Elgin teacher receives school supplies for all of her students as We Appreciate Teachers contest winner – Chicago Tribune


Next year, the children in the third grade bilingual class at Coleman Elementary School in Elgin will each receive a second set of school supplies thanks to the good work of their teacher, Amarillys Vazquez.

Vazquez was one of 15 educators from across the state to win supply kits for their Back 2 School Illinois classrooms through the nonprofit organization’s We Appreciate Teachers contest.

“The manager here at Coleman (Brian Stark) submitted his name as a secret,” Vazquez said. “I had no idea until I got an email telling me I was one of the winners.”

Stark said he named Vazquez because of his involvement with Coleman, not only in class but also behind the scenes.

“She puts our meetings back to work. Amaryllis is our North Star, keeping us moving in the right direction,” he said.

She’s also a creative teacher who engages students in learning and group activities while knowing and using current technology, Stark said.

Vazquez is completing grade seven at Coleman and spent a year prior teaching at Ontarioville Elementary School in Hanover Park. She is originally from Puerto Rico.

“It has always been my dream to teach in Illinois. I have family in the state, so it was a life goal to move here,” Vazquez said.

Teaching during the pandemic has been a challenge, she said.

“It made me aware of what was happening in (student) hostels, with the glimpse I was seeing through our screens. It also gave me the opportunity to bond with their parents,” Vazquez said.

This year she had to repeat some of the things taught last year and help students rebuild their social and emotional skills as the school returned to a normal setting and structure, she said.

Vazquez credited her husband, a third-shift factory worker, with helping balance home and work for her and their two children.

“He is always there to support me. Sometimes it looks like he’s been sleep deprived all day,” Vazquez said.

Because District U-46 is using $1.04 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to provide school supplies to all students in kindergarten through sixth grade during the 2022-23 school year, it will let her students take home the kits she received through the contest, Vazquez said.

Mike Danahey is a freelance journalist for The Courier-News.

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