Burr Ridge teacher earns high honor
Teacher Neil Hammes leads a scavenger hunt with his class at Trinity Lutheran School.
Education: Master’s degree in education and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Concordia College
Teaches: Science, math, social studies, religion and computer classes
Updated: November 26, 2012 6:04AM
BURR RIDGE — Neil Hammes has a love for his job.
The lifetime educator has taught fifth- through eighth-grade students at Trinity Lutheran School in Burr Ridge for more than two decades, and was recognized for his many years of dedication to his students and the school he calls home when he was awarded with the Northern Illinois District of Lutheran Schools Teacher of the Year Award.
Hammes was nominated for the award by his colleagues at Trinity Lutheran, who described him as a mentor and role model focused on professional growth and innovation in the classroom while always carrying a sense of mission and ministry to the school and in his teachings.
Hammes said he was shocked when he received the award.
“I didn’t expect it at all,” Hammes said. “I went to my mailbox after school and opened the letter and I couldn’t believe I had gotten it.”
Hammes’ teaching career stretches back 31 years when he taught at schools in Chicago, Melrose Park and in St. Louis before coming to Trinity Lutheran.
In his teaching role, Hammes said he focuses on being a strong male role model to the teenagers in his classes while building positive teacher-student relationships.
“I think there are a lot of middle school kids who don’t have positive male role models in their lives, so I try to be that for them,” Hammes said. “I like to be strong in my faith, strong-willed, strong in intelligence, and someone who is confident, and I think (my students) respond to that well.”
The Milwaukee native said he loves teaching because no two days are ever the same, and it gives him the chance to share his religious beliefs while educating students.
“I like to see smiles on my students’ faces, and I like to see them laugh, see them learn, and be there if they need someone to talk to,” Hammes said.
Principal Aaron Landgrave said the entire school community was proud of Hammes for his achievement.
“Mr. Hammes is a master teacher who is dedicated his craft,” Landgrave said. “He is innovative and uses the Smartboard in his room for every subject, and the entire staff utilizes his expertise in technology and looks up to him for leadership — he is the heart of Trinity Lutheran School.”