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RLAS-116 Recognizes 2017-18 ISBE Those Who Excel Award Winners

We are so pleased to have the opportunity to recognize 7 staff and a community member for their achievement of receiving the 2017-18 Illinois State Board of Education Those Who Excel Award. ISBE annually sponsors Those Who Excel to honor individuals who have made significant contributions to our state’s public and nonpublic elementary and secondary schools. Excellence, Meritorious Service and Special Recognition awards are presented in seven categories.

  • Classroom Teacher
  • Student Support Personnel
  • Educational Service Personnel
  • Community Member/School Board Member
  • Team
  • Early Career Educator
  • School Administrator

In the Spring of 2017, nominations were sought from within the District and applications were submitted for all 7 available categories. Our District has been submitting nominations for Those Who Excel for the last seven years.

Below are some words from our award winners' nominations.

Those Who Excel award winners standing to be recognized by the Board of Education

Left to Right: Board Presient Kevin Daniels, Dana Matenaer (Team), Amy Daniels (Community Volunteer), Molly Hennig (Classroom Teacher), Matt VanHam (Student Support Personnel), Maria Diaz (Educational Service Personnel), Frank Ranalli (Early Career Educator), Chris Haruska (Team), and Dr. Connie Collins (School Administrator) 


Educational Service Personnel
Maria Diaz
Award of Excellence
Nominated by Kelly DeBoeuf

I would like to recognize Maria Diaz for her outstanding passion, love and attention for her students at Ellis Elementary School in the special education classrooms. Maria has proved to be one of the hardest working individuals that I have ever worked with. She gives everything that she has to her students and jumps into any situation that is presented without hesitation and with a remarkable attitude. Maria radiates positivity and every student and staff member in the building can feel it. I truly feel that without Maria, our school would not be the same. While in the classroom, Maria passionately works with her students, teaching academic skills, functional skills and life skills. Our students have profound disabilities. She treats her students with the highest amount of respect. The students know when they come into the classroom, they are treated like typical individuals, and they adore her for treating them that way. Maria’s love does not stop when she exits her classroom; every student in the building knows her, appreciates her and respects her. She is someone who makes a difference, each and every day she walks into work.

School Administrator
Dr. Connie Collins
Award of Excellence
Nominated by: Cabinet Team

When pondering a one-word description for Dr. Constance Collins, one very powerful word comes to mind - leader. A leader inspires and that is Dr. Collins in every facet of her life. Dr. Collins’ leadership within a District that has faced serious challenges over the last few decades has led to quite significant achievements over the last year. Under Dr. Collins’ leadership the District has achieved the following: Round Lake High School being named one of the Best High Schools in Illinois and the nation by U.S. News and World Reports; the Early Childhood Award of Excellence; and two substantial financial awards, the Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting and the Pathway to the Meritorious Budget Award. Dr. Collins has the unique ability to inspire those with whom she interacts which leads them to heights they may not have thought possible. She recognizes our successes while saying we still have mountains to climb to be where we need to be; we will never truly arrive. We must keep pushing on to higher levels of success for the children of Round Lake Schools. Dr. Collins’ commitment and passion in working to improve the lives of students in unprecedented. She is unrelenting in her desire to ensure that all students are provided with a world class education. She is a visionary and never stops fostering innovative thinking regarding every facet of our instructional program; consistently setting the expectation that all staff, regardless of their job category operate in the same manner.

Round Lake Middle School Instructional Team
Chris Haruska and Dana Matenaer 
Award of Recognition
Nominated by: Dave Higgs

Dana and Chris have served as the Round Lake Middle School’s Instructional Team for three years and have been instrumental in transforming the school in the areas of curriculum, instruction and assessment and contributing to an increase in student achievement. This team has led subject articulation with middle school teachers regarding curriculum development and standards based grading. The team has delivered professional development in these areas as well as Google Apps for Education, rubrics, social emotional learning, differentiated instruction, personalized learning and MAP testing data.

