The School District 300 Foundation for Educational Excellence recently announced the 2019 Distinguished Educator and Employee of the Year at its annual awards celebration.
Jesus Romero, who teaches a preschool class within Lakewood Elementary School, and Brandann Freeman, a custodian at Perry Elementary School, were presented with the awards, respectively, at Pinstripes South Barrington on April 16.
The event, which had more than 400 attendees, honored all teachers and school employees nominated by each of District 300’s 26 schools, as well as recipients of 2019-20 Innovation and Large Project Grants from the foundation. Grants awarded this year totaled more than $30,000.
Romero came to District 300 from Spain five years ago as part of the Visiting Teachers in the USA and Canada Program. Within a short time teaching at Lakewood, as well as deLacey Family Education Center before that, Romero attained Gold status for a quality preschool classroom through the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale and Classroom Assessment Scoring System.
The committee of Lakewood teachers and administrators who nominated Romero said he uses a variety of innovative educational strategies, including trauma-informed practices. He leads students through yoga and meditation, for example, to ensure they are able to focus and engage in learning. A talented guitar and ukulele player and singer, Romero also incorporates music into his lessons. He even wrote and recorded the deLacey school theme song, relating it to the school’s Positive Behavior Intervention and Support expectations.
Freeman, who has worked in District 300 for 15 years, was named Employee of the Year. Principal Kris Sainsbury said Freeman works tirelessly every day to make sure every classroom is ready for learning, maintaining the building with passion and care and serving as a positive role model for students.
As a second job, Freeman works at Circle of Friends in another District 300 school and also has worked for the Boys and Girls Club.
“This is where he developed his experience of mentoring students and positively impacting students,” Sainsbury said. “His huge heart provides him with the motivation to want to make a difference for kids.”
Romero and Freeman each were awarded $500 for their schools’ libraries, donated by Lamp Inc.
The District 300 Foundation for Educational Excellence, established in 2002 by a group of community volunteers, seeks to enhance and extend learning opportunities for all District 300 students.
Other 2019 Distinguished Educator and Employee of the Year nominees:
Louann Acevedo, Liberty Elementary; Andrew Bero, Dundee-Crown High; Matthew Bishop, Dundee Middle; Michelle Burgwaldt, Jacobs High; Norma Castillo-Pasillas, Dundee Highlands Elementary; Chris Cherry, Hampshire High; Ashley Clark, Carpentersville Middle; Stephanie Dean, Lake in the Hills Elementary; Maria deLosada, Golfview Elementary; Mary Dewees, Neubert Elementary; Corey Dexter, Sleepy Hollow Elementary; Amy Ellingson, Lakewood Elementary; Jay Gilly, Oak Ridge School; Karen Guenther, deLacey Family Education Center; Tammy Hamrick, Hampshire Middle; Leisa Hastings, Eastview Elementary; Jeff Herman, Oak Ridge School; Joan Holub, Westfield Community; Tina Jacobson, Neubert Elementary; Sara Johansen, Sleepy Hollow Elementary; Susan Karst, Dundee-Crown High; Linda Keyes, District 300 central office; Megan Klotter, Algonquin Lakes Elementary; Sharon Kriegel, Hampshire Elementary; Pam Kublank, Eastview Elementary; Debra La Rue, Perry Elementary; Maripat Leddy, Algonquin Middle; Michele Mannella, Liberty Elementary; Anna Martin, Algonquin Middle; Kate McCarthy, Dundee Middle; Oscar Medina, Golfview Elementary; Jennifer Nolan, Hampshire Elementary; Lora Pfeiffer, Parkview Elementary; Christina Rayner, Meadowdale Elementary; Zachary Poore, Lake in the Hills Elementary; Edwin Ramirez, Gilberts Elementary; Eric Rivera, Lincoln Prairie Elementary; Vanesa Rivera, Meadowdale Elementary; Joseph Santucci, Parkview Elementary; Andrea Schloss, Lincoln Prairie Elementary; Allison Schultz, Algonquin Lakes Elementary; Jackie Skaleski, Gary D. Wright Elementary; Amber Socaciu, Dundee Highlands Elementary; Cristie Stanek, Gilberts Elementary; Theresa Tuttle, Gary D. Wright Elementary; Karl Ulrich, Jacobs High; Sarah Wille, deLacey Family Education Center; Megan Williams, Westfield Community; Ann Wenzel, Carpentersville Middle; Shari Young, Hampshire Middle; and Yolanda Zaccard, Hampshire High.