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Willowbrook social worker wins state education award

VILLA PARK – Willowbrook High School social worker Erik Engel has been recognized by the Those Who Excel education awards program.

Engel received the Award of Merit from the 2014-15 Those Who Excel education awards program, hosted by the Illinois State Board of Education, according to a District 88 newsletter.

The Those Who Excel program annually recognizes people who have made outstanding contributions to public and nonpublic elementary and secondary education. Three levels of awards are given, and Engel received an Award of Merit in the student support personnel category, the newsletter stated.

Engel organized a potluck dinner and workshop for black male students and their parents last year after recognizing a need to reach out to those students. Engel also sponsors the Innovative Young Achieving Mens Group, which engages black male students in positive behaviors and activities. To reach out to low-income students at Willowbrook, Engel also facilitated a community Thanksgiving potluck dinner last year, the newsletter stated.

In addition, he sponsors the Interact Club, and members of that group give back to the community through helping at a local shelter and cleaning up area parks and creeks, the newsletter stated.

Last year, Engel directed a version of Disney's "High School Musical Jr.," which featured Willowbrook and Addison students with special needs as well as their fellow classmates. That performance received an Interagency Committee on Employees with Disabilities 2014 Media Award, according to the newsletter.

For all of his efforts and commitment to Willowbrook, Engel received a Distinguished Service Award from the Illinois Chapter of the National School Public Relations Association last year, which is a program that honors deserving education staff and supporters of local school districts for their efforts to support public education and for enhancing the image of public education. Engel also received the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom award, which is a community program that recognizes 16 Chicago-area teachers during the Bears season for outstanding leadership and instructional skills, the newsletter stated.

Engel, who is in his sixth year with the district, will be honored during the Those Who Excel banquet Oct. 25 in Normal.

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