Kimberly Radostits, the Illinois Teacher of the Year and a high school Spanish teacher in Oregon, has been named one of the five finalists for the 2023 National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The CCSSO administers the National Teacher of the Year program annually and selects the best of the best as finalists from all 56 State Teachers of the Year in the United States and its territories.
Radostits, who spent the 2022-23 school year on a paid sabbatical sponsored by the state, has utilized her term to advocate for disengaged students. She developed a program at Oregon High School called Hawks Take Flight, which uses evidence-based metrics to identify eighth and ninth grade students most at risk of not graduating on time. The program pairs these students with a mentor and provides personalized, data-informed, relationship-based supports through weekly check-ins, goal setting, and feedback.
“If there is one thing I have learned since being part of the teaching force, it is that every teacher has unique skills and knowledge that, when put together, make us strong, resilient, innovative, and exactly what our students need,” said Radostits.
Radostits believes that for disengaged students to care about learning the content, they must first feel cared about as humans. Her Hawks Take Flight program has drastically decreased the number of Fs earned by Oregon High School ninth graders and increased graduation rates.
“I am so proud of Ms. Radostits and honored that she has the opportunity to represent Illinois on the national stage as a finalist for 2023 National Teacher of the Year,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “She has a profoundly powerful message for schools across the country about the importance of showing our students that we care – not just telling them but making a connection and forming relationships as the basis for how we teach.”
Radostits has spoken at conferences and visited schools across the state to share information about the Hawks Take Flight program and has begun chronicling her work through a blog, Fresh Takes on Freshmen on Track.
In the classroom, Radostits takes her relationship-based approach to teaching Spanish. She crafts lessons and out-of-school activities that make the content relevant to her students, create opportunities for connection between herself and her students and between her students and the Spanish-speaking world, and build students’ confidence in themselves and their abilities.
“I’m incredibly proud to have Illinois represented in this finalist list, and I’m grateful to teachers like Kim Radostits who demonstrate the very best of what an educator can be every day,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Students who stay engaged in school stay engaged in their communities and in their futures, creating a ripple effect of stronger outcomes for everyone they interact with. We will all see an even brighter Illinois in coming years because of the work of teachers like Ms. Radostits.”
Radostits also started a New Teacher Academy at Oregon High School to support new hires and promote teacher retention. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Spanish Language and Literature from Northern Illinois University, her master’s in Educational Leadership from Aurora University, and her National Board Certification.
The last finalist to hail from Illinois was 2011 Illinois Teacher of the Year Annice Brave, who was an English and journalism teacher at Alton High School. As a finalist, Radostits will participate in a range of national events and engagements throughout the year, culminating in a ceremony in Washington D.C. where the National Teacher of the Year will be announced.
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