Four from Turtle Creek given district’s outstanding educator awards

Four Delavan-Darien School District staffers were presented with the district’s annual Werbel Award for outstanding teaching at a mid-year in-service Feb. 20.

Receiving the award were school psychologist Katie Grady, special education teacher Mary Dilla, second grade teacher Lisa Seitz and reading teacher Jen Grossen. All four work at Turtle Creek Elementary School.

Their teaching peers and administrators nominated each for the award, which recognizes teachers who help, motivate, encourage, like and respect all students. Each winner also received a $250 prize from the Delavan-Darien Foundation, which manages the account set up for the award decades ago by Dr. and Mrs. Harold J. Werbel, who were longtime Delavan residents and philanthropists.

Grady, who started with the district in 2001 as an intern at Turtle Creek, was recognized for her advocacy of students and many leadership roles within the district. She serves on the district and Turtle Creek Response to Intervention teams, PBIS team, school focus team and Professional Learning Community team.

“On a daily basis, she has been praising students and building connections with them so they feel respected and loved,” one nomination letter read. “She is known for her ‘tough love,’ and holds all students to high expectations, yet meets them where they are, gives them support and helps all students reach their goals, motivating them to be the best person that they can be.”

Dilla, known for her outgoing personality, feather boas, huge clown sunglasses and Dr. Seuss hats, has been a special education teacher at Turtle Creek since 2012. The love and passion she has for teaching children with special needs was mentioned often in her nomination letters.

Her “refreshing, comforting attitude is sensed by all students she comes in contact with,” a nomination letter read. “Her job title is ‘teacher,’ but that’s only a title. For her, teaching is also a lifestyle.”

Seitz has an energy and enthusiasm for teaching that is obvious to anyone who visits her classroom, which she has taught in since 2012. She works with students around the clock — before school, after school, and during lunch — to ensure they are successful academically, emotionally and mentally. Knowing that a “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work in classrooms, she also works diligently to tailor her lessons so that all levels and styles of learners can advance their knowledge.

Grossen was the most veteran teacher honored at the in-service meeting. She started with the district in the late 1990s as a bilingual teacher at both Darien and Turtle Creek elementary schools. She is currently a reading teacher at Turtle Creek and is known for using various strategies that are effective with Delavan-Darien’s diverse student body. Not letting students “opt out” of their learning obligations was brought up in her nominations.

“She is also willing to help her colleagues become better by setting good examples and working together well with them,” a nomination letter read.

About the award

The Werbel Award was established by Dr. and Mrs. Harold J. Werbel more than 30 years ago to recognize outstanding teachers for their contributions to the profession of teaching. This award is rotated among the elementary schools, Phoenix Middle School and Delavan-Darien High School each year. The Werbel Award winner or winners is/are nominated by teaching peers and administrators based on the following criteria:

  • A teacher’s interest in helping his/her students in and out of class;
  • A teacher who doesn’t stay in the same “mold” year after year, who changes his/her methods and materials to fit changes in the field, but at the same time does not go off the deep end;
  • A teacher who tries to motivate students, to encourage them to participate as fully as possible in the classroom, as well as encouraging them to do outside work with help as needed;
  • A teacher who likes young people; who likes to work with young people; who respects young people, always treating them as individuals;
  • The award can be given to the same teacher more than once but not in two consecutive years.

In accordance to the award’s rotation, year’s winner or winners will be from Phoenix Middle School.

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