An Elk Grove High School educator who created a leadership program for students has been named the 2017 Illinois Teacher of the Year.
Ricardo "Ricky" Castro, an English as a Second Language teacher, received the honor during an annual banquet in downstate Normal Saturday night.
Castro has credited his own teachers for inspiring his career and supporting him. His family moved to the suburbs after he became involved with gangs and struggled in school as a teen in Chicago.
Castro later earned a bachelor's degree in English at DePaul University and a master's degree in education from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
A teacher for the last decade, Castro has worked for three years at the Elk Grove Village high school in Northwest Suburban District 214.
"Mr. Castro emphasizes biliteracy development for students, allowing them to become proficient in multiple languages that will serve them well beyond high school," state Superintendent Tony Smith said in a news release. "The relationships he builds with students, colleagues, and families greatly benefit the community, both within the schools and outside school walls."
Castro has formed some of those relationships through Estudiantes Unidos, a program he started with high school students who mentor those in junior high and elementary schools.
Castro will now get the chance to mentor colleagues through teaching workshops, conferences and community meetings, starting in the spring 2017 semester. He also will represent Illinois at the NASA Space Camp in Alabama and the National Teacher of the Year program.