North Palos School District 117 Stars


2017-2018 School Year

November Nominees

                     Colleen Hyland

Mrs. Hyland is recognized for being a superb communicator and advocate for North Palos School District 117’s accelerated math students who attend Stagg High School. She goes out of her way to make sure the students have all their materials and information needed to be successful. She is a dynamic force in the classroom. Colleen is extremely organized and dedicated to her work. She takes special pains to know differences between the District 117 and District 230 calendars to ensure educational attainment by all our students. North Palos is grateful to have a teacher who is willing to accommodate all the weird nuances and irregularities of the two schedules. This is the second year she has provided answer keys and extra copies of all notes and study guides to our students. She is gracious enough to use Google Hangout on every late start day so our students don’t miss a minute of instruction. Conrady is so fortunate to have the ability to send some of our brightest students to Stagg and know they will be well cared for both emotionally and scholastically.


October Nominees

         Tiffany Iwinski

Tiffany is being recognized for doing an outstanding job as the new fifth-grade band director. She has done a great job creating and organizing both the recruitment and tryouts for the band program as well as communicating all of this information to the staff. Tiffany is both self-motivated and extremely motivational.
             Mike Valentine

Mike is being recognized for responding to building emergencies on Saturdays. He responded without hesitation and worked to ensure the buildings were safe and secure. His efforts, like most of his job duties, are behind the scenes aren’t noticed by most. His efforts make it easier for teachers, staff and administrators to focus on teaching and learning. Keep up the great effort.
           Debbie Olejarz

Debbie is being recognized for her calm and caring ways of keeping students happy. It is a pleasure being an aide in her classroom. Debbie has a gift for teaching. She uses strategies that help kids remember what they have learned. Her patience is amazing. If students are struggling, she finds a way to make the light bulb go on. Her teaching gives students the confidence they need to be successful.
           Rita Walsh

Rita is being recognized for going above and beyond in making sure teachers got their science materials in the beginning of the year. She stayed in daily contact with the curriculum department to make the start of the school year much smoother. Her eye on details and extra efforts made the crazy start of the year smooth!
     Kevin Buscemi

Kevin is being recognized for going above and beyond in his role as team leader. His leadership, expertise and guidance resulted in the highest math scores at the elementary schools on the PARCC tests. He is also assisting Sorrick School in providing guidance on meeting the needs of High-Level Learners in math. Kevin is an asset to District 117.

          Sue Dembek

Sue Dembek, along with Bob Clasby and Amanda Pratl, is being recognized for helping my child really grasp concepts of things this year and getting him excited to go to class, which usually never happens. He talks about his teachers and what he is learning. These teachers are doing a great job teaching their students and making them feel loved and supported.
           Dave Creagan

Dave is being recognized for his dedication and commitment to SD 117. During his first few months as Team Leader, he has stepped in and taken the lead in both ELA and Science in grades second and third. Dave also goes above and beyond as the summer school coordinator each year. He has been a great addition to the curriculum team.

              Bob Clasby

Bob Clasby, along with Amanda Pratl and Sue Dembek, is being recognized for helping my child really grasp concepts of things this year and getting him excited to go to class, which usually never happens. He talks about his teachers and what he is learning. These teachers are doing a great job teaching their students and making them feel loved and supported. 

              Kara Smit
Kara is being recognized for going above and beyond as a Technology Instruction Coordinator. This year she has taken the lead on the science implementation for Glen Oaks and Oak Ridge. She attends additional professional development and lends her experience and expertise as a former Conrady science teacher. She also has transformed the Learning Links registration process by moving it to online.
                     Amanda Pratl

Amanda Pratl, along with Sue Dembek and Bob Clasby, is being recognized for helping my child really grasp concepts of things this year and getting him excited to go to class, which usually never happens. He talks about his teachers and what he is learning. These teachers are doing a great job teaching their students and making them feel loved and supported.


September Nominees

        Paula Coughlin

Paula Coughlin is being recognized for her many years of providing additional assistance to some of our students who require outside counseling services. Paula has worked hard trying to find services for our students and this summer she worked out an agreement with Metropolitan Family Services to get our students in more quickly so as they can start receiving services in a more timely fashion. I just made a referral for one of our students who is a high-achiever but struggles emotionally. Because of Paul’s hard work, this student is set up with an outside counselor. The parent called to say how thankful she was for getting her child the quick service. Without Paula’s help, this process would have taken months instead of two weeks.

       Rich Widdicar

Rich Waddicar is being recognized for being a wonderful person. Rich is caring, thoughtful and always there to help with whatever staff or students need. He is the one we call in an emergency and, oftentimes, he is charged with cleaning up the worst messes possible. He never complains. He takes pride in making sure Glen Oaks looks great and runs smoothly.

     Margaret Bartkus

Nomination #1: Margaret Bartkus is being recognized twice. First, she is being recognized individually for constantly approaching each new challenge with a positive attitude and always giving 110 percent. It was only natural that we requested she take on the task of providing teachers with training on DRA (reading inventory administration. Margaret kept in mind the needs of her colleagues when she created the presentation. She was thorough and provided the teachers with the tools and techniques needed to accurately assess students’ strengths and weaknesses in reading. Margaret is a teacher-leader in every sense of the word.
         Andrea Hogan  
Andrea Hogan is being recognized for her versatility. She certainly has found her calling in life. Andrea had a chance to move from a 4th grade teacher to a homeroom teacher to a reading specialist. And specialist she is! Andrea is always calm, always smiling and always accommodating. She has a passion for books and her excitement for books is contagious. She has taken it upon herself to inspire the Glen Oaks’ staff with a monthly bulletin board to recognize staff members. Andrea is always professional and her expertise as a reading specialist is relied on from parents to staff.


