AU graduate named Illinois State Teacher of the Year

Pam Reilly

Second grade teacher and Aurora University alumna Pam Reilly was recently named the 2014 Illinois Teacher of the Year.

Another Aurora University alumna has been honored for making meaningful contributions to the community and her profession. Pam Reilly, AU ’ 95, a second grade teacher at Woodbury Elementary in Sandwich, Ill., was named the 2014 Illinois Teacher of the Year.

Now in her 12th year of teaching, Reilly is recognized as a collaborator and a leader by her colleagues in Sandwich Community Unit School District 430, home of six schools serving more than 2,300 students. She seeks advice and guidance from teachers in the higher grades so that she can help her students be prepared for the challenges they will face after they leave her classroom.

“Pam’s passion for teaching and her enthusiasm for helping her students succeed is so genuine and sincere that students are immediately drawn to her,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “She really inspires her students, their parents and her colleagues, and I’m confident Pam will be an excellent representative of Illinois teachers.”

Reilly understands the importance of addressing a child’s social, emotional as well as academic needs. She advocates for hungry students, those with absent parents, financially stressed families and students who need to be more challenged. She believes that all children, regardless of their circumstances, can thrive and learn.

“I don’t think I can express in words what an honor it is to be recognized for something I truly love; this is my dream job and there’s no other place I’d rather be,” said Reilly. “I am witness to teachers’ dedication every day—always doing what’s best for their students. I am beyond proud to represent and be the voice of Illinois teachers and their students in 2014!”

Reilly credits Aurora University and her supervising teacher for supporting her career path when she was a student. “AU ensured that I had a positive, capable and caring supervising teacher during my student-teaching experience,” she said. “I have had many student teachers from Aurora University, and I believe that they are prepared for their student-teaching experience by having a solid foundation of knowledge and strategies to utilize with my students. I often find that they are teaching me new techniques along their journey. It is so rewarding to see them transformed from a student themselves to a facilitator and teacher of their own classroom.”

Recognizing that college students face challenges that can seem overwhelming at times, Reilly encourages them to reflect on why they wanted to become a teacher. “We all seem to have teachers who inspired us during our own school years—believe in yourself the way they believed in you,” she said. “I tell my students every year, ‘Find what you are passionate about in life and make a career out of it—it will never feel like a job.’ I make them a scrapbook every year and that’s one of the pieces of advice I include in their books for them to look back on in future years. I would offer this advice to college students as well. The challenges you face today will pale in comparison to the rewards you will have once you have your own classroom with your own students to inspire.”

Reilly was among more than 180 nominations for the Teacher of the Year. Each nomination was reviewed and scored three times by a selection committee comprised of administrators, teachers and school board members. Principals, faculty, parents and students submit letters on behalf of candidates as part of the nomination process. The 11 finalists for Teacher of the Year were interviewed and videotaped, and those interviews were scored again before going to State Superintendent Koch for a final decision.

As Illinois Teacher of the Year, Reilly will have opportunities to share her knowledge and expertise outside the classroom. She will represent Illinois at the NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., and in the National Teacher of the Year program.