Fremd High School Teacher Steve Elza is Finalist for 2015 Illinois Teacher of the Year

Elza, who has worked at Fremd High School for seven years, is one of 12 finalists for 2015 Illinois Teacher of the Year.

Elza, who has worked at Fremd High School for seven years, is one of 12 finalists for 2015 Illinois Teacher of the Year.

When Steve Elza, applied technology teacher at Fremd High School, first heard about being a 2015 Illinois Teacher of the Year finalist, he was speechless.

“I have a passion for what I do with the kids and seeing them succeed, and when someone else sees that passion and says ‘you’re doing a great job and we appreciate what you do,’ it really validates what we all do here. It’s pretty amazing.”

Elza, who has worked at Fremd High School for seven years, is one of 12 finalists for 2015 Illinois Teacher of the Year. The State Board annually sponsors the “Those Who Excel” awards to honor individuals who have made significant contributions to the state’s public and non-public schools, and each year selects a Teacher of the Year from a list of outstanding candidates.

An honor like this is one that Elza said is surreal. He said it is a great honor to be recognized for his passion of teaching students because he is doing what he loves to do. He added that sometimes it’s easy for teachers to be unaware of the impact education might have on students, and moments like this validate the job teachers do.

“Anyone who knows me knows that I truly enjoy my job. I love working with students and being able to share my passion for the automotive field with my students is why I do this,” he said. “Fremd is an amazing place to work – from administration and student services, to other teachers – I truly believe we have a family atmosphere here.”

In addition to Elza, District 211 will be well-represented among recipients in the 2014-2015 Illinois State Board of Education’s “Those Who Excel” education awards program.

High School District 211 Those Who Excel award candidates include (listed alphabetically):

• Secretary to the Superintendent Sally Cimmarusti (educational service personnel category)

• Schaumburg High School Head Librarian Susan Elk (student support personnel category)

• William Fremd High School Applied Technology Teacher Steve Elza (classroom teacher category; 2015 Illinois Teacher of the Year finalist)

• District 211 Academy-North Teacher Dane Henning (early career educator category)

• James B. Conant High School Assistant Principal Robert Small (school administrator category)

• Hoffman Estates High School SOAR Core Committee (team category)

“Those Who Excel” award recipients will be honored by the Illinois State Board of Education, and the 2015 Illinois Teacher of the Year will be named, at the “Those Who Excel” awards banquet on Saturday, October 25, in Bloomington, Ill.

District 211’s Progress Toward Meeting Academic Goals in 2012 – 2013

During the 2012-2013 academic year, District 211 established academic goals for its students that included yearly goals and targets to accelerate academic achievement in various categories. With a focus on student learning and growth, high school standards attainment, high school graduation rate, and college and career readiness, the District’s academic goals reflect changes in the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) accountability system.

Teachers had an opportunity to assess and refine the curriculum during 10 morning work sessions throughout the previous school year, and the Board of Education approved 12 similar sessions for the 2013-2014 academic year at its July 11 meeting. This will help ensure continued growth and work toward improving student success.

Since the first year of monitoring academic goals, there have been improvements in each of the targeted areas. The first academic goal is directed toward individual student improvement on both enrollment in accelerated coursework and growth within state assessments and the Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS). During the 2012-2013 school year, 44 percent of students enrolled in accelerated coursework, including all honors and advanced placement coursework.

The freshman class of 2013 had 30 percent of its students enrolled in accelerated coursework and by senior year, 47 percent met that goal. The ISBE had set a target of 57.4 percent of students to increase their scores in the EXPLORE, PLAN, and ACT examinations. District 211 had 77.8 percent of students increase their score by more than half a point or achieved the maximum score of 6.0.

The second academic goal focused on students demonstrating attainment of knowledge and skills defined within local, state, and national high school standards. This is the first year that departments have used District benchmark assessments, which are administered in each course at the end of the learning process to determine whether students have made progress toward mastering critical learning standards. Teachers have already noticed many ways the benchmarks can be improved and used in the future, and will use future morning work sessions as a way to continue reaching goals and increasing the number of test items for assessment.

The third goal strives to have all students, regardless of income-level, race, or educational background, demonstrate on-time graduation from high school. In the Class of 2012, 93 percent of all students graduated within four years of entering high school, and 94 percent of all students graduated within five years of entering high school. ISBE standards indicate that high schools should have 90 percent of its students graduate in four years, and 95 percent within five years.

The final academic goal ensures that all students will demonstrate that they are college and career ready while in high school. District 211 focused on creating more opportunities for all students to be college and career ready. Roughly 50 percent of students in the Class of 2013 participated in at least one advanced placement course. In May 2012, 80 percent of students who completed an advanced placement exam scored a 3, 4, or 5, which makes them eligible for college credit.

Additionally, students have access to dual-credit courses in partnership with Harper College, and enrollment in these courses has increased 7 percent. The Class of 2013 had 72 percent of students meeting the English college readiness benchmark on the ACT exam, and 71 percent meeting the mathematics benchmark. The District plans to continue its efforts to increase student performance on high-stakes tests, which create opportunities after graduation.

Increased morning work sessions will allow time for professional learning teams to conduct work toward achieving each of the District’s academic goals. The continued efforts will help ensure future student success, as well as improvement for identifying patterns in student results, asking questions about assessments themselves, instruction, standards of curriculum, using results to guide instructional changes between morning work sessions, and reviewing the impact of adjustments on instruction and student performance.

To read the full report on progress toward meeting academic goals, please visit the District’s board docs website.

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