East Maine District 63 teacher honored as 'Symetra Hero in the Classroom'


Last updated 12/17/2019 at 3:38pm

Symetra, Gallagher Benefit Services and the Chicago Bears have

honored East Maine District 63's Apollo Elementary teacher Joana Sanchez as a "Symetra Hero in

the Classroom." Sanchez is a 2nd grade dual-language instructor at the PreK–5 school located in Des


"Joana Sanchez brings her heart and soul to Apollo and to the entire District, which should come as no

surprise as she is a product of D63 herself. An alumna of our Nelson Elementary School, Ms. Sanchez is

a skilled part of our Dual Language Program. Through the program, Spanish-speaking students in Pre-K–

5th grade may be placed in classrooms taught simultaneously in Spanish and English," said Dr. Scott

Clay, superintendent.

"Ms. Sanchez exemplifies excellence in the classroom. Juggling English and Spanish instruction

throughout the week is a challenge in and of itself, but she makes it look easy - maintaining an always-

positive attitude, whether teaching math or monitoring the lunchroom," said Clay. "Ms. Sanchez not only

teaches children, she also is a 'hero in the classroom' to many of our parents, with whom she has built

strong bonds of trust. She and another D63 teacher also teach our free adult ELL classes for our non-

English speaking parents. Our district is a diverse one, with dozens of languages spoken in student

homes. Ms. Sanchez is acutely aware of the challenges many of our families face, and she is at the front

lines of helping them navigate our schools and the larger community."

Clay nominated Sanchez for the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® award.

Sanchez is one of 16 K–12 teachers in the Chicago area who will be honored for educational excellence

through the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom® program during the 2019 NFL season. Teachers are

recognized in front of their students and peers at surprise in-school presentations, and they receive a

$2,000 donation from Symetra for classroom books and supplies. In addition, they receive tickets to a Bears

home game, enjoy a pre-game sideline experience and are acknowledged during on-field screened

presentations at Soldier Field. Sanchez will be recognized at the Dec. 22 game, when the Bears take on the

Kansas City Chiefs.

Teachers may be nominated by their principal, district staff, student or student's parent. The winners are

selected based on their ability to make a real difference in students' lives; to go above and beyond in their

day-to-day responsibilities; and to help students build life skills.


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