Neighbors in the News: Hersey instructor named Foreign Language Teacher of the Year

  • Michael Ayala, Illinois Foreign Language Teacher of the Year

    Michael Ayala, Illinois Foreign Language Teacher of the Year Courtesy of District 214

Posted12/16/2021 6:00 AM

• Congratulations to Michael Ayala, a world languages teacher at John Hersey High School, who was named the 2021 Paul T. Griffith Illinois Foreign Language Teacher of the Year by the Illinois Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

He will now represent Illinois at the regional World Language Teacher of the Year selection process, at the Central States Conference for world languages teachers in March.


Ayala, who has been with Hersey High School for 28 years, teaches all levels of Spanish classes. A native Spanish speaker, he also created the Native Speaker program at Hersey. He also serves as first vice president of the Illinois Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, and is slated to become the group's president in 2023.

Carolina A. Rodriguez
Carolina A. Rodriguez - Courtesy of Lavelle Law

• Attorney Carolina A. Rodriguez joined the Business Law, Mergers and Acquisitions, and Real Estate practice groups at Lavelle Law in Schaumburg as an associate. Fluent in Spanish, Rodriguez will allow Lavelle Law to continue to expand the services it provides to the business community across the area.

"We are thrilled Carolina will be not only joining our team but lending her expertise to several of our practice groups," said Lavelle Law Managing Partner Ted McGinn.

"Her breadth and depth of knowledge of business law has already been of great value to both our clients and our team."

Rodriguez received her J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law along with a Certificate in Tax Law. She graduated cum laude from Florida State University with a degree in international affairs, and minors in communications and entrepreneurship.

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She then went on to serve as a law clerk at firms in Illinois and Florida before joining Lavelle Law.

Pratiksha Bhattacharyya
Pratiksha Bhattacharyya - Courtesy of District 207

• Maine West High School senior Pratiksha Bhattacharyya was named a semifinalist for the 2022 class of the Coca-Cola Scholars Program. Only 1,617 high school seniors from across the country, and just 73 from Illinois, were selected as semifinalists.

Pratiksha now moves on to the next round of the selection process to potentially become a Coca-Cola Scholar and receive a $20,000 college scholarship. Selection is based on academic excellence, leadership and service demonstrated in school and community activities.

Pratiksha was honored by District 207 board of education as a recipient of a 207s Best honor for academic achievement. She earned National Merit Commended status and is a member of the National Honor Society.

She participates in Link Crew, COACH Tutors, Key Club, Math Team, Medical Club, the Westerner (school newspaper), the Indian Student Association and the Math, Science and Social Science Honor societies.

• Jaclyn Fohlmeister of Lakemoor will compete for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater women's swimming and diving team during the 2021-22 season. Fohlmeister, a graduate of Wauconda High School, was among the team's top three in the 50-yard freestyle last season. She was also third in the 50- and 100-yard butterfly.

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