Teacher Roster

Brandon Guernsey

  • School: Bernard J. Ward Elementary School
  • Teaches: Grade 5
  • Favorite Player:

Christine Forster

  • School: Raymond Ellis Elementary School
  • Teaches: Grade 2
  • Favorite Player:

Heather Iles

  • School: Lyon Elementary School
  • Teaches: Structured Academic Integrated Learning (SAIL) program teacher
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

Ryan Talaga

  • School: Hickory Creek Middle School
  • Teaches: Physical Education
  • Favorite Player: Brian Urlacher

Cyndi Bringer

  • School: Westfield Middle School
  • Teaches: Drama
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

Bridget Hellstrom

  • School: Washington Elementary School
  • Teaches: Special Education
  • Favorite Player: Brian Urlacher

Jill Henning

  • School: Hough Street Elementary
  • Teaches: Kindergarten
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

Heather Roan

  • School: Peace and Education Coalition High School
  • Teaches: English & Social Studies
  • Favorite Player: Brian Urlacher

Tony Martin

  • School: Kishwaukee Education Consortium
  • Teaches: English & Social Studies, Grades 6-12
  • Favorite Player: Mike Brown

Krista Carlile

  • School: Manteno Middle School
  • Teaches: Grade 5
  • Favorite Player: Walter Peyton

Jim Stankevitz

  • School: Wheaton Warrenville South High School
  • Teaches: Grades 10-12, Physics
  • Favorite Player: Jim McMahon

Pa’al Joshi

  • School: Glenbrook Off-Campus Center
  • Teaches: Grades 9-12, Special Education
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

Katie Bremner

  • School: Rufus M. Hitch Elementary School
  • Teaches: Grade 3
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

Trey Thompson

  • School: Academy for Global Citizenship
  • Teaches: Grade 5
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

Fitzgerald Crame

  • School: Edison Regional Gifted Center
  • Teaches: Grade 4
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

Daoruang Promlee-Benz

  • School: Richard J. Oglesby Elementary School
  • Teaches: Montessori, Grades 1 - 3
  • Favorite Player: Brian Urlacher

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Brandon Guernsey

  • School: Bernard J. Ward Elementary School
  • Teaches: Grade 5
  • Favorite Player:

“Brandon Guernsey is the type of teacher that students remember with a smile 20 years later as they recall their ‘favorite’ teacher,” said Katie Thomas, a teaching colleague. “Brandon greets all students, not just his class, with a high-five every day at the front of the building. This sets a tone for the student's day — someone cares about them, someone is happy they are at school, someone believes that they can do great things today. That enthusiasm for learning is contagious.” Thomas nominated Guernsey for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award. “Brandon is your classic root-for-the-underdog-type of teacher,” adds Thomas. “He is constantly telling his class, ‘I don’t care what reading group you were in last year. I don’t want to hear that you weren’t a writer in your past class. Today is a new day — and you have a new chance.’ This unwavering belief in their abilities challenges students to rise to the occasion and is just another example of Brandon’s ‘teacher magic!’”

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Christine Forster

  • School: Raymond Ellis Elementary School
  • Teaches: Grade 2
  • Favorite Player:

“Christine Forster has been a teacher at Ellis Elementary for more than 20 years, demonstrating an incredible commitment to our district throughout her tenure. Despite her ‘seasoning,’ she still exhibits the energy, passion and creativity of a new teacher. This is a rarity!” said Olivia Carreiro, a teaching colleague at Ellis Elementary. “While Christine has many amazing qualities, her level of dedication to her students and the learning environment she creates for them are the most inspiring. She creates a beautiful and vibrant learning environment that reinforces culture, native language, and individuality. Her classroom is truly an oasis for her students.” Carreiro nominated Forster for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award.

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Heather Iles

  • School: Lyon Elementary School
  • Teaches: Structured Academic Integrated Learning (SAIL) program teacher
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

“Our son has been blessed with many amazing teachers, but no one has had a bigger impact on his life than Heather Iles. ‘Ms. Heather’ was his SAIL classroom teacher at Lyon from kindergarten through 2nd grade. She consistently represented a safe place for him — knowing how and when to push him out of his comfort zone and when to let him rest in his space. She’s cool, fun, kind, caring, silly, serious, and pretty much every other quality you’d want in a special needs teacher,” said Cori Mohr. “‘Ms. Heather’ has a gift for seeing a child for who they are deep inside, even if they struggle to find a way to show their true potential.” Mohr nominated Iles for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award. “Heather Iles has helped our son blossom into a confident, outgoing, school-loving boy who will continue to thrive on the building blocks she spent three hard-fought years helping him build,” said Mohr. “The impact Ms. Iles has had on our son — and our family — is only partly about education; it’s much more about empowering us to push past the plateaus and finding ways to grow and thrive. With her encouragement and support, we have been able to advocate for and access things we never thought possible for our son, both in and out of the classroom.”

