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Teachers, staff honored for educational excellence

MALTA – When Sycamore High School senior Christian Thurwanger found out he had been elected president of the Sycamore Future Farmers of America, Kara Poynter was one of the first people he called with the news.

Thurwanger said Poynter, who encouraged him to run for FFA president, is more than just his agriculture education teacher and FFA adviser at Sycamore High School. She is a mentor and friend, which is why he was happy to recommend her for the DeKalb County Excellence in Education Award.

"We all need that one person to tell us we can be more than average," he said in his introduction.

For Thurwanger, Poynter was that person.

Poynter was one of five recipients of the 2013 DeKalb County Excellence in Education Award on Monday at Kishwaukee College. The award recognizes teachers, administrators and support staff for their dedication to their schools, students and communities.

Other recipients of this year's award include: Jennifer Parsons of North Elementary School in Sycamore, Carol Vest of Clinton Rosette Middle School in DeKalb, Thomas Sodaro of Herman E. Dummer School in Sandwich and Wendy Kuryliw of Lincoln Elementary School in DeKalb.

Retired teacher Yvonne Johnson partnered with the DeKalb County Community Foundation to put on the annual awards program, which she started in 1999. Out of 23 nominations, five were selected. Each winner received $1,000, a crystal clock and a medallion commemorating their achievement.

"DeKalb County has some outstanding teachers and they are being recognized," said Johnson.

Foundation executive director Dan Templin said he is glad to to be working with Johnson in commending such strong educators.

"Education is important anywhere you go," he said. "We want to thank those who do serve so well."

Sodaro, principal of Herman E. Dummer School, said he was honored to be a part of such an elite group.

"These are people I look up to and respect," he said.

Sodaro was introduced at the ceremony by one of his students, fifth-grader McKenzie Verhulst, who said she admired his dedication to causes like anti-bullying and the St. Baldrick's Foundation.

"He's a great principal," she said. "And I think he will be the best principal I will ever have."

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