Noble Schools Announces 2024 Distinguished Teachers

Noble Schools has welcomed seven teachers into its Distinguished Teacher (DT) program for the 2024 school year. Distinguished Teacher provides an industry-changing approach to celebrating and rewarding teachers who are achieving an exceptional impact with students. Among other benefits, each Distinguished Teacher will receive an annual $10,000 award for as long as they remain teachers at Noble. You can read more about the DT program here.

“Many of us remember our favorite teachers far into adulthood. Educators who make a difference in their classrooms make a pivotal difference in their students’ lives, and it is important that we recognize this kind of devotion,” said Constance Jones, CEO of Noble. “It is my honor to welcome this new cohort of outstanding educators into the program and thank them for the abundance of passion, love and dedication that they bring with them to the job each and every day.”

Read more about the seven new Distinguished Teachers:

Alyssa Arroyo-Kearney | Noble Street College Prep

Alyssa posed with her arms crossed leaning against lockers. She is smiling and wearing a beige colored sweater and brown bottoms.

Alyssa Arroyo-Kearney is a college counselor at Noble Street College Prep and has been with Noble for four years. She grew up in Chicago, where she attended Jones College Prep. She then went on to get her bachelor’s degree in health education from Wayne State University and her Master of Education in Higher Education and Administration from Loyola University of Chicago. Arroyo-Kearney has been working in education for eight years— she previously worked as a physical education teacher at a school in Hammond, Indiana.

She currently lives in Hammond with her husband, Michael, her son, Gabe, and their two cats and dog. In her free time, she enjoys powerlifting and hiking with her family.

Q: What do you love about teaching?

A: “I love the personal relationships I get to establish with our students. Students allow me to learn about their personal stories and journeys throughout high school. Our students grant me the opportunity to join them on the most pivotal piece of their high school career. In my opinion, it’s an honor that not many get, and is absolutely the reason I love teaching.”

Q: Why is it important to you to serve Noble students?

A: “Not to quote Whitney Houston, but I believe the children are our future. As a student who graduated from CPS, I see the distinct differences and supports that Noble offers, which is why it’s important to me to serve Noble students. Noble offers the community what I wish I would have had but was fortunate to find in my mentor. It’s hard to change the world as one teacher, but when students are surrounded by teachers with the same mission and vision, it makes all the difference. I know that integral piece can not be found anywhere but Noble. Our students know they are the change agents who will make a difference in our community and city.”

Arroyo-Kearney celebrates her award with family, friends, and coworkers during a surprise visit to her classroom.

Q: What does it mean for you personally and professionally to be named a Distinguished Teacher?

A: “Working at Noble has been such a transformative experience for me. I work alongside a phenomenal team and supportive leadership that has allowed me to grow as a person, a mom, and an educator. The process of becoming a Distinguished Teacher has allowed me to shed the imposter syndrome that has taunted me since I was young. It affirms that my work and the hard work of my students is not going unnoticed.”

Q: How did the Distinguished Teacher application and selection process contribute to your professional development this year?

A: “Prior to this process, I truly believed my only strength was building relationships. This process allowed me to understand my many strengths and articulate how my intention and purpose in teaching were aligned and reflected through my data and work. It also made me realize that my work is not just in the classroom but also the work I have done sitting on University Counselor Advisory Boards and presenting at conferences and network-wide events. The application process is such a rigorous process, and receiving this distinction has allowed me to recognize the high bar I hold for myself and reflect on how I can continue to be better.”

Jacqueline Patterson | Gary Comer College Prep

Jackie is smiling in a selfie. She has short straight hair, and is wearing a black floral top with long dangling earrings.

Jacqueline Patterson has been with Noble for seven years and teaches English language arts at Gary Comer College Prep. She grew up in Villa Park, Illinois, and attended the American School in Chicago. She went on to get her bachelor’s from Trinity International University and received two master’s degrees— a Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies from Wheaton College and a Master of Arts in Special Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is currently working on a third master’s degree in principal preparation from Concordia University. Patterson has been working in education for 13 years. Before becoming a full-time teacher, she served as the K-6 afterschool program director at Circle Urban Ministries.

