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ROE26’s Lori Bilbrey Receives 2024 ICEARY Excellence in Education Award

ROE26’s Lori Bilbrey Receives 2024 ICEARY Excellence in Education Award

Lori Bilbrey, the Program Administrator for the ROYALS program of the Regional Office of Education #26 (ROE26), recently received the Region 3 Excellence in Education Award from the Illinois Coalition for Educating At-Risk Youth (ICEARY). 

Lori began work as the Program Administrator for the ROYALS program nine years ago. Before joining ROE26, she served for 24 years as an elementary teacher, lead teacher, summer school coordinator, and Principal in local school districts. Originally from Rockford in northern Illinois, Lori attended Western Illinois University, got married and made western Illinois home. 

Lori describes her position with ROE26 as a non-traditional Principalship. As Program Coordinator, she works to build the right team of educators and leaders in their schools and she helps students who need another opportunity to get on the right path in their education. Lori says that this work is, “an amazing opportunity to help students who otherwise would not have had the chance to earn a high school diploma.”

In nominating her for the award, her staff said, “Lori's dedication to fostering a positive and enriching learning environment makes her one of a kind, and her commitment to both staff and students is truly exceptional.” The nomination continued, “Lori’s innovative thinking comes through in her efforts to create a customized learning experience for each student. She not only sends incentives to students to encourage interaction, but also invests time in getting to know each student personally. She frequently visits each site, checking in with each student by name. She knows about their interests, and asks them questions that make them feel safe and cared for. Lori is focused on "next steps" for students, including field trips to colleges, universities, and employment facilities.” 

In explaining what this award means to her, Lori said, “Paulo Freire said ‘Education is Freedom.’ I couldn't agree more. Our wonderful ROYALS team works tirelessly to provide an education for all students. We have an amazing staff at ROYALS who build relationships with students so that they can assist students in finding school success. School success opens doors for the future. It is my pleasure to work with ROYALS staff who work to build a culture of relationships, mental fitness, academic progress and post-secondary pathways. Our students are amazing youth who are full of potential and it is astonishing to watch them flourish with the second chance that ROYALS can offer.”

The ICEARY Excellence in Education Award recognizes an individual who is dedicated to serving at-risk youth, who provides support, relationships and connections with at-risk students, and helps them achieve success and become life-long learners. According to ICEARY, recipients of this award represent the very best of the profession. 

The ROYALS Program at ROE26’s mission is to guide students in achieving academic success and post-secondary success. The Safe Schools and Alternative Programs in the ROYALS program are designed to meet the needs of individual learners. They serve 19 school districts over a four-county area. Annually, they serve around 160 students and each year have 20-30 students who meet the graduation requirements for their home school district.  The ROYALS program serves students who are credit deficient, chronically truant and/or disaffected with school for a variety of reasons. The programs also serve students who have been expelled or who have served multiple suspensions. The programs are also designed to serve students through credit recovery or after chronic truancy.

The Regional Office of Education #26 serves Fulton, Hancock, McDonough and Schuyler counties.  

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