For Brian Curtin, teaching provides its own reward.
Still, the Schaumburg High School English teacher said it was a pleasant surprise when he was named the 2013 Teacher of the Year by the Illinois State Board of Education this weekend.
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On Sunday, the day after the Those Who Excel/Illinois Teacher of the Year banquet in Bloomington, the 33-year-old suburban native spent the morning meeting with previous recipients.
"It was inspiring, to be honest, because I feel fortunate to be working alongside so many other amazing teachers," he said. "And then, to be able to meet other amazing teachers outside of Schaumburg High School was an experience that I never imagined having in my career. It was great, too, because every single one of them were people that you could tell connect with kids in a very strong way."
That reflects what Schaumburg High School Principal Timothy Jay Little, who nominated Curtin, said Sunday. Little said Curtin has a gift for connecting with students.
"If you were to go into his classroom, it is a student-centered classroom and not a teacher-centered classroom," Little said. "He is the real deal."
Curtin teaches freshman honors English and creative writing to juniors and seniors, and ge also team-teaches an American studies class. An athlete when he was a student at Prospect High School, Curtin also coaches varsity football and lacrosse.
"I feel honored. I feel humbled by the experience," said Curtin, who has been teaching for 10 years, including two years at Cary-Grove High School.
He now lives in Chicago with his wife, Ashley, a counselor at Fremd High School.
As a teacher, Curtin said he tries to bring creativity and positive energy to the classroom.
"I think kids are drawn to that," he said.
Curtin said it is important that his students know that he cares about them as people.
"It precedes caring about them as students," he said.