Future educators earn top honors

Photo courtesy of Ben Baer
COAL CITY HIGH School students [from left] Mia Ratajczak and Rachel Hall earned top honors in their respective contests during the annual Educators Rising Conference held Monday, March 6 at Illinois State University. The students are members of the Aspiring Coal City Educators organization at Coal City High School.


On a day when most students were enjoying a school holiday, a group of future teachers spent the day focusing on education.

The 2023 Educators Rising Conference drew over 800 aspiring future educators to Illinois State University on Monday.

The one-day conference included a keynote address from Illinois’ 2022 Teacher of the Year, breakout sessions, networking and competitions—Coal City winning half of the events.

Mia Ratajczak, who plans to enter the field of special education, competed in and won top honors in Educators Rising Moment. Her presentation included a brief speech describing why she wants to become a teacher.

“Mia shared her wonderful experience working with special needs students as part of our PALS program,” said Ben Baer, advisor of the Aspiring Coal City Educators organization.

Rachel Hall competed in Children’s Literature K-3 and took top honors.

“For this competition she wrote, illustrated and produced a children’s book and read the book for judges,” Baer said.

Hall’s story “Seasons Change,” is about teaching children to be resilient and patient.

A third member of the organization, Mariana Hren, also competed in the Educators Rising Moment, and in the words of her advisor, “did a fantastic job.”

The Aspiring Coal City Educators organization was established at the start of the school year and is open to all students—freshmen through seniors—who have expressed an interest in teaching.

Educators Rising, a career and technical student organization focused on teacher preparation programs, is the state and national organization from which local chapters are affiliated.