Joanna Rodriguez, an administrative assistant at Mundelein High School, has been named a recipient of the “Those Who Excel” award by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). The Board honored her with a meritorious service award in the category of educational service personnel.
A graduate of Mundelein High School and a first-generation student, Joanna is often the first face to greet many MHS students and parents. Her bilingual skills along with her steady support of the school’s core value of equity, put her in a position to help students and parents on a daily basis.
“She draws from her own experience to encourage and empower both students and parents,” said Jamie DiCarlo, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services for District 120. “She is the voice for those who do not feel they have a voice.”
Joanna, administrative assistant to the assistant principal, was humbled when staff members surprised her with a cake and flowers in honor of the award on Monday morning.
“I am so thankful,” she said. “This is a reminder that I am in the right place and that I am her for a reason to continue to serve and guide our families.”
In a nomination letter to the ISBE, DiCarlo described Joanna’s value to the MHS community and wrote that she is one of the most present and reliable volunteers in all of our community outreach efforts since joining the MHS staff three years ago.
“I have been in absolute awe of her commitment to our community,” DiCarlo said. “She gives countless hours of her own time with no hesitation.
In addition to driving a bus for daily lunches in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, she serves food a couple times each month with the church and food bank. She’s also involved in potlucks, holiday drives for students and other community outreach activities. She serves on the District 120 Equity Action Committee, helping staff to see blind spots and ways to better support the community.
The ISBE sponsors Those Who Excel to honor individuals who have made significant contributions to Illinois’ public and nonpublic elementary and secondary schools. Awards are presented in five categories: school administrator, student support personnel, educational service personnel, community volunteer and teams. Nomination materials are evaluated by a selection committee composed of individuals who represent a variety of educational organizations.