High School in Township High School District 214.

Jeremy Clarke teaches third grade at Dr. Nick Osborne Primary Center in Mount Vernon City Schools District 80.

John Colucci is a language arts teacher for students in seventh grade at Percy Julian Middle School in Oak Park Elementary School District 97.

Nichole Folkman teaches journalism, English, speech, and literature to students in grades 9-12 at Hartsburg-Emden CUSD 21.

Candace Hamilton is a physical science teacher for eighth-grade students at Whiteside Middle School in Whiteside School District 115.

Matthew Herndon teaches physical education to students at Lewis and Clark Junior High School in Wood River-Hartford School District 154.

Edward “Ted” Houpt is a social studies teacher at Danville High School in Danville Consolidated School District 118.

Patti Ludwig teaches fourth-grade students at Mary Morgan Elementary School in Byron CUSD 226.


Elizabeth Mendoza is a Spanish teacher for students in grades 10-12 at J.S. Morton East High School in J.S. Morton High School District 201.

Anthony Zarate teaches English language arts to seventh- and eighth-grade students at UCSN Brighton Park Elementary.

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