Aurora grade school principal Edward W. Brouch was named the Kane County Educator of the Year Friday night.
The award was bestowed by the Kane County Regional Office of Education at its annual banquet in St. Charles.
Brouch has been principal at O'Donnell Elementary School since 1998.
He didn't start his work life in education. According to the biography supplied with his nomination, Brouch first attended seminary after high school, then left to work as a missionary in Mexico for three years with a nondenominational Christian group.
When he returned to Aurora -- which is where he grew up -- the pastor at Covenant Christian School asked him to teach school there.
After finding he loved teaching, Brouch obtained a bachelor's degree in education from Aurora University. He then went to work for East Aurora District 131, first as an elementary teacher then as a science teacher.
In letters in the nomination, students described him as kind, funny, gentle and friendly.
"During ISAT (testing) he always brings us Smarties and tells us to eat them before the test, so we can be smarties," one student wrote.
In a video shown at the awards banquet, Brouch credited teachers, students and their parents for his success, and he detailed his philosophy: "We need to make every decision based on what's best for the kids," he said.
Another District 131 worker won the Regional Office of Education Award, formerly known as the Superintendent's Award.
Margarito Valdez, an eighth-grade bilingual mathematics teacher at Simmons Middle School, said in his video, "I may teach mathematics, but I teach more than mathematics. I teach values. I am a role model," he said, noting there aren't many male Hispanic teachers in the area. "I want to be a change agent."
He also called on people to stop labeling children, acknowledging he was once thought to be a "bad kid."
"There are no bad kids," he said. "There are just good kids who make bad decisions."
According to one student's nomination letter, Valdez is known for telling students, "Instead of crying about the problem, find a solution."
Other award winners were:
• Cynthia Bustos and Bernard Michels earned the Support Staff award. Bustos works at Bardwell Elementary in Aurora, and Michels at Batavia High School.
• Judy Donner and Jill Fox were named the R.B. Mades Associate Educators of the Year. Donner teaches at Mades-Johnstone Center in St. Charles, and Fox at Sleepy Hollow Elementary School in Sleepy Hollow.
• Gail Stover and Nancy Meisenger were named Elementary Teachers of the Year. Stover teaches at Prairie View Grade School in Elgin, and Meisenger at Kaneland John Shields Elementary School in Sugar Grove.
• Zandra McGuire, a teacher at Central Middle School in Burlington, was named the J.L. Hanson Middle School Teacher of the Year.
• Lori Drumtra and Evelyn Rupert were named the D.L. Hoeft High School Teachers of the Year. Drumtra teaches at St. Charles East, and Rupert at Bartlett.
• Geneva Middle School South Principal Terrance T. Bleau was named Administrator of the Year.