Excellence in Education Awards
Awarded annually, the Excellence in Education Awards honor excellent teachers, administrators, and support staff in DeKalb County. Created in 1999 through the generosity of Yvonne Johnson, retired elementary school teacher in the Sycamore School District, the DeKalb County Excellence in Education Endowment Fund provides the opportunity to highlight those who are making a positive difference in our schools.
Excellence in Education was designed to emphasize the excellent work being done and bring it forward to residents of DeKalb County. Besides being in a classroom, educators work in the community, their church, and groups which value the work they do. When the fund was started, surrounding counties were recognizing educators, but not DeKalb County. I am fortunate in that I was recognized for my efforts. In turn, I want everyone to be recognized including: elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, high school teachers, support staff, and administrators. - Yvonne Johnson
Nominations are a joint effort from teachers, administrators, and the community. Community nominations are accepted through November 1 of each year. The program recognizes those who are respected, inspired the love of learning in students, and admired for playing an active role in their schools and communities. Recipients receive a $1,000 award, a clock, and a medallion.The five award categories are:
- Pre-K – 5th Grade Teacher
- 6th – 8th Grade Teacher
- 9th – 12th Grade Teacher
- Support Staff
If education is an area of interest for you, consider giving a gift to help us grow the DeKalb County Excellence in Education Endowment Fund. Your gift will allow for further growth in recognizing those who go above and beyond in education to help others.
2020 Excellence In Education Award Recipients
Michelle Petersen, Support Staff, Hiawatha CUSD #426
Michelle Petersen has worked for the Hiawatha school district for 13 years. She earned her CNA certification from Kishwaukee College. She is a past student of the Hiawatha district, having lived in Kirkland her whole life. She started as a substitute in the district and would fill in at any role they needed her. She has filled the position of Nurse’s Assistant for the past 10 years, but also covers the secretary position as needed. Michelle has volunteered with Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), 4-H, room parent, FFA, and Cub Scouts where she focuses on working with students on community service.
Jami Thompson, 5th Grade Teacher, West Elementary School - Sycamore CUSD #427
Jami Thompson has taught for 10 years with six of them in Sycamore. She earned her B.S. in Elementary Education and her M.S. in Education, Curriculum, and Instruction from Northern Illinois University. Jami has been involved with Girls on the Run, serves as the Kiwanis K-Kids advisor, is a volunteer at Spartan Food Pantry, and participates in several building or district committees. She has served as the OSCAR Site Director and the Educational Summer Lead where she helps students keep up with their learning over the summer in a safe place when parents are at work.
Lisa Miller, ESL Teacher, Hiawatha Jr/Sr High School - CUSD #426
Lisa Miller has taught for 17 years with seven of them in Hiawatha district. She earned her B.S. in Elementary Education from University of Wisconsin-Platteville and her M.S. in Literacy Education (focus on ESL/Bilingual) from Northern Illinois University. Lisa is responsible for starting ESL programming at Hiawatha. She has served on the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) committee, the school improvement team and the grade 3-5 data team. She is active with her church and several of their charity activities. She advocates for autism awareness and volunteers for the Penguin Project.
Joshua Dodge, Agricultural Instructor/FFA Advisor, Hiawatha Jr/Sr High School - CUSD #426
Joshua Dodge has worked as an educator for eight years, most of them in the Hiawatha district. He has degrees in Landscape Horticulture and Agriculture Education from Kishwaukee College and Southern Illinois University. Joshua is the Future Farmers of America (FFA) advisor, the Leo Club advisor (an extension of the local Lion’s Club), and the Hiawatha greenhouse manager. He has served on committees such as the Crisis Plan committee and the School Leadership committee. He also volunteers at the Wisconsin Christian Youth Camp as an educator and a cabin counselor.
Nick Reineck, Assistant Principal, Sycamore High School - CUSD #427
Nick Reineck started his career at Rochelle Township High School. He has been at Sycamore High School for the last 6 years serving as Dean of Students and Assistant Principal. He earned a B.S. in Social Science Secondary Education at Knox College, a M.S. in Education Administration from Aurora University and is working on his Ed.D. in Educational Leadership at Northern Illinois University. Nick has organized a community workday, has worked on tornado relief for nearby communities, and seeks ways to help students learn to help others. He is an advocate for restorative justice in the schools, has started programming for student blended learning, and supports many student and community events.