L-W North teacher named Illinois Foreign Language Teacher of the Year

Linda Egnatz, a Spanish teacher at Lincoln-Way North High School, was presented with the coveted award this past weekend at the ICTFL annual state conference in Tinley Park.

A Lincoln-Way High School District 210 World Languages teacher has been named 2012 Illinois Foreign Language Teacher of the Year by the Illinois Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ICTFL).

Linda Egnatz, a Spanish teacher at Lincoln-Way North High School, was presented with the coveted award this past weekend at the ICTFL annual state conference in Tinley Park.

“Receiving the Teacher of the Year Award is humbling,” said Egnatz. “Each and every day I see things in my classroom teaching that can be improved. My goal is always how best to move my students toward greater proficiency in their Spanish-speaking skills. 

“That's what they want and that's what future employers want - students who can do more than conjugate a verb, but who can have meaningful, relevant conversations with their customers, their patients, and their global colleagues,” she continued. “Students who speak another language score higher on high-stakes tests, have a greater understanding of cultural diversities, find employment more easily and multiply the number of people with whom they converse.”

The Teacher of the Year Award is part of the national American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language's program in which individual states select K-12 teacher candidates that exhibit excellence in classroom teaching as well as active professional involvement. 

Egnatz, who has been teaching Spanish for 30 years, has instructed various levels of Spanish and organized a number of educational trips abroad for students, including trips to Spain, Italy, Costa Rica, Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay. 

Last spring, she worked with Lincoln-Way North science teachers Camille Gonzales-Jensen and Elizabeth Conroy to take a group of students to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands where they practiced their Spanish-speaking skills with shopkeepers, waiters and hotel staff; compared and contrasted the Ecuadorian and US cultures; visited an international school; completed a community service project; and learned about the conservation of marine resources and the impact tourism has on the preserve.

The tour had a cross-curricular focus, showing students how they can use language in other career fields – such as science. 

“My goal is to help students visualize language study as a compliment to their future career goals and a door-opener to greater opportunities and salary possibilities,” said Egnatz.

Last year, Egnatz earned National Board Certification in World Languages and currently serves as ICTFL's Webmaster and First Vice President. She is a popular presenter and trainer at state and regional language events and will be an Illinois delegate at the national ACTFL conference in November. 

As recipient of this Illinois Foreign Language Teacher of the Year award, Egnatz will now serve as spokesperson for language education in 2013 and become the Illinois state candidate at the regional Central States Conference to be held in March, 2013.

At that conference, members will select a regional candidate from 17 states. Five regional winners will then become finalists for the ACTFL National Teacher of the Year Award. 

Each candidate has already submitted a portfolio, video of classroom teaching, letters of recommendations, samples of student work and evidence of professional development and leadership. 

“As the Illinois foreign language Teacher of the Year, I hope to provide more awareness of the need for students to learn a second language,” said Egnatz. “Students in the United States find it more and more difficult to compete in a global workforce without a second or third language. 

“I would like to see students, such as my own, who are committing themselves to second language proficiency, be recognized for their academic success on their high school transcripts with a `Seal of Biliteracy’ that evidences their skill in a tangible way to employers and universities,” she added. “States, such as California and New York, as well as individual school districts nationwide have adopted the program and are highlighting these students for their dedication to global awareness and communication.  I want the same for Illinois foreign language learners.”

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