FLANAGAN — Betsy Westergreen was inspired to be a teacher from a young age.
“I grew up with both my parents in the education field. I noticed the excitement in the students’ eyes when they saw (my parents) in a restaurant or a store. I immediately became aware of the positive rapport they had with students,” said Westergreen, a business and computer teacher at Flanagan-Cornell High School.
Westergreen was named Secondary Teacher of the Year by the Illinois Business Education Association at a conference last week in Springfield.
More than 100 business education professionals from high schools and colleges from across the state attended.
“It’s the most humbling moment I ever experienced in my career,” said Westergreen, a teacher for nine years. “It’s not about the title and the spotlight that is important, though. I just (want to) use the platform I’ve been given from this recognition to inspire other teachers around the state by sharing my teaching experiences and knowledge with them.”
At the high school, she teaches introduction to computers, computer applications, advanced computers, digital media, introduction to business and accounting.
She said most of her class activities are “student-driven.”
“I try to avoid spoon-feeding the curriculum to them because I want my students to practice their research, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills while learning new concepts,” said Westergreen.
In addition to her parents, Westergreen credited administrators at Flanagan-Cornell Unit 74 for her teaching abilities.
“I believe our administration does a great job supporting teachers’ desires to attend various professional development workshops and conferences. For me, that makes a big difference when trying to stay up-to-date in the classroom,” she said.
Principal Brian Yoder said the district encourages teachers to better themselves through workshops.
“Betsy does a good job of going to those things and implementing them in the classroom. We support our teachers in continuing their education to make them better in their fields and, in turn, benefit students,” said Yoder.
“One of her best qualities is her ability to relate to all students,” he added. “She gets respect from all of her kids and builds relationships with them. She’s a great reflection of our school and we’re glad to have her on staff.”
Westergreen also is an adjunct professor at Heartland Community College. She is an Illinois State University graduate and lives in Pontiac.