SANDWICH – Woodbury Elementary School second-grade teacher Pam Reilly was greeted Monday morning by students playing music so she could walk down a red paper carpet.
It was another moment of celebrating Reilly, who was named the Illinois Teacher of the Year on Saturday at the Illinois State Board of Education's annual Those Who Excel recognition program in Bloomington. She will represent Illinois in a national competition.
"I knew there were so many fantastic finalists that I truly was surprised to hear my named called, and I'm very honored," Reilly said. "There are just so many amazing teachers across the state and I'm witness to their dedication. I'm just beyond proud to represent Illinois."
Woodbury Principal Shirley DeCorte nominated her.
"We have a great group of teachers here, and Pam is very deserving," DeCorte said. "I nominated her because she always puts her students first, finding creative ways to make sure they are all included in the learning process."
Reilly's work as teacher of the year is just beginning. After the awards dinner Saturday, Reilly met with past recipients of the honor Sunday.
She will get to attend NASA's Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., enjoy a luncheon with President Barack Obama and his family, tour Washington, D.C. – a first for Reilly – and share a lot with the other state teachers of the year.
"There will be a lot of sharing about what's going right in our states, discussion of the Common Core," Reilly said. "Forty-six states have adopted the Common Core Standards. We can have better conversations because we're now on the same page."
Reilly said the best part of the awards evening, after hearing a speech by last year's recipient, Brian Curtin, was having her fifth-grade son, Nolan, tell her he wants to be a teacher.