Teacher Roster

ALICE SZCZUR

  • School: Addams Elementary School
  • Teaches: Special Education
  • Favorite Player: Gale Sayers

NAOMI WILLMAN

  • School: Gavin South Middle School
  • Teaches: 5-8th Grade: Science
  • Favorite Player: Jordan Howard

DELTA CERVANTES

  • School: Sandoval Elementary School
  • Teaches: 5th Grade
  • Favorite Player: Brian Urlacher

CHARLES PLEASANT

  • School: Henry O. Tanner Elementary School
  • Teaches: K-8th Grade: Music
  • Favorite Player: Mitch Trubinsky

HEATHER OUGORMAD

  • School: Acero-Roberto Clemente Elementary School
  • Teaches: 5th Grade
  • Favorite Player: Khalil Mack

CARISSA ZILL

  • School: Hester Jr. High School
  • Teaches: 6-8th Grade
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

NICK KEMPSKI

  • School: West Chicago Community High School
  • Teaches: 11-12th Grade: AVID
  • Favorite Player: Jim McMahon

ROBERT KOSTUCH

  • School: Notre Dame College Prep
  • Teaches: Physical Education/Student Activities
  • Favorite Player: Richard Dent

JEN RISKUS

  • School: Jefferson Junior High School
  • Teaches: 7th Grade: Language Arts
  • Favorite Player: Jim Mcmahon

MARTY ANGELO

  • School: Harriet Gifford Elementary School
  • Teaches: 6th Grade
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

CAREY JENSEN

  • School: Sward Elementary School
  • Teaches: Kindergarten
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

AMY YOUNKER

  • School: Manteno High School
  • Teaches: Algebra, Algebra 2 Honors and Ap Calculus
  • Favorite Player: Khalil Mack

MIHIR GARUD

  • School: Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy
  • Teaches: 9th Grade: Consumer Education
  • Favorite Player: Brian Urlacher

TRACY FUENTES

  • School: Miguel Juarez Middle School
  • Teaches: 6-8th Grade: ESL/ELA
  • Favorite Player: Devin Hester

MEGHAN DOLAN

  • School: Palmer Elementary School
  • Teaches: 3rd Grade
  • Favorite Player: Walter Peyton

KIMBERLY SPECK

  • School: John H. Kinzie Elementary School
  • Teaches: Math
  • Favorite Player: Kyle Long

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ALICE SZCZUR

  • School: Addams Elementary School
  • Teaches: Special Education
  • Favorite Player: Gale Sayers

“Special education teacher Alice Szczur has been passionately teaching for nearly 25 years. A former Jane Addams student herself, she returned to the school in order to give back to her community, which does through educating our children,” said Melissa Ramirez, a school district colleague. “While Mrs. Szczur has the credentials to teach any grade level, she chooses to teach the children who need her most and is a tireless advocate for them. She forges a special connection with her students, who do not always easily connect with others. Mrs. Szczur’s gift is her ability to make her children believe in themselves. In her 25 years of teaching, she has truly changed thousands of lives.” Ramirez nominated Szczur for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award.

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NAOMI WILLMAN

  • School: Gavin South Middle School
  • Teaches: 5-8th Grade: Science
  • Favorite Player: Jordan Howard

“Naomi Willman makes learning science fun! Whether it is dropping eggs off the school rooftop, racing homemade cars down the hallways for physics lessons, or making solar ovens out of pizza boxes, her lessons bring the curriculum to life in exciting ways. Her love of science is evident in everything she does; she can take anything and connect it to science in an interesting, memorable way,” said Stephanie Kaye, a teaching colleague. “Mrs. Willman always considers her students first. She takes the time to conduct lots of hands-on science labs that could easily have been simple paper and pencil assignments. Her creativity is also apparent with engaging assignments like ‘break outs’ and ‘escape rooms.’ In addition to the science curriculum, Mrs. Willman teaches respect. She does so in a serious but engaging way—by relating to students, sharing personal stories, or taking time out of class to just talk. Importantly, Mrs. Willman leads by example and does everything she can to make each student feel safe and welcomed in her classroom.” Kaye nominated Willman for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award.

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DELTA CERVANTES

  • School: Sandoval Elementary School
  • Teaches: 5th Grade
  • Favorite Player: Brian Urlacher

“Delta Cervantes is dedicated to having a lifelong impact on her students. She provides rigorous and challenging instruction in a safe and nurturing environment where students are not afraid to fail. Her philosophy is teaching the whole child in order to meet each student’s social, emotional and academic needs,” said Karen Beilfuss, a Sandoval colleague. “Delta is a unique individual who combines the perfect balance of compassion and encouragement while maintaining high expectations. She inspires her students to push themselves beyond their limits, and they are willing to step outside of their comfort level because they know she is there to support them every step of the way. Delta makes a point to let each of her students know they are valued and accepted no matter their differences. She creates a culture of inclusion in her classroom and nurtures students to become lifelong learners.” Beilfuss nominated Cervantes for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award.

