Laura DiPietro and Jac Steele win the 2021 District 58 Distinguished Service Award

Laura DiPietro and Jac Steele win the 2021 District 58 Distinguished Service Award

Twenty-five District 58 staff members earn a nomination

The Education Foundation of Downers Grove District 58 is pleased to announce that Hillcrest Development Learning Program Teacher Laura DiPietro and Pierce Downer Custodian Jac Steele earned the 2021 District 58 Distinguished Service Award! This award program annually invites community members to nominate District 58 employees who exceed expectations and serve as inspirations to their community. Two winners are chosen each year: one teacher and one non-teaching staff member. View the DSA announcement photo gallery here!

“On behalf of District 58, congratulations to Laura DiPietro and Jac Steele for earning this year’s Distinguished Service Awards!” said Superintendent Dr. Kevin Russell. “You each truly deserve this honor. I have witnessed first hand how each of you go above and beyond in order to live out District 58’s mission and support the needs of your students, fellow staff and families. I am so proud of you, and very happy to celebrate you today!”

This year, 25 staff members received nomination essays, and an Education Foundation committee reviewed each essay, on an identity-blind basis, to select the two DSA winners. 

“Celebrating our Distinguished Service Award winners is such a joyous occasion, and the Education Foundation is proud to support this program!” said DSA Chair Mia Churma. “It is evident that each of our DSA winners and nominees truly affected their community in a positive way, and we are grateful for the opportunity to celebrate these important staff members!”

Ms. DiPietro was nominated by her colleague, Hillcrest School Psychologist Carolyn Miller, who commended DiPietro for reinventing instruction during a pandemic and providing tremendous support and care to her students after the tragic loss of a classmate earlier this year. Ms. Miller also noted that Ms. DiPietro creates personalized spaces for each student, with themes that match each student’s personality and interests. 

“By tapping into her student’s genuine interests, she makes them feel as though they are ‘seen’ and a critical part of the classroom community,” Ms. Miller wrote. “This is truly a gift to everyone in the school: the students get to blossom, while the staff get to know some of the most extraordinarily kind students we will ever get the gift to meet.”

Mr. Steele was nominated by Pierce Downer First Grade Teacher Sabrina Breault, Third Grade Teacher Tracy deBuhr and Fourth Grade Teacher Heather Howland. They celebrated Mr. Steele for going above and beyond his job description and taking a sincere interest in every student and staff member he encounters.

“Our nominee greets students by name, is aware of their interests, knows how to make them smile, and cares for them all. He helps our youngest students by carrying their heavy backpacks or wheeling a student on crutches down the hallway in an office chair so they didn’t have to walk from the bathroom back to class,” Ms. Breault, Ms. deBuhr and Ms. Howland said.  “The first graders are convinced that he is secretly a superhero, and they spend their time with him trying to figure out what his special powers are! The staff thinks he just might be a superhero too!”

Congratulations, Ms. DiPietro and Mr. Steele! In addition, District 58 congratulates the 25 staff members who earned 2021 DSA nominations:

2021 District 58 Distinguished Service Award Nominees

  • Dr. Susan Anderson, Hillcrest Fourth Grade Teacher
  • Maureen Bresnahan, Belle Aire and El Sierra Speech-Language Pathologist 
  • Rachel Bush, Kingsley First Grade Teacher
  • Brittany Cerny, Hillcrest Fifth Grade Teacher
  • Erin Contreras, Pierce Downer Second Grade Teacher
  • Shor Costello, Highland Fourth Grade Teacher
  • Laura DiPietro, Hillcrest DLP Teacher
  • Kimberly Fisher, Lester First Grade Teacher
  • Christina Gamboa, El Sierra Resource Teacher
  • Julie Iaquinto, El Sierra Fourth Grade Teacher
  • Michelle Junkas, El Sierra Secretary
  • Karen Kroll, Fairmount Fourth Grade Teacher
  • Bob Luciano, Fairmount Fifth Grade Teacher
  • Kristina Melone, Belle Aire Third Grade Teacher
  • Patricia Miller, Whittier Sixth Grade Teacher
  • Kristen Mitzel, O’Neill Math Teacher
  • Robert Mueller, O’Neill Science Teacher
  • Carin Novak, Lester Principal
  • Carrie Redpath, Hillcrest Second Grade Teacher
  • Debbie Scarlati, El Sierra Secretary
  • Sharlyn Sombeck, Kingsley Kindergarten Teacher
  • Gianna Smith, El Sierra Kindergarten Teacher
  • Jac Steele, Pierce Downer Custodian
  • Stacy Swimmer, O’Neill Spanish/French Teacher
  • Mark White, Henry Puffer Fifth Grade Teacher

Learn more about the Distinguished Service Award Program at