 Gaylyn Pollard

Gaylyn Pollard is being recognized for her exemplary role as the leader of Glen Oaks School. Focus, confidence, transparency, integrity, inspiration, passion, innovation and patience are just some of the words that describe Gaylyn as a leader. She is the reason Glen Oaks is a great place to work. We always know that Gaylyn has our backs and is looking out for our best interests and those of the students we serve. She understands that to get the best out of her team, that team must feel appreciated. Through her kind words, thoughtful gifts and constant praise, we know we are appreciated. Her hard work and countless hours dedicated to District 117 reflect her passion for teaching students and leading her team.

         Dave Creagan

Margaret Bartkus is being recognized a second time as part of a group effort. She, along with Dave Creagan, Kelly Vittorio, JoAnne Brotsch and Penny Pappas represented their respective grade levels and shared instructional strategies with the staff during our September Team Day. This group of talented teachers prepared a presentation that highlighted specific instructional strategies that effectively support our EL learners. Each new idea was a great addition to our teachers’ toolboxes. Margaret, Dave, Kelly, JoAnne and Penny shared the knowledge they have gained through years of experience, graduate coursework and professional development opportunities.
         Katie Kubski

Katie Kubski is being recognized for being an OUTSTANDING teacher! She goes above and beyond for her students and modifies their needs. She makes sure every student feels special. Katie is always kind, caring and encouraging. She is a true star!


              Pat Iffland

Pat Iffland is being recognized for being an asset to the district’s transportation department. Pat knows each of the students on his bus by name and is always very pleasant and helpful. The students smile when they enter Mr. Pat’s bus and he goes out of his way to not only drive the students to and from school, but he encourages them to do their best and always be polite. His upbeat attitude and positive outlook make outside duty enjoyable.

             Kelly Vittorio

        Stacey Lavelle

Stacey Lavelle is being recognized for submitting a grant for the Dollar General Youth Literacy Foundation. We received a $2,000 grant to fund the Glen Oaks’ “Only One You” book project for the 2017-2018 school year.  Her hard work, determination and critical and creative thinking skills were essential to this grant being awarded.


             Sandy Ahmad

Sandy Ahmad is being recognized for her willingness to help others. Sandy gives 110 percent to every task and to everyone she meets. She goes above and beyond to help any student in the hallway, and any faculty member in or outside the classroom. She is the first to donate to a worthy cause. She is extremely generous with her gifts as well as her talents. Sandy is the first staff member to offer assistance if there is a language barrier or to make a phone call or assist in the office. Sandy loves what she does and it shows with her dedication to education and to the students and staff at Glen Oaks.



             JoAnne Brotsch



Penny Pappas

August Nominees

                     Dianne Hasler

Dianne Hasler helps me with registration for both my sons. When one gives customer service, it should be as though you're doing it for a relative. She took the time to walk me through the process and made the experience warm and personal regardless of what had to be looked up in different systems or reports, and showed me, not just what, but how it should be done. I recognize that there are a lot of students in our district to deal with, input into systems, and organize. I applaud her patience, attention to detail, hard work, and dedication. I know sitting at that front desk isn't easy dealing with all she has to deal with, including parents. There's no doubt that she recognizes that everyone may be going through something. I was going through something. However, I left the office feeling much better because of her service. My son said that if we ever move, please don't move us outside of this school district. Because of her being on the front line and my unforgettable and exceptional experience(s) with Ms. Dianne, I concur. Thank you for being an awesome human being and having patience with all us parents and students. I sincerely appreciate you and you're a strong asset to the school district Ms. Hasler.

                    Kevin Buscemi

It's not what Kevin does just for me, it's what he does for the entire staff. Kevin goes above and beyond to make sure that the staff are prepared for lessons--both in having the materials they need and an understanding of the standards / skills to be taught. He wants nothing but success for the students and staff, and will do everything he can to help them achieve--he is often seen in classrooms, working with teachers and students. He has also created a math website for teachers, parents, and students to better explain the Common Core Standards, with links to sample problems, explanations, and extra practice. He spends countless hours both at school and at home in his spare time working to make Oak Ridge a great place to work and learn. He is truly an asset to Oak Ridge and District 117.


2016-2017 School Year

May Nominees

        Brad Pavlacka
Brad Pavlacka is being recognized for always being cheerful and optimistic. Brad is always willing to look into technological problems with peppiness. He greets people and their issues with enthusiasm. Brad is easy-going and efficient. Dilemmas are solved immediately, and he takes time to explain what went wrong. He is such an asset to our district and we are happy he spends a lot of time at Conrady.

     Orlanda Kennedy

Orlanda Kennedy is being recognized for being extremely dedicated to her students. As a One on One aide to my son, she provides him with the guidance and tools needed to not only have a successful learning experience but a successful life outside school. She goes the extra mile to make his day special and steps in when he may be having a difficult time. She has made a huge impression on my son and he looks forward to seeing her every day. She pushes him to do his best.


