Get to Know Our 20 Finalists!

Rachel Huetson of Rockford has seven years of teaching experience with grades K-2. She’s been teaching first grade at Nelson Elementary the past two years. She’s on the district’s math curriculum and the school’s leadership teams. Amy Huftalin, who worked with Rachel as her literacy coach in her first teaching assignment with RPS205 wrote that Rachel “worked diligently to set up her classroom to be inviting yet challenging for students … she even removed her teacher desk to provide more space for the kids!”  Rachel is committed to being a lifelong learner, seeking knowledge to bring the best practices to her classroom. In fact, in 2012, though newly married, raising a child with special needs and expecting another child, she went back to school to work on her master’s degree. Rachel focuses on the learning process and sets high standards and expectations for her students, yet also teaches that mistakes happen and are learning opportunities. During math, her students sit on the carpet to discuss how to solve number problems. The activity helps Rachel monitor understanding, but also helps students encourage and learn from each other. “We ‘kiss our brain’ and embrace all new learning,” she says. She believes that “teachers need to promote democracy and self-discipline in the classroom by setting limits and using praise… it is my job to allow my students to express their learning through a variety of multiple intelligences so that they become lifelong learners.”  To further demonstrate the importance of education, Rachel enlists the help of her students’ families, regularly sharing lesson content and tips to help them work with their children at home. She has found that when families support and share in the educational process, the students tend to be more successful.