CLINTON — A second Pantagraph-area educator is among 10 finalists vying to become 2019 Illinois Teacher of the Year.
Clinton High School teacher Rodger Baldwin is one of the finalists for the Illinois State Board of Education award, said Clinton Superintendent Curt Nettles.
"Once the shock wore off, I'm really grateful and happy," said Baldwin, 56. "I am just very humbled to have been chosen."
McLean County Unit 5 was notified last week that Normal Community High School choir director Ben Luginbuhl also is a finalist.
ISBE officially will announce the finalists on Thursday. The winner will be announced at the state's annual educator recognition banquet Oct. 20.
Baldwin teaches chemistry, physics, physical science, and theater/drama at Clinton High. He initially pursued a career in acting and spent 10 years working in summer stock, dinner theater, and touring companies, said Nettles.
Baldwin's wife of 32 years was a full-time special education teacher when he met her.
"She made that look cool, and I thought I would try it, too," said Baldwin. "When I decided to leave acting and try to get something more stable, I just thought this would be a great way to spend my life — kind of giving back, constantly learning and teaching kids."
He is now in his 27th year of teaching.
"Rodger pushes students to reach for the stars, literally," said Nettles, in an email. "He makes himself accessible to students and helps them see the world a little differently. He doesn’t hesitate to let his students — and their families — know that he cares and will help however he can."
A student in a recommendation letter for Rodger wrote: “Mr. Baldwin’s greatest impact is in the joyful curiosity he awakens and instills in each student."
Another student wrote that “Mr. Baldwin is a teacher who makes students think for themselves and while he teaches, he wants them to make discoveries on their own as well.”
Nettles noted Baldwin's ability to build relationships with his colleagues, leaders of professional development activities and his students.
"He enjoys sharing what he has learned and he recognizes that his knowledge and experiences have helped him become a better teacher and a strong leader," said Nettles.
"Rodger says that his greatest honor is in continuing the relationships he has formed with students and colleagues, both past and present. In his words, 'teaching is full of challenges, but in the end, it’s all about relationships.'"