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CHARLES PLEASANT

  • School: Henry O. Tanner Elementary School
  • Teaches: K-8th Grade: Music
  • Favorite Player: Mitch Trubinsky

“Music teacher Charles Pleasant is a key part of Tanner’s Fine Arts program. Many of our students would never have the experiences they are receiving at such young ages in his classroom. Mr. Pleasant’s efforts also extend beyond his music classroom. He believes in children and their wellbeing and does a great job of developing relationships with many Tanner students,” said Tracy Jones. “Mr. Pleasant has taken on the role of conducting talking circles with many in our male student body. He conducts peace circles to help repair broken relationships. He has informally mentored many current and former students, building relationships that continue even when they leave the confines our school building. I’ve no doubt that Mr. Pleasant's influence will be forever lasting for many students in our Tanner school community.” Jones nominated Pleasant for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award.

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HEATHER OUGORMAD

  • School: Acero-Roberto Clemente Elementary School
  • Teaches: 5th Grade
  • Favorite Player: Khalil Mack

“Heather Ougormad is a dedicated 5th-grade teacher who has high expectations for all of her students, who are encouraged to think deeper and make connections across content areas,” said Clemente colleague Maria Freeman. “Passionate about teaching the whole student, Heather begins each morning by offering her students ‘a handshake, a hug, or a high five’—and a smile. This ritual is followed by a morning meeting where students are encouraged to share their feelings and opinions. Heather believes in meeting students at their levels and so spends much of her day teaching in small groups to ensure she is reaching each and every one of her 31 students.” Freeman and Schnura were among those who nominated Ougormad for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award.

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CARISSA ZILL

  • School: Hester Jr. High School
  • Teaches: 6-8th Grade
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

“Carissa Zill’s commitment to art education at Hester Junior High is beyond compare. She makes a significant difference in the lives of students through her day-to-day interactions with them, promoting a culture of creativity and independence,” said Giffen Trotter, principal. “Ms. Zill provides a classroom environment where students feel comfortable and able to create and express themselves. She is also a pioneer in our building when it comes to student goal setting and reflection. She regularly conferences with her students to find out where they feel they are strong and where they can improve and she includes their insights on student report cards. Her comments on student report cards are the most meaningful and student-centered I have seen in 23 years.” Trotter nominated Zill for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award.

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NICK KEMPSKI

  • School: West Chicago Community High School
  • Teaches: 11-12th Grade: AVID
  • Favorite Player: Jim McMahon

“Nick Kempski single-handedly started our AVID program nine years ago. One of the greatest programs in schools today, AVID prepares students for ‘real world’ scenarios not only for college, military acceptance, or technical schools, but also for post-high school life itself,” said Richard Kost, a teaching colleague. “Nick has successfully grown our AVID program to where we now have two full-time teachers at every teaching level, and he has raised millions of scholarship dollars for kids over the past several years.” Kost nominated Kempski for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award.

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ROBERT KOSTUCH

  • School: Notre Dame College Prep
  • Teaches: Physical Education/Student Activities
  • Favorite Player: Richard Dent

“Coach Bob Kostuch is involved in everything at Notre Dame College Prep — as a P.E. teacher with innovative lesson plans; as a leader of our Junior/Senior Leaders program, where our students are allowed to lead P.E. classes and visit elementary schools to teach leadership and trust exercises; as a football and former state champion baseball coach, where he has mentored hundreds of students; and as the director of Student Activities, helping take Notre Dame school spirit to unprecedented heights through his creativity and innovation,” said colleague Shay Boyle. “No challenge is too big or too small for Bob, who thinks about making Notre Dame College Prep a better school 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. His contagious energy, enthusiasm, and passion for his work is felt by entire school community.” Boyle nominated Kostuch for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award.

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JEN RISKUS

  • School: Jefferson Junior High School
  • Teaches: 7th Grade: Language Arts
  • Favorite Player: Jim Mcmahon

“Mrs. Riskus is a teacher that makes each of her students feel loved and cared for. She takes the time to find each of her students' strengths,” said Warnke. “They, in turn, develop a passion for reading, writing and learning in her classroom and are often disappointed when the bell rings for their next class. Her students love her for her enthusiasm and compassion. Mrs. Riskus's selflessness and ability to always put kids first before, during, and after school make her a special teacher and an even more amazing human being.” Warnke nominated Riskus for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award.

