Jefferson teacher finalist for statewide award

CHAMPAIGN — As a social studies teacher, Christine Adrian feels she needs to teach her students about the world.

She does that in various ways, including using technology in class and teaching students how to responsibly use the Internet.

She also requires her students volunteer four hours each semester, including an act of kindness Tuesday to remember Sept. 11, 2001.

Adrian, who teaches at Champaign's Jefferson Middle School, is a finalist for the Illinois Teacher of the Year for the 2012-13 school year. That also means she's the winner of an Award of Excellence.

There are nine Teacher of the Year finalists, and they'll find out who won during an awards ceremony Oct. 20 in Normal. They were chosen from more than 200 nominations to the state board of education's Those Who Excel educator recognition program.

"I want to keep myself excited about teaching," Adrian said, about why she has a well-rounded curriculum, "and secondly, I think we need do that for our kids. Social studies really is about learning about the world."

Adrian is the past winner of the national Outstanding Middle Level Social Studies Teacher of the Year, Illinois History Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and awards from the History Channel and the League of Women Voters.

Adrian credited groups she's worked with for improving her as a teacher, such as the American History Teachers' Collaborative, as well as her workplace.

"That's been a wonderful boost to my career," Adrian said about the collaborative, as has "working at Jefferson Middle School, where we set the bar really high. We're just surrounded by wonderful teachers."

She said in the past few years, some people have been outspokenly critical about teachers.

"It's just nice when the tables are turned," she said.

And she compared herself and other teachers with their students, as far as being recognized with honors like the nomination.

"We're kind of like the kids," she said. "When we get a taste of success, we want more."

Adrian said it's a little nerve-wracking that she won't know who won Teacher of the Year before the October awards ceremony. That distinction is accompanied by honors such as meeting the president and representing Illinois at the NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala.

"It's already a huge compliment and very gratifying," Adrian said, about winning an Award of Excellence. "This would just be icing on the cake."

The state board announced the nine finalists in a news release that also praised the teachers and their accomplishments.

"These nine teachers are vibrant leaders who reflect Illinois' commitment to ensuring students learn and succeed," said Illinois State Board of Education Chairman Gery J. Chico in the release.

"Education in Illinois is constantly evolving, and these teachers keep abreast of recent reforms and are always working hard to improve their classroom practices. They represent the best of the best across the state, and this program gives us the opportunity to publicly recognize their efforts."

The other finalists are:

— Julie Breden, a science and accounting teacher, Jersey Community High School, Jerseyville.

— Andrew Conneen, political science teacher, Adlai E. Stevenson High School, Lincolnshire.

— Brian Curtin, an English teacher, Schaumburg High School, Schaumburg.

— Robert Lang, physical science, physics and engineering, Glenbard South High School, Glen Ellyn.

— Michael Lawyer, history and U.S. government, Hononegah Community High School, Rockton.

— Linda Ragsdale, a reading and Title I teacher, Bluffview Elementary School, Dupo.

— Elyse Smith, kindergarten teacher, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Elementary School, Oak Park.

— Pamela Steele, a fifth-grade science teacher, Oregon Elementary School, Oregon.

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