Teacher of the Month

2011-2012 Academic Year Winners

Below are the winners from the 2011-2012 academic year for Teacher of the Month. To view the videos of the winners visit the SXU and WGN-TV's Teacher of the Month playlist on our YouTube channel.

September 2011, Norma Gutierrez

Congratulations to Norma Gutierrez of Noble Street College Prep, who is September's Teacher of the Month. In honor of her achievements, Ms. Gutierrez received a $1,000 check for school supplies from Saint Xavier University.

Ms. Gutierrez -- or Ms. G as her students call her -- teaches at Noble Street College Prep as a math teacher, though her lessons go beyond adding and subtracting. Ms. G's students describe her as motherly, patient, there when you need help, never doubtful, easy to talk to and open to questions. She has shown her students over and over again that she is in their corner, even if it doesn't have to deal with math.

October 2011, Michael Low

Congratulations to Michael Low of Little Village Lawndale High School, who is October's Teacher of the Month. In honor of his achievements, Low received a $1,000 check for school supplies from Saint Xavier University.

Low teaches English literature and Japanese, a subject many students have showed strong interest in learning. "For me, if you're truly interested in something, it's hard not to get excited about it," Low said. "And I am very interested in what I teach. It's utterly fascinating. [The students] have no idea how much there is to know and how little they actually know about the world."

November 2011, Jack Matsumoto

Congratulations to Jack Matsumoto of Edison Gifted Center in Chicago, who is November's Teacher of the Month. In honor of his achievements, Low received a $1,000 check for school supplies from Saint Xavier University.

A jack-of-all-trades, Matsumoto has been teaching for 33 years, and he currently teaches American Literature, Writing, Math and Physical Science to 7th and 8th graders. "We get kids that love to learn. They love learning new things, doing new things," Matsumoto said. "I try to relate it to them. I try to bring what we read in literature class and what we do in science and have them apply it to what they are doing and seeing and thinking about."

December 2011, Cynthia Roder

Congratulations to Cynthia Roder of Portage Park Elementary School, who is December's Teacher of the Month. In honor of her achievements, Roder received a $1,000 check for school supplies from Saint Xavier University.

Roder is a special education teacher to first graders. She currently has 16 very special students in her first grade class. "I just want to bring out the best in all my students, no matter where their level is," says Roder. "I take what they can do rather than what they can't do and we take it from there. ...I am just passionate about what I do. It gives me pleasure to see the growth."

January 2012, Patricia Lamar

Congratulations to Patricia Lamar of the Delta Learning Center in south suburban Robbins, which is an alternative school for students who have difficulty in traditional schools. As a science teacher, she uses creative ways to grab their attention and keep her students interested. Lamar sees her students as very important to her and tries to meet them on their level. Lamar says, "I just try and diffuse the situation if their attitude is getting in the way of them learning what I'm trying to teach them. I try to take care of whatever is going on first, because I know until they can calm down, they can't learn." Her students appreciate her efforts. One student says, "If it wasn't the time she was willing to spend with me after school...I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be graduating this year." Lamar says she is going to use the check from St Xavier University to make a down payment on an outdoor therapeutic classroom she and a co-worker are developing on the grounds of the school.

February 2012, Octavia Sansing-Rhodes

Congratulations to Octavia Sansing-Rhodes of Chicago's Herzl Elementary School on the city's west side. As a child, she says didn't get math, but as an adult she's having tremendous success in helping her students get it. She became a teacher because she "wanted to make a difference...and bring a different approach to teaching," and she doesn't give up on her students. According to one student, Charlisha Harris, since Sansing-Rhodes started teaching the low-scoring class a year ago, "mostly everybody...meets or exceeds the standard in math." Sansing-Rhodes says she will use the check she received from Saint Xavier University on creative supplies to engage her math students in the learning process.

March 2012, Susan Steinmiller

Congratulations to Susan Steinmiller of Gage Park High School, who is March's Teacher of the Month. In honor of her achievements, Steinmiller received a $1,000 check for school supplies from Saint Xavier University.

Steinmiller is a history teacher to high school teens, and she has been teaching for 19 years. The devoted teacher drives 100 miles daily from Rockford to Gage Park High School on Chicago's southside, and is available to her students until 6 p.m. on some days.

She also says the formula for success is simple: raise expectations and with guidance and support, students will meet the challenge.

April 2012, Lisa Ehrlich-Menard

Congratulations Lisa Ehrlich-Menard of Curie Metropolitan High School. As a drama teacher, she aims to make her students step outside their comfort zone. "We're talking about opening minds and looking at this from various angles," Ehrlich-Menard says. She doesn't shy from difficult topics; her students and the school responded strongly to a recent production of "The Laramie Project." Her students said this was a "life-changing experience" and "completely changed their mindset." Mrs. E, as her students call her, was so touched by the nomination she was left temporarily without words.

May 2012, Terry Jozwik

Congratulations to Terry Jozwik of Glenbrook South High School. He has mastered the art of engaging his students and keeping them engaged. As a social studies teacher, and a faculty sponsor of the model UN, he broadens his students' perspectives. Bridgette Kilpatrick, the nominating student, says Jozwik "pushes his students to think outside the box." She says he encourages all the students to be leaders and teaches everyone about respecting each other.

Jozwik loves teaching young people, saying that "each kid has something to offer in class and you just have to find what it is that they have, they possess and help them to nurture that and bring it out." Jozwik says he was surprised and delighted at being nominated.

June 2012, Steve Parsons

Congratulations to Steve Parsons of Chicago's Lane Tech High School. Parsons' students are so taken with him that ten students entered his name for Teacher of the Month consideration. One student says that he learns "not only about psychology but how to be a better person in society." As a psychology teacher, he asks his students to become advisors and come up with psychological programs to help America. Parsons says, "In order to get somebody to believe that they can be a better person, in order to get somebody to believe that they can achieve whatever they want in life...you just tell them. And eventually they'll come believe to believe it. ...Because, ultimately, it's true."