Bloomington, IL

Kelly Sims

Corpus Christi Catholic School

Junior High – English/Language Arts

“She’s amazing!! We’ve been back in school for 8 weeks and she has remained positive and upbeat, always giving the kids everything she’s got! This summer she spent tons of time compiling lists of things that made each kid in her home room special from the rest of the class. She put all the special things together for each child and mailed it to their home. What a bright light our children received in the midst of a crazy world, reading why their classmates thought they were special. It’s a letter my daughter will cherish for many many years!!”

Nominated by Kristie

Carbondale, IL

Alfred McGowan

Carbondale Middle School

Middle School Social Studies

“After serving our country as a Marine, he became a teacher. He is nearing retirement and still shows a love for the job. He is not only a teacher but a coach, counselor and friend to those students who need it the most. He is a loving husband, father and grandfather. He lives God’s word everyday and speaks it from the pulpit on Sundays. This is a man who is truly deserving of the acknowledgement. This would be perfect since he loves to eat…alot…and then work out.”

Nominated by Paula

Champaign, IL

Cessily Thomas

Centennial High School

High School

“Cessily took me under her wing when I was student teaching and convinced me to stay in her district so we could make a difference in our community. She is fully invested in her students and loves them dearly. She always goes above and beyond. The kids, staff, parents, and community notice!”

Nominated by Shayna

Davenport, IA

Kerry Leon

McKinley Elementary


“Kerry Leon is a marvelous teacher and she does such an amazing job getting an entire room of kindergarteners to focus, listen and stay on task with positive reinforcement! She helps the children find that desire to learn and get the praise that they so desperately want. She encourages them every step of the way even though she is only one teacher she is able to teach over 25 kindergarteners at once, which blows my mind since some kids have never been in a classroom before, been away from their family, or might not be perfectly potty trained yet. She does a fantastic job as a teacher and is a marvelous person!”

Nominated by Kisha

Edwardsville, IL

Missi Sanders

Edwardsville High School

12th Grade

“She has impacted so many students throughout, not just her classes but, the whole high school. She is always looking for a way to make any student’s day brighter. She is so kind and helpful and willing to do whatever it takes to better the students and the school! She is also a huge fan of McAlisters!! So this would be such an awesome surprise for such a kind hearted teacher like her!”

Nominated by Sam

Effingham, IL

Lauren Pals

Central Grade School

3rd Grade Special Education

“Lauren is an amazing teacher who gives so much of her personal time to help and assist students with multiple disabilities reach their full potential! You could not ask for a better teacher!”

“She works hard and she motivates kids to want to learn and work hard.”

Nominated by Emily and Danielle

Fairview Heights, IL

Christa Barnett

Illinois Center for Autism

Special Education Teacher

“Christa gets to know each of her students’ needs in academic, social, and communicative areas. She actively works to grow their abilities and independence. She is consistently encouraging functional communication skills by using a variety of age and skill level appropriate instructional methods, working closely with families, and collaborating with coworkers for a well-rounded education for a diverse set of kids with special needs. She creates engaging lessons and genuinely cares for each student’s well-being and future.”

Nominated by Angela

Forsyth, IL

Heather Reed

Argenta Oreana Elementary School

3rd Grade

“Within all the craziness of ELearning and COVID, she has made things a little smoother. She kept her schedule open for her students and their families and she went above and beyond to help in every way. As a single parent with multiple children, she frequently checks in, answers late night messages, and offers to deliver materials to our house to make things easier with our busy family schedule.”

“Great teacher. She did well with my oldest daughter and my niece now she has my youngest daughter and is teaching her alot.”

Nominated by Pamela and Jeremy

Galesburg, IL

Ashley Shinn

Silas Willard


“Ashley Shinn is my daughter and also an amazing teacher. I can’t tell you how many children’s lives she has changed by her way of teaching, caring and supporting her kids. She goes above and beyond for her kids, her school and her community. There are times her husband and her own children feel left out because Ashley puts her students and her job above everything, including herself. She has a heart of gold and there isn’t anything she wouldn’t do for her students or her family. I am a daycare Provider and I’ve had one of her students here in my daycare for the last year. He’s an amazing kid who was dealt a bad hand when he was younger but with the help of his foster mom and Ashley he has come a long way. I would be grateful if you would consider my daughter for this award because I can’t think of anyone who deserves more recognition than her. And I’m not saying this just because I’m her mom.”