April Nominees

         Kristen Morphew

Kristen Morphew is being recognized for continually going above and beyond in making me, and many other staff members feel appreciated. She is always grateful for any task that gets accomplished and makes sure that we feel that our work is valued. Kristen is extremely thoughtful and continues to think of creative ways to encourage staff and support them in their work.

         Emily Pfiffner

Emily Pfiffner is being recognized for being an extremely hard-working and enthusiastic person. She goes above and beyond what she is asked to do and works hard to assist students in achieving their goals.

           Cathy Cozzie

Cathy Cozzie is being recognized for being an outstanding person and professional. She works hard every day to support students and teachers she is with. She is always ready to lend a hand and is prepared for any outcomes in advance. She is gentle and caring to every student and makes them feel welcome and cared for. She is an amazing asset to our staff.
                   Karen Canning

Karen Canning, Kate Rotsch and Regina Blackstone are being recognized for continually going above and beyond as social workers in supporting students in need. Their guidance and leadership tremendously improves the lives of students they serve by educating teachers and staff in best practices and being a calming presence in what can be stressful situations. Their dedication, hard work and leadership needs to be recognized.

                      Terri Soohoo

Terri Soohoo is being recognized for being a dedicated and caring faculty member throughout the year. She goes above and beyond the call of duty to provide students with everything they need.

 Lubna Alzaboon

Lubna Alzaboon is being recognized for continually going above and beyond to support students in math and science. She is committed to the individual success of every student. Her sense of humor adds refreshment to the classroom each and every day. Her professionalism and willingness to collaborate makes her a true team player. The students and staff at Conrady are lucky to have Miss Lubna!

                 Kate Rotsch

Karen Canning, Kate Rotsch and Regina Blackstone are being recognized for continually going above and beyond as social workers in supporting students in need. Their guidance and leadership tremendously improves the lives of students they serve by educating teachers and staff in best practices and being a calming presence in what can be stressful situations. Their dedication, hard work and leadership needs to be recognized.
Wafa El-Zibak

Wafa El-Zibak is being recognized for being an incredible team player throughout this school year. She is amazing at her job and reaches the students at all of their unique levels.

       Regina Blackstone
Karen Canning, Kate Rotsch and Regina Blackstone are being recognized for continually going above and beyond as social workers in supporting students in need. Their guidance and leadership tremendously improves the lives of students they serve by educating teachers and staff in best practices and being a calming presence in what can be stressful situations. Their dedication, hard work and leadership needs to be recognized.

               Ryan Kristufek

Ryan Kristufek is being recognized for being a fantastic asset to our classroom this year. He is a caring and dedicated employee who works hard as he can to help students achieve their goals.

March Nominees

         Elaine Muting

Elaine Muting is being recognized for her heartfelt and thoughtful presentation on stuttering to the staff at Glen Oaks. Elaine recognized a great need to educate her colleagues on behalf of her students. Her dedication to improving the life and education of her students was evident in her tear-filled eyes as she expressed her hope for the successful future of her students but also in her daily efforts to help students overcome challenges.

Beth Reich

Nomination 1: Beth Reich and Kristin Reingruber were nominated for being very supportive of the PPS and LEAP teams. ”I have been covering a maternity leave for the full-time psych ay OR and they have welcomed me with open arms. It is hard to step enter a building half-way through the school year, but they never failed to include me in all of PPS-related things. They are always available to offer their insight, support and knowledge. I truly feel like an important part of the team thanks to Beth and Kristin.”

Nomination 2: Beth is being recognized for providing phenomenal support for the transition into the new LEAP program.
         Jackie Hausman

Jackie Hausman is being recognized for being a very nice and fun health teacher who often gives second chances.

Kristin Reingruber

Nomination 1: Beth Reich and Kristin Reingruber were nominated for being very supportive of the PPS and LEAP teams. ”I have been covering a maternity leave for the full-time psych ay OR and they have welcomed me with open arms. It is hard to step enter a building half-way through the school year, but they never failed to include me in all of PPS-related things. They are always available to offer their insight, support and knowledge. I truly feel like an important part of the team thanks to Beth and Kristin.”

Nomination 2: Kristin is being recognized for proving outstanding support and guidance.

             Jake Thompson

Jake Thompson is being recognized for introducing me to the Khan Academy. He motivates me to be my best in math and cheers me up when I am down.

Christine Droba

Christine Droba is being recognized for collaborating and being a team player. Christine pushes into my room and other third-grade math rooms throughout the week. When she’s in my room, she goes above and beyond to work with students one on one and in large groups. She has built an excellent rapport with students and they perform for her because of their respect for her. She exudes passion for students and for the content she teaches. She’s constantly sharing new ways of introducing or reintroducing concepts to help students better understand material. She stays after school, communicates with me through text, shares information from her grad classes or things she has learned on the internet that helps improve my teaching. Christine is a person who makes co-teaching enjoyable and effective. I can’t express enough how much I appreciate her support and her collaboration.
           Lynn Crain

Lynn Crain is being recognized for being an inspiration to all teachers who work with young students. Lynn adapts and develops materials so each student succeeds. Although she is in her final year of teaching, she can be found after school, sometimes after 5 p.m., researching and preparing materials so that each student has the opportunity to reach their goals. Thank you Mrs. Crain for all your years of dedication to the students of District 117.

