Chris Bessey, a fifth-grade teacher at Leggee Elementary School, has been named the Illinois State Board of Education’s Outstanding Early Career Educator for 2015-2016.
The Outstanding Early Career Educator award is presented to one Illinois teacher annually. The award was created for teachers in the first five years of their careers who have demonstrated excellence and an outstanding level of commitment to the teaching profession.
Bessey started teaching at Leggee in 2013 after years of volunteer service within District schools and PTA organizations. She came to teaching later in life, having enjoyed a career in product design and financial planning for several retail firms.
“My husband and I always have wanted to keep children the main focus,” she told the Daily Herald. “I ended up going back to school at 44.”
Leggee Principal Scott Iddings first met Bessey as a parent and volunteer, but recognizing in her an innate passion for teaching and ability to connect with students, encouraged her to complete her teaching credentials and formally join the profession.
“[Seeing her win the award] was a thrill,” Iddings told the newspaper. “She cares about every single student and she knows that each of those children learns in a different way. She truly does individualize her (teaching) to the students.”
The Those Who Excel program presents Excellence, Meritorious Service and Special Recognition awards in seven categories: classroom teacher, school administrator/principal, student support personnel (licensed), educational service personnel (unlicensed), school board member/community volunteer; team, and early career educator.
Bessey is one of seven District 158 people and teams who will be recognized among 250 honorees at this year’s banquet. The others are:
- Arthur “Hoppy” Kahl, Community Volunteer Recognition
- LIGHT Program, Team Excellence
- Lynn Mandarino, Educational Service Personnel Recognition
- Douglas Renkosik, School Administrator Recognition
- Linda Roesner, Classroom Teacher Recognition
- Chris Zielinski, Student Support Personnel Recognition.