SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS (May 30, 2024) — Leaders with the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools (IARSS) spend time each year helping schools understand the state’s teacher-shortage crisis. As the school year ends, they help celebrate the educators who selflessly serve students across Illinois.

May is Teacher Appreciation Month. The Regional Offices of Education and Intermediate Service Centers who are members of IARSS covering all of Illinois’ 102 counties take time throughout the month to recognize teachers, administrators, and staff in districts in their regions for their accomplishments during the school year.

The appreciation includes special events and recognition, words of support, and encouragement shared online and much more including:

Regional Office of Education’s Fifth Annual Recognition of Excellence Award Recipients, for educators in east-central Illinois. Each school district in the region was asked to submit nominations for “exceptionally skillful and dedicated individuals who have the respect and administration of students, parents, and co-workers.” Honorees were also determined as distinguishing themselves as leaders and for “inspiring a love of learning in students of all backgrounds and abilities.”

“We are privileged to have so many outstanding school professionals from within our region, passionate about the profession, and dedicated to our students. It’s an honor to recognize and validate their meaningful efforts,” said Regional Superintendent Dr Kyle Thompson.

Lake County’s Regional Office of Education Third Annual Educator of the Year, with nine different categories and an overall Educator of the Year, plus a group not ordinarily thought of: This year’s recipient were the custodial and maintenance staff. More than 800 people attended the celebration event at the Lake County Fairgrounds north of Chicago.

Peoria County’s Regional Office of Education in central Illinois brought in a chair massage therapist for a day of relaxation for teachers, gave away a wellness basket with a $500 gift card to Starved Rock State Park with more than 400 entries from teacher nominations, and shared memories and photos of their favorite teachers. Regional Superintendent Beth Crider honored her brother, two best friend preschool teachers, and her husband in social-media posts on the ROE pages.

Kane County’s Regional Office of Education, serving west of Chicago, had its 48th Educator of the Year banquet with a record 57 nominations across seven categories. More than 900 guests in St Charles — colleagues, family, friends, and state legislators among them — recognized nominees and handed out awards. ROE staff collected dozens of interviews with nominees that were shown at the banquet and shared online.

Rock Island’s Regional Office of Education, in northwestern Illinois, offers a thank-you package for Employee of the Month recognition for district schools and offices each month. “These are such fun surprised, and it gives us a chance to say thank you to in their working environment,” says Assistant Regional Superintendent Jacob Smithers of the visits ROE leadership make to local schools to deliver packages to the recipients. “The schools love it!” The recognitions also are collected online.

In Regional Office of Education N° 35 in north-central Illinois, 162 school staff members were honored at an awards ceremony in early May. “I am honored to be celebrating with this year’s Excellence in Education recipients,” said Regional Superintendent Christopher Dvorak. “This event provides recognition and gratitude to those that work in our schools, making a positive impact for students. As we celebrate education, thank you to everyone that helps make a difference in a student’s life.”

In West40 Intermediate Service Center N° 2, serving west-suburban Cook County, a podcast conversation and social media posts reflected appreciation for the ways teachers play a vital role in providing a safe, encouraging environment for learning as students work toward graduation and their career path.

And for Teacher Appreciation Week in Regional Office of Education N° 33 in west-central Illinois, the Fourth Annual Excellence in Education Banquet, professional-development opportunities, free vouchers for snacks and drinks at local coffee shops, and thank-yous on social media were highlighted.

Regional offices also were busy throughout the month honoring educators with positive messages of support and encouragement, and presenting certificates and awards for teachers who are nominated by their peers and regional offices as exceptional at helping students learn and grow.

IARSS leaders say the recognition efforts – throughout the school year and as the year ends — are an important part of the support educators need and deserve in challenging times. The latest IARSS Educator Shortage Survey of schools across Illinois, released in late March, finds many schools are still struggling with shortages and employee morale and working conditions are among the biggest drivers of shortages.

“We know educators in our offices, in our districts and in classrooms across the state are often unsung heroes whose determination and creativity help students overcome the obstacles in their learning and their lives,” said Gary Tipsord, IARSS Executive Director. “While we continue to work on the challenges driving our shortage crisis, we need to take time to acknowledge the hard work and accomplishments of the people who love teaching and supporting students and who show they care every day. These events and recognitions are a small but important way our members can say thank you for everything teachers do for our students and schools.”

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