2012-2013 Academic Year Winners
Below are the winners from the 2012-2013 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.
Congratulations to Brett Sharkey of Maine West High School in Des Plaines, who is September's Teacher of the Month. In honor of his achievements, Sharkey received a $1,000 check from Saint Xavier University.
A special education teacher, Sharkey conducts class wherever there is a lesson to be taught, going out of his way to help his students cultivate new skills that will motivate them in their lives and communities. "My goal for the kids I'm dealing with now is I'd like to make and help them become as independent as possible," says Sharkey.
Congratulations to Kim Mullen of St Paul's Lutheran School in Munster, Indiana. Kim Mullen may have stepped away from teaching for twenty years, but it didn't diminish her passion. As a 5th grade teacher, her students appreciate her light, engaging but structured teaching style. Mullen keeps her students interested with a wide variety of activities and by telling them her own childhood memories. Muller aims to make her students "life-long learners" by showing them that class can be fun, but they can learn something, too.
Congratulations to Brad Breakfield of Boone Upper Elementary near Rockford. His sixth-grade class thinks he puts the "A" in amazing. Morgaine Olsen, the nominating student, says he is the best, constantly pushing her and her classmates toward excellence.
Another student, Jacob Kruckenberg, says, "He's the outline of a teacher, perfect, awesome." Breakfield has a lot of fun with his students because "a really good learning environment makes it less stressful." He makes sure to "get every kid at their level ... every kid is challenged but not so challenged that he gets frustrated."
Congratulations to Jason Okrasinski of Crete Monee High School. Known by his students as Mr. O, he is preparing his students to successfully navigate the internet in today's computer-driven world. His students see him as "everything you'd really want in a teacher -- helpful, thorough and pushes them to "get better every day." Okrasinski takes every chance he can to make a personal connection with his students and teach them that "learning is a life-long process." Okrasinski is very flattered by the nomination and the caring things Kelly Green, the nominating student, wrote.
Congratulations to Molly Myers of Chicago's Lindblom Math and Science Academy in the Englewood community. A freshman human geography teacher, Molly Myers discourages her students from focusing on grades, and instead gets them engaged with learning. Her students consider Myers a very supportive teacher with a willingness to help, even writing letters and messages to tell them how they are and how they can improve in school. Myers wants students to "become a two-year old again, because if you keep asking why and then go find the answer... you get to some pretty amazing places."
Congratulations to Daniel Briggs of Brother Rice High School. As the director of music, Briggs teaches six classes and three levels of band. He says he never met a musical instrument he couldn't teach a student to play. Briggs's availability and boundless energy is key to his success as a teacher. One student says "Twenty-four seven, he's always happy, upbeat." Briggs believes "as soon as a student steps foot in the school, it's our jobs as teachers to teach him. I get here at 6 a.m. and I stay till 6 p.m. Any time a student needs me, for anything, I'm here to help them." He goes on to say, "I am their advocate in everything."
Congratulations to Cyndi Sulak of St. Charles North High School. Sulak has been in the classroom for seven years and teaches history, including classes such as honors European history and global issues. "Students like narratives. They like fiction. History is a story, so if we can bring it down to that, they can usually connect to it or some aspect of it to their own lives," she says. Sulak says that she "does her job for the kids" and the nomination is "very humbling, very exciting, and very surprising all at the same time." Her students think it's well deserved.
Congratulations to Michael Rossi of Neuqua Valley High School in suburban Naperville. While teaching Philosophy and English Literature, coaching the freshman cross-country team and directing the annual monologue show, Rossi's rallying cry throughout is, "Let's make it happen!" Rossi connects with his students and helps them connect with the material. He says he loves his job, and it's all about helping his students "become the people the people they want to be."
Congratulations to Laura Milas of Hinsdale Central High School. As an art teacher, Milas wants to draw out the artist in her students and aspires to be a guide for them. She says, "This is a journey that we take together, and I hope to guide them and get them to do beyond what they think they can do." Milas wants them to think about their art and never give up. "I think part of making art is frustrating, so I share that with them. I think every day is a battle, but perseverance is something I grade them on."
Congratulations to Cynthia Burnett of Cardinal Joseph Bernadin School in suburban Orland Hills. Burnett has been teaching for over 30 years and knows each child is different. She strives to meet their individual needs and give them "every opportunity to be successful." Burnett wants her students to "never quit and never give up" and hopes they will learn, to be successful, they need to have "patience and persistence."