Two District 230 teachers receive national awards

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

The District 230 School Board at its meeting last week recognized two faculty members who received national awards.

Dr. Stacey Gonzales, director of curriculum for the district, was named among the top 30 education technology leaders in the United States by the Center for Digital Education, a national research and advisory institute specializing in K-12 and higher education technology trends, policy and funding.

 She was a leading force behind the district’s ongoing technology program, which has provided every student with a Chromebook laptop computer this year and more teacher training on how to get the best use out of the technology in the classroom.

The CDE called her one of the 2017 “Top 30 Technologists, Transformers and Trailblazers,” education and technology leaders who are “transforming the education landscape through the use of digital tools.”

During the “Digital Learning Program,” update she gave at the meeting last Thursday, Gonzales said all students now have the computers, and they are a hit with students and teachers alike. Now in Phase 3 of the program, this was the first semester that students in all four years have the computers.

“It has been a really smooth semester so far,” said Gonzales. “It has been a really busy year, but so far, so good. Students have told me they would rather be using the $179 Chromebooks than the $1,200 desktop computers they have at home.

“This has not been a top-down thing,” she said, “All 140 teachers have been involved from the beginning. That is the key to success.”

Gonzales and other district officials are now getting involved in webinars, helping other districts roll out similar programs.

According to the CDE, the 2017 Top 30 winners were selected based on their efforts to improve education through effective implementation of technology-rich solutions; their impact on student outcomes; and their overall initiative, creativity and leadership skills. Gonzales is one of only two recipients from Illinois this year. The other is Linda Ashida, a teaching and learning facilitator at Elk Grove High School.

Christopher Wendelin, who teaches Advanced Placement English to freshmen, along with senior-level English at Stagg High School in Palos Hills, was also honored for being named a Top Ten 2017 Claes Nobel Educator of the Year by the National Society of High School Scholars. Formed in 2002 by James W. Lewis and Claes Nobel, members of the family that established the Nobel Prizes, the NSHSS is aimed at recognizing academic excellence at the high school level and helps to advance the goals and aspirations of high-achieving students.

He was nominated for the award by a student, at least in part for The Voice of Witness class he and fellow teacher Lisa Thyer created last year. The 60 students in the class published a book called “111th and Roberts: Where Our Voices Intersect.” The process they went through was the subject of a documentary by a University of Illinois College of Media Instructor and his journalism students entitled “Voices of Stagg.”

“I feel very indebted to the people around me,” said Wendelin at the meeting last Thursday, referring to the board members and the district leadership who allowed him to create “a learning environment with student-centered classes, where success is shared and creativity is encouraged.”

He said he wants to provide education that is “long-term and nonlinear.”

“Students and teachers should see themselves and each other as works in progress, using every setback, success, and query as a stepping stone to improvement and believing that everyone can grow and learn with hard work and grit.” 

Wendelin’s nominating student wrote, “He has gone above and beyond making learning fun along with co-teaching a one of a kind class dedicated to the Voice of Witness program while willingly giving up his plan period to help students and make sure they succeed.”

“Chris has always shown himself to be an excellent teacher. He is a genuine individual, whose caring personality coupled with humor and humility allows him to form meaningful connections with students, helping each one believe that not only that they can learn, but also that they deserve to be successful,” said Stagg Principal Eric Olsen.