Aimee Park and Aaron Sitze, both National Board Certified Teachers, were named 2021 Regional Teachers of the Year. They are among the ten finalists for the Illinois State Teacher of the Year Award.
This year, the Regional Teachers of the Year were selected from over 100 nominees for the 2021 Illinois Teacher of the Year award. It is the first time that the Illinois State Board of Education has named ten teachers for this honor.
Aimee Park, the 2021 South Suburbs Regional Teacher of the Year, understands that every moment with her students is a potential moment their lives could change. The Lisle Junior High School science teacher uses this mindset to keep herself focused and to provide equitable opportunities and experiences to support, encourage, and inspire curiosity in students. Park does not only apply her life-changing moment philosophy to her own classroom: she was “an integral part of the transition of science teaching during the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)” in the state of Illinois. Park even went on to develop free five-day professional learning opportunities in order to share her expertise. These events are run through local ROEs to “help other science teachers align their curricula to NGSS.”
When asked how being an NBCT has prepared her for the Illinois State Teacher of the Year award, Park said, “The process of completing your National Boards engages educators in the rich practice of reflection. While many educators reflect on their lessons or units, the reflection called for in the NBCT process is so much more. It is more in-depth, more thoughtful, and more thorough. Applicants deeply analyze their choices in instruction, their participation in student-teacher conversations, their educational beliefs in practice, their process of assessing students’ growth and learning, and so much more. By filming and writing about your practice, you allow yourself to become vulnerable. And, from this place of vulnerability, you can truly grow and learn as a professional. I feel humbled to be honored as a regional teacher of the year, and I share that honor with all my students and all members of the educational community that persevered through the challenges of 2019–2020. I look forward to what lies ahead!”
Aaron Sitze, the 2021 Northwest Regional Teacher of the Year, started making drastic changes to his teaching style after finding himself thinking, “What is the point [of the curriculum]?” The Oregon High School social entrepreneurship teacher eventually refined a new curriculum which now focuses on “the capacity to make change,” rather than on standardized test scores. The shift to teaching students skills such as “adaptability, professionalism, self-advocacy, persistence, confidence, and communication,” enables them to apply their practical knowledge in a series of “culminating experiences” each quarter. One of the most exciting and unique experiences put together by Sitzee is an event in which students pitch their business models to business owners in the community. Not only do the students get to practice presenting to an audience of people other than their peers, but the community event can help students find potential investors to cover or defray start-up costs.
“In a time when there is no playbook for the future of education, National Board Certified Teachers are in a unique position to “be the change” in their districts,” Sitze said. “Certification is challenging, but the results are deep: meaningful self-reflection, sharpened pedagogy, and a commitment to community. These are the skills that are going to guide the next chapter in American education.”
Congratulations to these outstanding educators and National Board Certified Teachers!