Darienne Ciuro Sanchez, Urbana Middle School Dual Language science teacher, was surprised with the Gene Amberg Excellence in Teaching Award from the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation during her 7th grade science class at Urbana Middle School Tuesday. Mx. Sanchez has been teaching in the Urbana School District for nine years, and Principal Joe Wiemelt calls Mx. Sanchez “one of the most engaging, imaginative and innovative teachers at UMS.”

The award recognizes a teacher who exemplifies eight traits:

  • Utilizes imaginative approaches to keep 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 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.

This year’s Gene Amberg Excellence in Teaching Endowed Chair is awarded to Darienne Ciuro Sanchez. Mx. Sanchez began as a Teaching Assistant at UMS in 2013. They have been a 6th and 7th grade Dual Language science teacher at the Urbana Middle School for the past five years. UMS Principal Dr. Joe Wiemelt says, “Darienne works with students from a variety of linguistic, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and as a bilingual teacher is able to foster cross racial and linguistic understanding and rapport. Darienne is one of the most engaging, imaginative, and innovative teachers at UMS. I have seen Mx. Sanchez consistently take on new challenges in their classroom in order to strengthen the learning environment for students.”

A current colleague praised Mx. Sanchez as a content leader in the UMS Science Department. “Nearly all the materials that Darienne uses need to be translated into Spanish for their students, and original material that they create is translated into English for UMS staff to utilize.” A former student praised the strong relationships Mx. Sanchez enjoys with students. “Our classroom knew what was expected and Mx. Sanchez was firm on these expectations and routines, but also showed grace and fairness when students needed it most.”

Mx. Sanchez will receive a monetary award for three consecutive years to recognize their accomplishments.  Urbana Middle School will receive a portion of the award as well, as the school where Sanchez teaches. The first Amberg Excellence in Teaching Award was given in 2006.  Mx. Sanchez is the sixth 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.