Norridge teacher wins Teacher of the Year award
Pennoyer School second-grade teacher Melissa Christl goes through a math problem with her class. Christl was named Teacher of the Year by Kappa Delta Pi, an international educational honor society. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 8, 2013 6:08AM
NORRIDGE — This has been a banner year for Pennoyer School second-grade teacher Melissa Christl.
“I am so lucky,” said the latest recipient of the Teacher of the Year award from Kappa Delta Pi, an international educational honor society.
“This is such a blessing, and I am very humbled,” said Christl, who grew up not far from the school. “But it is really exciting.”
In a letter to the school, Kappa Delta Pi International President Mary Clement noted, “Great teachers change lives by inspiring students to recognize their gifts and to learn how to use them to pursue a worthy dream. Melissa Christl is one such teacher.”
Susan Miceli, principal of the Norridge school, called Christl “creative, resourceful and very child-centered.”
“She’s organized, and she has this great rapport with families and staff.”
Superintendent Michael Lubelfeld praised Christl’s ability to use technology in class lessons.
“Her understanding and ability to integrate 21st century skills and technology skills in the classroom are among the best I have ever observed,” he said.
Christl was quick to share the credit.
“This is such a great place to work,” she said. “Everyone is so invested in education. I really hit the jackpot.”
Christl has spent her entire educational career at Pennoyer.
In 2001 she started as an aide while still an undergraduate at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, expanding her duties to include coaching girls’ volleyball.
The following school year, Christl rearranged her class schedule to allow her to work as a library aide. She also did her student teaching at Pennoyer.
Once she earned her teaching certificate, she still felt strongly about teaching at Pennoyer even if she had to wait for a position to open.
“I didn’t want to teach anywhere else,” she said. “I didn’t apply anywhere else.
“I would rather have stayed a library aide and wait for a teaching position to open.”
That opportunity came when, due to an increase in enrollment, the one-school district created a third, fourth-grade class midway through the school year.
She then taught the same students when they moved on to fifth-grade.
She now teachers second grade.
“I’m invested in Pennoyer,” Christl said. “I know these kids. I love teaching the younger ones and coaching the older ones.”
Q - How long have you worked in Pennoyer School District 79?
A - Since 2001, when I was an aide to a student while still an undergrad.
Q - Why did you pick this district?
A - I live in Harwood Heights. I grew up around here.
Q - What about this district makes you proud?
A - I just really love the family environment here — the community, the staff, the kids — they all are invested (in education). I run into parents when I go shopping. It’s a big family.
Q - What has changed in this district since you began teaching here?
A - Technology. And we have been blessed with an administration that values professional development and great staff.
Q - Who inspired you to become a teacher?
A - My mother.
Q - What are your future career goals?
A - Never stop learning. I went back for a master’s degree from Concordia (University, in River Forest). I would like to become a reading specialist, but not right now. I’m happy being in the classroom.
Q - What are you reading?
A - I just finished reading “The Essential 55” (by Ron Clark). I’m looking forward to reading “The Devil in the White City” (by Erik Larson). My brother recommended it because he said I would like the references to places in Chicago. It’s nice to just read a book for enjoyment
Q - What’s on your iPod?
A - It depends. I like music you can dance to, but then I like David Gray. During football season, nothing goes better with tailgating than classic rock.
Q - What’s your favorite vacation destination?
A - Anywhere warm and sunny. Jamaica was the last place I went. I like the Caribbean.
Q - Are you a summer or winter person?
A - Summer. I love to travel.
Q - What is your favorite Chicago sports team?
A - The Bears.