September 18, 2012
Ten members of the Stevenson High School community are recipients of Illinois State Board of Education Those Who Excel Awards
for 2012. The awards recognize and honor people who have made outstanding contributions to public and nonpublic elementary and secondary education.
Two faculty members received the Award of Excellence, the highest level attainable in the Those Who Excel program: Sarah Bowen (Student Support Personnel) and Andrew Conneen (Classroom Teacher). Conneen also was named a finalist for 2012 Teacher of the Year
Seven people earned the Award of Merit: Monika Kiefer (Educational Service Personnel), Ellyn Ross (Community Volunteer) and the Algebra Enriched team of Kate Hoopes, Melissa Benedict, Brad Habel, Helen Berger and Erik Campbell (Team). Also, Lisa Thoss earned the Award of Recognition (Early Career Educator).
Here are details on each of the award recipients:
Sarah Bowen - Award of Excellence: Student Support Personnel
Now in her fifth year as a guidance counselor at Stevenson, Bowen is widely regarded for her compassion and advocacy on behalf of students. "One can witness the love that Sarah’s students have for her by the constant line of students that she has waiting outside her door and the ‘thank you’ cards from students that are lining her walls," former SHS teacher Anne Morelli wrote in her nomination letter. Cecilia Filliman, a sophomore, praised Bowen as "someone with so much passion and sincerity for what she does that I have found myself on occasion walking away from a meeting with her blown away by the sheer amount of caring she gives."
Bowen serves as both a generalist counselor and an English Language Learners (ELL) counselor. She helped develop protocols for how ELL students from sender schools should be assessed and placed into classes when they enroll at Stevenson. Bowen goes to great lengths for her ELL students: She has awakened several times in the middle of the night to make conference calls to school officials in their home countries, and last year worked with the Mongolian consulate in Washington, D.C. on behalf of a student.
This year, the school is piloting an e-school program Bowen developed which would allow students struggling with certain mental or physical health concerns to take courses online at Stevenson while being able to benefit from support from the Student Services Division.
Andrew Conneen - Award of Excellence: Classroom Teacher
Algebra Enriched Team - Award of Merit: Team
The Algebra Enriched team, which began three years ago, comprises three mathematics teachers (Kate Hoopes, Melissa Benedict and Brad Habel) and two special education teachers (Helen Berger and Erik Campbell). They teach a two-hour class for students struggling with mathematics and for those who have special needs, using a conceptual problem-solving approach offered by the Agile Mind Intensified Algebra curriculum. The team also infuses the teaching of social and emotional learning skills into the course.
Ethan Rosuck, who took the class as a freshman, thought taking the class would be "the worst thing ever." Instead, he ended up enjoying the class. Last year, Rosuck was an "A" student in Geometry C, and credits his success to the teaching he received in Algebra Enriched.
The team also has had a positive influence on its peers. Algebra 1 team leader Valerie Consiglio credited the Algebra Enriched teachers’ use of foldables and visual organizers with students as inspiration for its implementation into the Algebra 1 curriculum.
Monika Kiefer - Award of Merit: Educational Support Personnel
Kiefer started as a substitute in various offices beginning with the 1996-97 school year, but found a home in the Office of Teaching and Learning. She is credited with single-handedly developing the procedures and protocols the school uses to administer exams in one of the largest Advanced Placement programs in the nation.
Kiefer, now the assistant to Principal Troy Gobble, coordinated all of the paperwork for AP exams and Prairie State Achievement Exams for the last 13 years. During her time coordinating AP exams, the program size more than doubled: When she began, SHS gave 1,500 exams to about 700 students; last year, the school administered 4,200 exams to 1,700 students. Stevenson is the largest AP testing site in Illinois, and has been the largest in the nation two of the past four years.
Kiefer even climbed into a dumpster one year to find an AP exam that had been mistakenly thrown into the trash. "I know I can always count on her to help me with anything at any time, regardless of the time needed to complete her own projects," said mathematics teacher Maureen Albert. "I don’t think she knows what time her day is supposed to end."
Ellyn Ross - Award of Merit: Community Volunteer
Although her childhood dream of being a teacher did not come true, Ross has had a major impact on Stevenson and Aptakisic-Tripp School District 102 over the past 20 years.
Beginning as chairman of the gift wrapping fundraiser when her son was in kindergarten, Ross eventually became co-president of the Tripp School PTO and in 2000 was elected to the District 102 Board of Education, a post she still holds. Starting in 2000, Ross began volunteering at Stevenson, spending 11 years in the College/Career Center and another six working with the Freshman Mentor Program and Odyssey. She is co-president of the Stevenson High School Foundation, of which she has been a part for seven years. In 2010, she received the Outstanding Community Member award from the Illinois chapter of the National School Public Relations Association. Ross also was instrumental in developing the Local Scholars Reception program held each spring.
"I can state without reservation that Ellyn Ross has been the most supportive, timegiving, caring, and involved community member that we have ever had at Stevenson High School," said District 125 Superintendent Dr. Eric Twadell.
Lisa Thoss - Award of Recognition: Early Career Educator
Thoss, whose mother was an educator, has been a science teacher at Stevenson for the past five years, teaching primarily Environmental Science and Natural Science. She developed and currently teaches Collaborative Natural Science, which is geared toward students with special needs.
Prior to entering teaching, Thoss spent four years with The Field Museum in Chicago, leading a number of field trip programs. She also designed and implemented public education programs at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Wisconsin. Because of this background, SHS colleague Jason Carlson said Thoss "has a special ability to make even the most theoretical concepts tangible to her students."
Thoss has been an active member of the school’s Green Committee, which has helped the school earn gold-level LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. Thoss also has been active in student activities. She led the Interact Club for three years, and currently sponsors the Relay for Life to benefit the American Cancer Society. Each year, more than 1,000 students raise more than $100,000 through the Relay for Life.
Those Who Excel winners will be honored during a banquet in Normal on October 20.