Physics & Algebra
Rockford Lutheran Junior and Senior High School
Teaching Experience: 15 Years
B.A. Physical Science-Concordia University Chicago
M.A. Educational Astronomy-University of Illinois Springfield
Who could find physics anything less than fascinating when your teacher electrocutes a cake to demonstrate alternating current? Or lets you shoot water balloons across a football field at him?
Trey Fisk has captivated math and science students at Rockford Lutheran for four years, inspiring some to pursue college degrees in these fields. He helped add a second year of AP-level physics to the curriculum, often spends weekends at school helping students prepare for exams, works with students before and after class ... and finds time to coach the boys' and girls' cross country team and the boys' track team. Not to mention keeping up with workshops and conferences.
During the winter, Trey took his students to Saturday morning physics lectures at FermiLab in Batavia. His classroom lights are powered by ten solar panels; a classroom computer allows students to analyze this solar energy data. He also has a 72-inch SMART Board in the classroom so students can tap into web resources.
Jane Austin, curriculum consultant at Lutheran, asked Trey's Algebra II class to rate him, on a one to ten scale. A student exclaimed: "Mr. Fisk is a twelve and a half!"
Says parent Deborah Burger: "He is teaching more than just the class; he is teaching students the love of learning."
7th and 8th Grade Mathematics
Prairie Hill School-South Beloit
Teaching Experience: 7 Years
B.S.-Education-University of Illinois
M. Ed.Curriculum & Instruction-National-Louis University
Megan Forsythe never planned to be a middle-school math teacher. But three years into business studies at the University of Illinois, Megan decided to switch to education, and a math specialty fit her finance, accounting and economics credits. So math teacher it was.
Since then, Megan has grown passionate about math and loves to spread her enthusiasm to her students. She livens up lessons by doing headstands (to demonstrate reciprocal properties), singing math jingles she has created, and playing math games. She uses a math webpage, similar to MySpace, and has "Math" request friends; all of her students signed up.
"She knows if she just stands there and talks to us we will only get half of what she is saying, but if she is singing, dancing, and making us part of math, we will get 100 percent out of it," says eighth-grader Becky Dal Santo.
"From her very first day right up through today, Megan has created a universe in her classroom where all things are possible for those willing to believe in themselves," says Prairie Hill Principal Michael Michowski. "In my time here at Prairie Hill, Megan Forsythe is the finest example of teaching excellence it has been my privilege to work alongside."
Lynn Marie Graczyk
Sophomore and Junior English
Jefferson High School-Rockford
Teaching Experience: 12 Years
B.A. - English-Northern Illinois University
B.A. - Journalism-Northern Illinois University
M. Ed. Curriculum & Instruction/Education-National-Louis University
National Board Certification
Lynn Graczyk knows what it's like to be a student in her class. For three semesters, she did every assignment she asked her students to do-plus allowed them to critique her work. "It was a definite eye-opener," says Lynn of the experiment, done for her master's degree. Once, Lynn told her students to write two pages of autobiography in 20 minutes; when they protested, she dismissed their complaints-until she tried the task herself, and could manage only one page.
"It is astounding to have seen the guts it took to let herself be a student with her students," says G. Thomas Fox, professor at National-Louis University, adding he had never seen a "more courageous project."
A National Board Certified teacher since 2007, Lynn ties her lessons to students' lives. Before reading Julius Caesar, her students discussed trust in relationships. After a student grumbled about reading "these old plays," another replied: "Caesar's friends hurt him. That stuff still happens." Lynn had been successful once again in making classic literature relevant.
Bradley Peters, associate English professor at NIU, says Lynn's rapport with her students is "superb," adding: "Her success comes from the high quality of her planning, the considerable time she invests, and her intense dedication to young people."
We also know that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree since Lynn's mother, Ann, is a Golden Apple Teacher from 2002!
7th Grade Mathematics and Pre-Algebra
Roscoe Middle School
Teaching Experience: 8 Years
B.S.-Elementary Education-Northern Illinois University
M.S. Ed.- Education Administration- Northern Illinois University
Jessica Lindvall-Powell comes from a long line of gifted teachers, including two grandmothers and her mother, Becky, a 2002 Golden Apple recipient. Like them, she feels a passion to work with children.
"Most people, upon hearing I teach seventh grade, just wince and shake their heads," says Jessica. "But I have always known this is where I belong." She enjoys guiding middle-schoolers through the transition from childhood to young adulthood, and along the way, making math fun for them.
To do this, she appeals to kinesthetic and spatial learning styles. Students form the coordinate grid and graph equations by physically moving along the y-axis. She also brings in manipulatives for students to work with.
Jessica's rewards come in witnessing the "ah ha!" moments-when students say they understand a subject for the first time, thanks to her teaching. She also has welcomed special education students into her classroom. "She never talked to me like I was stupid," says Tyler Young, now in eighth grade. "I started to like math more in her class." Thanks to Jessicas praise and interest, Tyler made the honor roll and is planning to go to college.
Says Tyler: "I think every kid needs a teacher like Mrs. Powell who sees the kid you can be, and helps you get there."
6th Grade Mathematics
Belvidere Central Middle School
Teaching Experience: 6 Years
A.A. - Rock Valley College
B.S. Elementary Education Rockford College
M.A. Education/Teaching/Leadership St. Xavier College
Penny Spears is committed to getting to know the student behind the grade and the parent behind the child. She is intentional about knowing the facts inside each student's life. She invites families into the educational process by conducting student led conferences each fall where the students present a portfolio of their own work.
Student Cole Dunlap says Ms. Spears helped him through a tough time. "She figured out different ways to tell me I was being disruptive or acting out without embarrassing me in front of the other kids," says Cole. "She could have given up on me, but she didn't."
With 27 percent of the students in her district coming from Spanish-speaking families, Penny set up a bilingual webpage. She also provides access to computers before and after school for those without Internet access.
She captures student attention by telling stories about her cats, singing Beyonce's "To the Left" when moving decimal places, and hosting a baseball-themed "World Series" class competition to study fractions and percentages.
Penny believes math and reading skills are linked, and has worked school-wide to improve vocabulary. Principal Harry Gries says Penny's students' math ISAT scores are up markedly. He often sees former students drop by to give a hug to the woman who not only taught them math but also how to be successful in life.