The team’s efforts have contributed to a drastic increase in student achievement at Round Lake Middle School. In terms of cohort growth, the students who were 6th graders in 2014-15 and 8th graders in 2016-17 grew from 34% at or above grade level in Reading to 56%. The success was also true in Math as they grew from 22% at or above grade level to 48%. These successes can be attributed to many within the school. However, this Team’s drive to excel in the execution of key initiatives played an enormous role in these outstanding increases.

Early Career Educator
Frank Ranalli
Award of Recognition
Nominated by: Tim Jackson

Frank is a dynamic teacher that has emerged as a leader within his department, his grade-level team, the building and within our school district. Frank is one of our very best teachers and is a model educator for his colleagues and a strong advocate for students. One of Frank’s biggest strengths is his ability to plan fun, dynamic and engaging lessons for students. His lesson objectives are always clear and measurable and foster critical thinking skills. Frank creates an environment where students feel comfortable sharing and where critical thinking is valued. Frank was the recipient of a 1:Wonder grant last year and continues to incorporate technology into his daily lessons. In addition to teaching, Frank is a coach of three sports - football, wresting and track. He creates an environment on his teams so that kids want to be involved. This is evident as both his track and wrestling teams had the largest rosters in school history under his direction. Frank has made our district better in the short time he has been a part of our staff. His ability to design dynamic lessons, connect with students, and be part of the whole school community has made our school a better place.

Classroom Teacher
Molly Hennig
Award of Recognition
Nominated by: Mikki Devine-Vance

Molly, without a doubt, stands out as an extraordinary educator who goes above and beyond for her classroom, school, and district on a daily basis. She accepts new challenges with ease and determination, and she is a true collaborator and innovator within our building. For some our staff, the thought of a classroom becoming a 1:1 classroom would be daunting and overwhelming. Not for Molly Hennig! She applied for, and received the only 1:1 classroom in our building. For her, it was exciting, motivating, and something she embraced from day one. Not only did Molly implement 1:1 in her classroom, she also made herself available to other colleagues who were considering doing the same. Molly also jumped on board when an opportunity became available for us to pilot a new program, Mastery Connect. She is not afraid of change and paves the path for many. Molly is also a coach. She has served as a coach for the high school girls basketball team for 5 years. She gives countless hours to her players, building excellent relationships and becoming a mentor for the girls. She works tirelessly with the players, their teachers, and families to ensure success on the court and in the classroom. To build interest and promote the district’s basketball program, Molly hosts a summer camp for elementary students. She even invites her athletes to participate in her classroom by reading to her students. Molly truly excels in the field of education and has had an undeniable impact on her students, colleagues and district.

Community Volunteer
Amy Daniels
Award of Recognition
Nominated by Chrissy Cacciatore

Amy Daniels has served as the President of the Round Lake High School Fine Arts Boosters for the past year. She has made an enormous impact on the lives of students and staff not only at Round Lake High School, but also across the District. Amy recognizes that a program requires funding, but more importantly, the support of the students, their families and the community at large. When Amy entered the position of President, a new level of fundraising success was achieved. Amy’s networking connections and skill for engaging parents and community members raised the bar to a level that we have not witnessed before. Amy’s connections set up the Boosters to collect top-notch items for silent auctions that would be incorporated into two district-wide band and choir festivals. Her leadership and unending desire to make these events the very best led to the raising of $8,000. Due to Amy’s unrelenting drive for success, students across the district now benefit. In the past, benefits were mainly provided to students of Round Lake High School. However, with Amy’s leadership, students from elementary to high school are reaping the benefits.

Student Support Personnel
Matt VanHam
Award of Recognition
Nominated by Mike Pope and Donn Mendoza

Matt served as a Learning Plan Interventionist last school year. Matt’s responsibilities included the building, development and monitoring personalized learning plans for students considered to be “off track” relative to graduation. As part of the program’s implementation Matt was required to build and develop systems as part of the referral and monitoring process. Further, he customized all of the blended learning courses such that they aligned to the traditional course in those same content areas as we wanted to ensure integrity with the credit recovery process. Our results have been nothing short of spectacular, largely due to Matt’s involvement in the process. Matt has without question been instrumental in contributing to the turn-around efforts of the entire staff relative to the achievement of our students at Round Lake High School. Matt is definitely viewed as a teacher leader in the area of blended learning, planning and implementation.

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