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, this endowed fund provides the opportunity to highlight those who are making a positive difference in our schools.
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.
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.
From left to right: Yvonne Johnson, Donor; Amanda Christensen, Regional Superintendent; JoAnne Zaleski, Recipient; Jay Streicher, Recipient; Elizabeth Hoerchler, Recipient; Angie Moore, Recipient; Toni Gabriel, Recipient; Dan Templin, DeKalb County Community Foundation Executive Director; and Becky Zantout, DeKalb County Community Foundation Community Initiatives Manager.
JoAnne Zaleski, 5th and 6th grade science teacher, Somonauk Middle School
JoAnne Zaleski has taught for 17 years, 13 of those years with Somonauk. She earned her B.S. in Education with a specialization in science and health from Illinois State University. She previously taught 2nd and 3rd grade before coming to the science position 8 years ago, her “dream job”. JoAnne has been active in implementing the Next Generation Science Standards and reviving the STEMFest.
“It is my calling to connect with and reach all students.” - JoAnne Zaleski
Elizabeth Hoerchler, PreK – 8th grade counselor, Hiawatha District 426
Elizabeth Hoerchler has served as a counselor for 7 years, all of them in the Hiawatha District. She earned her B.A. in English from NIU and her M.A. in School Counseling from St. Xavier University. Her greatest accomplishments include implementing a Positive Behavior Intervention and Support system and contributing to a functioning Response to Intervention program. She is involved in the junior high student council and the high school DCP-Safe group. Elizabeth volunteers in the community such as Tails and Feed My Starving Children.
"I believe that supporting the community is fulfilling and sets a good example for my own children.” - Elizabeth Hoerchler
Toni Gabriel, agriculture and science teacher, Somonauk High School
Toni Gabriel has taught for 12 years with 6 years of them being in Somonauk. She completed her A.A.S. in Agribusiness Management at Kishwaukee College and her B.S. in Agricultural Education at University of Illinois. She comes from a family of farming and is involved in the Sycamore FFA Alumni and the DeKalb County Farm Bureau. Toni has been instrumental in grant-writing, building improvement, curriculum development, and the FFA. She has served on statewide associations, been a mentor teacher, and served on the school improvement team.
"I am extremely passionate about education and teaching, and truly love what I do.” - Toni Gabriel
Jay Streicher, Superintendent, Somonauk District 432
Jay Streicher has spent all 22 years of his profession at the Somonauk District. He began as a teacher, then became the principal of James R. Wood Elementary, then the Director of Curriculum and Professional Development, then the principal of Somonauk Middle School, and finally the superintendent in 2015. He earned his B.S. in History and Education, M.S. in Education Leadership, and Ed.S. in Education Administration from Northern Illinois University. Jay has led many initiatives including Character Counts, Professional Learning Communities, Common Core Standards, and district strategic planning.
“It was truly an honor to be able to lead the only district I have ever worked for.” - Jay Streicher
Angie Moore, Food Service Director, Hiawatha District 426
Angie Moore has worked at Hiawatha for 11 years. She was raised in Donna, Texas, where she learned the value of hard work from her family. As the food service director, she is responsible not only for the kitchen, but also for the ordering of all food for special events. Angie is active with Sports Boosters and the district leadership team. She was also an active volunteer after the tornado struck in Fairdale.
"I am blessed to have the opportunity to work in an environment that is so rewarding and challenging at times.” - Angie Moore