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Geneva, Kaneland, St. Charles educators honored at banquet

ST. CHARLES – Five people from the Geneva, Kaneland and St. Charles school districts received honors Friday night during the 2013 Educator of the Year Awards Banquet at the Q Center in St. Charles.

Recipients were Stephen Downen, Geneva High School, support staff award; Patricia “Patti” Reeder, Harter Middle School, middle school teacher of the year; Lisa Meister, Geneva High School, high school teacher of the year; Thomas Straiker, St. Charles East High School, high school teacher of the year; and Kris Weiss, Harter Middle School, administrator of the year.

The top honor – Kane County educator of the year – went to Anette Bliss, a German teacher at Central High School in Central School District 301.

Each winners’ achievements – including their contributions to education and community service – were detailed in thick binders containing photographs, letters and notes from colleagues and students.

Downen, a custodian for Geneva High School, is known for remembering every faculty and staff member’s birthday with a card and candy bar.

Tom Rogers, Geneva High School principal, wrote that he first learned of Downen’s positive impact when the custodial staff’s assignments changed.

“[The science teachers] were devastated that their friend Steve would not be working with them anymore,” Rogers wrote. “He delivered treats to the teachers during the holidays and made sure the rooms were meticulously cleaned for the students each night.”

Reeder, a teacher at Harter Middle School, also has coached various sports and chaperoned the eighth-grade field trip to Washington, D.C.

Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler described her as a leader among faculty, a mentor to teachers and students alike and a true professional.

“Her rapport with students is clear and the mutual respect she has is genuine,” he wrote.

Meister, a health teacher at Geneva High School, is an advocate for Red Ribbon Week and the SADD club sponsor.

Her students described her as an engaging teacher who clearly loves what she does.

“Because Lisa is so concerned about the health and well-being of our students, the word ‘no’ is not part of her vocabulary,” Rogers wrote.

Straiker teaches auto tech and is auto club adviser at St. Charles East High School. He also has volunteered to teach fifth-graders woodworking skills in after-school enrichment.

“Staff members and students count on him to help with keys locked in vehicles, dead batteries, flat tires, no gas, funny noises in engines that happen on the way to work,” according to an unsigned document in his binder.

Weiss, assistant principal at Harter Middle School, has arranged food drives at the school for Among Friends Food Bank and served on the Kaneland High School 50th anniversary celebration committee.

“Having grown up as a Kaneland Knight, Kris finds her commitment to her community a priority and surely shows it,” fellow teacher Elsa Andreasen wrote.

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