Education Foundation Names Teacher, School Employee of the Year

With more than 170 employees, family members, administrators, and Education Foundation Board members in attendance, the Huntley 158 Education Foundation held its first annual Distinguished Educator/Employee Awards Ceremony March 8. The event honored those staff members nominated by their peers from each of the district’s nine schools and administration office, culminating with the announcement of the individuals selected as Distinguished Educator of the Year and as the Distinguished Employee of the Year.

Mackeben Elementary’s 2nd grade teacher Kieran Zastrow was named Distinguished Educator of the Year. Those nominating Mrs. Zastrow said she is always adapting and changing to the needs of her students and is willing to try new things with conviction. She always has new ideas and techniques being implemented which her students love because it enables them to continue to grow as learners.

Mrs. Zastrow was chosen from this year’s other distinguished educator nominees, including:

  • Christa Serpe, Kindergarten Teacher, Chesak Elementary School
  • Britt Crowe, Music Teacher, Conley Elementary School
  • Kelly Nava, Early Childhood Teacher, D158 Early Childhood Center
  • Suzanne Schwantje, Social Worker, Heineman Middle School
  • Angela Zaleski, Health Teacher, Huntley High School
  • Kristi Stamatis, Special Education Teacher, Leggee Elementary School
  • Erin Pawelko, Special Education Teacher, Marlowe Middle School
  • Jen Raines, Reading Specialist, Martin Elementary School

Martin Elementary School’s media/LRC aide Tammy Bratcher was named Distinguished Employee of the Year. Her peers said, “Tammy goes above and beyond for each individual student in the school by assisting in the library, delivering interventions and being a CICO (Check-In, Check-Out) advisor. She is also willing to help any staff member in any way necessary, always with a smile on her face.”

Other distinguished employee award nominees included:

  • Chris Blezien, Special Education Aide, Chesak Elementary School
  • Francene Robb, Paraprofessional, Conley Elementary School
  • Kathy Pacana, Paraprofessional, D158 Early Childhood Center
  • Nancy McLennand, Program Aide, Heineman Middle School
  • Pablo Hernandez, Lead Custodian, Huntley High School
  • Tina Kenders, Special Education Aide, Leggee Elementary School
  • Jody Hilbrant, Lunch Supervisor, Mackeben Elementary School
  • Emilio Guebara, Lead Custodian, Marlowe Middle School
  • Donna Runyon, Purchasing Coordinator, District Administrative Office

A touching tribute honoring Kathy Pacana, Paraprofessional, who passed away on February 27 after a long battle with cancer, was read by Foundation board member Jaime DeBlieck. The spirit of Kathy’s genuine love and compassion for others was prevalent in her work at the District’s Early Childhood Center. Mrs. Pacana’s award was accepted by her husband Chris and daughter Julianne.

“Simply the Best! The inaugural Huntley 158 Education Foundation Recognition Banquet was incredible! My vision was achieved and we celebrated the outstanding work that is done on a daily basis in Huntley 158 to support innovation, collaboration, creativity and a love of learning!” said banquet chairperson, Niki Burkey, who, in a very short period of time, jumped right in and put her heart and soul into providing for an exciting evening along with committee members Rita Castans and Jaime DeBlieck.

Special thanks to Chuck Lamb, Rosemary Herringer, Lonnie Oldham and Nancy Tomasso who read through all of the nominee applications and selected the winners.

Established in 2003 as a not-for-profit organization, the Huntley District 158 Education Foundation is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. The Foundation strives to inspire academic excellence for all students at all levels, cultivates collaboration and understanding of educational issues within the community, encourages innovation, creativity and a love of learning, and promotes Huntley Community School District 158 as a center for community learning.