The DeKalb County Excellence in Education Awards were presented at Kishwaukee College. This is the 15th year of this annual award to recognize DeKalb County school employees in five categories: Teacher Grades K-5; Teacher Grades 6-8; Teacher Grades 9-12; Administrator; and Support Staff.
Yvonne Johnson, retired elementary school teacher in the Sycamore School District, has established an endowed fund with the DeKalb County Community Foundation to make these awards possible. Each of the winners will receive a $1,000 award, a clock and a medallion. A non-partisan committee made the final determination from the 19 nominees.
Teacher Grades K-5: Linda Tyrrell, reading specialist at Malta Elementary School
Linda Tyrrell is in her 24th year with DeKalb schools. She was a first-grade teacher for 22 years before becoming the Title 1 reading teacher at Malta Elementary. Tyrrell serves on several district-wide committees, is an active member of DeKalb Classroom Teachers’ Association, and a member of Northern Illinois Reading Council. She facilitates grade-level meetings and vertical articulation, leads professional development in Common Core State Standards, and contributes to school improvement and data team meetings.
Teacher Grades 6-8: Anna Zantout, art teacher at Sycamore Middle School
Anna Zantout has lived in Sycamore since the age of 6. She is in her 13th year as an art instructor at Sycamore Middle School. Her B.F.A. was earned from UW-Whitewater and her M.S. in Art Education came from Northern Illinois University. She has stayed connected to NIU by taking clinical student observers and guest lecturing on art and students with special needs. Zantout is actively involved with various projects for her school district as well as in her community. Her artwork has been exhibited across Illinois.
Teacher Grades 9-12: Rich Majerus, English teacher at Sycamore High School
Rich Majerus has served on several district committees and has been the English Department chair since 1996. He was instrumental in creating the Advanced Placement English course sequence for the high school. More recently, he worked on bringing Professional Learning Communities to the district. Majerus also has continued to work with NIU’s teacher preparation program. His community contributions include organizing the AP Philanthropy Club.
Administration: Kathy Countryman, superintendent for Sycamore School District 427
Kathy Countryman has 26 years of experience in education, the last 13 of them in the Sycamore school district. She started her career as an elementary teacher before serving in various administrative roles and then becoming the Sycamore District Superintendent in 2012. She has focused on strategic planning, school improvement, curriculum development and alignment, budgets and staff professional growth.
Support Staff: Dave Huntsman, maintenance/bus director for Hiawatha Community Unit School District 426
Dave Huntsman has worked for Hiawatha school district for more than five years. His background is in industrial maintenance. His most significant contribution to the district was being the project coordinator for the construction of the new pre-K–second grade wing of the school. He continues to strive to deliver what the district needs, whether it is white boards or sinks. Huntsman likes to contribute to the school community above and beyond his job; he will even cook for the staff when he can.