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IFT members named 2020 Teacher of the Year finalists

by Amy Excell | Sep 09, 2019
The IFT is proud to call these outstanding educators members of our union family.
Four Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) members were among the outstanding teachers named as finalists in the 2020 Illinois State Board of Education’s annual “Those Who Excel” educator recognition program. One winner will be named “Teacher of the Year” in October.
Tanya Katovich teaches chemistry at Hoffman Estates High School in Palatine (Township High School District 211). She is a member of the Northwest Suburban Teachers Union (Local 1211).


Jennifer C. Leban teaches creative technology for grades 6-8 at Sandburg Middle School in Elmhurst (Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205). She is a member of the West Suburban Teachers Union (Local 571).

Michael G. Murakami
teaches 7th grade math at Whiteside Middle School in Belleville (Whiteside School District 115). He is a member of the Whiteside Federation of Teachers (Local 4130).


Joe Ruffolo
is a physics teacher at West Leyden High School in Northlake (Leyden High School District 212). He is a member of the West Suburban Teachers Union (Local 571).
“Teaching is the most rewarding job imaginable, but it comes with countless challenges. Those who do the job well deserve widespread respect and acknowledgement for their efforts,” said IFT President Dan Montgomery. "These outstanding IFT finalists represent every man and women in our union who proudly takes on the challenges we face to ensure that our students have the opportunity to reach their greatest potential." 

IFT members have a proud history of being named Teacher of the Year. In 2016, the winner was Kim Thomas, a member of the Peoria Federation of Teachers (Local 780). Northwest Suburban Teachers Union (Local 1211) member Steve Elza was the 2015 winner. Other recent IFT winners include: Brian Curtin, Local 1211 (2013), Kevin Rutter, Local 1 (2009); Linda Smerge, Local 571 (2008); and Ruth Meissen, Local 540 (2007).   

Hundreds of nominations were reviewed for this year’s award by a selection committee of administrators, teachers, and representatives from educational service personnel, student support personnel, and past winners before the 10 finalists were selected. The final selection of the Illinois Teacher of the Year will be made by the State Superintendent of Education.

The 2020 Illinois Teacher of the Year winner will be announced during the "Those Who Excel" banquet on October 19 in Bloomington-Normal. The winner will represent Illinois in the Council of Chief State School Officers’ National Teacher of the Year Program. 

Click here for the complete list of finalists. 

Congratulations and best of luck to our outstanding IFT finalists!


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