Education Award Nominees Dedicated to Students

Article excerpt

Byline: John Ferak Daily Herald Staff Writer

They are second-grade teachers.

Others work as school secretaries or athletic directors.

They may have different roles, but these educators will join together to learn the winners of the 24th annual Kane County Educator of the Year Awards banquet.

Names of the winners will be revealed around 8 p.m. tonight at the Pheasant Run Resort Grand Ballroom in St. Charles.

This year's awards dinner is billed as "An Evening to Celebrate Education in Kane County."

The event is sponsored by the Kane County Regional Superintendent of Schools Office.

Awards being offered this year include: elementary educator of the year; middle school educator of the year; high school educator of the year; administrator of the year, special area award; support staff award; private/parochial educator award; and the Kane County Educator of the Year.

Candidates are nominated by committees of teachers and administrators. Those nominated are viewed as having respect of students, parents and coworkers.

At least 650 people are expected to attend the banquet. The awards dinner also provides a chance to honor the local educators who are retiring at the school year's end.

Following are profiles of nominees from the Tri-Cities and Elgin area.

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For the past 25 years, Dennis Ricke has worked to make learning computers fun for his students in the St. Charles school district.

Ricke teaches computers at Wredling Middle School. He has both his bachelor's and master's degrees from Southern Illinois University.

Wredling Principal Robert Lindahl said Ricke is known around the school building for being student-centered.

Ricke sets high expectations, but helps the students achieve them.

"Kids love Dennis. Dennis loves kids," Lindahl said. "Through his interaction in and out of the classroom, he is a wonderful role model."

"March to the beat of a different drummer" from philosopher Henry David Thoreau is Ricke's favorite quote to live by.

Like Thoreau did, Ricke has a keen interest in politics. Ricke is an Elburn village board trustee.

In the 1980s, Ricke played an important role linking the Geneva school district's computer system, said Robert Turnbull, technology coordinator at Geneva High School.

"Dennis taught Appleworks to Geneva teachers when the Geneva school district lacked people with experience," Turnbull said.

Although colleagues consider him a computer wizard, Ricke has another side that his teachers and staff members admire.

"In the school community, Dennis has often been the staff member to stand most closely beside colleagues or families who are suffering illness or a personal loss," Lindahl said.

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Diane Johnsen tries to comes up with creative ways to motivate her Coultrap Elementary students.

Last year, the Geneva physical education teacher secured a building technology grant to pay for 10 pulse heart rate monitors.

"Diane was the first teacher in the district to write a grant for the purchase of heart rate monitors," said colleague Terri Brems, who is also a physical education teacher.

Johnsen said the monitors allow her to integrate math and science skills with physical fitness.

Johnsen's students keep journals of their physical education activities in her class. They must write out their goals and describe activities they need to improve.

This spring, Johnsen spearheaded the district's first-ever Family Fitness Festival. Elementary students from all four Geneva grade schools gathered at Coultrap on a Sunday afternoon. Parents and children joined together for fun-filled physical education activities.

"Diane's compassion and down-to-earth nature has helped each child feel valued and competitive regardless of his or her level of physical ability," said Steve Lillie, Geneva school board president. …