SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education today named Kimberly Radostits of Oregon High School in Oregon Community Unit School District 220 the 2022 Illinois Teacher of the Year. State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala surprised Radostits with the honor during while she taught a class at her school. She has taught Spanish at Oregon High School for the past 15 years.
“Kimberly Radostits has the rare capacity to put as much effort into supporting students who have never stepped foot into her classroom as much as she does her own, pushing institutional levers to shape all of Oregon High School for the better,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Her after-school program and early intervention efforts have never been more important than in the renewal of our children’s learning from the impact of the pandemic – yet she’s had the foresight to be at this work for more than a decade. I’m especially proud of Ms. Rad and all the Teacher of the Year finalists for finding the capacity and the creativity to be great for their students in an unprecedented crisis. For our children, they are superheroes, and we honor them as such.”
“What elevated Kimberly in my mind and what truly inspired me during the selection process was the impact she has had on both her students and her school community,” said Dr. Ayala. “Kimberly leaves absolutely no student behind. Her tenacity and her dedication to ensuring all students discover their innate love for learning has extended beyond her own classroom walls to the very culture of the school and the district. Her work embodies the meaning of equity. She values each individual student for the assets and gifts they bring to the classroom and has helped to change educational systems so each student receives the unique and extra supports they need to reach high expectations. I extend my deepest appreciation to Kimberly – or ‘Ms. Rad’ as her students call her. She deserves this honor.”
Radostits has played a key role in the development of the “Hawks Take Flight” after-school program since its inception in 2008. She, along with her colleagues, conducts interventions with ninth-grade students who are not on track to graduate on time. Radostits also worked with administrators to develop a program to identify junior high students who may need additional support upon entering high school.
In another example of how Radostits’ reach extended beyond her own classroom walls, she provided professional development to her colleagues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In numerous ways, Kim is a leader among her colleagues,” said fellow teacher Zach Hall. “Of all the examples of her leadership, the professional development sessions on remote teaching that she offered to our district [in the fall of 2020] are among the most remarkable. Ms. Radostits helped many of our teachers build skills and understanding to connect with students online when school started. Without this help, many of our teachers would have struggled to teach their classes, and many students would have struggled consequently. She was not paid or compensated for these sessions, but she volunteered to facilitate them because she recognized that our teachers needed them.”
Radostits’ students praise the positive energy she brings to teaching. One student wrote in their nomination letter, “Some teachers choose their profession because of their love of the subject they teach. Others love to help kids in need. Ms. Rad teaches for both of those things with the most passion I have ever seen. She steps into the room with an aura of love and fun every single day.”
Radostits believes it was a moment with one student that drove her to be the best teacher she could be for her students.
“In 2011, I left freshmen orientation in tears after having an interaction with a boy who said that he hated school and there was nothing I could do to change that,” said Radostits. “The four years I spent trying to prove him wrong have strongly impacted me as a person and an educator and solidified the beliefs I have about education.”
As committed to her students as she is, Radostits is equally invested in her colleagues. Through the New Teacher Academy (NTA), she assists teachers new to the Oregon school district to get acclimated through a series of monthly professional development sessions. Principal Heidi Deininger believes the district’s high staff retention rate is directly related to NTA.
Kimberly Radostits has spent all 15 years of her teaching career at Oregon High School. Prior to that, she earned her bachelor’s degree in Spanish language from Northern Illinois University and master’s degree in educational leadership from Aurora University. Radostits earned the prestigious designation of National Board Certified Teacher in 2011.
As the 2022 Illinois Teacher of the Year, Radostits will have an opportunity to share her knowledge and expertise with an even larger audience via an ambassadorship beginning in June. State funding will enable Radostits to take a one-year sabbatical and will provide a novice teacher with the opportunity to teach in her place for one year under her expert guidance. Radostits will represent Illinois in the National Teacher of the Year program sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers.