Excellence in Education Awards

The annual Excellence in Education Awards honor exceptional teachers, administrators, and support staff in DeKalb County. Funding for the awards is made possible through the generosity of Yvonne Johnson. Yvonne is a retired elementary school teacher for the Sycamore School District. In 1999, she created the DeKalb County Excellence in Education Award Fund at the DeKalb County Community Foundation. The Fund supports the annual awards and recognizes those making a positive difference in our schools, our education professionals.

"Excellence in Education was designed to emphasize the great 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 that value their work. When the Fund was started, surrounding counties recognized educators, but not DeKalb County. I am fortunate that I was acknowledged for my efforts. In turn, I want DeKalb County educators to feel this appreciation. This recognition includes 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. The awards recognize respected professionals who inspire the love of learning in students. In addition, these admired individuals play an active role in their schools and communities. Award winners receive $1,000 and public recognition during an awards ceremony and reception planned for summer 2022.

Every district in DeKalb County is eligible to nominate a person for each of the following areas:
  • Pre-K – 5th Grade Teacher
  • 6th – 8th Grade Teacher
  • 9th – 12th Grade Teacher
  • Support Staff (e.g., secretaries, classroom aides, custodians, food service, bus drivers, and maintenance)
  • Administration

For more information on the Excellence in Education Awards, please contact Community Foundation Grants & Scholarships Manager Becky Zantout at 815-748-5383 or b.zantout@dekalbccf.org.

2021 Excellence In Education Award Recipients

Pre-K – 5th Grade Teacher

Holly Majerus, Reading Specialist, Southeast Elementary School - Sycamore CUSD #427

Holly Majerus has worked in education for 26 years, with all of them in Sycamore. She earned a B.A. in Sociology at Central College, a B.A. in Elementary Education at the University of Northern Iowa, her first M.S in Curriculum and Instruction at National Louis University, and her second M.S. in Reading Instruction from Aurora University. Holly is involved with Feed My Starving Children, Family Reading Night, is a volunteer at Spartan Food Pantry, and participates in several building or district committees. She has served as the Multi-Tiered System of Support Team Lead (MTSS), leading her team to help identify struggling students and design intervention plans to help those students achieve success.

6th – 8th Grade Teacher

Justin Hames, Science Teacher, Sycamore Middle School - Sycamore CUSD #427

Justin Hames has taught for 11 years with all of them in Sycamore. He earned his A.S. in Science from Waubonsee Community College, his B.S in Elementary Education at Illinois State University, and his M.A. in Education (focus on School Improvement Leadership) from Olivet Nazarene University. Justin serves as the science department chair, as well as of SMS Science Olympiad. He serves as the cross country/track and field coach. He also led a group of students with an Innovative Thinkers Project, created the staff newsletter at Sycamore called The Spartan View, and volunteers with Neighbors’ House, a nonprofit in DeKalb that provides free academic support to DeKalb County families and students.

9th – 12th Grade Teacher

Brittany Foster, Special Education Teacher, Genoa-Kingston High School - Genoa-Kingston CUSD #424

Brittany Foster has worked for eight years, all of them in the Genoa-Kingston school district. She has a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Minnesota and a M.A.T in Special Education at National Louis University. Brittany pioneered the Peer Mentoring Program, coaches the school dance team, is the Senior Class Sponsor, is a part of the Teacher Mentoring Program, and is a School Improvement Planning Committee member. Brittany donated custom Genoa-Kingston face masks to all high school faculty during the COVID-19 pandemic. She advocates for students through the Positive Behavioral Intervention System Committee that recognizes academically struggling students and brings forth interventions and assistance to find success.

Support Staff

Kori Mauch, Certified School Nurse - Sycamore CUSD #427

Kori Mauch has worked for Sycamore District for four years. She earned her B.S. in Nursing from Cedarville University. Kori started as a graduate assistant in the obstetrics unit at Freeport Memorial Hospital and then became a Labor and Delivery Nurse, which was her dream as a child. She later transitioned to Kishwaukee Hospital and volunteered at Sycamore School District, where her children attended. During this time, Kori knew a switch from the hospital setting to the School Nurse aligned with her career interests. She then enrolled at Illinois State University, where she earned a Master’s in School Nursing. She is an active member in her community with her local church and travels to Haiti and Africa to provide medical care and raise awareness/support for the needs in those countries.


Lynn Reilley, Director of Student Services, Sycamore High School - Sycamore CUSD #427

Lynn Reilley started her career at Ray Graham School; she has been at Sycamore School District for the last seven years as Director of Student Services. She earned a B.S. in Education with a focus on Psychology at Northern Illinois University, a M.S. of Education in Leadership and Administration from Benedictine University, and an Endorsement in Special Education from Lewis University. Lynn has brought the idea of Facilitated IEPs to the district. She supports her students through the Penguin Project, school plays, school concerts, and FFA luncheons. Lynn volunteered at the Special Olympics and brought her children when they were younger to help at a homeless shelter. She has offered workshops and training in various settings to other teachers, mentors, parents, and students.

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.

Donate to the DeKalb County Excellence in Education Award Fund >

To discuss your charitable interests or to give back to the community by establishing a Fund of your own, please contact Executive Director Dan Templin at 815-748-5383 or dan@dekalbccf.org.