All past and future Illinois Teachers of the Year, including four Eastern Illinois University alumni, now have a permanent place of recognition on the EIU campus.
The Illinois Teacher of the Year Hall of Fame was dedicated Monday in Buzzard Hall, the flagship building of EIU’s education department.
All four EIU graduates who have been named Teacher of the Year were on hand for the unveiling: current Teacher of the Year Joe Fatheree of Effingham; Ruth Hawkins of Charleston; Peggy Allan of Greenville; and Robert Grimm of Arlington Heights.
Seven other Illinois Teacher of the Year recipients attended, as well, including Willard Widerberg, Illinois’ first Teacher of the Year, who went on to receive the National Teacher of the Year award from President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the White House in 1954. Widerberg traveled from his home in Florida to attend the dedication.
So far, 47 educators have been named Teacher of the Year by the Illinois State Board of Education. Their names are etched on two plaques displayed alongside photos of EIU’s honored graduates and the two Illinois teachers of the year who have gone on earn the National Teacher of the Year distinction.
EIU President William Perry spoke about EIU’s strong history in preparing teachers to lead students in the classroom, and he thanked the ISBE for its support of the Teacher of the Year program.
“I know by experience that dedicated teachers don’t enter the field of teaching with expectations of awards and recognition,” Perry said. “We are honored that Eastern Illinois University can, by hosting this Illinois Teacher of the year Hall of Fame, honor this dedication and commitment of our state’s educators.”
Fatheree first proposed the idea of the Hall of Fame, and he is happy that the idea has been brought to fruition, thanks to a partnership between EIU and the ISBE.
The main purpose of the Hall of Fame is to inspire the future teachers who walk past the display during their journey to becoming educators, Fatheree said.
“It’s not about our names on a wall, it’s about the names of the children whose lives will be touched that we’ll never know,” Fatheree said.
Already, there are signs that the display is making a difference. Diane Jackman, dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies, said one education student who had already gotten a sneak peek of the display was overheard saying to another, “I’m going get my name up there someday.”
FOUR EIU GRADUATES HAVE BEEN NAMED ILLINOIS TEACHER OF THE YEAR:
-- Ruth Hawkins of Charleston, who taught at Oakland’s Lake Crest Elementary School (1958-1974) and later served as assistant professor of elementary education at EIU (1988-1995). Hawkins, the 1973-74 Teacher of the Year, received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from EIU in 1947 and 1968, respectively.
-- Peggy Allan of Greenville, who taught at Greenville Junior High School (1971-2005) and was assistant superintendent of Bond County Community Unit #2 (1997-2005). The 1988-89 Teacher of the Year, Allan received her bachelor’s degree at EIU in 1971, before going on to earn master’s and doctorate degrees at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
-- Robert Grimm of Arlington Heights, who taught at Hoffman Estates High School (1978-79) and William Fremd High School (1979-2004) before beginning his current role as assistant superintendent of Township High School District #211. Grimm, the 2002-03 Teacher of the Year, received a master’s degree from EIU in 1984. He also received his bachelor’s degree Michigan State University and a master’s from Northern Illinois University.
-- Current Illinois Teacher of the Year Joe Fatheree of Effingham, a technology instructor at Effingham High School and former Oakland High School teacher and coach. Fatheree received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from EIU in 1989 and 2005, respectively.
Fatheree’s most recent initiative is called the No Barriers Project, which uses unique methods to teach students not only about the damaging effects of poverty on society, but also how to make a positive impact to remedy those problems.
Beyond the classroom, Fatheree is an accomplished filmmaker. His inspiring documentary work, which has been aired nationally on PBS and the Documentary Channel, has earned him three Mid America Emmy awards and a Telly.