Four suburban educators among finalists for top state teacher award

Four suburban educators are among the finalists for the Illinois State Board of Education's 2022 Teacher of the Year prize, officials announced Tuesday.

The honorees were selected by a committee of administrators, teachers, educational service personnel, student support personnel, and past Illinois Teachers of the Year.

The Illinois State Board of Education also announced 196 Those Who Excel awardees, recognizing administrators, teams, volunteers and school support personnel for their extraordinary contributions to education statewide.

Each year the Illinois State Board of Education names a Teacher of the Year from eight regions of the state, though this year there were three co-winners in the Cook County region.

Elliott Hile, a music teacher at Lakes Community High School in Antioch-Lake Villa Area High School District 117, was named the top teacher of the North suburbs region, which includes Lake, McHenry and Kane counties.

Carrie Molinero, a second-grade teacher at Madison Elementary School in Hinsdale Unit District 181, was named the top teacher in the South suburbs region, which includes DuPage, Will, Kendall and Grundy counties.

The Illinois State Board of Education also gives out awards for best bilingual teacher, early childhood teacher, special education teacher and for outstanding early career educator.

The award for the state's Special Education Teacher of the Year went to Victoria Valentine, who works at West Leyden High School in Leyden High School District 212 in Franklin Park.

And Nia Kerr, a middle school Spanish teacher at Roselle Middle School in Roselle Elementary District 12, was named Outstanding Early Career Educator of the Year, an award given each year to a teacher with one to four years of teaching experience.

Later this spring, State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala will select one of these finalists as 2022 Illinois Teacher of the Year. The state winner will represent Illinois in the Council of Chief State School Officers' National Teacher of the Year Program, where winners from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and four U.S. territories gather for professional learning.

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