Rebecca Perry of Poplar Grove has been teaching for 11 years. She’s taught 8th grade science at Belvidere South Middle School for the past four. A classroom observer commented, “You can tell Rebecca enjoys her job and science. This teacher changed activities six times in 40 minutes. If you know middle school students, changing tasks throughout is important.” In her essay, Perry wrote, “Early on in my career, I made a commitment to do whatever is necessary to stay student-centered and to always try to find the good in the day. This has … allowed me to shut out a lot of the noise and negativity that can consume people in the current atmosphere. This last year of pandemic teaching has taught me there is so much that I cannot control. This year, that has looked like setting speaking goals for a student that was remote for 18 months and would not coherently form sentences during the first month of school, prioritizing relevant content with truant students and creating as many hands-on learning activities to get students excited about learning.” Her classroom potentially consists of IEP, 504, EL, honors, virtual and culturally diverse students, each needing to be met where they are, yet also challenged to grow. Perry says, “I love teaching the physical science content, but I love teaching my students even more. I encourage students to be their best self whether we are working on science knowledge, work habits or social skills.” She surveys families and students about their language, after school commitments, strengths, struggles and who, if anyone, helps with homework. She plans lessons in both English and Spanish for students to teach their parents how to find and read grades on a new platform. Her classroom door features posters of well-known scientists of all genders and races so students see themselves every time they leave. One of those students wrote, “Mrs. Perry was an outstanding teacher because she always had her students in mind and planned interesting experiments. I felt I grew in my skills in science, and I will use what I learned throughout my entire life. The way she taught was effective and explained assignments carefully and productively. I will definitively always remember this teacher.” Perry also loves supporting peers. She wrote, “My passion the last three years has been recognizing the need to support others for the greater good of students. It is wonderful to have a highly performing teacher in a classroom, but ultimately, we all need to work together to improve student achievement for the entire building. The greatest professional development can be the teacher down the hall.” This teacher created “Fri-Yay” sessions during the pandemic because “during remote learning, staff morale was low, and teachers struggled navigating how to even stay afloat instructionally. It created a wonderful space for collaboration and joy during a time where there was a lot of isolation and worry.” Dr. David Carson, assistant superintendent for Belvidere CUSD100 commended her, writing “Last year, to support teachers navigating the new realm of remote teaching, she hosted Fri-yay sessions during which teachers could share and celebrate the successes they experienced. During our school district’s transition to a Proficiency Based Grading system, Rebecca has repeatedly developed and shared resources with her fellow teachers to grow their capacity and to support their conversations with students and parents.” Principal Ben Commare says “she is a once-in-a-lifetime staff member. She can do it all and do it all exceptionally well.”