Elk Grove Educators Honored By Illinois State Board of Education

The Illinois State Board of Education recently recognized several Elk Grove educators for their excellence and dedication to students, including naming one as the top educator in the state.

Ricky Castro, a Spanish Heritage teacher, was named the 2017 Illinois Teacher of the Year at at ISBE’s Those Who Excel awards banquet, where Ruby Aleman, David Maya, Alex Sanchez and Colleen Mullaney were also honored.

The annual Those Who Excel Awards is a program designed to honor educators who have made significant contributions to the state's public and nonpublic schools. Recipients of the award are nominated by their fellow educators and selected by a committee of individuals across a variety of educational organizations.

Castro’s emphasis on biliteracy development for his students has helped them develop proficiency in multiple languages. He embeds leadership and service to society in every course he teaches, leading to his students serving as formal mentors to their middle school peers and delivering a free weeklong summer camp for K-5 students living in a mobile home park.

Castro will begin speaking at teaching workshops, education conferences and community meetings in the spring of 2017 to share his knowledge and expertise outside the classroom. Castro will represent Illinois at the NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., and the National Teacher of the Year program.

Elk Grove’s Familias Unidas team, comprised of Aleman and Sanchez, counselors, Castro, a teacher, and Maya, a Latino family liaison, has transformed the school’s Latino family outreach initiatives and permanently altered the school-home dynamic for Latino families.

Their work – going door-to-door on evenings and weekends in the mobile home park, organizing monthly parent meetings and creating a Saturday outreach program – has resulted in dozens of Latino families attending after school events and fostered community to help make Elk Grove a more welcoming, diverse home.

Colleen Mullaney, an Elk Grove math teacher who coaches multiple sports, has made a significant impact on the school and community through her leadership, engagement and teaching.

In addition to spending countless hours raising school spirit, Mullaney is a model for 21st-century education. She is a member of the Elk Grove ‘Lead Learners Team,’ a trailblazing group of educators dedicated to staff professional development, a leader in 1:1 instruction with iPads and has spearheaded the school’s approach to standards-based learning in mathematics.

The Those Who Excel recipients were honored at a banquet held in Normal, Ill., in October.

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