A person of integrity. A teacher who has high expectations for herself, as well as for her students. A colleague whose ideas and insights make her an indispensable team member. A dynamic individual whose passion and love for teaching shines through in everything she does, and inspires everyone who comes into contact with her. These are just a sampling of the numerous glowing phrases used to describe the Downers Grove Elementary Education Association’s 2012 Teacher of the Year, kindergarten teacher Beth Hatlen.
“With her patient nature, upbeat personality and insightful understanding of each student, Beth meets everyone in her class exactly where he or she is,” said Hatlen’s nomination, written by her colleagues at Indian Trail. “Under her gentle, enthusiastic guidance, her students learn that school is a safe, welcoming, and engaging place to be-- a place where individual differences are celebrated and group participation is fun.”
Hatlen, who has been teaching for 12 years, was honored during the DGEEA’s retirement dinner for District 58 employees on May 4. She said she was humbled by the recognition, and is privileged to work with amazing students and families and phenomenal, dedicated colleagues.
“Staff at Indian Trail and within the district work and collaborate endlessly to ensure that each individual child's needs are being met,” she said. “Being a part of the district where I grew up, where my children will grow up, and where I have the honor to teach is an accomplishment in which I take great pride. District 58 is an amazing place.”
Colleagues said every aspect of Hatlen’s classroom, from the floor plan to the schedule and flexible groups, is designed to facilitate student success and independence.
“She has harnessed the excitement and possibilities of technology as a tool for teaching and learning, as well as for communicating the wonderful things going on in her classroom,” they wrote.
Hatlen tested the use of iPads and Apple TVs, regularly posts items on her classroom webpage, and embraces new communications tools such as Posterous. She has promoted a love of the fine arts with her creation of “fine arts buddies,” which pairs a sixth-grader with a kindergarten student to participate in dance, music, art, or drama. She incorporates a variety of methods to help her active, inquisitive, eager learners grasp their lessons. They learn letters, words and math on iPads and head outside to practice addition and subtraction using a giant number line and beanbags, her colleagues shared.
“What I enjoy the most about teaching is the positive impact I have on children each and every day. Teaching children a love of learning at such a young and impressionable age is a true joy,” Hatlen said. “Helping a child learn to read is thrilling and a wonderful opportunity to have in a child's life. Helping students to know at a young age that learning is powerful and fun is something in which I take great pride.”
In Hatlen’s nomination, her colleagues observed that she models every lesson to ensure understanding, handles discipline issues kindly and firmly, and treats everyone fairly, earning respect from her students.
Hatlen said she has many wonderful memories from teaching in District 58-- particularly the 100th Day of School parades and celebrations, and the excitement and joy that students feel on the first day of kindergarten.
“The eagerness that the children have overpowers the sadness that the parents may be feeling when sending their child to school for the first time. Comforting the parents’ tears with smiles and cheers from their children makes for a memorable first day of school,” she said.
Hatlen enjoys leading Code Green -- Indian Trail’s environmental club that teaches students how to care for the earth -- and organizing charitable activities.
“Activities such as planting trees and helping those in need through food drives or fundraisers are always a wonderful way to help children learn how to be caring citizens in our community,” she said.
Hatlen’s colleagues shared that she attends almost every school event, gives plan times to help colleagues and students who are struggling with reading, and helped develop materials for accelerated readers. She has written and received grants for her school and classroom; created many summer curriculum projects; and serves on a number of district committees to help meet the needs of all students.
“Beth models best practice each and every day and serves as a mentor for her colleagues, particularly for new employees,” her nomination said. “Whether it’s for her students, her colleagues, her school, her district or her community, Beth truly goes above and beyond in all that she does.”
Other nominees for the 2012 DGEEA Teacher of the Year Award were art teacher Elizabeth Lukes, second-grade teacher Mark White, El Sierra ELL teacher Cindy Szwed, Family and Consumer Science teacher Barbara Manley, art teacher Sarah David, kindergarten teacher Carrie Murphy and resource teacher Stephanie Quigley.