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Bensenville educator is Illinois Teacher of the Year finalist

Published: Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013 10:25 a.m. CDT
(Photo provided)
School District 2 teacher Amy Walsh's former students celebrated with the Illinois Teacher of the Year finalist Monday.

BENSENVILLE – A School District 2 teacher has made it to the final round for this year's Illinois Teacher of the Year program.

"I was absolutely blown away," said Amy Walsh, who has been teaching for eight years.

Walsh is one of 11 finalists publically announced by the Illinois State Board of Education Monday, but she knew for about three weeks before that. She traveled to Springfield last week with District 2 Superintendent James Stelter for her finalist interview, which they needed to keep secret until the official announcement was made.

"My mom works in the same district," said Walsh.

She thought it was stressful enough giving her colleagues the vague explanation that she was going on a trip for work, let alone keeping the exciting news from her suspecting mother, Jean Walsh, who teaches second grade at W.A. Johnson School.

When the Bensenville Education Association nominated Amy Walsh last Spring, she was flattered, but didn't think she'd come this close to being Illinois Teacher of the Year. She set to work anyway putting together a package of materials including a 15-page paper on her professional beliefs and reccommendation letters from students, parents and district faculty.

The 11 Award of Excellence winners were chosen from more than 200 state-wide nominations by a selection committee made up of administrators, teachers, past winners and other education professionals.

"I felt completely prepared," Amy Walsh said, because she believes Bensenville is at the forefront of educational changes.

Last year, Walsh volunteered to be one of the district's first teachers to demonstrate Common Core State Standards. With her master's in curriculum and instruction, she led the creation of a new fourth grade curriculum. Other teachers also observed how she implemented new teaching techniques and classroom practices related to the new standards.

"The district gave us the best thing they ever could have done and made us throw out our old curriculum," Amy Walsh said.

Inspired by her mother and her fifth grade teacher, Amy Walsh began teaching in Carol Stream School District 93 eight years ago. Since 2010, she taught fourth grade at Tioga and Chippewa Schools, until this year.

She currently works as a consulting teacher at Johnson. Her goal is to improve teaching and student achievement by working with her fellow teachers. While she was nervous she would miss having her own classroom, Amy Walsh said the new position has given her the opportunity to work in a variety of classrooms.

"I now just have 150 kids that I can call mine," Amy Walsh said.

The Illinois Teacher of the Year will be announced at a banquet Oct. 19 in Normal, Ill., and this time Amy Walsh won't get a heads up. She just has to wait. No matter what happens, she said she's grateful for the opportunity the nomination has given her and for the work the entire district has put into designing new curriculum.

"Truly, I feel like this is a team win for Bensenville," Walsh said.

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