NIU Honors Harlem School District Teacher


    As her 5th grade class looks on, Rock Cut Elementary teacher Ashley Van Sickle is presented with an Outstanding Beginning Teacher Award from the Illinois Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

    Principal Mike Plourde says, “She’s really an outstanding teacher. She genuinely cares for her students and it shows everyday.”

    Van Sickle has been teaching at Rock Cut for the last 3 and a half years and says it’s been a very rewarding experience.

    She says, “Everyday is a new day to make learning fun, engaging and really to provide those aha moments for them.” Her students say they look forward to school because of their teacher’s creative approach to subjects.

    Juan Alfaro says, “Sometimes she puts games in there and makes it more fun. It’s easier if she puts in fun stuff and it makes you want to do it more.” Kailee Lembke agrees. “She’ll try to make math fun by using these weird names. Like quotation marks. She’ll call them bossy quotations and we’ll just all laugh. And it will be fun to do math.”

    Van Sickle was nominated for the award by one of her professors at Northern Illinois University where she is currently working on her masters degree. And that’s where a unique twist of fate comes in.

    Van Sickle says, “It was actually Dr. Cohen who nominated me for the award that had sent me an email saying they had the opening for this district and this school without knowing that I was from this district and this school.”

    So now Van Sickle is the teacher where she was once the student. Her principal says that makes her even more of a good role model for her class. Plourde says, “They can see somebody whose grown up just like them and has realized her dream and has done it at a high level. And they can do it too.”

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