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Ryan Talaga

  • School: Hickory Creek Middle School
  • Teaches: Physical Education
  • Favorite Player: Brian Urlacher

All of Hickory Creek’s students want to have Ryan Talaga as their gym teacher — he is one of a kind! He empowers children of all abilities to participate and feel good about themselves in gym class. Somehow, he gets kids who don't think they are ‘good’ at athletics to join in and enjoy PE, probably for the first time in their lives,” said Alicia Naughton, a parent of one of Talaga’s former students. “Mr. Talaga instills a joy for physical activity in the students with his enthusiasm and inclusiveness. He makes every student feel capable and accepted. His classes are a blast!” Naughton nominated Talaga for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award.

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Cyndi Bringer

  • School: Westfield Middle School
  • Teaches: Drama
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

“Cindi Bringer is truly one of the most selfless, outgoing and charismatic educators I've ever met. She cares so much about her students, and it shows in every classroom project and activity,” said Sheila Zagotta, a school colleague. “Cyndi has an exceptional ability to engage every one of her drama students, from the most outgoing to the most introverted. She builds confidence and can take a student from presenting in front of their class to performing for the entire school community. Best of all, everyone gets a chance to participate in her plays or musicals—she has shy students who take on the role of student director, or others who work behind the scenes in set design, sound, lighting, or make-up and hair. Regardless of their role, Cyndi looks for the best in everyone and always gives everyone a chance.” Zagotta nominated Bringer for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award. “Cyndi Bringer is an inspiration and the embodiment of what teaching should be. She wants every child to walk out of her classroom feeling good about themselves. She is always looking for a solution to any classroom differences, and she never gives up,” said Zagotta. “I could not imagine my job without her and am beyond grateful to have such an amazing teacher, colleague and friend on my team!”

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Bridget Hellstrom

  • School: Washington Elementary School
  • Teaches: Special Education
  • Favorite Player: Brian Urlacher

“As a special needs teacher, Bridget Hellstrom works with some of Washington Elementary’s most challenged students, many of whom are severely autistic. They flourish in her care. Her strong, structured academic planning and implementation, her unshakable positive attitude and enthusiasm for the children she supports, and her ability to cheerfully tackle any kind of hiccup means that every teacher in the school seeks out opportunities to work with her,” said Janet Spector-Bishop, a district colleague, who nominated Hellstrom for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award. “Ms. Hellstom is never anything less than her students’ biggest fan and strongest advocate, never hesitating to speak up and coach anyone on how best to interact and support ‘her’ children. Her attention to detail means that every one of her students gets the care she or he needs, regardless of the complexity of their challenges. She is a gift to our school — and to the students and families she serves with such dedication.”

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Jill Henning

  • School: Hough Street Elementary
  • Teaches: Kindergarten
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

“Jill Henning approaches her role and young charges with passion and patience. Committed to making sure her kindergartners grow to their full potential, the children in her classroom are educated in their hearts as well as their minds. As a result, she is inspiring her young students to become world-changers,” said Kelly Haradon, a teaching colleague and the parent of one of Henning’s students. “Mrs. Henning spends quality time with her students both inside and outside of school, never missing a school performance or soccer game. Ultimately, what sets her apart is her attitude towards life; she is a gem!” Haradon nominated Henning for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award. “Last year, Mrs. Henning worked with our school district to include a child with spinal muscular atrophy in her classroom; it was the child’s dream to go to her neighborhood school with her siblings,” said Haradon. “Mrs. Henning successfully advocated for the child and then made it her year-long mission to create a fully inclusive classroom. In the process, she achieved something very special — a physical space that allowed the child to move freely in a wheel chair and a learning environment that promoted growth and understanding differences among the entire class. Mrs. Henning made a dream come true for a child when many said it would not. My hope is that others learn from this special example and from her leadership.”

