Intermediate teacher named Woodland’s Gurnee Teacher of the Year

Joe Rejczyk teaches special education students

GURNEE – Woodland Intermediate special education teacher Joe Rejczyk has been named one of the Gurnee Teachers of the Year for 2022.

Rejczyk, along with honorees from Warren Township High School and Gurnee District 56, was recognized by the village at the May 2 board meeting. He received a plaque and a $1,000 grant from the Henderson Foundation.

Rejczyk began working at Woodland Intermediate in 1997 after spending one year teaching at a middle school in Beach Park. He was a physical education teacher for 24 years, but felt a calling to work with special education students. In 2020, he completed the necessary requirements to become a special education teacher and started the 2020-21 school year in a structured classroom.

“As a gym teacher, I noticed a need for our special education students to have a more fulfilling PE experience,” Rejczyk said in a news release. “I started a buddy program to invite general education students to help assist and interact with the adaptive PE classes. When I saw what a difference this made, I sought out more opportunities to work with the special education students. I began subbing for special education teachers, and then I applied to be a paraprofessional during the Extended School Year program. I love that I was able to go on this journey with the students, and I am thankful for the wonderful support from my mentors and the paraprofessionals who support me every day.”

Woodland District 50 opened the Teacher of the Year nomination period in January. Staff, students, families and community members were invited to submit nominations for teachers and certified staff who go above and beyond to support Woodland’s learning community and who truly embrace the #LifeintheW spirit. More than 500 nominations were received in a matter of a few weeks.

From the nomination forms submitted for Rejczyk, it was clear that he is student-focused and always ready to celebrate the daily successes and achievements of his students. He also is dedicated to communicating with parents and building relationships with his students and their families.

Rejczyk was presented with the Teacher of the Year title at a staff wellness meeting during a School Improvement Planning day. After students were dismissed, he was working on something in his classroom and almost missed the wellness activity, but his wife, Kerry Rejczyk, made sure to get him there. Kerry Rejczyk teaches advanced math at Woodland and she was in on the surprise.

“Mr. Rejczyk is beloved at Woodland Intermediate for so many reasons and we are proud of him for being selected as the village of Gurnee Teacher of the Year,” Woodland Intermediate Principal Timothy Sheldon said. “He is an amazing educator and supportive colleague and he continues to make a positive impact in our school. Congratulations to Joe on this well-deserved recognition and thank you for all you do for our students.”

Woodland selects a school winner from each of the five schools in the district. From the list of five finalists, an overall winner is selected for recognition as Gurnee’s Teacher of the Year.

The other finalists were Ashley Concidine, Woodland Primary; Farrah Graff, Woodland Elementary West; Amber Fayard, Woodland Elementary East; and Carmen Ayala, Woodland Middle School.

“I was thrilled to share this news with Joe because he is such a deserving educator yet never seeks the attention or recognition,” Superintendent Lori Casey said. “We are so fortunate at Woodland to have such a strong advocate for students and a reliable team member. He is caring and compassionate to all he encounters and a great example of what it means to be part of #LifeintheW. Thank you to the village of Gurnee and the Henderson Foundation for giving us the framework and tools to recognize Joe Rejczyk and all of the educators that were nominated for this award.”

The village of Gurnee started the Teacher of the Year program in 2014.