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Interview with 2014 Illinois Teacher of the Year Pam Reilly ’99

National Louis University alumna Pam Reilly (M.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction ’99) was recently named the 2014 Illinois Teacher of the Year by the Illinois State Board of Education. Reilly teaches second grade at Woodbury Elementary in Sandwich, Illinois. I had the opportunity to visit with Reilly and her second-grade class last week.

How did it feel to win Illinois Teacher of the Year?
I don’t think I can express in words what an honor it is to be recognized for something I truly love. I am witness to teachers’ dedication every day; doing what’s best for students. I am beyond proud to represent and be the voice for our Illinois teachers in 2014.

I was in shock; I remember thanking the I.S.B.E. for recognizing all of the amazing teachers across our state, thanking my principal for nominating me and of course my three sons and husband who are my biggest supporters.

How much of an impact did National Louis University have an impact on your career? Do you have any instructors that you remember fondly?
First of all, I had an amazing experience at NLU. I was in a cohort off caPam NLUmpus with a group of twelve teachers from five different towns, teachers ranging from kindergarten age through high school. Our professor, Donald Hendricks, was a quality leader who had high expectations of us.

We were expected to go on field trips all over Northern Illinois. We visited the most prestigious schools in Illinois as well as the most impoverished schools. The inequalities of schools in our state rang loud in clear to all of us after our trips. Our thesis papers were on meaningful topics that we could collect data on from our students in our own classrooms. It was nice to hear perspectives on topics from the wide range of teachers in our group.

What advice would you have for young teachers starting out?
Remember all of those who believed in you and inspired you along your educational journey and believe in yourself like they did. There is something inside of you that made you want to become a teacher, reflect on that after a tough day in the classroom because there will be those days. The challenges that you will face in the classroom pale in comparison to the rewards of making a difference in a child’s life. Surround yourself with positive role models in your district that will be there to support you and inspire you; don’t get caught up in the negativity that you’ll come across. Teaching is a fulfilling career; this is my dream job and there is no other place I’d rather be!

You can read more about Pam Reilly in the upcoming Winter 2014 edition of NLU Alumni Magazine coming in December. You can view past issues here.