Check out our latest High School Educator of the Year Award nominees below, and make sure to stay tuned for the chance to vote on who you think should be named High School Educator of the Year Presented by Robert Morris University Illinois in April!

Ronette Barnes-Lusby

October Nominee for High School Educator of the Year Presented by Robert Morris University, Illinois

Ronette is a multidisciplinary special education teacher with District #227 teaching at Rich East High School. She has been a special education teacher for 12 years and has been nominated for a Golden Apple Award as a teacher leader. Through her experience and education, Ronette possesses the rare ability to design General Education curriculum to meet the unique needs of all her students so that any mind can learn. Ronette has also been the head coach of the Poms squad at Rich East High School for four and a half years. Through her leadership, she has an incredible 100% graduation rate for all of her Poms participants and has guided her team to winning 6th at sectionals in addition to being voted best team in District #227. Her work with the Poms team even caught the eye of the Park Forest Hurricanes dance team who asked her to choreograph a routine for their performance at a Chicago Sky game in 2016. Perhaps her proudest achievement though is being a mother of an 8-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son, who are both equally active in extracurricular activities. Through Ronette’s work and her commitment she has not only impacted the students around her, but also her surrounding community.


Rebecca Orr

November Nominee for High School Educator of the Year Presented by Robert Morris University, Illinois

For the past four years, Rebecca Orr has taught Media and English to the diverse student body at DePaul College Prep. In addition to teaching she is also the head coach of speech and debate where she even leads the annual service-learning trip for students. This past year, Rebecca has successfully launched a student journalism program that provides students the opportunity to have a voice in their school and in their communities. Rebecca has also become a teacher leader and facilitator supporting other teachers across Chicago to develop ways to teach students news literacy, journalism, and how to evaluate fake news. Rebecca’s impact goes beyond just the local Chicagoland area too. Prior to joining DePaul College Prep, she spent a year in Singapore teaching at the Ngee Ann Polytechnic School of Film and Media studies and has even brought a group of high school students to a rural Guatemalan community to install stoves. All in all, Rebecca brings a strong sense of social justice and desire to empower students to help others within their communities. She is always willing to go the extra mile for her students and inspires others to follow her enthusiasm and excitement for student learning.


Jasmine Gilstrap

December Nominee for High School Educator of the Year Presented by Robert Morris University, Illinois

Jasmine Gilstrap is a math teacher at Baker College Prep, located in the south side of Chicago. It is there that Jasmine takes on the noble challenge of improving a student body ranked in the bottom 15% nationally in math. In Jasmine’s class, her students are very eager to improve as she teaches her course with great enthusiasm along with high expectations and incredible rigor. Her mentality is one that rubs off on her students, and this creates a student centered and discussion-based environment. Within this environment, students find themselves helping each other through math problems and working together to correctly understand various mathematical concepts. Outside of being an incredible math teacher, Jasmine leads a peer-to-peer mentoring program, called Pride, which is designed to train and develop upperclassmen to be mentors to underclassmen. Prior to teaching at Baker, Jasmine also served as an AmeriCorp Teaching Fellow with Citizen Schools Illinois, working after school in two south side schools where she led students through hands-on projects sponsored by different Chicago businesses.


Kristian White

January Nominee for High School Educator of the Year Presented by Robert Morris University, Illinois

For the past five years, Kristian White has taught at the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School of Chicago, the only all-girls STEM charter school in Chicago for grades 9 through 12. It is here that Ms. White has developed a positive relationship with her students by taking the time to get to know them on a more personal level. This enables her to acknowledge milestones that happen in their lives while sharing in their joy. As a result, students trust and respect her causing them to work harder in the classroom which yields better results. Another method Ms. White implements is the use of instructional groups which helps her students have one on one conversations while allowing them to freely share their thoughts and opinions with her. This allows students to develop their thought processes while enhancing their abilities inside and outside the classroom. Ms. White also holds office hours on a daily basis to offer students extra support outside of the traditional classroom. Ms. White’s influence goes far beyond the classroom. She is very influential in her community where she has been a member at Resurrection Church of Chicago for 30 years. During this time, she has been involved in several different ministries: serving as a Sunday school teacher, choir president, altar guild, and former Women’s Ministry president. Additionally she has partnerships with the Congo Square Theater and the Voices and Faces Project. On top of all her community involvement she is a working mother with one son, age 15, and two daughters, ages 12 and 10. It is for all these reasons that Kristian White is an outstanding example of what it means to be a leader in the classroom and in her community.