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Heather Roan

  • School: Peace and Education Coalition High School
  • Teaches: English & Social Studies
  • Favorite Player: Brian Urlacher

“Our school serves non-traditional students who are 16-21 years old, which means teachers must find unique ways to connect with them and motivate them to learn. Heather Roan starts by being one of the first teachers to arrive at school and waiting outside her door to greet her students each day,” said colleague and guidance counselor DaJuanda Fairley-Hall. “At 16 to 21, many students think they know it all. Heather has a unique, respectful way of conveying that they still have a lot to learn without taking away their voice. She creates lessons that not only provide her students with instruction, but also offer opportunities to apply their knowledge to the real world.” Fairley-Hall nominated Roan for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award. “Heather stages mock trials in her social studies classroom, in which each student has a courtroom role. She then invites members of the community into the classroom to share their knowledge, hosting actual judges and lawyers who act as jurors,” said Fairley-Hall. “At the end of the mock trial, the law professionals provide students with feedback on their performance and answer questions about the profession. As a school counselor, I'm grateful for this action because it opens up important post-secondary conversations. It’s another example of how much Heather Roan cares about her students’ learning and success!”

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Tony Martin

  • School: Kishwaukee Education Consortium
  • Teaches: English & Social Studies, Grades 6-12
  • Favorite Player: Mike Brown

“Tony Martin has been a teacher at Kishwaukee Education Consortium (KEC) since January 2015, but from his first day made himself an integral part of the culture of our school and success of our students. His goal? To make sure that in addition to his students learning significant dates or players in history, they learn that all groups and the individuals who make them up have distinct and valuable voices — just like each of his students,” said Rebecca Boltz, a KEC colleague. “Tony is the first person in the building and typically one of the last to leave. He is constantly honing his curriculum and delivery, volunteering to teach night school, helping in the kitchen with dishes, staying for additional meetings to allow other staff to leave early, developing new groups, new ideas, and pushing those around him to consistently bring their best,” said Boltz. “Tony understands the culture and values of his students and fellow staff members and inspires those around him by being unapologetically himself. From being an uninspired teenage student to transforming the face of alternative education, Tony has embodied every aspect of not just being a good teacher but truly being a phenomenal educator.”

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Krista Carlile

  • School: Manteno Middle School
  • Teaches: Grade 5
  • Favorite Player: Walter Peyton

“Krista Carlile is a dedicated teacher with a special place in her heart for her students. She gets to know each child on a personal level, discovering their strengths and learning of their struggles and challenges. She wants to help her students grow and will help them succeed in any way she can,” said Jennifer Monk, a teaching colleague. “Krista’s ‘cluster’ classroom means her class is designed around middle- to high-ability students. She is always exploring new technology lessons and STEM activities for them. Eager to develop lessons to challenge her students to get to the next level, she will collaborate with the grade above her to get her students working on topics for the next year.” Monk nominated Carlile for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award. “In addition to her academic responsibilities, Krista has created many programs throughout the school community to make it better. She plays a fundamental role in the softball program at Manteno, volunteering many hours to make it the success that it is. She also developed a teacher-appreciation program, in which varsity softball athletes nominate teachers via letter and walk out on the field with them during home games for a moment of recognition. It’s a very special night for both the players and the teachers. Krista leads this program, and it is wonderful!” said Monk.

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Jim Stankevitz

  • School: Wheaton Warrenville South High School
  • Teaches: Grades 10-12, Physics
  • Favorite Player: Jim McMahon

“Jim Stankevitz has been teaching physics for over 40 years. He has received multiple teaching awards, including the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, given to him by President Clinton. Despite his many well-deserved accolades, Jim remains the most humble teacher at Wheaton Warrenville South High School — although everyone knows he is the smartest person at our school AND the best teacher in the building,” said Phil Culcasi, a Science Department teaching colleague. Culcasi nominated Stankevitz for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award. “As the AP Physics C (calculus-based) teacher at our school, Jim has built the program over the years from fewer than 15 students to over 60 students annually. More significantly, he has doubled—and doubled again—the number of female students taking upper level physics courses. He sends students out into the world as leaders in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math disciplines (STEM). His former students work at NASA, are well-accomplished physicians, or doing cutting edge research with renewable energy. Some have even appeared on Jeopardy! But to many of his 4,000-plus students, he is simply a kind, brilliant man who is the best teacher they have ever had.” “Jim Stankevitz is truly a teacher of students and a teacher of teachers. He was my physics teacher when I attended Marist High School in the late 80's. He taught at Marist for 19 years before moving to Wheaton Warrenville South in the 90's. Without question the best physics teacher in the state, he was a hero of mine when I was a student and is even more of a hero now that I have the privilege to teach alongside of him,” said Culcasi.

