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IFT Member Named Teacher of the Year


The Illinois State Board of Education named high school English teacher Brian W. Curtin as the 2013 Illinois Teacher of the Year. Brian teaches 9th-12th grade at Schaumburg High School in Township High School District 211 and was chosen from nine finalists. Curtin was announced as this year’s top educator during Saturday night’s 38th annual Those Who Excel/Illinois Teacher of the Year banquet in Normal.

“Great teaching is about making a connection with students and Brian Curtin makes those important connections every day,” said State Superintendent Christopher A. Koch. “Brian is one of those inspirational teachers who makes creative and engaging lesson plans look easy and leads through example and self-discipline.”

Now in his tenth year of teaching, Brian maintains a great rapport with his colleagues, parents and most importantly, students. Known for his enthusiasm for learning, he encourages students to be proactive in their education and life goals.

While a junior at the University of Illinois, Brian studied abroad in Granada, Spain and it was there he decided that he wanted to be a teacher for the rest of his life. Brian also draws upon his own experiences playing various sports to guide him as a lacrosse and football coach who builds students’ self-confidence and skills.

Brian graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign and holds a Masters of Art in English Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is currently awaiting National Board Certification after completing the requirements earlier this year.

Students, parents and colleagues describe Brian’s teaching style as innovative and engaging.  Former student and lacrosse player Chris Flight said he and other students naturally gave 120 percent on the field or in the classroom because of Brian’s leadership skills. In his letter of recommendation, Chris described his lively freshman English class when `Mr. Curtin’ let students choose roles, dress in character and act out the Odyssey. As part of a mythology unit, students were challenged to put Greek gods up for adoption, market their best qualities and ensure they found a good home, and in another assignment, students demonstrated what they learned about civil disobedience and Antigone by making videos. Chris also described a teacher who always made time for him and other students inside and outside the classroom.

“The fact that this teacher has had such an incredible impact on my life is something to be praised,” Flight wrote in his letter. “The fact that I’m one of many such students who have been impacted this way speaks volumes about not just the teacher, but also of the incredible quality of the man himself.”

Brian’s impact is not limited to the classroom or athletic field. Brian is the Teaching Chair of Schaumburg High’s Saxon Pride, a group of faculty members who meet regularly to address school culture and behavior issues. Using the Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS), Brian has developed a series of popular commercials starring students. The commercials are designed to reinforce the program’s goals of exemplifying positive behaviors rather than merely reacting to negative behavior. Brian’s active participation in Saxon Pride is credited with enhancing Schaumburg High’s positive culture.

More than 200 nominations for Those Who Excel were reviewed and scored three times by a selection committee comprised of administrators, teachers and school board members. Principals, faculty, parents and students submit letters on behalf of candidates as part of the nomination process.
The nine finalists for Teacher of the Year were interviewed and videotaped, and those interviews were scored again before going to State Superintendent Koch for a final decision.

As Illinois Teacher of the Year, Brian will have opportunities to share his knowledge and expertise outside the classroom. Beginning in the 2013 spring semester, Brian will be available to speak at teaching workshops, educational conferences and community meetings. He will receive a lifetime tuition waiver to state universities and will represent Illinois at the NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., and in the National Teacher of the Year program sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers, ING and Target. Curtin will also receive products from SMARTer Kids.

“Brian Curtin’s creativity, innovation and energy are well known within District 211,” said State Board of Education Chairman Gery J. Chico. “But thanks to this program and honor, we hope that he can share his talent and skills with dedicated teachers across the state who, like Brian, want their students to succeed and find happiness inside and beyond the classroom.”



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