The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) named Edwardsville High School (EHS) special education teacher Susan Converse is 2019 Illinois Teacher of the Year, during the board’s 44th annual “Those Who Excel/Illinois Teacher of the Year Banquet,” Oc. 23, in Normal.
Converse, who teaches special education for students in grades 9-12, has drawn praise for the Tiger Den, student-run coffee and pastry shop on the EHS campus. Students with disabilities carry out all aspects of Tiger Den’s operations under Converse’s guidance.
In addition to helping students develop skills they can later use to secure employment lead more independent lives after high school, the coffee shop generates profits which are donated to school projects or local charitable organizations.
It has also become a fixture in the day-to-day lives of students at the school, according to EHS Principal Dennis Cramsey.
“The impact that the Tiger Den has had on the confidence of students can’t be expressed in words,” said Edwardsville Principal Dr. Dennis Cramsey in his letter of recommendation for Converse. “Students feel like they are a part of a team that adds to the climate and culture of the entire school building.”
Members of various EHS student organizations often work alongside special education students in the coffee shop — and under their direction — in exchange for donations of shop profits to their projects of groups.
The shop also offers coffee to other EHS teachers.
Converse, who also helps students build their resumés and prepare for job interviews, holds a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a master of science in educational leadership, both from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She holds certifications in both administration and teaching.
As the 2019 Illinois Teacher of the Year, Converse qualifies for the National Teacher of the Year program sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers. Converse will have an opportunity to share her knowledge and expertise with an even larger audience. She will also represent Illinois at the 2019 NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala.
Beginning in the spring of next year, she is slated to educators around the nation at a series of teaching workshops, education conferences, and community meetings.
In all, ISBE honored some 214 classroom teachers, educational leaders, and support personnel with Those Who Excel awards at this year’s banquet.
— Edwardsville educator named Illinois Teacher of the Year —