February Nominees

         Erich Grauke

Erich Grauke has been recognized for “providing valuable information on a World War II project.” Erich (a former history teacher) has been giving me ideas and websites to help me better teach about the Holocaust. He has gone above and beyond.

January Nominees

        Nancy Fielding

          Marjie Kremer

        Darien Gier

       Bridget Golden

 Jed Ramsey

         Sean Joyce

Nancy Fielding, Marjie Kremer, Darien Gier, Bridget Golden, Jed Ramsey and Sean Joyce are being recognized for being part of an amazing team at Conrady Junior High School. “When people think of their children’s education and those involved in it, thoughts instantly focus on the teachers as having the primary impact. The week of January 9 was taxing on our group of educational support services and it reflected how powerfully we came together as a team and school when push came to shove.  I’d like to take a moment to extend my appreciation to our PPS team for coming together to support one another. I’m greatly appreciative to be part of such an incredible group of individuals who are so committed to becoming a unified team. Thank you all for the continued support and contributions to our school, students and colleagues. I am very proud to be a member of such an amazing team.”

December Nominees

         Margaret Bartkus

Margaret Bartkus is being recognized for her tireless efforts that assist with the transition between classes. “Mrs. Bartkus and I share many students and when her students come to my class they have such a strong knowledge base of the ELA units and standards because of the time and care Mrs. Bartkus puts in to her lessons while they are with her. She is always so helpful when it comes to collaborating and comes up with such great new ideas on how to help our students achieve. We are so fortunate to have her on the third-grade team this year.”

November Nominees

            Kristen Mirus

Kristen Mirus is being recognized for “taking every initiative to get to know her students’ strengths to help build on them while serving as an advocate for their needs. She works tirelessly to learn new and innovative strategies so her students are prepared to be lifelong learners. She is also willing to share her knowledge with others. She recently had a student-teacher in her classroom whom she did an outstanding job of mentoring.”


     Michele Zilinskas

Michele Zilinskas is being recognized for being “an incredible resource and school psychologist for the Conrady Special Education Department for the past couple of years. Michele consistently goes above and beyond for both her special education team and every student receiving services. She makes an effort to know every special education student outside of testing to ensure they are cared for beyond academic needs. Michele treats her co-workers in the same manner. She is always weilling to help provide advice, and walk through any challenging situations. We are thankful to have Michele on staff as a colleague and a friend.”

           Terri Phillips

Terri Phillips is being recognized for being a “wonderful and caring bus driver who looks out for our students. She knows many of them by name and is always very friendly with the students and staff at Glen Oaks. You know the
 kids love her because they are always running up to her
to give her a hug.” 
               Kathi McHugh

Kathi McHugh is being recognized for “working tirelessly in assisting English Learners, EL/Bilingual specialists and classroom teachers at Oak Ridge. She continually seeks out ways to enhance student learning as well as improving our programs and processes. She is always willing to do whatever it takes to help our children learn."


        Erich Grauke
          Dan Bekas
        Jeff Damhoff
       Brad Pavlacka
Erich Grauke, Jeff Damhoff, Dan Bekas and Brad Pavlacka are being recognized for “comprising the best, most talented and nicest technology department anywhere around. Despite being inundated with an insane amount of requests - and despite being pulled in a million directions – they remain cool under fire while somehow accommodating each and every request. To say they are talented would be to offend them. They are truly amazing and we are fortunate to have them on our staff. And as talented and resourceful as they are, they are even better all-round guys!

The Tech department is being recognized for “everything.” Jeff is the PowerSchool guru who always makes himself immediately available as issues arise. He also went the extra step to pull out unused cable this summer that was no longer needed at Conrady in his pursuit to ensure the job was done right. Jeff also puts his wood-working skills into action at home and brings his masterful creations to Conrady, such as a new dollie for the Chromebooks as well as to make the impossible project mount locations possible. Issues such as when phone lines and internet cable were cut during renovations, Jeff pursues these types of issues until solutions come to fruition. This guy goes above and beyond in every way.

Then there is Brad. Brad goes out of his scope to assist any and all who he encounters, exceeding expectations. Dan is always quick to respond to calls the same as his two superhero colleagues of Jeff and Brad. Erich’s help to commit Conrady’s master schedule at the last minute this year was greatly appreciated.

       Carrie Stacy

Carrie Stacy is being recognized for being an outstanding teacher. Her unique ability to acknowledge problems and continually come up with ways to keep students focused is extraordinary. She identifies issues in struggling students and works with parents to help the student at home. She teaches students how to get past their struggles. She has bettered our lives as parents and, even more importantly, she has helped my child better himself.

           Diane Padilla

Diane Padilla is being recognized for her dedication. Diane assisted in creating Conrady’s master schedule. She put aside timesheets, her union hat, rational work hours and even family when she took it upon herself to work alongside the Conrady administration to nearly 1 o’clock in the morning the night before Institute Day to get kids placed into classes for the 2016-2017 school year

Diane’s commitment, dedication, loyalty and work as a team player in this situation is reflective of many
others on the Conrady staff who probably would have done the same thing. Diane, though, did do it and for this reason I’m sure that others would agree that this particular act was exceptional and worthy of star recognition

2015-2016 School Year

May Nominees

         Bob Clasby

Bob Clasby is being recognized for “going above and beyond his specific job description. He has made Oak Ridge so much fun for my son and goes out of his way to give back to the kids at Oak Ridge. He took it upon himself to sponsor an after-school running club and introduced so many boys to this healthy extracurricular activity. Because of him, my son looks forward to school every day. I am forever grateful.”

