Melissa Leisner, a seventh-grade English and language arts teacher at Prairie Knolls Middle School in Elgin, has been named the 2013 Illinois recipient of the Milken National Educator Award.
Leisner was notified about her selection during a surprise announcement Tuesday at the school.
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"I am very pleased to join the Milken Foundation in recognizing an exemplary Illinois teacher," State Superintendent of Education Christopher Koch said in a news release. "Melissa has repeatedly created and demonstrated innovative teaching strategies that can be successfully adjusted to meet individual student needs. She is an outstanding role model and mentor for her students and her colleagues."
The Milken award is given annually to teachers demonstrating exceptional skills and a personal commitment to education. Each winner receives $25,000 from the Milken Family Foundation.
Leisner has been teaching for 15 years and started at Prairie Knolls in Central School District 301 in Burlington in 2000. Administrators described her as a teacher who builds relationships with her students and encourages feedback so she can better support them.
Leisner takes classes, researches new instructional strategies, revamps lessons and reads novels so that she can recommend books to her students, according to her peers.
"Her approach is student centered and friendly, and her outgoing personality along with her caring attitude make her a student and staff favorite," Prairie Knolls Principal Christopher Testone said in the news release.
"At Prairie Knolls Middle School, we believe in providing positive adult role models and support for our students. Ms. Leisner is the epitome of this philosophy."