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Five District 97 Staff Members Honored by the State Board of Education

Five staff members from District 97 have been honored by Illinois State Board of Education in conjunction with the state’s “Teacher of the Year” and "Those Who Excel" recognition programs:

  • Arnetta Thompson, enrichment specialist at Lincoln Elementary School - Award of Excellence (Teacher)
  • Dr. Christine Zelaya, senior director of human resources/former Holmes Elementary School principal - Award of Excellence (Administrator)
  • Tyra Banks, teacher assistant at Brooks Middle School - Award of Special Recognition (Educational Service Personnel)
  • Jessica Baylian, teacher librarian at Mann Elementary School - Award of Meritorious Service (Teacher)
  • Lindsey Kiska, special education teacher at Lincoln Elementary School - Award of Meritorious Service (Early Career Educator)

The Teacher of the Year and Those Who Excel programs recognize teachers, administrators, school support personnel and volunteers from across the state of Illinois who have made lasting impacts on the students, families, and fellow educators in their school communities. Honorees are nominated by members of the District 97 community, often a colleague or family, upon whom they have made a great impact.

“The five D97 educators recognized are known for their work within their school communities, as well as leadership that expands beyond our district,” said District 97 Superintendent Ushma Shah. “From providing national-level equity training, building culture around professional learning communities and arranging for youth civic engagement to creating innovative approaches to literacy and exemplifying our values around inclusion and integration, these are truly educators who excel. This achievement is a testament to their hard work and commitment to excellence in education."

The "Those Who Excel" program presents awards in seven categories: Teacher, Early Career Educator, Administrator,Student Support Personnel, Community Volunteer and Team. Nominations are scored by a panel of judges and awarded on three levels: Award of Excellence, Award of Meritorious Service and Award of Recognition.

“Congratulations to our 2024 Those Who Excel awardees and Teacher of the Year Cohort,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tony Sanders. "These awards recognize the vital and exceptionally talented professionals who have dedicated their lives and careers to education across Illinois. They have chosen to aim their considerable talents and passion toward giving back to their communities, uplifting young people, and shaping our collective future for the better.”

ISBE will recognize all of its Teacher of the Year and Those Who Excel honorees at a banquet this May.