FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                            Date: May 10, 2002

Contact: Donna McCracken, 206-6716


UIS graduate named teacher of the year

SPRINGFIELD -- Claudia Pitchford, a graduate of the University of Illinois at Springfield, has been named Sam’s Club Teacher of the Year 2002.

Pitchford teaches art in the New Berlin and Loami elementary schools and in the Franklin junior and senior high schools. She was taken by surprise during a third grade class on May 7 when representatives from Sam’s Club arrived with gifts for her and a $500 check for the school.

Nominated anonymously through a display at a Sam’s Club store, she is now eligible to compete for state teacher of the year and national teacher of the year awards, which include stipends of $5,000 and $10,000, respectively.

She observed, “I am thrilled to receive such an award and am honored to have it so early in my career. I am a teacher because I want to make a difference in a child’s life.”

Noting that a favorite quote from author Alex Haley hangs above her desk -- “Anytime you see a turtle up on top of a fence post you know he had some help” – Pitchford added, “I can’t be a teacher without the students. I am rewarded every day by warm smiles and by watching learning taking place.”

Pitchford graduated from UIS in 2000, earning a bachelor’s degree from the Visual Arts program and an elementary education certificate through the Teacher Education program. She returned to UIS in the 2001 fall semester to complete certification to teach art at the high school level.

While still a student, she served as a representative to and officer of the State Board of the Student Education Association and was nominated for Who’s Who Among American College Students. She is also currently serving as president of UIS’ Alpha Alpha Gamma chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, the international honor society in education.