Science teacher named winner of D214 Ennis Prize

Kelley Pataky, a science teacher at John Hersey High School, is the recipient of High School District 214’s 2022 Dr. Elizabeth A. Ennis Innovator Award.

The legacy of the late Dr. Ennis, sixth superintendent of District 214, lives on through this annual award. It is presented to an employee or team of employees who have demonstrated leadership in developing and implementing an idea to improve student learning and achievement.

Pataky was recognized for her leadership role in developing the curriculum for the Introduction to Health Care course, part of the district’s health care career path, and for finding unusual ways to engage students in daily health care experiences.

She will receive her award at a staff event in April and will also have the opportunity to attend a local, state or national professional development conference during the upcoming school year.

The District 214 School Board established the Ennis Award in 2005 in honor of Dr. Ennis’ own leadership during his 15 years of creating breakthroughs, including the initiation and growth of the district’s Vanguard School 214 and the center for newcomers.

Each year, each school in District 214 nominates an individual or team for the award. A district committee—composed of a school board member, principal, support staff, licensed educator, and central maintenance staff—reviews applications and selects a recipient for the ‘honor.


Pataky was recognized for her energetic and enthusiastic work in creating a new course to align with District 214’s career path goals. Over a 27-year career at Hersey High School, she says creating the Intro to Health course was one of his greatest accomplishments.

Pataky selected materials, workbooks, notebooks – even new furniture and equipment – ​​for the course. She has also worked to create additional learning opportunities both in the classroom and after school.

She helped start and co-sponsor the Scrubs Club – an offshoot of her healthcare classes – which has become one of Hersey’s most popular clubs, with more than 200 members. Scrubs Club educates students about everyday opportunities to get involved in the healthcare system. For example, he helps organize biannual school blood drives and trains staff and students to “Stop the Bleed” in emergency situations.

In addition to her work at Hersey, Pataky also worked with a team of educators in Illinois to develop an organ and tissue donation program used in health science classes across the state.

“My main goal is to introduce students to as many health care experiences as possible before they graduate from high school,” she said. “It will provide them with the wisdom and skills to succeed in a fiercely competitive environment.”

Administrators and colleagues also applaud his pursuit of innovative teaching methods, including the use of interactive notebooks.

“I am incredibly honored and grateful to be this year’s recipient of the Dr. Elizabeth A. Ennis Innovator Award,” Pataky said. “Liz epitomized innovation, and I had the privilege of working under her while she was our superintendent. It is extremely humbling to receive an award that represents Liz’s influence on this extraordinary district with so many ‘phenomenal educators.’

Other 2022 nominees included:

• Arturo Fuentes, Henry Brown, Jacquelin Camacho, Evelyn Sanchez, Dr. Ricky Camacho, Rebeccah Silver, Tom Steinbach, Eric Race and Michael Geist, Wheeling High School: What started as a simple request for an artwork to represent Wheeling High The school’s Latinx student body has become an interdisciplinary learning experience involving students from across the school.

The team started with the idea of ​​creating a one-of-a-kind mural representing the values ​​and ideals of the Wheeling school community. Latinx club students worked with an artist to create the 5ft by 40ft mural – then enlisted the help of engineering and manufacturing staff and students to find a way to display the artwork. art safely.

The end product is a museum-quality work of art that will be on display for years.

• Tom Mroz, Professor of Business, Buffalo Grove High School: Tom Mroz, Professor of Business at Buffalo Grove High School, advocated for the creation of an expanded and more rigorous curriculum in the Business Pathway at Buffalo Grove High School, by adding a second college-level accounting course.

He even took an additional 18 graduate credits in order to be accredited to teach the class through National Louis University. Thanks to his efforts, students can now earn up to six early college credits in dual credit courses in financial accounting and management, two widely required courses for college business majors.

• Arturo Senteno, Associate Principal, Elk Grove High School: Elk Grove High School Associate Principal Arturo Senteno has created a new Second Term Principal’s Advisory Council (2pPAC) that allows students across the high school to provide feedback to administration and have a voice in school decision-making.

The council is made up of students from each second period class; instead of a hand-picked group of teachers or administrators, the goal was for students to be elected by their peers or volunteer to be part of the process, to provide feedback from a group of students more diverse and unbiased.

This year, the council had what Senteno calls “brave conversations” about uncomfortable topics, including school vandalism, racial equity and behavior at sporting events.

• Stephanie Svarz, English/Drama Teacher, Rolling Meadows High School: During the pandemic, when live theater events weren’t an option, Rolling Meadows High School drama teacher Stephanie Svarz bypassed the barriers to provide opportunities for students to perform and audiences to participate.

She figured out the logistics of presenting one production as a drive-in event, another as a pre-recorded show, and others on Zoom — and ultimately staged masked in-person performances.

• Michelle Tantillo, Science Teacher, Prospect High School: Michelle Tantillo, Science Teacher at Prospect High School, led an effort called Prospect Ever Forward to improve the high school environment for students and staff.

An alumnus of Prospect herself, Tantillo felt the need to support and boost the morale of staff and students post-pandemic. The result was Prospect Ever Forward, with a set of staff-led teacher and student groups addressing areas such as differentiation, social and emotional issues, workload and school culture.

• Mike Vargas, Director of Finance, High School District 214: Mike Vargas, Director of Finance for District 214, was recognized for converting the district’s finance and human resources system to Infinite Visions, a new software platform.

Vargas took the time to ensure that all stakeholders were kept informed of the upcoming transition and trained in a short period of time – by creating an online database with guidelines, training videos and instructions district specific.

Recognizing the stress of implementation, he tried to keep his spirits up with efforts like on-site pancake making and perks like personalized coffee mugs.

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