Dr. Justin Antos, Amber George, and Kimberly Radostits, all National Board Certified Teachers, and Ashley Kannan, National Board Candidate, were all named 2022 Regional Teachers of the Year. They are among the 10 finalists for the ISBE (Illinois State Board of Education) Illinois State Teacher of the Year Award.
Dr. Justin Antos-2022 Regional Teachers of the Year: Cook County
Music teacher at Eisenhower High School in Community High School District 218 in Oak Lawn
When asked about his teaching, Antos said, “I have always viewed my students’ lived experiences with an asset-based mindset. I want students to enter my classroom feeling as though they have a voice and that they are well-represented in my curriculum.”
This seems to beautifully sum up Antos’ teaching philosophy. The Eisenhower High School music teacher has worked to include the music of composers from underrepresented communities in school concerts. In an inspired addition to the music program, Antos created a school mariachi band. Due to a high percentage of his students coming from bilingual, Mexican-American families, the band offers unique opportunities for collaboration as the students help to arrange music and perform around the community.
“This designation means so much to me. I have followed the Illinois Teacher of the Year program and its recipients for many years and to be recognized alongside so many amazing educators is incredibly humbling and surreal.”
Amber George-2022 Regional Teachers of the Year: Southeast
Family and consumer sciences teacher at Herrin High School in Herrin Community Unit School District 4 in Herrin
Amber George’s passion about early childhood education shines through in her high school classroom. Returning to her alma mater, Herrin Community High School, this creative family and consumer sciences teacher cultivates a love of working with children in her own students. The preschool learning lab course (Tiger Paws Learning Lab) she teaches gives high school juniors and seniors a special opportunity to learn and grow as future educators. The high schoolers are taught best practices for working with young students, eventually serving as “student teachers” and gaining valuable, practical experience in the classroom.
When asked about this recognition, George said: “Being named the 2022 Illinois Southeast Regional Teacher of the Year was such a surprise and is such an honor. Being a teacher is one of the greatest experiences of my life. It is my true calling and I feel so blessed that I have been given the opportunity to work with both high schoolers and preschoolers in my community over the past 15 years. I attribute a great deal of my continued growth in the classroom to going through the process to become a National Board Certified Teacher. By taking a real and honest look at the processes in my classroom and truly finding my ‘why,’ I have become more confident in my craft and have become a better educational ally for both my students and my colleagues. “
Kimberly Radostits-2022 Regional Teachers of the Year: Northwest
Spanish teacher at Oregon High School in Oregon Community Unit School District 220 in Oregon
High school can be an especially challenging time for a variety of reasons. Spanish teacher Kimberly Radostits saw the struggles some of her students were having and made it her mission to combat that cycle of compounding challenges.
By working with colleagues at Oregon High School to develop the “Hawks Take Flight” program, freshmen who fall behind receive special mentoring and an intervention to help get them back on track academically. These students receive additional assistance and know that their teachers truly care about their well-being. Radostits also strives to create an active, engaging learning environment that helps her students want to learn and participate.
“I have been teaching for over 15 years and they have been the best years of my life. I love everything about school and believe that my career is the culmination of over 30 years of experiences I have had with inspiring educators both formal and informal that have shaped me into who I am today. To be able to represent those educators with this recognition is unlike anything I could have ever imagined. I hope this inspires the students in my classes to find their passion and to go after it. There truly is nothing better than living your life with purpose every single day.”
Ashley Kannan- 2022 Regional Teachers of the Year: Cook County
Social studies teacher at Percy Julian Middle School, Oak Park Elementary School District 97 in Oak Park
When a student feels a sense of connection and belonging in their school and community, they thrive. Ashley Kannan, a social studies teacher at Percy Julian Middle School, takes this mission to heart and then acts on it.
In response to recent events, Kannan worked to help develop an African American studies course using the feedback of his former students. The pilot course, which outlined ways to engage in conversations about racial identity, was so successful that it has now become a permanent elective. Kannan also serves as the faculty sponsor for Percy Julian’s first LGBTQIA+ club. This club stresses inclusivity, safety, and welcome for all who want to make the school a better place.
“While I am tremendously humbled with any positive distinction, I am more appreciative of the students who have grown in their understanding of the world and their place in it while becoming more as both people and scholars … all the while dealing with me, which is no easy task,” Kannan said.
A big congratulations to these four teachers and all of the nominees for their amazing work in—and out—of the classroom.