Kane County honors ‘passionate’ educators at annual Educator of the Year Banquet

Geneva, St, Charles educators among those honored

Nearly 1,000 guests attended Kane County ROE's 48th Educator of the Year Banquet that took place Friday, May 3, at the Q Center in St. Charles.

The Kane County Regional Office of Education hosted the 48th Educator of the Year Banquet on Friday, May 3, at the Q Center in St. Charles.

Nearly 1,000 guests attended the event showcasing the dedication and passion of educators in all types of roles, according to a news release from ROE.

Amidst a record-setting pool of 57 nominees, Cynthia Martinez of Fred Rodgers Magnet Academy and a middle school teacher in East Aurora District 131 was named the 2024 Educator of the Year.

“I’m able to teach in the community I was born and raised in,” Martinez said in the release. “I grew up in Aurora and see myself in my [students]. I feel invested in being able to teach here. I want to engage them in ideas like problem-solving and how they see the world so they can understand not only their civic duties and responsibilities, but also their civic rights. How can they use education to empower their community and make a plan of action for change, whatever they feel that change may be?”

Cynthia Martinez of Fred Rodgers Magnet Academy and a middle school teacher in East Aurora District 131 stands with the 2024 Educator of the Year award she won at ROE's Educator of the Year Banquet on Friday.

Colleagues and loved ones sent messages of appreciation and encouragement for the recipient throughout the weekend, according to the release.

Among those was State Rep. Barbara Hernandez, D-Aurora, who shared that she learned under Martinez as a seventh grade student years ago.

The event also celebrated the contributions made by 194 retiring educators from the nine school districts in Kane County.

Among those recognized were outgoing superintendents Dr. Jeff Craig of West Aurora District 129 and Dr. Susan Harkin of District 300, who have combined for over 60 years of service in education.

The East Aurora High School Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps presented the colors for the evening, while the Dundee Middle School Cardunal Jazz Band provided entertainment throughout the night.

“This was a showcase of the passion and accomplishments of our educators, and it was remarkable to see the crowd that gathered to commemorate these individuals,” Patricia Dal Santo, superintendent for Kane County, said in the release. “We had the opportunity to acknowledge those who are just beginning their careers, those who are stepping away after decades of dedication, those who are no longer with us, and those who simply try to make each day special for students, families, and colleagues.”

Among the attendees were State Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, Dr. David Samm, president of Elgin Community College, members of the Kane County Governmental staff, Kane County Board and Kane County ROE Regional Board of Trustees.

“There is such anticipation for this event each year because it reminds us of what is worth advocating for in education,” Dal Santo said in the release. “The people make the difference, and these nominees have influenced the lives of thousands of students. That is worth celebrating, above all. We are grateful to be able to acknowledge these leaders that continue to work towards preparing students to be successful in life.”

District 303 award recipients Taylor Cyr (left) and Jamie Snyder at the 48th Educator of the Year Banquet on Friday, May 3, 2024, at the Q Center in St. Charles.

Nominations were reviewed by a group of student teachers, retired teachers, university representatives, business representatives, national board certified teachers and Kane County ROE staff members.

Other winners from the event include:

Regional Superintendent Award: Dr. Jeff Craig (West Aurora District 129)

Educational Service Personnel: Jamie Snyder, Davis Primary School (St. Charles District 303)

Student Support Personnel: Michelle Vargas-Herbst, Geneva High School (Geneva District 304)

Early Career Educator(s): Taylor Cyr, St. Charles East High School (St. Charles District 303), Carson Porter, Central Middle School (Central 301)

Elementary/Early Childhood Teacher: Peggy Hernandez, U-46 Planetarium (District U-46)

Middle School Teacher: Bradley Staker, Kaneland Harter Middle School (Kaneland District 302)

High School Teacher: Michael Jakubowski, Hampshire High School (District 300)

School Administrator: Annette McMahon, Oak Park Elementary (East Aurora District 131)