In her spare time, she enjoys watching “The View” and HGTV, bird-watching, baking cupcakes, and reading. Her favorite book, next to the Bible, is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.

Q: What do you love about teaching?

A: “Teaching is my God-given calling; it’s what I was created to do. I love pouring into young people and elevating their existing greatness, making a transformational difference in their lives, especially with literacy. Although teaching is demanding exhausting work, it makes me come alive and gives me purpose. With each passing year, my Leaders of Excellence (AKA my scholars) continue to make me a better teacher and human, and I can’t imagine doing anything else!”

Q: Why is it important to you to serve Noble students?

A: “Noble students, especially our diverse learners, are unique and special and come to Noble with big dreams and hopes for their lives, trusting that Noble will make those dreams come true. They deserve a quality and empowering education to help them fulfill their dreams. What an honor to be a catalyst for my Leaders of Excellence (AKA scholars) and have a front row seat as they grow and mature towards becoming the best version of themselves. There is no greater joy than equipping my Leaders of Excellence with reading, writing, and speaking skills and then watching them soar! A BIG shoutout to my Catamount Leaders of Excellence….we did it! Continue to make your lives extraordinary!”

Patterson was surprised in her classroom with the DT award by Principal JuDonne Hemingway, other staff, her family, and friends.

Q: What does it mean for you personally and professionally to be named a Distinguished Teacher?

A: “Being named a Distinguished Teacher (DT) is an honor of my lifetime— all glory to God! It’s a stamp of approval that I am doing right by my Leaders of Excellence in teaching them as they deserve, and it’s affirmation that I have found my niche in the field of special education. Professionally, it assures me that I am surrounded by a supportive Noble community of incredible talented educators and professionals who, like me, are driven towards greater excellence in education. This also gives me an amplified voice for the special education community of learning specialists and diverse learners who are often misunderstood and underrepresented. My goal is to work tirelessly until all diverse learners in the Noble network can read and write at their highest potentials. The sky’s the limit!”

Q: How did the Distinguished Teacher application and selection process contribute to your professional development this year?

A: “Even though the DT process was extremely rigorous, I found it to be very transformative, and I am grateful for the journey. Last year, I didn’t make it past Round 2, but the feedback I received was by far the best I ever had in all my years in education. I spent last summer reflecting, researching, making pivotal changes, and designing supplemental literacy curriculum to make a maximum impact in the classroom. This process has sparked a fire in me to continue researching, learning, and implementing best practices for teens with reading challenges, grounded in the science of reading. I am forever grateful for the Academics team and DT selection team for their countless hours of investment in me, for the Noble senior leadership team for creating the whole DT process, for JuDonne Hemingway and the past three GCCP principals for believing in and supporting me, and last but not least, for Jamelle and Kylie (Martin) Williams for encouraging me to apply and cheering me on through the entire process. I am proud to be Noble!”

Joshua Sosa | Pritzker College Prep

This is Josh's professional headshot. He is smiling and wears glasses. He has on a blue button-up.

Joshua Sosa is an AP U.S. History and AP Government teacher at Pritzker College Prep and has been with Noble for seven years. He grew up in Chicago and is a Pritzker alum! He went on to get his bachelor’s from Macalester College and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Relay Graduate School of Education. He has eight years of experience in education— he previously worked as a teacher’s assistant during a college work-study program.

Q: What do you love about teaching?

