Abby Donovan, 1st grade teacher at Kenwood Elementary, was surprised with the Mann-Hankel Teaching Excellence Award from the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation during her class on Monday morning. This is the third year CUSF has provided this award, established by Barbara Mann and her husband Steven Hankel. The award recognizes a Unit 4 tenured teacher who exemplifies the traits of Dedication, Integrity, Commitment to Every Student, Service, & Excellence.

A 2011 Southern Illinois Carbondale graduate, Mrs. Donovan has made her teaching “home” at Kenwood Elementary for the past 12 years. One of her nominators describes her as “the foundation of our first-grade team who has mentored several grade level colleagues. Mrs. Donovan’s classroom is often utilized for “Learning Walks” where teachers observe colleagues to gain ideas to shift their practice. She has served on almost every school committee, and has helped to organize events that bring our school community together. Mrs. Donovan’s first grade Thanksgiving Feast event has been a highlight for all Kenwood first graders and their families.”

A teaching peer mentions that “Abby is almost always the classroom teacher that is assigned students with the most significant special needs. She is committed to every student and holds high expectations while teaching them how to persevere no matter what the circumstances. Abby sees all her students as those that can and will persevere. This growth mindset is instilled in her students, and continues as they move through our school.”
Her colleague also praises Ms. Donovan for her service to the school and the students. “Abby is well known for her family connections that last a lifetime. She is determined to support students in whatever they may need to achieve their fullest potential. Whether arranging for food, clothing or helping a student to find emergency dental assistance, her determination to not leave anyone behind is amazing.”

Barbara Mann, a former CU Schools Foundation Board Chair and her husband Steve shared their interest in creating such an award. “My parents were teachers and I grew up seeing their deep commitment to their students and firm belief that education was the path to success. Their own lives were deeply impacted by the teachers who believed in them during their very challenging childhoods. Steve and I created this award to acknowledge them and all the teachers who have touched our lives. Our children had wonderful teachers at Unit 4 who nurtured them, challenged them and gave them a firm foundation for success.  This is our small way of expressing gratitude to all of them.”

This award honors a tenured educator with 10+ years of teaching experience, and a minimum of 5 years’ service in Unit 4 schools. The Mann-Hankel Teaching Excellence Award will recognize Ms. Donovan with a monetary award of $2,000.