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MARTY ANGELO

  • School: Harriet Gifford Elementary School
  • Teaches: 6th Grade
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

“Marty Angelo goes above and beyond every day for Harriet Gifford’s students. He has taught at our At Risk Title 1 School for 22 years, and his passion to serve these kids is second to none. He also serves as our technology coach,” said Principal Joe Corcoran. “Marty teaches with a positive attitude, challenging his students to be the best they can be and connecting with them on a personal level. He will supervise students eating breakfast in the morning before school and ride home on the bus at the end of the school day to ensure kids feel safe. If they’re absent from school, he has made home visits to explain assignments to students and their parents. It’s no surprise that former students often return to visit Marty, including one young man who joined the Army and came back to visit his former teacher while he was on leave.” Corcoran nominated Angelo for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award.

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CAREY JENSEN

  • School: Sward Elementary School
  • Teaches: Kindergarten
  • Favorite Player: Walter Payton

"Mrs. Jensen looks at each student as an individual learner. She formulates her instruction with scaffolds and supports to ensure the student’s success and incorporates enriching challenges to provide each child with an individualized experience. She does her best to give each of her students the best start possible as they begin their elementary school journey,” said Katalinic. “Mrs. Jensen fosters a positive, calm environment where children truly love to learn every day. She empowers her students to become leaders and take ownership of their learning. Music, smiles, laughter and love are at the heart of her teaching and by the end the school year, her students leave with such confidence and the love of learning.” Katalinic nominated Jensen for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award.

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AMY YOUNKER

  • School: Manteno High School
  • Teaches: Algebra, Algebra 2 Honors and Ap Calculus
  • Favorite Player: Khalil Mack

“Outside of the classroom, Amy Younker has set herself a part as well. Miss Younker is a class sponsor, a soccer coach, and a student council sponsor. She does all of this with the desire to give students the best high school experience possible,” said Selk. “On top of the extracurricular activities she helps with, Miss Younker pours into her students' lives. She is constantly wanting to know how students are doing, what they need help with, and how she can make others feel better. Miss Younker is the kind of teacher that all schools should want to hire. She teaches with passion and a desire to make her students’ lives better!” Selk nominated Younker for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award.

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MIHIR GARUD

  • School: Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy
  • Teaches: 9th Grade: Consumer Education
  • Favorite Player: Brian Urlacher

"Mihir Garud believes that being financially literate can greatly impact the trajectory of someone’s life, especially for those who come from low-income households. It’s part of what makes him such a passionate teacher,” said district colleague Natasha Carlsen. “Mihir helps enhance his students’ educational experience by partnering with outside organizations like Grant Thornton LLP, which participates in monthly seminars hosted by the school’s Business Club and open to all students. Mihir’s classes have visited the Federal Reserve Bank to see how the economy is governed and the UK Department of Trade to learn first-hand how countries trade with each other. These are just some of the examples of a teacher who acts as a mentor to his students and is committed to helping them build important life skills that they can use after high school.” Carlsen nominated Garud for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award.

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TRACY FUENTES

  • School: Miguel Juarez Middle School
  • Teaches: 6-8th Grade: ESL/ELA
  • Favorite Player: Devin Hester

“Tracy Fuentes is passionate about her students and will go above and beyond on a daily basis to ensure that her English Language Learners are successful both inside and outside the classroom,” said Elvia Uriostegui, a district teaching colleague. “Tracy has made an extraordinary difference in the lives of many students and their families in the Waukegan community. She establishes a trustworthy connection by consistently communicating and works hard to create opportunities for families to come in and take part in their child’s learning. Even with four children of her own, Tracy still finds time to be an active learner who is always eager to research and apply new strategies to engage her students. She is a role model for all of us.”

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MEGHAN DOLAN

  • School: Palmer Elementary School
  • Teaches: 3rd Grade
  • Favorite Player: Walter Peyton

"Meghan Dolan is an exceptionally dedicated teacher who has a longstanding, positive impact on Palmer students. In the classroom, she provides high-quality, differentiated instruction for her students. A fierce proponent for the rights of children with special needs, she advocates for her students with learning disabilities each and every day. Passionate about teaching, she generously shares that passion and professional experience with her colleagues,” said Jennifer Dixon, principal at Palmer Elementary. “Ms. Dolan is one of the finest teachers I’ve worked with in my 15-year career. Humble by nature, her work at Palmer has an enormous impact on the hearts and minds of students and everyone she works with every day. She inspires us all with the love and dedication she exemplifies.”

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KIMBERLY SPECK

  • School: John H. Kinzie Elementary School
  • Teaches: Math
  • Favorite Player: Kyle Long

“Kimberly Speck is a dedicated teacher with a love for math that she enthusiastically shares with her students,” said Jacqueline Janeteas, a Kinzie Elementary colleague. “Teaching pre-algebra and algebra to eighth-graders is no easy task, but Mrs. Speck always finds fun, exciting ways to get kids moving and learning in the classroom. She will come up with hands-on activities that have students writing on desks, killing zombies and using spaghetti — employing these creative methods to help kids learn the slope of a line. Her ability to teach with that kind of energy, engagement and love is a true inspiration to both her students and her colleagues.” Janeteas nominated Speck for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award.