Teacher Roster

DENNIS KASS

  • School: Infinity Math & Science Academy
  • Teaches: History
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

BERNIE GERSTMAYR

  • School: Maine West High School
  • Teaches: Fine Arts/Music Teacher
  • Favorite Player: Jay Cutler

DULCINEA GARCIA

  • School: Leo High School
  • Teaches: Spanish
  • Favorite Player: Leonard Floyd

STACY DELGADO

  • School: Columbia Explorers Academy
  • Teaches: Grade 7
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

EDWARD WILLIAMS

  • School: Willa Cather Elementary
  • Teaches: Grade 7
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

SARA JIRASEK

  • School: North Barrington Elementary School
  • Teaches: Special Services Teacher
  • Favorite Player: Kyle Long

MAGGIE BODANYI

  • School: Graham Elementary School
  • Teaches: 7th-8th grade Reading/Language Arts
  • Favorite Player: Jay Cutler

CHERYL DUFFY

  • School: Meadowview Elementary School
  • Teaches: Grade 1
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

MARIANNE SHARPING

  • School: Decatur Classical School
  • Teaches: Grade 5 & 6
  • Favorite Player: Mike Singletary

ROB BEVER

  • School: Mundelein High School
  • Teaches: Special Education
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

LORELY RODRIGUEZ

  • School: Avon Center School
  • Teaches: Bilingual First Grade
  • Favorite Player: Brian Urlacher

ALLYSON GAUTHIER

  • School: Our Lady of Grace School
  • Teaches: Grade 3
  • Favorite Player: Kyle Long

ALFREDO LOPEZ

  • School: The Ogden International School of Chicago
  • Teaches: Grade 4
  • Favorite Player: Ashlon Jeffery

JULIE URBAN

  • School: Saint Paul Lutheran School
  • Teaches: Grade 1
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

ERIC DEWITT

  • School: John W. Garvy Elementary School
  • Teaches: Physical Education, Grades 5-8
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

SAMANTHA VILLA

  • School: John C. Dore Elementary School
  • Teaches: Kindergarden
  • Favorite Player: Jay Cutler

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DENNIS KASS

  • School: Infinity Math & Science Academy
  • Teaches: History
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

"Mr. Dennis Kass is a hero in every sense of the word to me. He has a unique style of teaching that not only engages his students, it also encourage them to learn more about the social issues that impact our communities," said Jessica Samperio, a former student. "Mr. Kass holds a law degree, which sets him apart from most teachers. He is passionate about social justice and continuously works to improve the lives of his current and former students and their families. His role as a teacher/attorney allows them to feel comfortable and safe talking to him about their problems." Samperio nominated Kass for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom award.

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BERNIE GERSTMAYR

  • School: Maine West High School
  • Teaches: Fine Arts/Music Teacher
  • Favorite Player: Jay Cutler

"Mr.Gerstmayr is a role model for students, both in and outside of the classroom. As the band director, he is committed to nurturing every student's love of music, and pays close attention to each individual's needs. He emits a passion for music unlike any other teacher I have ever had, and it's contagious; one can't help but feel inspired to be the best musician they can be," said Maine West High School student Corinne Bellot. "It takes a special instructor to teach emotion and the possibility music presents for growth. Outside of the classroom during marching band season, Mr. Gerstmayr delivers a completely different lesson: that there is no "I" in band and that every single player matters." Bellot nominated Garcia for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom award.

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DULCINEA GARCIA

  • School: Leo High School
  • Teaches: Spanish
  • Favorite Player: Leonard Floyd

"With her uplifting manner and positive energy, Ms. Garcia is the perfect fit for the title of 'Symetra Hero,'" said Leo High School student Christian Armstrong. "No matter the situation, Ms. Garcia is bright, optimistic and burning with passion for the job she sacrifices so much for. Whether it's spending her free time helping a struggling student or paying for equipment with her own money, the dedication and sheer willpower she brings to school all day, every day is inspiring." Armstrong nominated Garcia for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom award.

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STACY DELGADO

  • School: Columbia Explorers Academy
  • Teaches: Grade 7
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

"Stacy Delgado not only helps her Columbia Explorers Academy students regularly achieve some of the highest standardized test scores on the whole Southwest Side, she also develops very personal bonds with her kids," said colleague Scott Pasieka. "Stacy frequently holds 'closed door sessions' with her students, during which she provides a safe space for the 40 kids in her classroom to talk about and share life experiences. This not only helps develop the bond between Stacy and her students, it also builds friendships within the class and creates an environment where not one child feels isolated." Pasieka nominated Delgado for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom award.

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EDWARD WILLIAMS

  • School: Willa Cather Elementary
  • Teaches: Grade 7
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

"Mr. Williams is truly a hardworking teacher, who arrives at school early and stays late. His love for sports permeates his coaching at Willa Cather, including flag football, basketball, and track and field," said colleague Varita Williams. "Mr. Williams began an after-school program called Open Gym, which he facilitates on his own time and with his own money. It gives children an opportunity to practice their sports skills and provides a safe environment." Williams nominated Williams for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom award.