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Pa’al Joshi

  • School: Glenbrook Off-Campus Center
  • Teaches: Grades 9-12, Special Education
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

“Pa'al Joshi is the definition of dedication in education. His passion is helping kids succeed—period. He never tires and he never gives up, no matter how challenging the situation,” said Susan Frankel, a teaching colleague. “Pa'al provides his students with the structure they crave, even when they sometimes resist it. Invariably, students come to appreciate that he pushed them and believed in them when they didn’t have confidence in themselves. For many students, he is and has been a positive male role model, one who never gave up on them.” Frankel nominated Joshi for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award. “Pa’al is a coach outside of the classroom as well as in it. He started a Special Olympics program in our district, acting as coach, team driver and fundraiser,” said Frankel. “He also coaches football in our district. He motivates students who are struggling to get involved in sports precisely because he understands the connection between mind and body.” Adds Frankel, “As a coworker, you simply know that Pa'al would give the shirt off his back for these kids. He is extremely generous with his time, but has also been known to be equally generous with his money to help a student or colleague in need. I truly believe Pa'al lives and breathes Glenbrook Off-Campus Center, and he brings that dedication to life every day with his students.”

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Katie Bremner

  • School: Rufus M. Hitch Elementary School
  • Teaches: Grade 3
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

“Katie Bremner is an exceptional teacher who continually modifies her teaching style to meet the specific needs of each child. She helps her students understand that success and failure come in many forms and that it's okay to be proud of their differences, interests and unique skills. Through open discussion, clear feedback and communicating with emotion, she shows students that challenges are simply stepping stones to their future success,” said Nicholas Ravelingeen, the parent of a Hitch student. “If Ms. Bremner could be a teacher at every school, we would have more children in the world willing to tackle challenges head on, with conviction and the drive to be that much better. Her practices need to be recognized and emulated!”

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Trey Thompson

  • School: Academy for Global Citizenship
  • Teaches: Grade 5
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

“Trey Thompson, widely known as ‘Mr. T,’ is the epitome of what a teacher should be. I share this conviction as both a teacher myself and as the parent of two sons who have had the good fortune to find themselves in Mr. Thompson’s classroom. He is a role model for everyone at Academy for Global Citizenship, especially the boys,” said Minerva Valencia, who nominated Thompson for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award. “Mr. Thompson creates a classroom environment that goes beyond academics. He teaches students that if there's something wrong in the world, they have a voice and obligation to say and do something about it. He encourages his students to go above and beyond,” said Valencia. “Mr. Thompson is an overall great human being, truly influential and passionate about education. Parents like myself are honored to have him as our kids' teacher because there is so much he offers beyond teaching—he truly cares about our children.”

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Fitzgerald Crame

  • School: Edison Regional Gifted Center
  • Teaches: Grade 4
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

“Fitz Crame is one of the most incredible teachers I've ever known. His students certainly excel academically; nearly all (of last year’s class) had met their end-of-year academic goals by December. But what's most striking is the emotional connections he makes with his students—and helps them make with each other. Children grow kinder, more creative and more courageous in his care,” said Karen Valentine, principal at Edison Regional Gifted Center. “Mr. Crame is such an incredible part of his students' lives. He's more than their teacher; he's family.” Valentine nominated Crame for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award.

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Daoruang Promlee-Benz

  • School: Richard J. Oglesby Elementary School
  • Teaches: Montessori, Grades 1 - 3
  • Favorite Player: Brian Urlacher

“Mrs. Benz is one of the most patient and caring teachers I have ever had the pleasure to work with. Often at school from first thing in the morning until well into the evening, she works hard to build a warm, welcoming environment in her classroom,” said Kimberly Henderson, principal at Richard J. Oglesby. “Mrs. Benz recently started a class ‘bank’ for her students, which helps students learn concepts like the value of saving and importance of hard work. In return for class ‘jobs’ performed each month, she pays them out of her own pocket. Students visit the class bank monthly to withdraw their money and then go to the class store Mrs. Benz has set up and stocked with items she’s purchased from the dollar store.” Henderson nominated Promlee-Benz for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award.