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updated: 10/22/2011 9:01 PM

Naperville teacher named best in state

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  • Josh Stumpenhorst

      Josh Stumpenhorst

  • Lincoln Junior High teacher Josh Stumpenhorst has won praise for his use of technology in the classroom and to communicate with other educators, as well as his ability to connect with students on a personal level.

       Lincoln Junior High teacher Josh Stumpenhorst has won praise for his use of technology in the classroom and to communicate with other educators, as well as his ability to connect with students on a personal level.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Illinois Teacher of the Year Josh Stumpenhorst began his teaching career nine years ago at Naperville's Lincoln Junior High. This is Stumpenhorst during his rookie year.

      Illinois Teacher of the Year Josh Stumpenhorst began his teaching career nine years ago at Naperville's Lincoln Junior High. This is Stumpenhorst during his rookie year.
    Daily Herald file photo

 
 

Josh Stumpenhorst is going to need a bigger closet.

The sixth-grade language arts and social science teacher already wears a goodly number of hats at Naperville's Lincoln Junior High School.

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In addition to his classroom duties, he's the school's athletic director, basketball and track coach, grade team leader, adviser to the computer club and member of the social science curriculum committee.

On Saturday night, Stumpenhorst added the biggest cap of all to his collection when he was honored as the 2012 Illinois Teacher of the Year by the Illinois State Board of Education.

The Naperville Unit District 203 instructor was selected from among nine finalists and received the award at the 37th annual Those Who Excel/Illinois Teacher of the Year banquet in Bloomington.

A graduate of Naperville's North Central College and a teacher at Lincoln since 2003, Stumpenhorst said he fell in love with junior high while student teaching at the school.

"These kids are crazy, and I love every minute of it," he said earlier this year. "It's a special breed to do junior high."

He encourages his students to take full advantage of technology in the classroom and uses social media to stay connected with other educators.

Last spring, he spearheaded an Innovation Day during which each Lincoln sixth-grader pursued a learning project of their own choosing.

That program attracted national attention when Stumpenhorst wrote about it on his blog and it was picked up by best-selling author Daniel H. Pink in his book "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us."

He also was honored as an emerging leader by the International Society of Technology in Education.

"Josh is a student-centered teacher who focuses on creating effective learning that will help every student be successful," State Superintendent Christopher Koch said in a written statement. "His ability to reach students of all skill levels engages them and inspires his colleagues. ... His educational blogs reach thousands of educators across the globe and demonstrate his leadership skills as well as his continuous efforts to be the best for his students."

Stumpenhorst grew up in the small town of Ashton, Ill., with a graduating class of 22. He enrolled at North Central with thoughts of becoming a journalist, but said a passion for history and an interest in coaching led him into education.

In a pair of interviews earlier this year, Stumpenhorst said he prides himself on being a good listener and taking time to talk with his students -- often about topics that have nothing to do with class assignments.

"I don't ever do the same thing twice," he said. "If you don't have fun in my class, it's probably your fault."

In his role as Illinois Teacher of the Year, Stumpenhorst will be available to speak at workshops, conferences and other forums beginning with the 2012 spring semester. Among other things, he'll receive a lifetime tuition waiver to state universities and represent Illinois in the National Teacher of the Year program.

When he learned he was a finalist for the award last month, he said he was shocked.

"Personally, I don't like the attention," he said at the time. "But I like the fact the teaching profession is getting good attention because of it."

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