Shannon Anderson

Kindergarten, Prairie Hill School, Prairie Hill School District 133, South Beloit, IL

B.S. Elementary Education-Rockford College
M. Ed.Curriculum & Instruction-National-Louis University

Taking scared, anxious, five-year-old children in August and giving them the gift of reading and writing . . . can only be done by a singer,” writes Michael Michowski, Principal at Prairie Hill School. “Shannon Anderson is the voice of unlimited patience.” She teaches “the beginning song of life [and] is the ideal shepherd for these children to cross the bridge onto first grade and beyond.”

Shannon didn't have life-long dreams of being a professional teacher. She spent eighteen years teaching her own four children and as a lead therapist for the Wisconsin Early Autism Project (WEAP) before she was hooked. “The sheer joy [the children] experienced when they were successful became my addiction,” she says. So at age 31, Shannon went to college, graduating Summa Cum Laude, then on to earn her M.Ed. After being hired fulltime, she relentlessly continued additional instruction including American Sign Language.

A combination of auditory, visual, and kinesthetic modes is the foundation for Shannon’s teaching concepts. Her Master’s thesis on the benefits of classroom amplification systems to students with auditory processing deficits led to a school-wide purchase of amplification systems. To increase readiness of new kindergarteners, she created the Kindergarten Summer Intervention Program, KSIP. She often requests students with special needs. “Children generally live up to what is expected of them,” says Shannon about her classroom climate of nurturing, low risk, and high expectations.

Including the whole family and pets in her web communications, Shannon touts “it takes a village to raise a child”. Parents are encouraged to visit any time, to take ownership of their child’s learning, and to learn some songs that help the process. Superintendent Ted Rehl writes, “Quite simply, she is pure magic.”

“Teaching is the air I breathe, . . .the sun that guides me, . . the water that carries me to places I’ve dreamed possible, . . . the fire that keeps me warm, lights [my] way and burns brighter every year.” Shannon Anderson


cms-ErikkaColettaErikka Coletta

3rd Grade, Ledgewood School, Kinnikinnick School District 131, Roscoe, IL
A.S. Rock Valley College

B.S. Child Development-Rockford College

M.A.T. Instructional Strategies-Rockford College

Donning scarf, glasses, and a British accent, Erikka transforms into Martha the Math Wizard for her third graders, who also enjoy a “hunk-a, hunk-a fun” Elvis-voiced Dr. Science who leads them through exciting experiments. Role-playing is part of Social Studies too, as Erikka hones her acting skills and encourages participation from her students.

Recently, her class at Ledgewood Elementary School in Roscoe learned the importance of “setting” in a narrative story by creating an almost life-sized boxcar, complete with mural and supplies needed to create scenes from the book The Boxcar Children, by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Erikka encourages language fluency with her students through repeated readings and partner poems. As master creator of special events, she contacted Starbucks to sponsor her “Poetry Slam” where the school library becomes a coffee shop and students become beatnik poets, memorizing and presenting poetry for the day. “If students have a reason to engage in learning, they will jump at the opportunity,” writes Erikka.

Lured by her love for children and the energy of a classroom she visited, Erikka left her high-paying business career to engage in the journey of positive experiences for the success of children. She returned to graduate school, and now on top of mothering young triplets, she engages her days with “all of her children”. She asks the “Supply Fairy” to deliver necessary items to some of her needier students, knowing that there are bigger issues than tests and curriculum. “Our students ARE our curriculum,” she says.

“There is no greater responsibility than molding a child into whom they are going to be.”


cms-AmyConklin2Amy Conklin

2ndGrade, Windsor Elementary School, Harlem School District 122, Loves Park, IL

B.S.-Mass Communications-Illinois State University
B.S.-Elementary Education-Illinois State University
M.S.Ed.-University of Colorado and Northern Illinois University

Amy Conklin always knew she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up. She was deeply inspired by many teachers she had as a child and that instilled a deep sense of the type of teacher she wanted to be one day. Amy’s passion for teaching rests on four tenets; use humor, make each child feel special, be creative, and set the bar high for students.

