Allison Schmidt of Huntley has taught second or third grade dual language at Washington STEM Academy in Belvidere for nine years. A staunch supporter of the dual language program, she constantly challenges others in her school and district to think outside the box and to consider a multi-language lens to approach education. As a leader, she has attended and given presentations about achievement, integration in a dual language classroom, calm corners and project-based learning at school, district, state and national levels. She gets to know her students’ interests, backgrounds, and families, and how best to encourage them to achieve success. Though relationship-building, Alli assures students that in her class, they’re safe. They know she will do anything she can for them. She aims to make lessons meaningful and interesting for her students, which, to her, means including them in choosing what resources they need on the walls, how to form the classroom furniture for lessons and the guidelines to which the class should hold each other accountable. A former Washington principal said, “when spending time in Alli’s classroom, it is apparent that the classroom is the children’s classroom; not one created just by the teacher.” Alli says she “empowers students to take ownership of their learning and clearly discuss their academic and behavioral goals.” By doing so, she sees a dramatic increase in the students’ motivation, understanding and commitment to learning. She draws in peers and family members to support and celebrate goal achievement. Alli developed an alternative style of homework because, “teaching at a STEM school and serving a population with lower socioeconomic status, [I] realized that homework might need to look different in order to engage students and fit the needs of each family.” Each month, students receive hands-on, interactive tasks and activities for each STEAM category: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/Literacy and Math. They can involve all members of the family. There are tasks that don't require buying materials and tasks for students who have support in the home and can complete tasks with an adult or those who may be the one in charge and need to entertain younger siblings. “The activities are engaging, spark curiosity and help students extend learning and problem solving skills from the classroom into their homes."