Distinguished Service Award winners revealed at ceremony May 15

Group of 35 DSA nominees with Congratulations above their photo.

The nursing staff at Hillcrest, Ann Brinkman, Erin Blank and Addie Pampalone; and preschool teacher Toni Belken are winners of the 2024 Distinguished Service Awards (DSA). They were honored at an awards ceremony May 15 along with 31 other DSA nominees.

“Our nominees share one common value: a solid dedication to the District 58 community and its students,” said District 58 Foundation Vice President and DSA Chair Mia Churma. “Each of their contributions has made a lasting impact on the children and families we serve,” she said.Toni Belken with nominator and school administrators (l to r) Dr. Kevin Russell, Susan Dillon and Mark Leipart along with DSA chair Mia Churma.

Thirty-five teachers and staff members – nominees of the 2024 Distinguished Service Awards – were honored at the ceremony, sponsored and organized by the District 58 Foundation.  

The winner in the Teacher Category is Toni Belken, pictured at right, a preschool teacher at Henry Puffer. “This teacher saw all the positive aspects of my grandchild’s personality, humor, and intelligence, and made certain to emphasize those characteristics each day,” said the nominator at the awards ceremony. 

In the Staff Category, winners are the nursing staff at Hillcrest School: Ann Brinkman, certified school nurse; and Erin Blank and, Addie Pampalone, building nurses, pictured at right.

“From the word go, the nursing staff at Hillcrest were a gift from the gods,” said the nominator, a parent whose son was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. “The real magic is in the way Ann, Erin and Addie have continued to care for my child as though he was one of their own children.”

The four winners were awarded a $100 Visa gift card, $100 to spend in their classroom or office and a crystal plaque. In addition, all nominees and winners received a pin, certificate and a copy of their nomination.  

The Education Foundation of District 58 annually hosts the Distinguished Service Awards program to recognize the remarkable contributions of District 58 staff and teachers. In all, 35 staff members were nominated for 2024 and their nominator or principal read an excerpt from the nomination at the ceremony. 

The 2024 nominees were:


  • Carly Alfieri, Kingsley, BEST Teacher
  • Valerie McKinley, Indian Trail, RISE Teacher
  • Taylor Carroll, Indian Trail, 4th grade teacher
  • Megan Gilbert, Indian Trail, Kindergarten teacher
  • Colleen Brejcha, Fairmount, 6th grade teacher
  • Katie Main, Fairmount, 1st grade teacher
  • Laura Novotny, Lester, 1st grade teacher
  • Jon Vidovic, Herrick, Resource teacher
  • Rachel Bush, Kingsley, 1st grade teacher
  • Ashley Quill, Whittier, 1st grade teacher
  • Jenna Smitley, Whittier, 4th grade teacher
  • Katie Hurckes, Indian Trail, Interventionist
  • Matthew D'Angelo, Hillcrest, 4th grade teacher
  • Katherine Falk, Fairmount, 5th grade teacher
  • Matthew Leiser, Lester, 2nd grade teacher
  • Katie Porter, Whittier, Resource teacher
  • Toni Belken, Henry Puffer, preschool teacher
  • Barb Manley, O’Neill, Family/Consumer Science
  • Andrew Schmidt, Herrick, Math teacher
  • Tracy Rasmussen, Kingsley, Resource teacher
  • Katharine Gaudio, Highland, 3rd grade teacher
  • Kimberly Musial, Highland, 2nd grade teacher
  • Kimberly Fisher, Lester, 1st grade teacher
  • Lisa Rose, Belle Aire, Highland, Pierce Downer, Whittier, Orchestra teacher

  • Jennifer Mejdrech, Fairmount, Social Worker
  • Amy D'Amico and Marybeth Giuffre, Belle Aire, Secretaries
  • Maria Ramirez, Whittier, Head Custodian
  • Lauren Prosser, El Sierra, Fairmount, Whittier, Puffer, Instructional Coach
  • Christine Priester, District Office, Curriculum Coordinator
  • Sara Felker, Whittier, Social Worker
  • Ann Brinkman, Erin Blank, Addie Pampalone; Hillcrest, Nursing staff
  • Marie McMaster, Indian Trail, Nurse

Any District 58 staff member, parent/guardian, or student could nominate a District 58 employee for a Distinguished Service Award. Nominees embody District 58’s mission and consistently perform above and beyond the scope of job duties, positively affect children, care about the child as a whole person and serve as a role model. 

A team of judges not affiliated with the school or District chose the winners in a blind review. The Education Foundation surprised the four 2023-24 DSA winners with the news at school on Monday, May 13.

Learn more information about the Education Foundation at www.58foundation.org

Watch a video honoring the 2024 nominees and winners.