BOLINGBROOK – Salk Elementary will be vying for a three-peat next year.
For a second-straight year, the Bolingbrook school is home to a Herff Jones "Teacher Shout Out" winner.
Kindergarten teacher Sue Brown is one of just 10 teachers in the country to win the contest, which rallies communities to vote for their favorite teacher, pitting them against more than 6,500 educators across the nation over a six-week period.
As one of ten Teacher Shout Out Award recipients, Brown will receive a $2,500 check for herself as well as a $2,500 check for her school. Last year, Salk Principal Michele Romolt took home the honor.
The contest was a part of Teacher Appreciation Week, and after Brown was recognized as the contest winner during a school rally last week, she was feeling very appreciated.
"It was really awesome. They brought in every kindergartner and the students all stood up and sang a song to me using sign language," said Brown, explaining that the gesture had deep meaning for her as her daughter is a sign language interpreter. "It was really beautiful."
Three former students of Brown's, now fifth-graders, also turned out to tell the crowd how big of an impact their kindergarten teacher had on them.
"I was a little nervous – I don't like to be center of attention," she said. "But the kids put me at ease. It was so nice, and I couldn't hold in my emotions."
Romolt credited Salk Elementary parents and the community for the school's success in the contest.
"You've got to give credit to this community. It's a really nice gesture and validation [for Brown,] and it was for me, too," she said.
Romolt and the Salk Parent-Teacher Association nominated Brown.
"We sent home flyers to parents to get them to vote. It had a lot to do with [Brown] being one of the most popular teachers among the kids," she said.
Romolt said it's a well-deserved award for Brown.
"She is terrific. Kindergarten is the toughest grade to teach – it's the kids' first experience at school, and she's able to make it a positive experience while laying a foundation in reading and math. She makes it look easy," she said.
Romolt said last year's $2,500 prize has not yet been used, and paired with this year's check, the school will have $5,000 to set aside for the school's next principal – Romolt is retiring after this school year and will be replaced by King School Assistant Principal Laura Lucas.
"It will be nice for [Lucas] to have a little money set aside so they can take a look and talk to staff as to how it can be used," Romolt said.
Even though Romolt is headed for retirement, she expects another win next school year.
"Let's go the three-peat," she said.
Get to know Sue Brown
Occupation: Kindergarten teacher at Salk Elementary in Bolingbrook
Years teaching: 23
Hobbies: Snow skiing, laying on the beach and reading books, water skiing, traveling
Family: Husband Bruce; children Allie, 25, Beth, 23
In her words: "I love my job. There are rough days, but at this age they're so excited to be in school and knowing that I have a huge impact on them being successful in life is huge."