John Meixner, Regional Superintendent of Schools
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ISBE announces 2022 finalists for Illinois Teacher of the Year

ISBE announces 2022 finalists for Illinois Teacher of the Year

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced today the 2022 finalists for Illinois Teacher of the Year, as well as the 2022 Outstanding Early Career Educator. The finalists include the 10 Regional Teachers of the Year, plus the Bilingual, Early Childhood, and Special Education Teachers of the Year. The annual Teacher of the Year program honors incredible classroom educators who have made lasting impacts on the students, families, and fellow educators in their school communities.  

ISBE also announced today 196 Those Who Excel awardees, recognizing administrators, teams, volunteers, and school support personnel for their extraordinary contributions to education across the state.  

“The Teacher of the Year and Those Who Excel programs recognize the people who make education In Illinois so exceptional,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. "Our students have been in the most capable hands despite the challenges of the past two years. Our Illinois educators and their level of commitment, passion, and dedication have been a guiding light for students and communities in a time when we have needed it the most. I am so proud of each and every one of our honorees and especially of our finalists for Illinois Teacher of the Year. This recognition is the highest honor in our profession."  

Justin Johnson has represented Illinois as the 2021 Illinois Teacher of the Year. He is a band instructor at Niles West High School in Niles Township High School District 219 in Skokie. Last year, for the first time in more than a decade, ISBE launched a yearlong paid sabbatical for the Teacher of the Year, signaling the state’s utmost respect and dedication to Illinois educators. The sabbatical allows the Teacher of the Year to maximize their impact as the State’s ambassador for the teaching profession. 

“Serving as the Illinois Teacher of the Year has been the honor of a lifetime,” said Johnson. “The sabbatical has allowed me the opportunity to fully dedicate myself in making an impact as an ambassador to Illinois educators and further advance the teaching profession across the state during a pivotal time for our students and families.” 

The 2022 Regional Teachers of the Year are: 

Cook County – Dr. Justin Antos, music teacher at Eisenhower High School in Community High School District 218 in Oak Lawn 

Southeast – Amber George, family and consumer sciences teacher at Herrin High School in Herrin Community Unit School District 4 in Herrin 

East Central – Marielena Gozur, elementary special education teacher at Cedar Ridge Elementary School in McLean County Unit School District 5 in Normal 

North Suburbs – Elliott Hile, music teacher at Lakes Community High School in Community High School District 117 in Lake Villa 

West Central – Greg Hoener, social studies teacher at Illini West High School at Illini West High School District 307 in Carthage 

Southwest – Katie Jeck, special education teacher at Columbia Middle School in Columbia Community Unit School District 4 in Columbia 

Cook County – Ashley Kannan, social studies teacher at Percy Julian Middle School in Oak Park Elementary School District 97 in Oak Park 

South Suburbs – Carrie Molinero, second-grade teacher at Madison Elementary School in Hinsdale Community Consolidated School District 181 in Clarendon Hills 

Northwest – Kimberly Radostits, Spanish teacher at Oregon High School in Oregon Community Unit School District 220 in Oregon 

Cook County – Claire Trainer, science teacher at Sauganash Elementary School in City of Chicago Public Schools District 299  

View a map of the regions

The recipients of the Bilingual Teacher of the Year, Early Childhood Teacher of the Year, Special Education Teacher of the Year, and Outstanding Early Career Educator awards are:  

Bilingual – Marwa Elmasry, Oak Lawn Community High School in Oak Lawn Community High School District 229 in Oak Lawn 

Early Childhood – Megan Hillegass, pre-K teacher at Dr. James Mitchem Early Childhood Center in Valley View Community Unit School District 365U in Romeoville 

Special Education – Victoria Valentine, West Leyden High School in Leyden Community High School District 212 in Franklin Park 

Outstanding Early Career – Nia Kerr, middle school Spanish teacher at Roselle Middle School in Roselle School District 12 in Roselle. ISBE gives this award to a teacher with one to four years of teaching experience. 

The awardees are selected by a committee of administrators, teachers, educational service personnel, student support personnel, and past Illinois Teachers of the Year. Dr. Ayala will make her final selection of the 2022 Illinois Teacher of the Year later this spring. The Illinois Teacher of the Year will represent Illinois in the Council of Chief State School Officers’ National Teacher of the Year Program. 

ISBE will recognize all its Teacher of the Year awardees and Those Who Excel awardees at a banquet later this summer. For more information about ISBE’s Those Who Excel program, visit the Those Who Excel webpage.  

 Photos and bios of the 2022 Illinois Teacher of the Year finalist are available on the Teacher of the Year webpage

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