Mike Rafferty

Mike Rafferty is being recognized “for being an outstanding teacher. He always knows how to encourage the students attending his classroom. No day is ever dull in his class. He will get students to overcome being shy and participate in class. He does much more than his job description.”
         Alexandra Oreluk

Alexandra Oreluk is being recognized for “being such a caring teacher for the whole class. She makes sure everyone is succeeding in her class and, if not, she gives them work to boost their grade. I spent my summer with her and it was outstanding because she taught me new things in math that I couldn’t do before. She is one of the best teachers ever.”

Susan McMillin

Susan McMillin is being recognized for “showing commendable effort and creativity in everything she has done to bring a love of literacy to everyone at Oak Ridge School.” She has gotten students excited about spelling by bringing back the spelling bee. She has gotten families more involved with Family Read Night by hosting a reading fair. She is encouraging students to love reading and expression through her Decorate A Pumpkin and Peeps contest. She is a great source for me as a classroom teacher and she supports all of our efforts in second grade.
             Haneen Elayan

Haneen Elayan is being recognized for “being an excellent Language Arts teacher. She continually challenges her students while meeting their needs. Her students are active learners and always engaged because of her creative teaching style. Mrs. Elayan has incorporated technology into many of her lessons, which has sparked the interest of all her students. She has done an outstanding job this year with her second graders.”
           Gadeer Jalal

Gadeer Jalal is being recognized “as a star of Conrady. Gadeer goes above and beyond her duties. Many of us are guilty of turning in late projects, but Gadeer is there to save the day. She is friendly, supportive, accommodating and willing to assist in whatever way possible. Gadeer is always smiling and I am lucky to have her as a co-worker. Thank you for all you do for Conrady.”


April Nominees

              Matt Offord

Matt Offord is being recognized for “being a great teacher. Everything we do in his class is like a new experience to me and everyone else. I would like to thank Matt and Mrs. Glaubke for doing science club after school. Your hours after school mean a lot to us. You have made the year go by so fast. You are always willing to collect late work. Thanks for everything.”

         Amy Turnock

Amy Turnock is being recognized for “helping get my classroom ready before I went on maternity leave. I gave birth to my child three weeks earlier and did not have a chance to plan everything before I left. Amy spent extra time and helped plan my classroom so my students would have an easier transition. She stayed late and made copies to give me a stress-free chance to enjoy my baby and not worry about my classroom.”

Jen Stefl

Jen Stefl is being recognized for “everything she has done throughout the school year. She is always willing to help both the teachers and students with a smile on her face despite the fact that our class may drive her crazy. She is always willing to assist us and that is what makes her a great teacher and person.”

         Josh Fazekas

Josh Fazekas is “being recognized again because I really think he deserves more than just one recognition. I am recognizing Mr. Fazekas again on social work services. I don’t know how I would have gotten through this year. Mr. Fazekas is one of my mentors. I want him to know that I appreciate everything he has done for me. I would not have been able
to get through this school year without his support and understanding. He always found time in the hallways to listen to me. It meant a lot. I found strength and comfort from his words. He gave me hope when I lost my way and helped me see things in a positive way. Thank you for being there for me this whole year.”
          Amy Calendo

Amy Calendo is being recognized for “not only being a great teacher but for having so much love and compassion for her students. With her warm smile and love for all kids, it’s no wonder they all fall in love with her. She makes it a happy and safe place for them to be. We feel secure knowing our child is in such great hands. We know she is always willing to go above and beyond for her students and we thank her for that.”

Margaret Gmiterek

Margaret Gmiterek is being recognized for “being an amazing person to work with. We have been a team since day one. We support each other during class and are able to problem-solve and work out any classroom issues that arise. The thing I appreciate most about Margaret is how she will stay after school to debrief the class about the next day’s lessons. She is always smiling and able to look at situations from a positive perspective. I am just thankful I get a chance to work with her.”
       Christine Kizior

Christine Kizior is “being recognized for outstanding service in language arts. Ms. Kizior is a great teacher. She is so supportive and she is willing to assist all her students with anything. I want Ms. Kizior to know that she is a great teacher and she always teaches in a fun way. She makes me laugh so hard and makes all her students smile. I have never heard her raise her voice. Ms. Kizior is very calm and patient and just an amazing teacher. I just want to tell her ‘thank you.’ 

    Margaret Kristufek 

Margaret Kristufek is being recognized for “being nothing short of amazing. She always goes above and beyond assisting in the LCC classroom and providing services for our students. Margaret has supported me in every success and struggle as a beginning teacher these past two years. I cannot even begin to express how much I appreciate her. I know our students adore her as well. I often hear in my sleep our students asking where is Mrs. K? I miss Mrs. K. Love you Mrs. K. I’d like to thank her for her wonderful work as a paraprofessional but also as my friend.”

Brenda Studnicka
Brenda Studnicka is being recognized for “making sure every student feels successful. She encourages them to work hard and try their best. She explains things to students in a way that is easy for them to understand. She always comes prepared with pencils and Jolly Ranchers – just in case. I’ve worked with her my two years at Conrady and I know my experience would not have been the same without her. She is always thinking or others and never asks for anything in return. I could never fully express how much I appreciate Brenda and everything she does.”
          Dianne Hasler

Dianne Hasler was nominated for “assisting with residency checks. Dianne is plenty busy with other jobs in the business office but she still manages to help with confirming addresses and other related tasks while also assisting with homeless issues. In the last two years, Dianne has assisted on many of the more than 100 residency checks that have been conducted.”

