District 186 Educator Of The Year

Education Programs

Carmelita Foster, fifth grade teacher at Fairview Elementary School, has been named the Horace Mann Educator of the Year. Also, Nathan Kochanowski, principal of Lee School, was named Horace Mann Administrator of the Year.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Educator of the Year luncheon could not be held, so Superintendent Jennifer Gill and Horace Mann agent Katie Hageman hand delivered baskets to each of the winners.

Carmelita Foster has worked for District 186 for eight years. She receives a $1,400 cash prize and a crystal owl.

Nathan Kochanowski has served District 186 since 2008. He receives $500 and a crystal award.

“It is our honor at Horace Mann to recognize Springfield’s top educators for the 34th year,” said Horace Mann President and CEO Marita Zuraitis. “Since COVID-19 began, educators have had to pivot quickly, from teaching in different environments to finding new ways to reach their students. Horace Mann’s appreciation for what educators do continues to grow every day.”

Educator of the Year finalists were Rachel Barnard (Ridgely Elementary), Kathy Gehrig, (Community Based Programs), Kathy Hanken (Matheny-Withrow Elementary) and Ayesha Lawson (Hazel Dell Elementary). Each will receive $250.

Administrator of the Year finalists were Wendy Conaway (Marsh Elementary) and Queen Drake (Project SCOPE). Each will receive $250.

The Rising Star award was given to three promising teachers who have been with the District four years or less. The Rising Stars are Nicki Krummrich (Springfield High School), Sarah Redpath (Butler Elementary) and Brandy Scott (Washington Middle School). They each receive $250 and a crystal award.

Horace Mann has sponsored the Educator of the Year program since its inception in 1988. An independent panel of Springfield-area community and education leaders selects the Educator of the Year, Administrator of the Year, and the Rising Stars.

Previous Educator of the Year Winners

  • 2020: Martha Jordan, Graham Elementary School
  • 2019: Christie Jones, Lincoln Magnet School
  • 2018: Lori Moore – Fairview Elementary School
  • 2017: ReChad Bradley – Southeast High School
  • 2016: Layne Zimmers – Lincoln Magnet School
  • 2015: Jeff Lightfoot – Springfield High School
  • 2014: Dee Dee Duffy – Early Learning Center
  • 2013: Maryna Mitchell – Lanphier High School
  • 2012: Melissa Beckler – Washington Middle School
  • 2011: Susan Kepp - Dubois Elementary School
  • 2010:  Teresa Holton – Southeast High School
  • 2009:  Sandra Bauer – Iles Elementary School
  • 2008:  Tamara Douglass – Southeast High School
  • 2007:  Nancy Pence – Springfield High School
  • 2006:  Sara Oehlert – Harvard Park Elementary School
  • 2005:  Tracy Buscher – Southeast High School
  • 2004:  Joseph Bunch – Springfield High School
  • 2003:  Deborah Huffman – Lanphier High School
  • 2002:  Teri Neff – Owen Marsh Elementary School
  • 2001:  Donna Jefferson – Owen Marsh Elementary School
  • 2000:  Robert Mitchell Jr. – Washington Middle School
  • 1999:  Keith Kincaid – Sandburg Elementary School
  • 1998:  Diana Roth – Lanphier High School
  • 1997:  Jim Broch – Grant Middle School
  • 1996:  Jill Grove – Jefferson Elementary School
  • 1995:  Bette Wells – Pleasant Hill Elementary School
  • 1994:  Mary C. Jackson – Springfield High School
  • 1993:  Jane Lawder – Iles Elementary School
  • 1992:  Jean Ahlberg – Lanphier High School
  • 1991:  Dennis E. Morris – Lee and Sandburg Elementary School
  • 1990:  Raymond Bruzan – Lanphier High School
  • 1989:  Melinda LaBarre – Jefferson Elementary School
  • 1988:  Sandra Carlson – Sandburg Elementary School


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