NORMAL — A Colene Hoose Elementary School teacher has been named the 2019 Teacher of the Year by the Illinois Education Association.
Shawn Mann, who works in specialized services for the special education department, was nominated for the award by Lindsey Dickinson, president of Unit Five Education Association.
Mann said when he received the news, he was shocked and the feeling is “just amazing — it's really indescribable.”
The Bob Haisman Teacher of the Year award recognizes an IEA member who is a new teacher in the first five years of their career.
Since graduating from Illinois State University in 2014, Mann has spent four and a half years working in the McLean County Unit 5 elementary schools.
The role Mann’s teachers played in his own life led him to the same career, and as a teacher, Mann said he strives to make schools a better and safer place for students.
“Growing up for me, being in the public school system wasn’t the easiest,” he said. “I was teased for my sexuality and the way that I talked, I had a learning disability ... My teachers were my biggest advocates and my biggest champions.”
In his acceptance speech, Mann recognized the things his teachers taught him that weren’t in the curriculum, including self-determination, motivation and self-advocacy.
“I chose to devote the rest of my life working in schools. Why? It’s simple: teachers taught me resilience,” he said.
Mann, who is currently working toward a master’s degree in special education at ISU, places teaching among the most challenging and rewarding careers he could take on.
“I truly love what I do,” he said. “Some people wake up every day and feel like they have to go to work. I wake up and I just get to go have fun every day.”
In her nomination, Dickinson wrote, “When you walk into Shawn’s classroom you can automatically feel the love and care that he has for his students. It is truly a refreshing feeling, especially when public education is under so much scrutiny.”
Mann said receiving the Teacher of the Year award is an incredible honor, but it’s not going to boost his ego or stop him from “constantly changing and reflecting and making myself a better human and teacher because that’s just what we do.”