Good News Sunday: Aurora teacher gives students a sense of belonging

This is Good News Sunday, a compilation of some of the more upbeat and inspiring stories recently published by the Daily Herald:

As a child, Rachael Mahmood didn’t see too many people like her at school.

The daughter of a Russian Jewish mother and an Indian Hindu father, she was different from her classmates and her teachers.

“Growing up, I never saw representations of myself in the curriculum, or in my school, the teachers or the walls,” she said. “Everything pretty much didn’t reflect or validate my identity.”

Today, Mahmood is a 19-year teaching veteran at Georgetown Elementary School in Aurora who views someone’s identity as their greatest strength in the classroom.

“Every part of your identity belongs in the classroom,” she said. “We need a very diverse teaching force … your identity is your strength.”

Fifth grader Kenny Huynh and others said they enjoy how their teacher works other cultures into her lessons, and that they get to learn about different historical figures in class. Students describe her as fun, generous, kind and caring.

Mahmood’s love for teaching earned her the honor of being named this year’s Illinois Teacher of the Year for the far Western suburban region by the Illinois State Board of Education. She is one of 15 educators in the teacher of the year cohort who are in the running to be the state’s teacher of the year.

For the full story, click here.

Chesterbrook Academy Preschool teacher Ciera Wimberly holds out a hand full of ladybugs to show some of her students in celebration of Earth Day in Wheaton on Monday. Students released over 13,000 ladybugs throughout the schoolyard and back into the environment on plants, flowers and trees. Sandy Bressner/Shaw Local News Network

Wheaton preschoolers release ladybugs for Earth Day

In celebration of Earth Day, teachers and students at Chesterbrook Academy Preschool in Wheaton released over 13,000 ladybugs on Monday.

Ladybugs serve as a natural pesticide, feeding on harmful insects like aphids. The school purchased the bugs online and released them onto the schoolyard’s plants, flowers and trees.

The academy’s 16 teachers and 130 students have been studying life cycles, plant growth and recycling. Student ages range from 6 weeks to 6 years.

Principal Colleen Daly said past Earth Day activities include making planters out of old tires and self-portraits using recycled newspaper.

“We have also learned about the importance of keeping our environment clean through neighborhood walks,” Daly said. “Additionally, we have observed the life cycles of ants and praying mantis by observing them as they grow in their habitats. Once they mature, we let them go to move into their new homes out in nature.”

For the full story, click here.

  Schaumburg Mayor Tom Dailly, left, congratulates Sandy and Tony Meo, winners of the Volunteer of the Year Award in the adult category, at Chandler’s on Tuesday in Schaumburg. Joe Lewnard/

From junior high to seniors, Schaumburg honors village’s top volunteers

Tuesday’s winners of Schaumburg’s annual Volunteer of the Year Awards demonstrated that giving back to one’s community can be meaningful and effective at any age.

Meanwhile, keynote speaker Steve Beauchamp, co-CEO of Schaumburg-based Paylocity, explained how employees volunteering for causes of their choosing strengthens engagement with the company’s culture, including in a hybrid working environments.

A panel of judges selected longtime Spring Valley Nature Center & Heritage Farm volunteers Tony and Sandy Meo as winners in the adult Volunteer of the Year category, Robert Frost Junior High seventh grader Ericka Serio in the youth category, and the Schaumburg Community Garden Club in the organization category.

Schaumburg Mayor Tom Dailly said communities like Schaumburg “don’t survive and thrive as we do without the volunteers.”

For the full story, click here.

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