TOW Seals

That’s Gillian Seals beside Frank the Goose, the adopted mascot of Franklin STEAM Academy.

Listen to this article

Submit your nominations

Have a teacher you’d like to nominate? Contact Anthony Zilis at


Meet GILLIAN SEALS, a seventh-grade math teacher at Champaign’s Franklin STEAM Academy and News-Gazette Media’s first Teacher of the Week for the 2019-20 school year.

I make math engaging and relevant for my students by ... creating opportunities for students to explore math content through the lens of real-world careers such as civil engineers, sports analysts, Realtors and social anthropologists.

I became a teacher because ... I care about more than just teaching the regular curriculum. I care about the whole student: who they become, what they dream of accomplishing, and the impact they too will one day make in our society.

The best lesson I’ve taught was ... a lesson integrating content on immigration into our math unit. Students read about one of 10 stops that occurred at Ellis Island and then were able to read and discuss what happened, while applying our math standard of fraction, decimal and percent conversions. Students were able to see that understanding our nation’s history in relation to acknowledging others’ experiences and historical data help shape how we see and understand our current world.

My favorite teacher and subject to study in school was ... actually in college. It was a class called “Building Learning Communities,” by Dr. Penny Howell at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. This class showed me the importance of first establishing relationships with students and was modeled with every interaction within the classroom. I too put a high emphasis on relationship building within my classroom.

If I weren’t a teacher ... I’m honestly not sure (what I’d be) because I wholeheartedly believe that I am working within my purpose/ministry. I could not see myself not working within education, working to help positively impact our youth. If I had to choose something, I could definitely see myself working or creating a non-profit that works with providing resources and opportunities for underprivileged youth.

Class act

Franklin Principal SARA SANDERS says: “In my 16 years at Franklin, Gillian is second to none. She is the epitome of what you want in an educator: smart, compassionate, professional, driven by student needs, collaborative, makes learning real and authentic, creative, nurturing, communicative, and sets high expectations for herself and her students. I could go on and on and on.

“She also makes math relevant for her students’ lives. She has them doing ‘apprenticeships’ in math and teaching each other. She is also engaged in an interdisciplinary unit with our social studies teacher. The unit is about immigration and she and her students are knee deep in ‘Ellis Island’ mathematics right now. It’s unbelievable.”