Recipient of the Tradition of Excellence OPRF alumni award - English teacher, Scyla Baielli

For what is believed to the be first time, a current Oak Park and River Forest High School teacher was a recipient of the school’s Tradition of Excellence OPRF alumni award.

OPRF English teacher Scyla Baielli, who graduated from OPRF in 1986, was honored, along with Kamila Forbes, who graduated in 1994 and is now the executive producer at Harlem’s famed Apollo theater, and Class of 2005 graduate Sam Hunt, an actor.

Another teacher, former OPRF special education teacher and wrestling coach Mike Powell received the Tradition of Excellence award in 2015 after he stopped teaching at the high school.

Baielli was a standout hurdler at OPRF and in college at Western Illinois University, where she competed at the national level. Baielli finished sixth in the 55-meter hurdles at the 1992 indoor national championships and qualified for the 1992 Olympic Trials in the 100-meter hurdles. At WIU, she finished ninth in the 100-meter hurdles at the 1991 NCAA championships. In 1996, she was honored as the Gateway Conference’s Athlete of the Decade in Indoor Track. In 2005, she was inducted into the WIU Hall of Fame.

Baielli has taught English at OPRF for nearly 30 years. She has also coached track at the school. In 2007 she was named a National Endowment for the Humanities teacher/scholar for poetry.

Baielli and Hunt appeared at assemblies at OPRF last week, during which they received their plaques and answered questions from students. Forbes could not attend the assemblies because of an illness in her family but appeared via a prerecorded Zoom interview with student council representatives.

Baielli, who lives in Oak Park, told the Wednesday Journal that she was honored to receive the award.

Forbes had worked in theater and television before becoming the executive producer at the Apollo Theater. She graduated from Howard University. She directed “By the Way,” “Meet Vera Stark,” “Blood Quilt,” “Sunset Baby,” and HBO’s “Between the World and Me.” Forbes received the National Black Theater Festival’s Larry Leon Hamlin award and a NAACP Image award. She has focused on creating works by, for, and about the hip hop generation.

Hunt graduated from OPRF in 2005. Hunt is best known for his recurring role as Greg “Mouse” Gerwitz in the television shows Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. He also starred in the film, Unbroken: Path to Redemption.

Recipients of the Tradition of Excellence award were selected by a committee that included the officers of the OPRF Student Council, math teacher Katie Prendergast, who serves as the faculty sponsor of the student council, science teacher Lindsay Cermak and student activities coordinator Angie Hawkins.

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