St. Rose and St. Mary Catholic School first and second grade teacher Lynne Simpson has been named a 2014 Herb Kohl Educational Foundation Fellow. Simpson joins 99 other teachers from around the state to receive the award this year.
As part of the recognition, each Fellow receives $1,000 and their school also receives a $1,000 grant.
The educator nomination process begins within each public school district, or nonpublic school organization. Further screening takes place at the regional level, and the statewide selection committee chooses the award recipients.
Educators are chosen for their superior ability to inspire a love of learning in their students and ability to motivate others, and for their leadership and service within and outside the classroom.
Simpson has been teaching primary grades at St. Rose and St. Mary Catholic School for nine years. Teaching is her second career, as she earned an undergraduate degree in computer studies from Northwestern. She later earned her teaching certification for grades 1-8 from Marian University.
“Stannye Meads got me into teaching,” said Simpson. “When my boys were young, I volunteered as a helper in her classroom. Then, she talked me into substitute teaching. A few years later, I decided to get fully certified.”
Simpson said she learned a lot about how to be a good teacher during those early years.
“I really enjoyed being a part of the classroom and I found that I could relate well to the kids,” said Simpson. “I also learned that I could still think like a kid, which helps a lot. I like to think I can be serious, yet fun at the same time, which is important.”
Simpson and her late husband Jim have three sons—Josh, Nate, and James. She said raising them has helped her become a better teacher.
“It helps you see things from the parent side,” said Simpson. “It makes me empathetic when family situations arise.”
Simpson said some of her top moments as a teacher have occurred in the day-to-day.
“Making everything work is really rewarding,” said Simpson. “Spring Parent-Teacher Conferences are always nice because it gives you a chance to see how far the kids have progressed. That’s very rewarding as well.”
The most challenging part of Simpson’s job is keeping students focused throughout the school year.
“Kids get distracted when the weather starts getting better in the spring,” said Simpson. “It can be challenging to keep everyone focused in the home stretch.”
Simpson said the passion to give her best each day comes from her students.
“I get my energy from the students,” she said. “When they’re excited about learning, I can’t help but be excited as well.”
Simpson learned that she was a nominee for a Herb Kohl Educational Foundation Fellow award back in November, though she doesn’t know who nominated her.
“It was totally out of the blue,” she said. “I was very excited, but I also had mixed feelings. This award is definitely an honor, but I don’t have to look far to see other wonderful teachers who haven’t been honored in this way.”
Simpson said she will use the financial award for classroom improvements.
“I’d like to develop our social studies curriculum. I’d also like to add more technology by purchasing a tablet for the classroom that will allow us to use e-books and other things,” she said.
Simpson said her co-workers and family members are at the top of her list of people to thank as she receives this award.
“I really want to thank the staff members here at the school. They’re great to work with,” she said. “It’s bittersweet that my husband Jim isn’t here to celebrate this with me. He has always supported me and encouraged me.”