Message From State Superintendent Christopher A. Koch
Steven Elza, an automotive technology teacher at William Fremd High School in Township High School District 211 (THSD 211), has been named our 2015 Illinois Teacher of the Year. Steve, one of 12 finalists, was chosen as this year's top educator in Normal Saturday night at our 40th annual Those Who Excel banquet.
Steve is a role model for his students, colleagues and people thinking about a career as a teacher. His pathway into teaching, including his experience in being mentored, is an important story for others to hear. As a career technical educator, he also is able to provide insights into the preparation of students for high-paying and rewarding careers.
A graduate of Southern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science in automotive technology, Steve also holds two Master of Education degrees from Southern and has earned numerous other certifications. Steve's automotive technology program has achieved National Automotive Technician Education Foundation certification. THSD 211 is the first high school district in the state to have all of its schools achieve this distinction. Only 4 percent of all high schools in the United States achieve this certification. Additionally, Steve has led students to multiple state and national competitions, where his students have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships and materials.
Last year's Teacher of the Year was Pam Reilly, a second-grade teacher at Woodbury Elementary School in Sandwich CUSD 430.
This year, there were more than 230 nominations for Those Who Excel. Principals, faculty, parents and students submit letters on behalf of candidates as part of the nomination process.
As Illinois Teacher of the Year, Steve will have opportunities to share his knowledge and expertise outside the classroom. Beginning in the 2015 spring semester, Steve will be available to speak at teaching workshops, educational conferences and community meetings. He 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 and ING. Steve will also receive products from SMARTer Kids.
You can find out more information about the Teacher of the Year and Those Who Excel at www.isbe.net/those-who-excel/default.htm.
As we move forward into the school year, there continue to be a number of questions about the new assessment we will be administering next spring - the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). We have developed a number of resources you can use when communicating with your communities. These can be accessed at www.isbe.net/hot-topics.htm?col2=open#CollapsiblePanel2.
I know some of you have already received questions from parents who would like their children to be able to opt out of taking the test. Opting out of PARCC is not an option.
Schools receiving Title I funds are legally obligated by federal law - specifically, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001) - to participate in the state's academic assessment of all designated students.
To assist school districts that receive requests from parents who want to opt their child out of taking the PARCC assessment, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has made available a two-page, comprehensive letter addressed to parents explaining the reasons why school districts in Illinois are using PARCC, the many benefits of PARCC and the federal law that requires districts to conduct academic assessment of all students.
School districts are welcome to use this letter as they see fit. It is available at www.isbe.net/regionaloffices/word/parcc-opt-out-family-ltr.docx.