Get to Know Our 20 Finalists!
Jennifer Stella of Cherry Valley, who was also a finalist two years ago, has been teaching at Rock Cut Elementary in Loves Park for 17 years. She has taught sixth, then first and, since 2009, has been teaching fifth grade. “Teaching is an amazing responsibility and privilege, and I hope that by teaching my students about respect, compassion, honesty and trust, they will have the skills they need to be successful in the future.” Jennifer is devoted both in and out of the classroom as 5th Grade Division Chair, Harlem Assessment Team member, School Improvement team member and co-leader of the Summer Reading Committee. She frequently drives the Rock Cut Bookmobile, delivering books to students in the summer. This year she’s also coordinating the talent show. In response to lessons about global and local issues such as hunger and diversity, her students asked about helping on the local level. So she coordinated fundraisers, which raised nearly $1,000 for both the Northern Illinois Food Bank and a former student’s Eagle Scout project (getting handicapped bleachers installed at HHS football stadium). Jennifer’s innovative ideas and creativity are visible in many ways. PTO president and parent, Lori Romero, shared that her son, who has ADHD, has greatly benefited from being in Jennifer’s class. While at his seat, he uses one of the six stationary bikes Jennifer obtained through a DonorsChoose grant; this activity enables him channel his energy and focus on tasks at hand. In the time he’s been in Jennifer’s class, he’s gained life changing self-confidence. Romero further praised Jennifer, writing that that “a student of Mrs. Stella is not only challenged academically, they are taught to take responsibility for their own actions, have compassion for others, and always strive for excellence.”