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McConnaughay spotlights everyday hero: Shelley Nacke, 2017 Kane County School Administrator of the Year nominee

This week, Senator McConnaughay spotlights Shelley Nacke, Assistant Superintendent for School District 300 and nominee for the 2017 Kane County School Administrator of the Year Award. Nacke was nominated by the staff and parent community in District 300, where she has worked as the Assistant Superintendent for education services for the past six years, and spent her education career for 17 years. Her love for teaching and strong sense of leadership has earned her recognition from her peers as one of Kane County’s top educators.

Prior to becoming the Assistant Superintendent, she served in various roles and subject areas in the district including special education, health and physical education, as well as school principal. Her current position now focuses on special education and managing the district’s student disciplinary programs, drawing from her experience as a teacher on a daily basis.

“Instead of a classroom of students in front of me, my classroom is now my teachers, other administrators and parents,” said Nacke. “I still have a classroom; it’s just bigger and more diverse. Overall, I’ll always be a teacher at heart. Now I just get to do it in a leadership role and on a larger scale to impact more students.”

Her dedication to leading by example is evident as she is always working on professional development and improving the schools’ programs and operations.

She frequently tracks changes in legislation and regulations at the state and federal level—especially when it pertains to special education—and makes sure to communicate that down to teachers and other administrators. Also, she creates at least one Individualized Education Plan (IEP) per special education student each year to ensure parents and teachers understand the student’s strengths, weaknesses and best path of learning.

“Special education is very emotional, and sometimes involves a grieving process for parents,” said Nacke. “We help them through that process and connect them with other parents or teachers who can relate. It’s really important to me that each student knows we’re advocating for them, regardless of the disability, and believe in them even when they might not believe in themselves.”

She also, from her own experience in special education instruction, knows her teachers need regular positive reinforcement and support when working with students with various disabilities. The day-to-day is not typical or predictable, because the students have individualized needs and struggles, and Nacke makes a point of being highly encouraging and readily accessible when her teachers need help. 

“I play the role of the cheerleader for my teachers and staff,” said Nacke. “They’re my family. When people are down here, they lift you up. We’re all in it for the same mission—to get the kids to their destination. It’s exciting to get up and literally love your job every day.”

Looking back on her life, Nacke’s teachers from her youth had a lasting impact on her, and she knew education was her calling. She says the long nights, work on weekends and frequent calls are all worth it to make an impression on her students’ lives and help them succeed. 

“It’s an honor to do what I do, and to be able to see kids whose parents didn’t think they’d be able to speak actually give a speech at our 300-person recognition ceremony, or hear a student that unfortunately we had to bring up for expulsion still walk across that stage and say they couldn’t have done it without you,” said Nacke. “Those are the things that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”

As a member of such a tight-knit and dedicated school district, Nacke said she was surprised and honored to be nominated for the prestigious award, and humbled to be recognized for work that she loves to do.

The Kane County Regional Office of Education hosted its 42nd Annual Educator of the Year award ceremony on April 28 by honoring 45 outstanding educators nominated as academic leaders by their peers. The award was presented to one educator in each of 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; educational service personnel; and one overall top educator of the year.

“If you look at the tremendous success we’ve seen in School District 300, so much can be traced back to Shelley,” said Senator McConnaughay. “She has an incredibly demanding job and is always on-call to ensure school programs are running as they should be. She’s not only a community leader but a really important advocate for our teachers, staff members and families.”

Senator McConnaughay is proud to recognize Nacke for her Administrator of the Year nomination and thank her for her ongoing dedication to School District 300.

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