Independence Teacher Rachael Wilcox Named 2019 FHSD Teacher of the Year

Posted on 02/27/2019
Rachael Wilcox stands with Dr. Mary Hendricks-Harris and Principal Emily Pavia


The Francis Howell School District is proud to announce that Rachael Wilcox, a first grade teacher at Independence Elementary School, has been selected as the 2019 FHSD Teacher of the Year. Her goal, simply stated, is to inspire students both personally and academically. Wilcox feels her most important contribution is building relationships with her students.

During the announcement in the Independence Learning Commons, Wilcox was clearly surprised by the award. “This is the most humbling experience I’ve ever had. The people that work in this District are incredible, so to be recognized is obviously a big honor, and I just hope to continue to serve the kids in this District well.”

Wilcox is a product of FHSD and was inspired to be a teacher by her mother, kindergarten teacher Kim Ostertag. Her mother taught her that teaching is not just a profession, but a passion as well. They also obviously share a love for Independence – as they teach just down the hall from each other. “It is a special place, Principal Emily Pavia and Assistant Principal Jana Schultz lovingly call it the magic kingdom, where we like to make magic happen,” said Wilcox. “You can feel the incredible things that are happening with kids. They are inspired to lead, to love well, and to be kind. It’s just a place you want to come to every day.”

Pavia knows the effect that Wilcox has on her students as well as the culture and climate of the entire school. “Rachael is one of the most selfless, caring people I have ever met. She truly embraces the whole child and ignites others with her passion. Her positive impact is felt by students, staff, and parents. She works tirelessly to build relationships with everyone!”

In addition to her work in the classroom, Wilcox has worked on both school and District initiatives and received numerous professional awards. She was part of the PBIS implementation team and also included character initiatives in the process. She is a trainer for the intervention pilot and has written three curricula, including the District’s first Essential Skills curriculum. She has presented at METC, the National Forum of Character, and the National Council for Social Studies. She was awarded the District’s SEAM Award in 2012 and is a Howell of Fame nominee. She also helped lead the effort that resulted in Independence being named a National School of Character.

Ultimately, Wilcox believes that building relationships is the most important part of teaching. She knows that when students know that you care about them personally, they believe in themselves. “I tell my students daily that I love them and they are the single best part of our classroom family. I tell my families at the beginning of the year ‘learning is fun!’ It’s all about the bow we put on it. Creating that caring, fun learning environment means students want to be there. Having an incredible classroom environment doesn’t mean compromising the expectations; in fact, it enhances them. The most rewarding part of teaching is seeing who the students become as people. It is an honor to walk alongside families, invest in their children, and help shape them into the future versions of themselves.”

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