Celebrating Excellence: The 2024 Rockford Education Association’s “Those Who Excel” Recognition Celebration


Every year, the Rockford Education Association proudly hosts the “Those Who Excel” Recognition Celebration, a cherished tradition that honors the outstanding contributions of educators in our community. Honorees are nominated by their peers and  seven different categories are  honored because it is recognized that it takes a village to educate a student. This event serves as a testament to the dedication and passion of our teachers, administrators, and support staff who go above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of our students.

While we understand that not everyone could attend this year’s celebration, we wanted to share some highlights and moments captured from the event. Please see the REA Members only Facebook group to see  images that offer a glimpse into the joy, camaraderie, and spirit of celebration that permeated the evening.

The nominees in each category were:

Molly Phalen Lifetime Award : Marian Jones (Kennedy, winner)

Early Career Educator: Sanika Dev (Guilford HS, winner), Greg Johnson (Roosevelt) , Jarod Weir (Kennedy)

School Board Member / Volunteer: Colin Simpson (Auburn HS, winner)

Education Service Personnel / Non-Certified: Hosea Harris (Auburn HS, winner), Manuel Renteria (Westview), Maria Saavedra (Guilford), Taniela Simmons (Whitehead)

Student Support Personnel Certified: Erin Fjelland (Cherry Valley, winner), Morgan Doyle (Westview),  Christina Magee (Guilford), Jenna Robinson (Kennedy)

Classroom Teachers:  Shannon Callahan Lewis (Guilford, winner), Maureen Brandt (Eisenhower), Virginia Calgaro (RESA), Matthew Green (Roosevelt), Dina Howard (Kennedy), Melissa Kahly (Kennedy)


  • T5: Susan Bukove, Laura Lawson, Susana Luna, Elena Lund (Washington, winner)
  • Kennedy Cafe Team: Joice Benton, Michelle Brown, Ariel Collins, Irene Galvin, Rodolfo Solach (Kennedy)
  • MTSS Team:  Alexis Avila, Amanda McAllister (Roosevelt)

As we reflect on the accomplishments and achievements of our colleagues, we extend our heartfelt congratulations to all the honorees. Your hard work, innovation, and unwavering commitment to excellence inspire us all.

For those who couldn’t join us this year, we sincerely hope to see you at next year’s “Those Who Excel” Recognition Banquet. Together, let’s continue to uplift and celebrate the incredible individuals who shape the future of education in Rockford.

Thank you to everyone who made this year’s banquet a resounding success. Here’s to another year of excellence and inspiration in education!


Sponsored by: ISBE, RPS, REA, Horace Mann
Those Who Excel Committee:
Co-Chairs: Carol Wehmeyer, Kathy Rasmus
Members: Sherry Klotz, Margo Olson, Brenda Robinson-Young, Jeanie Sullivan, Liz Finnegan (Horace Mann)