A: “I do not even know where to begin! If I could boil my response to one aspect of teaching that I love the most, it has to be supporting students to develop into agents of change and future leaders. While one of my main responsibilities is to ensure that students learn the essential knowledge and skills of my courses, it is also my responsibility to aid students in their social and emotional development. I love teaching because, oftentimes, I have the opportunity to witness students learning new concepts (even working through productive struggle), connecting class concepts to themselves and the outside world, and ultimately teaching and supporting each other. Lastly, while I am a teacher, I am also a lifelong learner. Teaching challenges me to grow. I can continue to reflect and refine my craft so that I am the qualified teacher that students and their families deserve.”

Q: Why is it important to you to serve Noble students?

A: “I truly believe in the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” As a Noble alum, I have come back to that village to pay it forward and ensure that “all students have equitable and positive school experiences that equip them to complete college and lead choice-filled lives.”

Many of my high school classmates and their families have chosen Pritzker as the high school for their children. That means that, from time to time, I have the opportunity to teach my high school friends’ younger siblings and cousins. In all, I am a living testament to Noble’s vision and mission, and I am committed to helping to open as many doors for our students as possible.”

Sosa smiles and hugs his family during his surprise DT announcement.

Q: What does it mean for you personally and professionally to be named a Distinguished Teacher?

A: “Earning the title of Distinguished Teacher has helped me in fighting off the imposter syndrome. For too long, I have felt that I needed to be better and more talented to teach amongst the brilliant staff at Pritzker. While I am still impacted by imposter syndrome, I do feel more confident in my skills as an educator in the building. Professionally speaking, I am most excited to not only refine my craft in building ‘classroom spaces that are transformational and equip students to complete college and lead choice-filled lives’ but also to share best practices and help other educators do the same.”

Q: How did the Distinguished Teacher application and selection process contribute to your professional development this year?

A: “The Distinguished Teacher application and selection process has had a significant impact on my teaching in many ways. First and foremost, the guiding questions in the written application allowed me to become intimate with all the various dimensions of my impact in the classroom and beyond. In many ways, it helped me codify my instructional choices and made my intentional decision-making process visible. The entirety of the process pushed me to think about what I do and the how but also reaffirmed my why and what drives me. Ultimately, the process has made it possible for me to grow in unprecedented ways— such as strengthening my feedback loops and driving high-quality responses, which has translated into better academic results for my students.”

Laura Merlo Strybel | Noble Street College Prep

Laura is posed outside in front of a tree. She is smiling and wearing a red and white floral top. She has a short hair.

Laura Strybel has been with Noble for 14 years and teaches environmental science at Noble Street College Prep. She grew up in West Bloomfield, Michigan, and attended Mercy High School in Farmington Hills, MI. She went on to get her bachelor’s degree from University of Michigan and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Dominican University. She has 19 years of experience in education.

She has an incredible family— her husband and two little boys— who continually support and inspire her.

Q: What do you love about teaching?

A: “Because I am lucky enough to teach 9th graders, I love watching them and helping them grow from middle schoolers to confident, independent high school students over the course of the year. I love seeing the change in them as they learn that hard work is something to lean into and not avoid. I love watching them confidently debate with their classmates about an answer, knowing that in only four short years, they will take this skill with them to college and beyond. I love that I have the privilege of learning from my students, sharing in their joys and sorrows. It is a privilege that, in some small way, I have been a part of the journey that prepared them for the wonderful things in their future.”

Q: Why is it important to you to serve Noble students?

A: “Getting to serve Noble students is the easy part of my job! Families choose Noble because of our commitment to their students and to their futures; we are lucky enough to work to earn their trust and respond to their call. It is important that I serve Noble students because doing so allows me to do this work alongside a team of brilliant educators and leaders in our network who are paving new paths in education. Noble helps make me a better educator and Noble students and their families make me want to be.”

Strybel was surprised by her two sons, her husband, and her coworkers during her DT award announcement.

Q: What does it mean for you personally and professionally to be named a Distinguished Teacher?