Nominated by Debra

Macomb, IL

Pamela Burnham

Lincoln Elementary


“Mrs. Burnham is phenomenal. She is very patient and understanding with the kids especially during Covid-19. She goes out of her way to ensure each child is having their needs met, she even e-mails on weekends to see how things are going. I believe she deserves to be recognized because teachers are often overlooked, and they should be thanked and appreciated more than they are.”

Nominated by Cara

Moline, IL

Katherine Henderson

George O. Barr

Preschool – 4th Grade ELL Teacher

Katherine always goes above and beyond for her students. Her love and compassion for teaching and inspiring emerging bilinguals makes her an astounding teacher.

Nominated by Austin

Mount Vernon, IL

Kathy Hollenkamp

Summersville grade school


“She has gone above and beyond to help make my daughters kindergarten year be the best so far! She is so sweet & kind & truly cares for her students! I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher in this crazy time we are all living in right now. She is the best!!!”

Nominated by Kaci

Peoria, IL

Eileen Lohr

St Vincent de Paul

2nd Grade

“Mrs. Lohr has been an amazing teacher to both of my children. She makes learning fun, is encouraging to her students, and is stern, yet warm in the way she handles them. When my daughter was in kindergarten, she had her first ice skating show. She excitedly told Mrs. Lohr about it. Mrs. Lohr asked for the ice show information, showed up, sat with our family, and stayed until the end to deliver a “GREAT JOB” to my daughter. Currently, Mrs. Lohr is my son’s 2nd grade teacher. She has done amazingly well with e-learning and getting my son to get on task (which is tough!). She has taken time out of her own schedule to drive to our home and make sure my son has the handouts and materials he needs to be successful, while participating in live sessions throughout the school day. She has also taken the time to ensure that we understand what’s going on and does not hesitate to inform us of her concerns while interacting with our son. Mrs. Lohr has truly been a blessing to our children and we couldn’t be happier with the education and love she has shown to them.”

Nominated by Herminia

Scott Air Force Base, IL

Lisa Fuhler

Scott Elementary

Special Education

“She is literally the best thing to happen to my son. She has a perfect balance of calm, fun, and studious that allows for learning in a fun environment for the kids who need extra help. My son probably wouldn’t be progressing to the next grades without her constant support and help. Even through Covid, she went out of her way to help him. She sends letters and cards in the mail and send Christmas gifts and first day of school gifts to her students. She’s just so special. She is also about to have her first baby and I’m sure would love the additional help with meals.”

Nominated by Krista

Shiloh, IL

James Hesse

West Junior High School

Junior High Computer Science Teacher

“All of my kids have attended WJH, and each of their teachers and the administrator, Mr. Gustavo Cotto, have been absolutely excellent. They show a commitment to their students that goes far beyond the extra mile. Still, in a school filled with so many incredibly dedicated teachers, Mr. Hesse shines brightly as one of the best. He has always gone the extra mile, mentoring students, encouraging their creativity, nurturing their passions, and guiding their minds as they learn computer science. Two of my children consider him their all-time favorite teacher, and I’m not surprised. He’s gone above and beyond so many times, pushing them to do and be their best. They even worked on creating a gaming club together in addition to the computer club already at the school, giving the kids one more opportunity to interact, get involved, and find something to stay busy after school. As hard as it was to choose just one teacher from WJH — and it really was — I have to nominate Mr. Hesse and am glad to have the opportunity.”

Nominated by Andrea

Springfield South, IL

Keri Mayfield

Jefferson Middle School

6th – 8th Grade

“She is an amazing woman who goes above and beyond to to help her students. She’s been a teacher for over 25 years at the same school. She puts dedication and love into her work every single day. She has so much love for all of her students and is constantly thinking of ways she can help them.”

Nominated by Sophia and Claire

Springfield West, IL

Abby Bretz

Franklin Middle School

Special Education, Life Skills Teacher

“Mrs. Bretz goes over and above for her students. During this pandemic she has been very accessible and does so much extra to make sure her students are learning and are engaged. Her students are her #1 priority.”
“Mrs. Bretz goes above and beyond for her life skills students. She spends hours outside of the classroom ensuring the success of their remote learning plans while also putting in immense amounts of effort in the classroom each day. Even during the pandemic, she has remained positive and enthusiastic. Mrs. Bretz is one of the most dedicated educators I know, working tirelessly to give 110% to her school and students. She truly deserves this because of her unfailing commitment to her students.”

Nominated by Henry and Molly

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