Woodstock teacher credits peers for McHenry County Educator of the Year honor: ‘This job takes a village’

Shanon Laidig works with student Anna Castillo, as she teaches a sixth-grade math class on Friday, May 17, 2024, at Creekside Middle School in Woodstock. Laidig was recently named 2024 McHenry County Educator of the Year during the Educator of the Year Dinner.

Shanon Laidig, a sixth grade math teacher at Woodstock’s Creekside Middle School, is this year’s McHenry County Educator of the Year. It’s a profession she’s mastered but didn’t start out in.

“We are fortunate to have so many outstanding educators in District 200 and Shanon Laidig is an example of one of our very best,” District 200 Superintendent Mike Moan said.

“Shannon connects with her students and creates fun, engaging and highly educational lessons on a daily basis. She works tirelessly to support her students in and out of the classroom.”

Diana Hartmann, McHenry County Regional Office of Education superintendent, said Laidig’s ability to engage students made her stand out among 27 “outstanding” nominees.

“Shanon Laidig has a welcoming classroom where every student is contributing, encouraged, and the social-emotional well being of every student is evident,” Hartmann said in a news release.

The regional superintendent sponsors the awards “to honor outstanding educators in a variety of roles working in schools across the county,” according to the release.

Here’s more about this year’s top award winner, who received $1,000 from the Community Foundation of McHenry County to use in her classroom.

Laidig didn’t start out in teaching

Laidig got her degree in environmental science and took a job in the environmental field right out of school. But she’d long had an interest in teaching.

“It was always inside me,” Laidig said.

Within a year of graduating and starting her job, she was taking night classes at Roosevelt University to get her teaching degree.

“I knew it, but I just kind of took the long road to get there,” she said.

Shanon Laidig teaches a sixth-grade math class on Friday, May 17, 2024, at Creekside Middle School in Woodstock. Laidig was recently named 2024 McHenry County Educator of the Year during the Educator of the Year Dinner.

She’s taught a variety of subjects and grade levels

Laidig has been in Woodstock School District 200 for her entire 21-year teaching career and has been at Creekside for a couple of years. She said she got her specialization in math but has spent much of her career at the elementary school level, teaching other subjects as well.

She started off student teaching at Greenwood Elementary School before moving to Northwood Middle School as a related arts teacher. Laidig also taught at Mary Endres Elementary School, Westwood Elementary School and has been a literacy-technology coach at the district. She said she did get to teach a little environmental science at Northwood.

“I’m one of those teachers that enjoys the change, and I’ve moved around quite a lot,” she said.

Her family is active in District 200

Laidig’s husband, Jason Laidig, is the dean of students and a PE teacher at Creekside Middle School. Laidig has two children in the district, one of whom is graduating eighth grade and the other a junior at Woodstock High School.

She seeks to connect with students

Laidig said she enjoys hearing about stories, backgrounds and experiences kids bring into the classroom.

“The joys are just making sure that I make those personal connections with the kids,” Laidig said. “And it’s just a lot of fun to, you know, hear about all their different experiences.”

She’s taught the children of former students

Laidig said she’s run into students whose parents had her as a teacher. She said she had a summer school class where “I’ll have a really [young] one come to me, ‘My mom had you,’” Laidig said. “I’m at that point actually where I’ve had children of students that I’ve had come and see me, which is pretty awesome.”

Laidig said a former volleyball player she coached is a teacher at Dean Street Elementary in Woodstock.

“It’s definitely coming around,” Laidig said. “Like ooh, I’m getting older and older.”

She works to ‘push natural respect’ in the classroom

Laidig said she’s learned over the years to let the kids “do the heavy lifting” in the classroom. She prefers giving students time to work through concepts and giving them time to work through concepts and helping them do so rather than standing at the front of the room and lecturing.

She also tries to create a “family” environment in the classroom. She also said the kids react when she owns her mistakes.

“They just like kind of look at me like, ‘oh, she’s admitting fault, she’s one of us,’” Laidig said. “It’s not like I own the place.”

“I really push that natural respect for each other that it’s our space, not my space,” Laidig said.

She was ‘shocked’ when she found out she won Educator of the Year

Laidig said she found out she was nominated for educator of the year awards when she got an email from the Regional Office of Education letting her know she was nominated.

“That alone was incredible,” Laidig said. “Just to be nominated was awesome.”

She said she went to a dinner that was held at the end of Teacher Appreciation Week.

“It was almost like a wedding reception. It was just beautiful,” Laidig said.

She said they gave out awards for other categories and she wasn’t recognized as the middle school teacher of the year “which was fine.” When they got to the overall teacher of the year, they called Laidig’s name.

“I was shocked,” Laidig said. “It kind of felt [like] a Grammy ceremony or Emmys.”

As part of the award, Laidig also received $1,000 from the Community Foundation to use for her classroom. She plans to use the funding for “real-life, hands-on math related experiences.”

She credits her success to her colleagues

Laidig said there’s many challenges in teaching, some of them including full engagement and behavior management.

“What has always, always got me through those challenges have been my peers, my teacher peers and my principals that I’ve worked for,” Laidig said. “This job takes a village and I’ve been so influenced and inspired by so so many teachers that have helped me through.”

She described the Educator of the Year honor as “an award for many, not just me.”

“I am who I am because I’ve been shaped by so many incredible teachers and principals and associates that I’ve worked with,” Laidig said. “I continue to change and grow and learn because of the incredible people I’ve worked with.”

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