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IFT member named top teacher in Illinois


The Illinois State Board of Education has named Kim Thomas, a middle school math teacher at Woodruff Career and Technical Center and member of the Peoria Federation of Teachers, IFT Local 780, the 2016 Illinois Teacher of the Year. Thomas was announced the winner on Oct. 17 at the 41st annual Those Who Excel/Illinois Teacher of the Year banquet in Normal.
“Ms. Thomas uses her energy and dedication to motivate her students to learn and achieve in every lesson she teaches,” said State Superintendent Tony Smith. “She develops creative techniques to teach her students and challenge their attitudes towards math. Her enthusiasm for teaching is inspiring.”
Local 780 President Jeff Adkins-Dutro agreed that Thomas is an outstanding professional and a credit to teaching and the union.
“I'd say her enthusiasm is remarkable . . . along with the subtle things she does to make learning fun, like decorating her toenails with math symbols. Kim is truly deserving of this recognition, and our union is proud to have one of our own honored as the Teacher of the Year,” he said.
Thomas said believes she has a duty to her students to continually develop herself professionally so she can provide them with the best learning experience possible. As a result, she is continuously enrolling in classes, attending professional development opportunities within her district, and performing her own research to stay well-informed of the best teaching practices.
A former student of Thomas’ and recent Illinois State University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in special education described the impact Thomas’ teaching had on her:
“All throughout my educational journey at ISU to become a teacher, I always looked back to the teachers that have inspired me the most. Kim Thomas is one of them. Her passion for education and for her students fired a passion inside of me. I can only hope that one day when I have a classroom of my own, I can inspire students like Mrs. Thomas.”
This marks the second year in a row that IFT members have won the top award. Steve Elza, an automotive technology teacher and member of Local 1211, is the 2015 Teacher of the Year. Other recent IFT winners include: Brian Curtin, Local 1211 (2013); Ruth Meissen, Local 540 (2007); Linda Smerge, Local 571 (2008); and Kevin Rutter, Local 1 (2009).

Winning the Teacher of the Year award is a significant accomplishment. More than 250 nominees were reviewed and scored by a selection committee composed of administrators, teachers, and school board members. Principals, faculty, parents, and students submit letters on behalf of candidates as part of the nomination process.

Thomas was selected the winner from a group of just 10 finalists, which included three other outstanding IFT members. Finalists 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, Thomas will have opportunities to share her knowledge and expertise with fellow educators. Beginning in the 2016 spring semester, she will tour the state to speak at teaching workshops, educational conferences, and community meetings. Thomas will also 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 and ING.

Congratulations to Kim Thomas on her outstanding achievement! The IFT is proud to represent Kim and the many thousands of other IFT members who make a difference for Illinois students and citizens every day.




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