McKendree Alumna is ‘K-12 Teacher of the Year’

Three Local Educators Honored by the School of Education

Lebanon, Ill. — Jennifer Jacknewitz-Podhrasky, of Columbia, was named “K-12 Teacher of the Year” by the McKendree University School of Education faculty at its annual Cooperating Teachers’ Appreciation Dinner on April 23.

She began her career in 2002 at Belleville District #118, teaching eighth grade language arts at West Jr. High School. She founded the school’s drama club in 2003 and her students have performed dozens of plays, many of which she has authored. She coaches students in speech competitions, moderates the Scholar Bowl, helps plan the district spelling bee, and has taught summer classes for gifted students.

Jacknewitz-Podhrasky graduated summa cum laude from the McKendree honors program in 2002 with a degree in elementary education. Upon learning that McKendree was to offer a master’s degree program in teacher development, she was the first student to register. She received her MAED degree in 2007.

Two other Metro-East educators were honored at the dinner. Gail Frey, of Mascoutah, is the Elementary Education Mentor of the Year. She has taught at Mascoutah Elementary School for 20 years, currently in the gifted fourth grade program. She is in charge of the school’s Young Authors Program and organized its first grant-funded “Green Fair.” She is a past recipient of numerous teaching-related grants and the Emerson Golden Apple Award for teaching excellence.

Frey participates in her district’s new teacher mentoring program and has worked with McKendree University student teachers for the past 10 years. Her connection to the university extends to her family; her daughter, husband and sister are alumni and her sister, Barb Carstens, serves on the board of trustees.

Norman Dahm, Jr., of Swansea, received the Secondary Education Mentor of the Year Award. He is a national board-certified teacher in adolescent-young adult science, with 28 years of experience teaching biology, honors biology and advanced placement biology. He is a current nominee for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, and has twice been a finalist for the state’s Outstanding Biology Teacher Award.

Dahm serves many important and influential roles in science education at the national and state levels. He has been on the National Association of Biology Teachers National Committee and is a virtual cohort facilitator for National Boards of Professional Teaching Standards. He chairs the Science Assessment Advisory Committee for the Illinois State Board of Education; is on the leadership team for Building Capacity for State Science Educators in Illinois; and writes items for the ACT and Illinois Science Test. He conducts administrator and teacher workshops and webinars on science curriculum development.

These mentor educators serve the university’s School of Education by providing additional support to field experience and student teacher candidates during their valuable learning experiences.

Teacher of the Year Awards Winners

Gail Frey, Jennifer Jacknewitz-Podhrasky and Norman Dahm, Jr.,

at McKendree University’s Dinner for Cooperating Teachers on April 23.