         Brad Vanderberg

Brad Vanderberg is being recognized for being a “dedicated and kind paraprofessional. My classroom would not function without his hard work each and every6 day. He often brings back little gifts for our students after his spring and winter break trips which is an example of his building great relationships with the students. He also encourages our students to serve as assistants on our sports teams.. I truly appreciate his work ethic and for helping me tirelessly throughout the school year.”

March Nominees

       Sean Joyce

Sean Joyce is being recognized for “providing outstanding service throughout the school year.” “Mr. Joyce has been extremely helpful with my son. He showed (my son) how to use a Chromebook and is always available to listen to my concerns and find a solution.”

       Erin Fitzgerald


Erin Fitzgerald is being recognized for “being an excellent teacher and colleague. She is determined to make learning engaging for students. Her work on the ELA committee is outstanding, and she is dedicated to creating a curriculum that is challenging and inspiring. Erin is thoughtful and caring and this shows in everything she does at Oak Ridge. It is a pleasure to work with her.”

         Susan McMillin  

Susan McMillin received 2 nominations this month. She is being recognized for helping a colleague prepare a Learning Links class. “Susan had previously taught the Learning Links class on Biomes. Susan offered me copies of activities and lessons she used when she taught the class. She even went out of her way on multiple Saturday mornings to drop off and pick up Experience Boxes from the Field Museum that I was able to use when teaching about the rainforest, tundra and desert biomes. She went above and beyond and it was appreciated.” She is also being recognized for 
“going above and beyond helping me find resources for daily classroom planning. Susan has helped by providing resources and ideas in developing a new unit for the fifth grade. She always has time to collaborate and provide ideas that are engaging for the students. Also, she continually comes up with ideas  that are outside the box. She is a true asset to Oak Ridge and District 117. I am very lucky to work with her. She is truly a STAR!”

     Christine Kizior

Christine Kizior is being recognized for “helping me with my language arts work. She makes sure I do good on my tests and, if I don’t know what the text means in an article, she explains it to me. She helps me with things I have never done before so I will know what to do when I get to Stagg.”
      Gayle Farmer

Gayle Farmer received 3 nominations this month. She is being recognized for “helping me with my school work. Gayle is a really sweet and helpful teacher. When I have a problem, she is there for me and makes me feel a lot better.” She is also being recognized for “helping me whenever I need help and always making sure I know what I am doing. She makes sure my classmates and I are on task, and she helps us on our homework in any subject" and for “helping me whenever I need help and making sure I know what I am doing. She makes sure that we are all on task and helps us with our homework.”

      Natalie Profita

Natalie Profita is being recognized for “providing extra support in using technology in the classroom. Technology is one of my weakest areas. No matter how many times I have had to ask a question or asked her to repeat her instruction, Natalie has always remained patient and helped me remain positive. I appreciate all of her hard work.”
     Matt Majchrowicz

Matt Majchrowicz is being recognized for “always making himself available to assist the kids with math before school. With the harder eighth-grade honors algebra work, his assistance is really appreciated and it helps kids a lot.”

        Patty Kelly

Patty Kelly received two nominations this month. She is being recognized for “being instrumental in helping apply technology in the classroom on a daily basis. She has shown me by example and then had me try it on my own giving me a helping hand when needed. I feel much more comfortable using technology in the classroom because of her help. I really appreciate the patience she has shown me.”

Patty Kelly is also being recognized for “helping me with my math and making it clear for me.”

February Nominees

       Melissa Murphy 

Melissa Murphy is being recognized for “always putting her students, staff and community above 
herself in everything she does. I don’t know anyone who works harder than her! When she sees something that needs to be addressed, she doesn’t hesitate. She’s a fantastic leader in District 117!”

        Mary Ann Anifer

Mary Ann Anifer is being recognized for “providing a safe route for students and staff to come to and from school.” “Her smiling face can be seen each day on Roberts Road by Conrady and along 103rd Street near Sorrick. She braves the elements and traffic each day to ensure our students have a safe route to school and the traffic proceeds in a safe manner. We are lucky to have her.”
           Nancy Ham


Nancy Ham is being recognized for her compassion and patience. “Nancy is a very patient and compassionate paraprofessional. She helps all the students in the classroom as well as the teachers and always does so with grace. When a situation occurs, she quickly steps in and helps defuse it.”

        Patricia Acosta

Patti Acosta is being recognized for “providing outstanding service in everything she does. Mrs. Acosta is a huge asset to my third-grade team. She arrives each day with a huge smile on her face and she loves working with all the students in the classroom. She brings such positivity to the classroom. She has an incredible amount of patience and is always looking to help beyond her job description. My students are very lucky to have her.”

                   Sorrick Staff
Sorrick staff is being recognized for providing unconditional knowledge and love for their students. “This will be our last year at Sorrick and we would like to acknowledge the entire staff. Not only is every one of the teachers fantastic, but the front office staff is as well. The love and support that this school has shown makes it a great place for our children to be. My child enjoys each and every person here and talks about them all. The front office and the teachers seem to know the children well. All we can say is thank you all for making our children have the best times of their lives.”

