MOLINE — A dozen top local educators were honored as MasterTeachers by The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus at the i wireless Center on Friday night.
This year's award winners included four teachers from Moline-Coal Valley, five from Rock Island-Milan and one each from the Rockridge, Riverdale and Silvis districts. Recipients include six high school teachers, five from middle schools and one elementary teacher. Each winner received a specially crafted plaque and a commemorative brass bell.
The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus publisher Jerry Taylor toasted the educators with the words of Clay P. Bedford: "You can teach a student a lesson a day. But if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives."
Kitty Hillyer, a first grade teacher at Jane Addams Elementary in Moline, said she loves so much about her job.
"I love it when I see the light bulb, when you see the 'Aha' moment. It is also the joy the kids bring into the classroom every day. They are always sharing things that are new and fresh for them," she said.
"It is what keeps me feeling good, keeps me young."
Angie Curnyn, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Wilson Middle School in Moline, said her students challenge her to keep learning.
"I love my job. I love my students. I enjoy engaging them," she said. "I approach each day with how will I capture them today?"
Elizabeth Kantner, a Rock Island High School resource math teacher, said she teaches because of her deep conviction to give back to the community. It's her way to help guide those who will lead in the future.
The 1996 Rock Island High School graduate said she loves that she is walking the same halls again, this time as an educator. "I believe it allows a deeper connection between the students and myself," she said.
Steve Inman, a special education teacher at Washington Junior High in Rock Island, approaches his job with heart. "I treat all of the kids as if they are equal," he said, noting many of his students come from broken homes. "They all need to know someone cares about them, and I let them know I care about them."
He has taught for six years and said he would not change or give up what he does. "I love what I do," he said.
Teachers must love what they do, said Jeff Henry, an eighth-grade math teacher at Rockridge Junior High in Sherrard. "I try to have fun every day. I think my students feel that from me."
Mr. Henry said it is rewarding to teach his students and watch them grow, graduate and become adults. During his 18-year career — 10 at Rockridge — Mr. Henry said he has learned how good kids really are. "It puts faith in me the future is very bright," he said.
Many recipients said the honor was a surprise.
"I was very humbled that all of these people thought I deserved this for something I do for kids, which is what I love," said Mr. Inman.
Ms. Kantner also said she was humbled. "Sometimes we are deep in the trenches, working so hard, as all of us teachers do. It is important educators are recognized. This award I'm receiving, I feel it is for all teachers," she said.
The night also saw a surprise award presented to Dispatch/Argus Newspaper in Education coordinator Sandee Luster. She was presented the 2011 Friend of Education Award by Mark Hepner, principal at Washington Junior High and regional director of the Black Hawk Region of the Illinois Principals Association, which honored Ms. Luster. She is now eligible for state and national recognition, Mr. Hepner said.
The newspapers have recognized 342 teachers since the MasterTeacher program began in 1990 to honor educational excellence in the Western Illinois area. UnitedHealthcare is a presenting sponsor.
Winners are chosen by a panel of judges representing education, business, community and the newspapers.
-- Jennifer Caldwell, science teacher and counselor, Silvis Junior High School
-- Angie Curnyn, eighth-grade language arts, Wilson Middle School, Moline
-- Jeff Henry, eighth-grade math, Rockridge Junior High School, Edgington
-- Kitty Hillyer, first grade, Jane Addams Elementary School, Moline
-- Steven Inman, special education, Washington Junior High School, Rock Island
-- Elizabeth Kantner, resource math, Rock Island High School
-- Benjamin Kirgan, ninth-12th grade biology/Earth science, Rock Island High School
-- Lisa Martens, speech/language pathologist, Rock Island High School
-- Kelly Mulcahy, seventh-grade geography, Wilson Middle School, Moline
-- Joel Ryser, art, Moline High School
-- Melissa Secker, health and physical education, Riverdale High School, Port Byron
-- Nancy Wolber, global biology, Rock Island High School
Today is Saturday, May 25, the 145th day of 2013. There are 220 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: The annual review of the fire department of this city took placeyesterday and made a fine showing with machines and hose carts in tip-top order. 1888 -- 125 years ago: Last night's prayer meeting at Central Presbyterian Church wascalled off due to water in the basement, residue of last week's flood. 1913 -- 100 years ago: The junior class of Rock Island High School will hold a riverexcursion on the steamer St. Paul next Tuesday. 1938 -- 75 years ago: The 75th Anniversary of the Rock Island Arsenal today finds thenation's largest ordinance manufacturing plant filling many important orders for the army. 1963 -- 50 years ago: Miss Patrice Daly, Rock Island, a senior at Rock Island HighSchool, won second place in the recent state public speaking contest held in Peoria underthe auspices of the Knights of Pythias. 1988 -- 25 years ago: Hampton's sesquicentennial committee and the Hampton HistoricalSociety have scheduled a full slate of activities, which will be held throughout the year, to celebrate the village's 150th birthday. The first celebration will be the Memorial Dayprogram at 10 a.m. May 30, at the Brettun and Black Store Museum on River Road. Therewill be a sesquicentennial display.