Teacher Innovator

One District 203 elementary school is setting the bar for innovation. Last month District 203 and OfficeMax celebrated in song Ryan Hammer’s Teacher Innovator award, but his teammate at River Woods Elementary School, Ullestad gets the bragging rights for the month of April.

If you can’t remember your fourth and fifth grade social studies lessons, it’s probably because Tricia Ullestad wasn’t your teacher.

“I feel anyone can open a book to any page, but I do believe it’s the teacher’s responsibility to bring learning and make it come alive,” said Ullestad.

Her students don’t just read about the material in class, they create plays and write songs so it doesn’t go in one ear and out the other. Ullestad’s ability to keep her students engaged helped her become River Woods Elementary School’s second consecutive Teacher Innovator.

“My mind kind of just went blank because I know Ryan had just received this award and to see the balloons walking into my classroom I was like ‘really?’” said Ullestad.

Her nomination comes from Julie Jopes, whose son Jack is a fifth grader in her multi-age class. Jack is Julie’s third son to go through Ullestad’s class.

“They remember what they’ve learned,” said Jopes. “My oldest son can tell my youngest son little tidbits about the U.S. that he learned in class that I don’t think he’d remember had it been read in a text book. Certain generals in the war they remember in the battles because they were actually part of it.”

Robyn Ripple, Principal at River Woods, says the consecutive awards at the school just go to show how beneficial teamwork among the teacher can be.

“I am here to support teachers as they guide students through learning, so I feel really proud,” said Ripple. “She was just so gracious and proud of and thrilled for Ryan and so it’s really neat to see that they both are recognized.”

“I learn from children every single day and its not just fact, its information that they come with and background knowledge and its how they think and its how they learn, its what they love and I learn something everyday,” said Ullestad.

April is the last Teacher Innovator for the year, but OfficeMax’s Teacher of the Year award will be announced May 15th.


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