Monmouth-Roseville’s 8th Grade English Language Teacher Sara Mendez Named 2024 ISBE Bilingual Teacher of the Year

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Ms. Sara Mendez, 8th grade English Language Development Teacher at Monmouth-Roseville Junior High School, has been named the 2024 Bilingual Teacher of the Year by the Illinois State Board of Education. Ms. Mendez is now one of 15 teachers across the state who are part of the 2024 Teacher of the Year Cohort. She is also now a finalist for Illinois Teacher of the Year. State Superintendent Dr. Tony Sanders surprised Ms. Mendez with the news of her award via Zoom on February 1. Now that the official announcement has been made, the district is excited to celebrate Ms. Mendez and her achievements with a presentation at the Board of Education meeting. Please join us in congratulating Sara Mendez, the 2024 Illinois Bilingual Teacher of the Year. 

Hear remarks from Superintendent Ed Fletcher below from the WRAM Morning Show

**Courtesy of the Monmouth-Roseville School District***

The complete story from the Illinois State Board of Education can be found below:

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) today announced the over 500 Illinoisans honored for their extraordinary contributions to education across the state through its annual Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year Awards. The awardees announced today include 13 finalists for 2024 Illinois Teacher of the Year – the state’s top honor for classroom teachers. See full list of awardees.

The annual Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year Awards celebrate incredible classroom teachers, administrators, teams, volunteers, and school support personnel who have made lasting impacts on the students, families, and fellow educators in their school communities. Find more information on the application process and awards in ISBE’s Overview of Awards. ISBE will celebrate the awardees at a banquet on May 18.

“There’s no doubt that our devoted educators in Illinois go above and beyond for our students every single day,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I’m especially excited to honor the 2024 Those Who Excel Awardees and Teacher of the Year Cohort Members, who have demonstrated unwavering commitment to their communities and the young people they serve. To these outstanding professionals across Illinois—thank you for helping to shape the leaders of tomorrow.”

“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. I especially want to celebrate and express my deep appreciation for the 15 teachers who have been selected as our 2024 Teacher of the Year Cohort. These 15 teachers have displayed unparalleled excellence, service, and leadership within and beyond their classrooms. Each of these teachers has a powerful story and message to share, and I am proud to recognize their efforts and provide a platform to elevate their voices.”

Briana Morales, the 2023 Illinois Teacher of the Year, has represented Illinois educators at speaking engagements across the state and nation this school year. She teaches English at Gordon Bush Alternative Center in East St. Louis School District 189, where she helps her students process trauma by sharing their own stories through poetry. ISBE provides the Illinois Teacher of the Year with a yearlong paid sabbatical to travel the state as an ambassador for the teaching profession, during which Morales founded (Sister)Hood of Hope, Inc., a 501(3) nonprofit organization targeting high school girls of color that provides mentorship and positive youth development, as well as scholarships for young mothers, in honor of one of her former students who passed away.

“Being named the Illinois Teacher of the Year has been the honor of a lifetime,” said Morales. “The opportunity to engage with educators and their communities across each region of our great state has filled me with such joy as I have seen firsthand the unwavering passion and dedication to our greatest assets – our students – through innovative programs and practices that meet young people where they are and take them to where they need to be. All educators deserve to be highlighted and celebrated for the tireless, phenomenal work they do each day.”

ISBE annually selects Regional Teachers of the Year; an Outstanding Early Career Educator; and Bilingual, Special Education, and Early Childhood Teachers of the Year to be members of the Illinois Teachers of the Year Cohort. Those with five or more years of teaching experience (indicated with an asterisk below) qualify as 2024 Illinois Teacher of the Year Finalists. Each of these educators were notified of their selection by Dr. Sanders via surprise Zoom calls earlier this month.

The 2024 Illinois Teacher of the Year Cohort includes:

  • *Cook County – Berenice Diaz, dual language preschool teacher at the Early Learning Center First Steps Preschool in East Maine District 63
  • *Cook County – Amy Moore, photography and video teacher at Evanston Township High School in Evanston Township High School District 202
  • *Cook County – Dillin Randolph, English teacher at Niles West High School in Niles Township High Schools District 219
  • *Cook County – Mashanda Scott, fifth grade teacher at Clara Barton Elementary School in Chicago Public Schools District 299
  • *East Central – Stacey Rickard, agriculture teacher at Salt Fork High School in Salt Fork Community Unit District 512
  • *Far North Suburbs – Sam Figueroa, Spanish teacher at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Adlai E Stevenson High School District 125
  • *Far South Suburbs – Colleen Guccione, social studies teacher at Bolingbrook High School in Valley View School District 365U
  • *Far West Suburbs – Dr. Rachael Mahmood, fifth grade teacher at Georgetown Elementary School in Indian Prairie Community Unit School District 204
  • *Northwest – Angie McHale, English teacher at Byron High School in Byron Community Unit School District 226
  • *Southern – Bethany Matthews, first grade teacher at Bethel Grade School in Bethel School District 82
  • *West Central – Mallory Tolley, agriculture teacher at Knoxville High School in Knoxville Community Unit School District 202
  • *Bilingual – Sara Mendez, eighth grade English language development teacher at Monmouth-Roseville Junior High School in Monmouth-Roseville Community Unit School District 238
  • Early Childhood – Michelle Zurita-Sharpe, prekindergarten special education teacher at Blair Early Childhood Center in Chicago Public Schools District 299
  • *Special Education – Jacqueline San Diego, high school special education teacher at the Belmont Campus of Chicago’s Intrinsic Schools
  • Outstanding Early Career Educator – Bryn Zingrebe, science teacher at Evergreen Park Community High School in Evergreen Park Community High School District 231 

ISBE received a record number of nominations and applications for the 2024 Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year Awards. A committee of administrators, teachers, educational service personnel, student support personnel, and past Illinois Teachers of the Year selected this year’s awardees. Illinois State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tony Sanders will select the 2024 Illinois Teacher of the Year from the finalists later this spring. The Illinois Teacher of the Year will represent Illinois in the Council of Chief State School Officers’ National Teacher of the Year Program.

Visit ISBE’s Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year webpage for photos and bios of the 2024 Illinois Teachers of the Year Cohort along with more information about the awards. 

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