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Founders teacher wins annual Wirtz Award

Published: Friday, May 9, 2014 3:46 p.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, May 10, 2014 12:35 a.m. CDT
(Danielle Guerra - dguerra@shawmedia.com)
Chris Perkovich, Founder's Elementary School fifth grade teacher, writes on her white board in her classroom on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Perkovich, who has taught fifth grade for 18 years, was given the Wirtz Award, which is awarded annually to an outstanding teacher within DeKalb School District 428.

DeKALB – Chris Perkovich’s colleagues feel blessed to work with someone so talented at connecting with students.

“She gets to know her kids as people and not just a number on a piece of paper,” fellow fifth-grade teacher Amy Fontana said. “And she does everything with humor. She just has this sense of fun about her.”

Perkovich, a fifth-grade teacher at Founders Elementary School in DeKalb, is the winner of DeKalb School District 428’s 2014 Wirtz Award, which annually honors one teacher. Perkovich was recognized at the District 428 School Board meeting Tuesday.

Fontana and Kelly Lullo, who also teaches fifth grade, nominated Perkovich for the award for being a inspiration by building relationships with colleagues and students, leading teaching efforts and seeing things as part of the “big picture.”

Perkovich considers teaching her third life. After her life as an undergraduate student earning a bachelor’s of fine arts degree in painting, her focus shifted to being a mom. At 38, she decided to go back to school to become a teacher, a goal she accomplished in five years.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Perkovich, 62.

She’s taught fifth grade through her 18-year career, starting with seven years at Wright Elementary School, then moving to Clinton Rosette Middle School for eight years. She’s been teaching at Founders since it opened three years ago.

The thing she treasures most about teaching is undoubtedly the kids, but she also relishes the daily chance to be inventive.

“It’s creative,” Perkovich said. “I’m constantly making things, solving problems and looking at the big picture all the time. It always comes back to that one kid where it started. It’s a challenge in a really good way.”

Memorable teaching experiences line Perkovich’s career, making it difficult for her to pinpoint a particular moment when she knew why she became a teacher. But she recently received a note from a student that thanked her and explained the student was grateful for how much she was learning.

It’s little things like the note that fill Perkovich with her own gratitude for being able to touch a child’s life.

“Some times you’re just a witness to that one point in a child’s life,” Perkovich said. “You have an understanding of your role in the bigger picture.”

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