Amy was teaching in the same school district as Columbine High School when tragedy occurred and it changed the way she taught. She recognizes that she may be the one adult who spends the most time with a student in a day. She takes that responsibility seriously and recognizes that she serves as a role model. She believes that she must provide not only the best academic instruction, but she must also teach respect, responsibility, character, and create an environment that is fun and structured.

Amy has created a stimulating yet organized classroom that challenges each student to excel. She goes out of her way to differentiate materials and instruction to meet each student’s individual academic needs. Amy encourages her students to think outside the box and she intentionally makes connections between what is learned in the classroom and the real world. She has initiated Classroom Service Learning Projects such as “Stencil-a-Drain” to raise awareness about the hazards of polluting the Rock River, and recycling aluminum cans to raise money for a charity chosen by her students.

Amy is a dedicated teacher to her students, an educational leader and mentor to the new teachers. “As a mentor, she helps mentees perfect the craft of creating the state-aligned lessons in addition to understanding how to strike the balance between producing high quality lessons in the classroom and working on making solid family connections.” says, Veronica Vazquez, Principal at Windsor Elementary School



CindyAdami1Cindy Adami

2nd Grade, Brookview Elementary School-Rockford School District 205

B.S. Elementary Education/Reading-Illinois State University
M.Ed. Elementary Education-National Louis University

Cindy Adami is ceaseless in her energy. In her thirty years of teaching middle and elementary students, Cindy has exhibited her passion for wanting “to make a difference in a child’s life” for a long-lasting impact. Parents, volunteers, student teachers, former students and other staff members get involved with her students and their school. During reading time, five or six volunteers can be seen one-on-one with her students. And that’s why Cindy is active with the PTO. You can find her serving hamburgers at a fundraiser and putting in time at Turkey Bingo, Fun Fair, and Monster Mash. And that’s why each student receives a “memory book” of personal photos at the end of the school year.

Armed with her degree in reading, Cindy raises money to support the Family Literacy Night – to encourage families to read together, to dialog and learn together. Her students participate in literature circles and book clubs. Expanding the curriculum requirements, Cindy charges each lesson with a spark that ignites curiosity in her students. Her second graders study ocean animals, listening to whale echoes, performing in plays, writing a book, singing ocean songs, and determining what floats and sinks. And they learn 100 new words a week!

Always seeking more opportunities, Cindy helped revise Rockford District’s Math pacing guide, wrote grants to fund cutting edge classroom technology, chaired the Volunteer Appreciation Night, mentors rookie teachers, travels to study other school programs, and volunteers for numerous community initiatives.

A colleague says that Cindy has a tireless spirit, never giving up on an underachiever. Cindy stays “focused on the prize - instilling a love for life-long learning in her students and loving the ‘work.’” Her legacy lives on with her daughter just entering the teaching world, now continuing three generations of family teachers.


cms-PattyCrowPatty Crow

Pre-K-Kindergarten-Maria Montessori School, Rockford School District 205

B.S. Elementary Education – Northern Illinois University
M.S. Ed. Early Childhood Education-Northern Illinois University

“Patty truly believes that all children can learn and have the right to be educated in an environment that is psychologically and physically safe as well as cognitively challenging,” says Susan Haney-Bauer, the Principal at Maria Montessori School. Patty Crow focuses on teaching the ‘whole’ child, meeting the emotional, physical, cognitive and social needs of each student. She does not believe in the concept of “one size fits all”, instead, she caters a child’s work to their own individual learning level.

Her focus is to make her students lifelong learners through exploration and experimentation. She encourages them to ask questions and find their own answers, showing them how to learn throughout their lives. She rewards students who master an activity by providing them with the privilege of learning a new one. Learning new and more in-depth material is an intrinsic incentive for her students.

Patty feels that it is imperative to involve the families of her students in order to facilitate the education of the ‘whole child’. Getting parents involved at the entry level of Montessori education helps keep them involved throughout their child’s tenure at the school. Michelle Marcomb, the parent of one of her students is amazed by the love Patty Crow shows for her students and is excited to be involved in her child’s education.

Patty’s passion is improving the quality of life for children through their success in school. Her most recent contribution to the “whole student” is her commitment to implementing the “Food is Elementary Program”, teaching the importance of incorporating healthier and freshly grown food into the student’s diets. Patty Crow is an educator who for 32 years has been willing to go above and beyond for each child she encounters.