Normal teacher in the running for Teacher of the Year Award

By WEEK Producer

September 29, 2013 Updated Sep 30, 2013 at 10:46 AM CDT

NORMAL, Ill. -- A Normal, Ill. educator is anything, but normal when it comes to his teaching skills.

John Bierbaum teaches U.S. and World History at Normal Community West High School and is a finalist for this year's Illinois Teacher of the Year award.

If you didn't know any better, you might think Bierbaum teachers a theatre class, but it's just Bierbaum, being himself.

"Everyday I wake up I want to bring it to the kids. Every single kid can be really, really great in class," Bierbaum said. "I think they can all be really interested in social studies. I think they can really, really get involved; so I start saying, 'What do I need to do to get my kids interested in social studies?"

What these students have is a teacher who is highly respected by his peers, whose engaging creative approach comes from a yearning to live up to standards set for him when he was a student here at Normal West.

"Coming back here and teaching with the teachers that I had in high school has been very very special. So I kind of feel like I'm winning one for the team, you know for this recognition thing," Bierbaum said. "You know, so they've been very very supportive. It's been really neat, things like, 'I had you as a teacher, I took really good notes, so I'm trying to be the teacher that you were for me in high school"

"These are young kids, but I want them to see that they have a role to play in the community. They have a role to play in their state, in their country," He added. "It could be politics. It could be a community board member that they're going to become one day. Maybe it's just cultural literacy."

John Bierbaum knows that it also could be that some of his students may not get it.

"No matter what I do as a teacher, at some point in time you understand that you're not Superman," Bierbaum said. "You just cannot reach every single student and that really bothers me, but it is a reality that you're just going to reach them all, but you can wake up every morning and try."

The 2013-14 Illinois Teacher of the Year will be announced during the “Those Who Excel” banquet Saturday, October 19 at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Normal.

The Teacher of the Year will represent Illinois at NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., and in the Council of Chief State School Officers’ National Teacher of the Year Program.