The Supported Education Association (SEA), celebrated its fifth annual SEAstar Awards at Cornerstone Church on May 13, recognizing people?#34;from teachers to taxi drivers?#34;who "are making a positive difference in the lives" of Oak Park students with special needs.
Angie Amos and Nicole Wolf, drivers for the Lakeview Bus Co., which serves District 97, were recognized for their "smiling faces." One parent said in a brochure outlining the awards, "To see him start his day so happy, it makes it easier to wave goodbye."
Julie Bernstein, kindergarten teacher at Holmes Elementary, is "the perfect kindergarten teacher.... She welcomed our child with significant special needs into her classroom and truly made him a part of the class."
Parents have nominated Whittier Elementary early childhood teacher Sylvia Frattaroli for the award year after year because she "succeeds in involving every child regardless of his/her special needs in the classroom activities."
Laura Hartwell and Therese Hayes are, respectively, the director and lead teacher at Behavioral Interactions. Parents said, "Laura runs the center with very limited funds and a lot of heart," while "Under [Therese's] direction, [our son] is slowly starting to speak."
Oak Park and River Forest High School science teacher Kara Kabat taught a freshman biology class by presenting information "in so many ways it was almost impossible not to learn the material."
OPRF history teacher Matt Maloney communicates well with parents and other educators, is available to students whenever possible, and presents challenging world history material "in an interesting and fun way."
Julian Middle School teacher Matthew Medbourn "is the personification of dedication.... He brings concepts alive so that students can see and touch and then understand.
Irving Elementary resource teacher Kathy Ostler's "warm, accepting encouragement has helped [one boy] believe in himself academically in a way [his parents] wouldn't have previously thought possible."
Two-term Dist. 97 board member Sharon Patchak-Layman was recognized for her "unflinching devotion to assuring that D97 meets the needs of its students?#34;including those with disabilities."
Taxi driver Clifton Plaxico "has a warm heart and makes [his passengers] feel loved and respected.... Cliff is truly part of my son's team and learning experience."
Brooks Middle School sixth grader Audrey Roen "truly understands what it means to accept everyone just for who they are....she has opened other students' eyes to see their peers with disabilities as potential friends."
OPRF special education teacher Amy Stanis advocates for students, and responds quickly to requests and inquiries. "Amy has definitely made a difference in my daughter's life and has helped her to be successful."
OPRF English teacher Pat Staszak presents material in many modes. "She always offered help, was open to suggestions about teaching that might help my child, and made some pretty challenging material manageable."