Three educators at O’Fallon Township High School are being recognized at the state level for their dedication.
Math teacher Leonard “L.D.” Walters, nurse Kelly Becker, and Corey Wallis, senior vice principal at the Smiley campus, are among the 235 people who will be honored by the Illinois State Board of Education at its 42nd annual Those Who Excel banquet Saturday, Oct. 28 in Normal.
Local school district leaders and members of school communities nominate candidates for the award program. Then, a committee of peers, organized by ISBE, chooses the award winners. The committee includes representatives from statewide education organizations, as well as former award winners.
“The Those Who Excel award recipients show us how educators can unite communities and change students’ lives,” said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith.” These educators showcase the dynamic work happening in schools across Illinois from the high school principal helping students run their own technology business to the middle school teacher harnessing her own story of fortitude to inspire leadership in her students. Their efforts make the difference for students. I cannot thank our educators and educational leaders enough.”
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There are three levels of awards across a pool of classroom teachers, school administrators and student support personnel: Recognition, Merit and Excellence.
Rich Bickel, OTHS principal, said all of the school’s recipients are “nothing short of exceptional.”
“We have so many great group of staff, leaders and educators in our district,” Bickel said, of the first-time honorees.
Walters, a math teacher at the Milburn campus, earned a Those Who Excel Merit award.
“To be chosen from all of the teachers at OTHS is an honor. OTHS is filled with great teachers of which many could have been selected for this honor. Especially the math department of which I am a member of. My colleagues in the math department are the best,” Walters said.
Walters spent 21 years in the U.S. Air Force as a radar maintenance technician, and then 20 years as an educator.
“So not only have I discussed parabolas in the classroom, I have worked on parabolic antennas used for tracking aircraft,” Walters said.
Over his 19 years with the district, Walters has “set the bar high” as an educator with his approximate 130 students, Bickel said.
“One of the things that Mr. Walters does that’s indicative of how much he cares for his students and the commitment that he has for their education is he is a very diligent communicator with parents about what’s going on in the classroom: what’s coming up, and the student’s future in the classroom, and how they are doing in the classroom,” Bickel said.
Walters said that his campaign to improve the parent-teacher relationship began many years ago with sending a weekly email to parents reminding them of upcoming quizzes and tests.
“Many teenagers don’t say much to their parents, so I am the go-between. I also discovered that my job became much easier if the parents and I are on the same team,” Walters said.
Said Bickel: “I think these relationships he builds through that diligent communication are really an excellent example of what kind of teacher he really is.”
Becker, a nurse at the Milburn campus, also earned a Those Who Excel Merit award.
“I am truly honored and thrilled to have received this award from ISBE. OTHS is a fantastic school, and I am truly honored to be part of our team,” Becker said.
Bickel said Becker is “an elite practitioner of her craft.”
“She is one of the most caring and attentive people that you will ever find for our students,” he said. “I think kids are very comfortable going to our nurse’s office because of the compassion and excellent care they receive there.”
Becker has been nurturing students in their moments of need for 11 years with the district.
“As a school nurse, I will continue to work hard everyday to provide the best care for my students and my ‘family’ here at OTHS,” Becker said.
Wallis earned a Those Who Excel Recognition.
“I learn from my colleagues each and every day and am thankful to work with exceptional people who all work together to make OTHS such a wonderful place,” Wallis said of his 15 years with the district.
He said it was an honor to be recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education.
“It is such privilege for me to serve OTHS, and I am thankful every day for the opportunity. OTHS is blessed with great families, students, teachers, staff, and community members and to be able to serve them is the real honor,” Wallis said.
Bickel said that Wallis “is really the epitome of everything a school administrator is and can be.”
Bickel went on, “He cares first and foremost about the well being of our students and in doing so he takes very diligent care of all the administrative tasks that need to be performed on a day-to-day basis.”