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McConnaughay spotlights everyday hero, Matt Gain, 2017 Kane County Educator of the Year nominee

This week, Senator McConnaughay spotlights Matt Gain, science teacher at Geneva Middle School South and nominee for the 2017 Kane County Educator of the Year Award.

For the 42nd annual event, the Kane County Regional Office of Education will honor 45 outstanding educators nominated as academic leaders by their peers. The award will be presented to one educator for nine separate categories: classroom preschool teacher; classroom elementary teacher; classroom middle school teacher; classroom high school teacher; school administrator; student support personnel; early career educator; private/parochial; and education service personnel. One teacher will then be presented with the overall 2017 Top Educator of the Year Award.

Gain was nominated for the middle school category by members of his multidisciplinary team at Geneva Middle School South, where he has taught eight grade physics and chemistry for 16 years. His incorporation of creative learning techniques and interactive activities in the classroom, staff and parents say make him a true standout teacher in Kane County.

On a given day in Gain’s class, it is not surprising to find him in full costume amidst telling a story or challenging his students to solve problems far beyond the textbook.

“I like to integrate history and participation opportunities into my classes,” said Gain. “We talk about a lot of the scientists who discovered what we’re learning about to put a face to the lesson—for example, the many quirks of Sir Isaac Newton. I also sometimes dress as a chicken farmer named Mr. Pickens who comes to class to introduce word problems. I’ll admit it’s sometimes more fun for me than the kids.”

To help students who struggle with the technical side of science, Gain always makes himself available for one-on-one attention. He also tries to appeal to everyone’s strengths by writing lessons and projects that incorporate artistic and language arts components, in addition to the analytical.

He encourages students to make math and science problems more visual by drawing out the different elements to show their relationship. Each year, the students must complete design and engineering projects, including creating a “mousetrap car,” a vehicle that moves using only the energy from a mousetrap. Without any further instruction, they begin building and modifying to see what works, which offers students with all types of learning styles a chance to flex their creative muscles and shine.

“My goal as a science teacher is to show my students that science isn’t just inside our classroom; it incorporates math, science, history and language arts,” said Gain. “It’s an integrative part of the human experience, and we’re doing science without even knowing it.”

Gain’s interest in science was spurred early in his childhood, when he spent much of his time trying to figure out how things worked and exploring outdoors. In high school, he learned about the field in a more in-depth capacity by working part-time at his father’s civil engineering firm, and then later continued on his career path at Iowa State University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Biology.

“What made me choose teaching over working in a lab was the social interaction and variety that comes with education.” said Gain. “From what I knew of teaching and what I saw in the classroom, every day and every hour is different when you’re working with kids. I personally had a couple teachers in high school that really stimulated my growing curiosity in science. They were extremely influential on me.”

Gain and the other nominees will be honored at the Kane County Regional Office of Education’s 42nd Annual Educator of the Year dinner, on April 28 at the Q Center in St. Charles.

“Congratulations to Matt for this prestigious nomination,” said Senator McConnaughay. “Day in, day out, he is always striving to provide a memorable and beneficial learning environment for his students and promote the applicability of science education. I’m so happy to see our Kane County schools and parents recognize a wonderful teacher like him.”

Senator McConnaughay is proud to recognize Gain for his Educator of the Year award nomination and thank him for his 16 years of dedication at Geneva Middle School South. 

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