Chala Holland, a young ETHS history teacher, will be among 43 individuals and teams of people from around Illinois to receive top honors Friday from the Illinois State Board of Education for their outstanding contributions to education.

Holland is one of only two Illinois teachers to win an Award of Excellence in the Early Career Educator category, a new award created to recognize the accomplishments of teachers in the early years of their careers.

In addition, three ETHS staff members—vocal music teacher Mary Theresa Reed, school social worker Taya Kinzie, and secretary Ann Carra—are also award recipients in the Those Who Excel program sponsored by the state education office.

Faculty, community members, or teams of people from around the state were nominated for the annual recognition awards by their local schools and communities.

The three levels of awards in seven recognition categories will be presented at a special ceremony in Peoria.

Holland will earn the highest award, the Award of Excellence. Reed is among those who will receive the 56 Awards of Merit and Kinzie and Carra are among the 63 recipients of Award of Recognition.

Holland says she had a compelling reason for becoming a teacher. The descendent of slaves, she teaches history because she is a product of history and strongly believes that education is everyone’s pathway to freedom—for her students, for her ETHS colleagues, and for future teachers.

In her six years at ETHS, she has served in many leadership roles — teacher (Humanities, African-American Studies), literacy coach, staff developer, standards leader, as well as spending a year in Athletics developing an mandatory tutoring program for academically at-risk athletes who want to regain eligibility during their sports season.

The award citation says that in the classroom her manner is real, approachable, and inclusive, and her lessons are relevant. Outside of class, she fosters group discussions on topics her students are passionate about. Holland is also cited for modeling learning for her students; she currently is working on a doctorate in Policy Studies in Urban Education.

Reed came to ETHS in 2003 after serving 20 years in leadership roles in Evanston’s elementary district. Her award honors her for daily demonstrating to students her profound belief in the power of music education to enrich the human spirit.

Vocal director for two large choirs, she also directs male and female vocal ensembles, smaller specialty ensembles (for example, barbershop and a cappella groups), a handbell choir, and she teaches electronic music as well. For each group, Reed challenges students with an extensive repertoire, extending their knowledge of and appreciation for music from all genres.

She is cited for her non-stop availability to assist students in their learning, for her collaboration with ETHS colleagues to add a choral component to school productions and department field trips, and for working with local musical organizations to create more performance opportunities for her students.

Reed teaches adults in the graduate program at VanderCook College of Music, is a guest choral clinician and conductor throughout the Chicago area, and as Multicultural State Chair for the Illinois Music Educators Association, she writes quarterly articles on multiculturalism in music education for IMEA’s journal.

Kinzie, a school social worker in the Special Education Department, is cited working exceptionally hard to understand the strengths and needs of the 120 special-needs students on her caseload, and to build relationships with their families.

As department needs emerge, she volunteers to serve on operative committees, often in a leadership capacity, and being fluent in Spanish has made her an invaluable asset to her students and her colleagues. She consistently does her paperwork in the evening, on the weekends, and in the early morning to maximize her day to work with and for students.

Kinzie is credited with being an expert at drawing together a support team to address the social, academic, behavioral, and medical needs, if necessary.

Carra is the ETHS Athletic Department secretary, viewed universally as the “glue that holds the Athletic Department together.”

In her seven years on the job, she has served under five directors and helped the department weather the disruption. Carra is credited with being a master of organization in simultaneously serving students, teachers, administrators, coaches, parents, alums, and fans—and making the department “user friendly” to all they serve.

She is also a skilled event coordinator, having created or managed such signature annual events as the ETHS vs. New Trier basketball games at Northwestern University and the Athletic Hall of Fame program.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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