January Nominees

         Patty Kelly
Patty Kelly is being recognized for making language arts class so enjoyable with Ms. Kizior. “I enjoy her class so much. I know, at times, we all feel lazy because it is 7th and 8th period, but when it comes time for her class I feel like I’m back on my feet with a smile and ready to learn something new. We not only learn new things, but we learn them in fun and exciting ways.”

             Vince Annel

Vince Annel is being recognized “for helping us in math. Sometimes when we don’t understand the concept, he teaches us another way. He also makes math more fun. When we have tests, he sometimes lets us have breaks in between. We learn in his class, and he makes class fun and enjoyable.”
         Mike Rafferty

Mike Rafferty is being recognized for “bringing my daughter out of her shell. He continues to mentor her even though she no longer is a student of his. Mr. Rafferty is a major asset.”
           Frank Mateja

Frank Mateja is being recognized for being “one of my favorite teachers. He always makes my day. He teaches us what we need to know but, learning-experience-wise, he makes class seem more fun and enjoyable. Thank you Mr. Mateja.”
     Rebecca Calhoun

Becky Calhoun is being recognized for “going above and beyond with her students. She makes sure that their basic needs are met as well as their sense of worth. I often hear her giving genuine, supportive feedback and encouragement. The students who have Mrs. Calhoun are sure to remember her beyond 7th grade as a loving teacher who challenged them to do their best work no matter their circumstances.”
        Mary Jo Heinz

Mary Jo Heinz is being recognized for “always helping her students be the best they can be. 
She researches tirelessly for the best strategies to bring into her classroom. She cares about each and every student and their success is her goal.” 
              Lisa Wilson
Lisa Wilson is being recognized for “being very patient with my daughter and answering all of my questions while offering extra support in all subject areas. She takes the time to find additional reading books and materials and sends them home every week for her to work on with us. My daughter truly loves going to school every day and talks about Mrs. Wilson non-stop.”

December Nominees

      Shadia Salem

Shadia is being recognized for going above and beyond to work with staff in creating lessons, assisting and leading at a moment’s notice. In addition, she values students’ social-emotional well-being and interacts on a personal level to guide students in reaching their highest potential. Her hard work shows in the students’ scores and on their faces.

       Erin Fitzgerald

Erin is being recognized for going out of her way to help any teacher in the building. “Erin is always willing to offer a resource, find a resource if she doesn’t have one and provide professional advice and offer a helping hand.”

          Josh Fazekas
Josh Fazekas is being recognized for “being very helpful. When I need someone to talk to or when I am feeling low, Mr. Fazekas is ready to bring me back to the top again. It may be ‘Hey, how are you,’ but those four words mean a lot to me. I want to say thank you to Mr. Fazekas for everything.”

           Kim Pietryla
Kim Pietryla is being recognized for “going above and beyond to alleviate stress on the part of the ELA staff, and (she) has continuously provided support regarding the implementation of the ELA units. Kim is patient and always listens to our concerns with a smile.”

Sean Joyce

Sean is being recognized “for being a     wonderful assistant principal and working well with the students and teachers.”
        Susan McMillin

Susan McMillin is being recognized for going above and beyond in her role as media specialist. She put together an amazing book fair at Barnes and Noble, complete with photo booth, lollipop tree, face-painting and cupcake decorating. She began a pumpkin decorating contest and a diorama contest.

       Nancy Fielding

Nancy Fielding is being recognized for “being very nice and welcoming and for helping me through so much this year. She is an amazing and outstanding teacher.”
   Rana Ayyad

Rana Ayyad is being recognized for “being an excellent aide and staff member at Conrady. Rana automatically knows what to do in the classroom. She works well with our instructional students and is an important asset to our school.”

       Andy Anderson

Andy Anderson is being recognized for “being a very good principal. He strives to make Conrady Junior High a better place.”

August Nominees

         Sara Olson

Sara Olson is being recognized for being a wonderful principal. “She is dedicated and loves her job. Her people skills are phenomenal with both students and parents. She truly cares about her students and parents. She is a great asset to the Sorrick team.”

2014-2015 School Year
May Nominees
        Amy Wettergren

          Leslie Urbaniak

     Christine Denson


Amy, Leslie and Christine definitely have gone the 'extra mile, ' " their nominator said. "As the school year winds down, the three of them have put LOTS 
and LOTS of time and dedication into the planning of our last ELA unit of the school year. While not all of us can stay after school to help plan due to family
or prior commitments, they spend their afternoons planning and creating and they then share with the rest of us! Their hard work is truly appreciated by 
the entire team. THANK YOU from all of us!"

           Carrie Stacy

Carrie Stacy is being recognized for her dedication to her students. "She has a family at home yet she seems to work around the clock creating math and ELA lessons, learning activities and then differentiating ALL of these!" her nominator said. "Her hard work and dedication does not go unnoticed and is truly appreciated. She is such an asset to have on the Second Grade Team and I don't know what I would do without her.THANK YOU so much from all of us!"
           Laura Kenny

Laura Kenny is being recognized for her work in planning units in both ELA and math curriculum. “Laura is a true team player. She works tirelessly to deliver the best instruction of the Common Core Standards to special education students in second grade. Mrs. Kenny is always eager to share all of her hard work and modified materials with the entire second-grade team. Her hard work is appreciated by all who work with her.”
           Mike Rafferty
Mike Rafferty is being recognized for “making learning so much fun with all the jokes he would make.” “He made me look forward to going to school every day because I knew that I would smile but still learn something. Mr. Rafferty even took time out of his day to come and watch one of my hockey games.”

