English Teacher Brian Curtin Prepares for ‘Life-Changing Experience’ as Illinois Teacher of the Year


Brian Curtin was named the 2012-2013 Illinois Teacher of the Year.

Though what Schaumburg High School English Teacher Brian Curtin calls a humbling honor and credits to the many educators, students, parents, and family members who have shaped him into the teacher he is today, the 2012-2013 Illinois Teacher of the Year said this award is the beginning of a life-changing opportunity.

Curtin, who was named the 2012-2013 Illinois Teacher of the Year by the Illinois Board of Education on Oct. 20, in Bloomington, Ill., plans to use this honor as a way to spread an educational message of collaboration, communication, and working together that inspired him as a teacher.

“I see this award as an opportunity for an experience to spread a message that has been spread throughout all of Schaumburg and District 211,” Curtin said. “I find it ironic that this is an award bestowed upon one person, because really it’s an award and recognition that belongs to a lot of people. If it weren’t for the desire to want to continue community and collaboration in the classroom, or working with the educators I have throughout the years, I wouldn’t have been able to learn the things that I did without them.”

As he prepares for an upcoming busy year, Curtin is ready to share his knowledge, stories, successes, and failures, with other educators looking to connect with their students on a similar level. He said he believes success of his students started from teaching them how to collaboratively learn together through discussions. He also believes his students are responsive when teachers treat their students like people and with respect. Showing a student they are cared for, they are interesting, and that it’s okay to respectfully voice an opinion creates what Curtin calls amazing opportunities in the classroom.

“The biggest challenges in the classroom are the ones that start outside the classroom,” he said. “These kids are coming in with real-life problems, and when they sit in my classroom I am asking them to read Shakespeare and to write poetry. How do I reach out to my students as people first and make them feel like this is a place where they can feel comfortable? Once they can feel comfortable, I think they will be much more capable of doing many things.”

Although Curtin is excited to be named Teacher of the Year, and is eager to start speaking with others about education, he knows the life-changing experience will not influence a change in his educational ideals.

“It’s not going to change me, or change the way I am going to approach my students. It’s helped me reflect on how much I still have to learn as a teacher, and it made me realize how appreciative I am of all the different ways that I can be a better teacher,” Curtin said. “This is including all the awesome people in the English department I work with. I will just continue to try and get better each day.”

Curtain said the collaborative efforts which have helped him get where he is today are largely credited to the Schaumburg High School community, students, parents, District 211, his family, and educators he has worked with in the past.  Curtin also will be the Illinois representative in the upcoming National Teacher of the Year competition.

In addition to Curtin, District 211 was well-represented among recipients in the Illinois State Board of Education’s 2012 “Those Who Excel” education awards program.  All Those Who Excel award recipients were also honored by ISBE at an awards banquet on Oct. 20 in Bloomington, Ill.

High School District 211 Those Who Excel award candidates include (listed alphabetically):
•    Hoffman Estates High School Student Services Director Jennifer Beers (administrator category)
•    Schaumburg High School English Teacher Brian Curtin (classroom teacher category); Illinois Teacher of the Year
•    Palatine High School Counselor Jennifer Grapenthin (student support personnel category)
•    System and Programming Manager Andrew Park (educational service personnel category)
•    Fremd High School “VAMP” Team (team category); Team members are: Augie Fontanetta, Chad Jonas, Kristy Loughin-Vance, and Antonette Minniti