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SARA JIRASEK

  • School: North Barrington Elementary School
  • Teaches: Special Services Teacher
  • Favorite Player: Kyle Long

"Many of Sara Jirasek's students face extraordinary challenges. Some experience learning difficulties, others have emotional setbacks; most are performing below their actual grade level. Thanks to Sara's dedication to meeting every child's needs no matter how difficult, her students demonstrate remarkable academic growth each year," said Principal Austin Johnson. "Sara's love and compassion for her students goes beyond the classroom. She fosters individual relationships, using creative methods to let students know they are appreciated and loved-whether it's a note of encouragement written on an assignment or placed on a desk as a random act of kindness." Johnson nominated Jirasek for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom award.

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MAGGIE BODANYI

  • School: Graham Elementary School
  • Teaches: 7th-8th grade Reading/Language Arts
  • Favorite Player: Jay Cutler

Ms. Bodanyi's Symetra Heroes in the Classroom award nomination noted that she "Finds incredible ways to engage students by applying reading and writing techniques to rap lyrics and pop culture films. Her unique approach had helped her students learn in a way that interests them prior to attempting more difficult and curriculum-required content. This allows her to connect with her students in a way that many teachers cannot."

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CHERYL DUFFY

  • School: Meadowview Elementary School
  • Teaches: Grade 1
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

"Mrs. Duffy was my first grade teacher. I'm now a freshman in high school, and I continue to see the many ways she has had a positive effect on my life," said Breanna Kinney. "My father passed away when I was in Mrs. Duffy's class, and she went above and beyond to do everything she could to help me and make sure I was okay. I will never forget her kindness, which made all the difference for me at a very difficult time." Kinney nominated Duffy for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom award.

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MARIANNE SHARPING

  • School: Decatur Classical School
  • Teaches: Grade 5 & 6
  • Favorite Player: Mike Singletary

"Marianne Sharping is a dedicated and innovative Chicago Public School teacher. She is always creating unique and captivating lessons to truly engage her students. Her goal is not only to make students critical thinkers and problem-solvers, but also to help develop each child's character and ethos," said Beth Allegretti, a former teaching colleague. Allegretti nominated Sharping for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom award.

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ROB BEVER

  • School: Mundelein High School
  • Teaches: Special Education
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

"Rob Bever is a hero in the lives of many of the Mundelein students he teaches, directly and indirectly. Always a staunch advocate of the disadvantaged, he understands his students' challenges, but still has high expectations of them," said Jacqueline Niziolek, a school district colleague. Niziolek nominated Bever for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom award.

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LORELY RODRIGUEZ

  • School: Avon Center School
  • Teaches: Bilingual First Grade
  • Favorite Player: Brian Urlacher

"Lorely Rodriguez is new to Avon Center School, but has been teaching many years. She is the kind of teacher who advocates for her students," said Mary Rosenbloom-Avalos, a teaching colleague. "Lorely is always looking at what her students need and then finding a way to make sure they get it. She never stops because it may involve too much work or be the unpopular thing to do. She simply puts her students first." Rosenbloom-Avalos nominated Rodriguez for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom award.

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ALLYSON GAUTHIER

  • School: Our Lady of Grace School
  • Teaches: Grade 3
  • Favorite Player: Kyle Long

"Ms. Gauthier really has a special bond with all of her students and cares for them like they were her own. She finds a way to make learning not only educational, but fun," said Jennifer Wedryk. "My daughter enjoyed every day in Ms. Gauthier's classroom and learned so much. learned a lot from her and enjoyed every day in her class. She was available even after school for extra tutoring if needed and was always around for the kids." Wedryk nominated Gauthier for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom award.

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ALFREDO LOPEZ

  • School: The Ogden International School of Chicago
  • Teaches: Grade 4
  • Favorite Player: Ashlon Jeffery

"Many teachers may welcome special needs students into their classroom, but Mr. Alfredo Lopez chooses special needs students not only for his classroom, but also for the sports teams he coaches," said Karen Jones, the parent of two former students. "It would be very hard to find another teacher to be as dedicated as Mr. Lopez is in and outside of the classroom," said Jones. "We were blessed to have him teach both our sons and to call him our friend." Jones nominated Lopez for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom award.

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JULIE URBAN

  • School: Saint Paul Lutheran School
  • Teaches: Grade 1
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

"Mrs. Urban makes children excited about school and about learning because she is excited about teaching. She has high expectations for her students. They work hard for her because she makes them believe they can achieve and because they know she loves them," said Anna Duckmann, the parent of former students. Duckmann nominated Urban for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom award.

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ERIC DEWITT

  • School: John W. Garvy Elementary School
  • Teaches: Physical Education, Grades 5-8
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

"Mr. DeWitt leads many different programs at Garvy Elementary School, ranging from college day to field day. You'll find him organizing everything from educational field trips to fitness step challenges," said Rick Sible. Sible nominated DeWitt for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom award.

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SAMANTHA VILLA

  • School: John C. Dore Elementary School
  • Teaches: Kindergarden
  • Favorite Player: Jay Cutler

"Equipped with a tremendous heart, Mrs. Villa has plenty of patience and love for her young students. She finds a way to give each of the 34 children in her kindergarten class individual attention," said Alejandra Nieves, the parent of a current Dore Elementary student. Nieves nominated Villa for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom award.