April Nominee

         Jeff Damhoff

Jeff Damhoff is being recognized for using his ingenuity and McGuyver-like skills to fabricate 10 new ceiling mounts to help install wireless access points at Conrady Junior High School. Realizing that the existing ceiling mounts were not compatible with the new access points, Jeff went home and worked on a way to solve the problem. “Jeff also has been vital in working with the business office revising our online student registration process.”

March Nominees

Kathleen Mazzone

Jen Tischer

 Mary Beth Patrick

  Lisa Wilson

Kathleen Mazzone, Jen Tischer, Mary Beth Patrick and Lisa Wilson are being recognized for “going above and beyond for students with special needs.”

February Nominee

   Michael Rafferty

Michael Rafferty is being recognized for being “the best English Language Arts teacher ever.” “Thanks to Mr. Rafferty, I like reading a lot more and I like school a lot more.”

January Nominee

   Michelle Kjeldsen

Michelle Kjeldsen is being recognized for “helping run the day-to-day operations of the gifted classes at Oak Ridge School.” “She helped trouble-shoot technology issues, monitor entrances for arrival of out-of-district teachers, and ushered individuals to and from facilities needed, all while contributing great ideas to class discussions and maintaining a positive attitude.”

December Nominee

   Sue Clemons

Sue Clemons is being recognized by a parent for “inspiring my daughter to play in the band and for encouraging her to pursue band at Stagg High High.”

November Nominees

   Sue Dembek

Sue Dembek is being recognized for helping a former student "find her passion in life, which is history." "Even though I've driven her up a wall at times, Mrs. Dembek never gave up on me and always encouraged me. It is obvious she is passionate about her job, and the ones who are passionate about their jobs are the ones I learn the most from and who I always remember years down the road."

October Nominees

    Dan Bekas

Dan Bekas is being recognized for "always responding to problems and requests in a 
timely manner." He is patient with those 
of us who are less technically inclined.

Samantha Sincock

Samantha Liddell-Sincock is being recognized for "energizing District 117 people to participate in the annual Howl Thru The Hills 5K Walk/Run." She organized the "Unity in the Community" replete with T-shirts featuring all the schools in the district. Sam is always getting people to get out and exercise.
  Camille Brall

Camille Brall was recognized for handling any and all situations with professionalism, integrity and compassion. She is creative and knowledgeable and has never backed down from a challenge.
  Joanie Sawinski

Joanie was recognized for always putting students' needs first. She is such a kind and compassionate person who does her best to make sure children with special needs succeed and feel important.

September Nominees

    Julianna Joy

Julianna Joy is being recognized for "going the extra mile to make students to want to come to school." Julianna works extremely hard to improve students' overall speech and language abilities. Students she works with make continual gains.

 Lauren Cummane 

Lauren Cummane is being recognized for "always being passionate about her job and for always putting students first." Lauren creates a fun and engaging learning environment. She works hard to ensure all students have the chance to communicate.
   Dawn Ventura

Dawn Ventura is being recognized for "volunteering her skills as a calligrapher to beautifully print the certificates for those nominated for a Recognize a Star award." She has an amazing talent and her willingness to assist on this project is truly appreciated.
  Debbie Johnson

Debbie Johnson is being recognized for "going above and beyond" during a recent field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry. She showed a great deal of selflessness in assisting with the field trip. She is always willing to assist in any way she can.
    Karen Sladek

Karen Sladek is being recognized for being "creative and thoughtful with every lesson she prepares." Mrs. Sladek gives every student an opportunity to learn. "She is in her last year (before retiring) and she continues to give 100 percent to her students."

August Nominees

JoAnne Brotsch
JoAnne is being recognized for always keeping her cool, and never raising her voice or yelling at students. JoAnne taught two sisters (years apart) and always made a point of saying hello and hugging them when they were passing in the hallway. The nominee said that JoAnne always made time for her questions and concerns even if it was during her lunch period.

       Kim Dignin
Mrs. Dignin is recognized for being an extraordinary teacher who helped improve a student's reading skills, confidence and self-esteem. Mrs. Dignin and Ms. Grimm also took time out of their schedules to attend the student's park district 'acting' performance.
Beata Koperdowski
Mrs. Koperdowski is being recognized for being a great teacher and a wonderful person who makes people feel good about themselves. Beata constantly encourages and inspires students to be their best.
     Marjie Kremer
Mrs. Kremer is being recognized for going above and beyond to provide support and guidance.
 Amanda Leyden
Mrs. Leyden is being recognized for helping a student increase his reading scores. She made learning fun and exciting. She is the one teacher who has truly 'stood out.'
   Eileen McCaffrey
Mrs. McCaffrey is recognized for always making sure that parents understand everything related to their students' schoolwork despite the many language barriers. Eileen was said to be very patient and willing to take the extra step to reach every student and parent. Eileen is also very open to listen to all ideas and concerns.
   Kevin McNamara
Mr. McNamara is being recognized for his willingness to pitch in and help out at the district office and is an ultimate team player.