Jill Lagerstam, Urbana High School art teacher, was surprised with the Gene Amberg Excellence in Teaching Award from the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation at an Urbana High School Staff meeting on May 12th. Ms. Lagerstam has been teaching in the Urbana School District for seven years, and Principal Matt Stark says, “She is always pushing her students to find the ideas or concepts that move them. The engagement in her room is a sight to behold.”

The award recognizes a teacher who exemplifies eight traits:

  • Utilizes imaginative approaches to keep his/her students interested,
  • Demonstrates a willingness to take the risk of pursuing needed learner solutions in their classroom(s),
  • Recognizes and practices that learning is continuous and mutual,
  • Practices the keen sense of criticality of relationships with his/her students,
  • Displays qualities of warmth and a caring attitude toward students, colleagues, and parents,
  • Communicates effectively with parents, both orally and written,
  • Applies the concepts of firm, fair, and friendly in the classroom, and
  • Maintains a sense of humor in dealing with peers, students, and stakeholders.

A former student praised Ms. Lagerstam was one of the best teachers she knew. “She encouraged me to push myself with my artwork in and outside of class. I feel like she genuinely cared about me as a student and as an artist.”  A colleague shared, “Jill excels at creating relationships with all types of students. I have seen students who struggle with negative behavior and attitudes in other settings find success in Jill’s classroom.  I have seen her gently challenge students to reach beyond their perceived limits and achieve amazing results.”

Ms. Lagerstam will receive a monetary award for three consecutive years to recognize her accomplishments.  Urbana High School will receive a portion of the award as well, as the school where Lagerstam teaches. The first Amberg Excellence in Teaching Award was given in 2006.  Ms. Lagerstam is the fifth recipient.

The award is named for Dr. Gene Amberg (Ph.D.) who began his career in public education in 1972 as an elementary school teacher in St. Louis, Missouri. He was named superintendent of Urbana School District in 1992. In 2003, the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation Gene Amberg Excellence in Teaching Endowed Chair was established to honor Dr. Amberg’s leadership and dedication to children and educators throughout his career. Professional colleagues, friends, and family continue to contribute to this endowment, to be presented to an Urbana School District teacher every three years for excellence in teaching.

Visit CUSchoolsFoundation.org to learn more about the Foundation and its programs that benefit Champaign Unit 4 and Urbana District 116 students and schools.

Urbana High School’s Jill Lagerstam (L) appraises student art work with fellow art teacher Susan Gleason.