Special education teacher Michael Ackerman wins District 204 A+ Award

MeteaMed

By Drew Danko
Online Editor
Photos by Drew Danko

Junior Lucas Guerrero celebrated by jumping up to take a selfie with his teacher, Michael Ackerman. More than a hundred friends, family, coworkers, and students gathered in the large forum Wednesday afternoon to honor Ackerman with the District 204 A+ Award, for his initiative and dedication to teaching special education.

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Ackerman was presented with a $500 check from the Indian Prairie Education Foundation for use in the classroom or for the Special Olympics program, after 14 parents nominated him for the award. Ackerman was thankful for the nomination from these parents. “It’s very humbling, I feel honored. Being appreciated by the people you work really hard to help, because it isn’t just the students, you’re impacting [the parents’] lives too,” Ackerman said.

Ackerman has been working at Metea for five years, and is the head coach and coordinator for the Special Olympics program. Ackerman has led athletes in various sports, including soccer, basketball, and swimming. From teaching and coaching students with special needs, the most rewarding thing Ackerman has learned is that everybody has the ability to grow and improve. “Learning how capable everyone is, no matter what their skill or ability level is when they come in. There is really no limit to what anyone can accomplish, including myself or anyone in my life, not just my Special Olympics athletes,” Ackerman said.

Senior and Special Olympics athlete Pravi Bhagavatula has enjoyed having Mr. Ackerman as both a coach and teacher. “He’s good at teaching basketball and loves students. I look forward to how Mr. Ackerman smiles everyday, he’s amazing. He’s very supportive. He’s funny and silly, but also strict and serious,” Bhagavatula said.

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The special education department and Ackerman aim to mold students into productive, positive citizens of society. “It’s overwhelming, but it feels great because it reflects everything the students, faculty, and parents do at Metea. It reflects well on the school and is a good example of what this community has to offer,” Ackerman said.

Special education department chair Erin Davis has been happy to work with Ackerman. “He’s completely selfless. He’s always looking out for other people, always looking out for his students. He is a great teacher and is always looking for new and innovative ways to help the students and to work with the students, incorporating technology,” Davis said. “He’s always very positive. Any job that you’re in, sometimes it ways on you and you can get a little negative, but he’s always very positive. He’s always the guy that puts a smile on everyone’s face,” Davis said.

Davis’ favorite memory of teaching with Ackerman was when he and three other teachers dressed up on Halloween as the Wiggles to surprise a student who is a big fan of the show. Ackerman has also coordinated the Pack the Stands Special Olympics basketball game for the past three years.

Ackerman was proud to receive the award, and is excited for what it means for the school community as a whole. “It’s overwhelming, but it feels great because it reflects everything the students, faculty, and parents do at Metea. It reflects well on the school and is a good example of what this community has to offer,” Ackerman said.

[quote]Video courtesy of Tania Moneim[/quote]

Overall, Ackerman has appreciated being able to spend time with his students and work with them in the classroom. “All the different students, personalities, and abilities I get to work with on a daily basis. We have a ton of fun, and we enjoy all the moments we get with our kids,” Ackerman added.