A: “Personally and professionally, being named Distinguished Teacher is an incredible honor. To be listed among such remarkable educators gives me a sense of confidence in my pedagogical methods. Teaching is extremely fulfilling, but it is also incredibly difficult because our work is focused on the long game, on the distant future. This distinction helps me feel a confidence— right now— that my work, my efforts, the love and passion, and the full outpouring of self that I put into my work with and for students is valuable, is purposeful, and is, in fact, making a difference.”

Q: How did the Distinguished Teacher application and selection process contribute to your professional development this year?

A: “This process required reflection on all parts of my practice and forced me to articulate why I make the decisions I make in my planning and in my classroom. But, beyond that, this process contributed to my development because it helped me trust more in myself and in my choices. I live in a state of reflection and critique (what could I have done better, what should I have done better, how can I be more effective tomorrow, next year, next period?). This process helped me look at these questions from new vantage points while also requiring that I reflect on and highlight my successes.”

Lauren Nelson | Pritzker College Prep

Lauren is smiling posed in front of a brick wall. She has on a dark-colored top and she has long blonde hair.

Lauren Nelson has been with Noble for 10 years and teaches Russian at Pritzker College Prep. She grew up in Plymouth, Minnesota, where she attended Armstrong High School. She received her bachelor’s degree from Illinois Wesleyan University and went on to get her Master of Arts in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies from Stanford University.

In her free time, she loves to make pottery!

Q: What do you love about teaching?

A: “I love my students. I love my A1 class for pushing my pedagogy to new levels; their ideas and feedback make my lessons better every day. Whenever I raise the bar of rigor, they blast past it and redefine my conception of what’s possible in Russian 1. I love my A3 class for their kindness and constant encouragement of each other. They make my classroom a community where people feel safe to try new things. I love my A4 class for their fearless communication and willingness to immediately dive into new vocabulary. I am confident that this class has used Russian outside of Pritzker more than any other: at work with customers, on the soccer field, on the bus, at the mall … if they hear someone speaking Russian, they’re going to join the conversation. I love my B1 class for their curiosity: they always want to know more than I have planned and make incredible linguistic connections between English and Spanish. Mi español es mejor especialmente gracias a las estudiantes en B1. I love my B2 class for making me laugh all the time (and laughing at my jokes). Their creativity and goofy, edgy humor shines through in their Russian sentences; every day with them is truly fun. I love my B5 class for challenging me even after I’ve already taught the same lesson five times. At the end of a long day, they awaken me and my lesson with their palpable energy and playfulness with language.

I love hearing my students confidently speak in a language that’s notoriously difficult to learn. I love that I get to combine my content knowledge with creativity, humor, and fun. I love that teaching has made me more patient, empathetic, and thoughtful.”

Q: Why is it important to you to serve Noble students?

A: “The students Pritzker serves have historically been excluded from Russian language curricula. In my class, students learn to communicate about themselves and their lives in Russian. Noble students deserve to see themselves reflected in classroom materials.”

Nelson celebrates her DT award with coworkers and family.

Q: What does it mean for you personally and professionally to be named a Distinguished Teacher?

A: “When a student heard that I was named a Distinguished Teacher, he congratulated me and asked what I’ll apply for next year. This was a good reminder that being named a Distinguished Teacher isn’t an end point; even if there isn’t another designation to apply for, I’ll continue down the path of reflection and refinement that led me here.”

Q: How did the Distinguished Teacher application and selection process contribute to your professional development this year?

A: “As much as the application process was focused on me, I found myself turning outward and seeking feedback from others more than in any other year I’ve worked at Pritzker. This year, I’ve implemented strong systems of peer-to-peer feedback for my students. I’ve seen how my students get better at Russian after having multiple people listen to them and tell them what they’re doing well and what they could improve. I’ve learned that the same is true for my professional development: seeking out and listening to voices other than my own makes me a better teacher.”

Samantha Siros | Chicago Bulls College Prep

Sam is smiling. She has shoulder-length brown hair and wears glasses with a patterned top.

Samantha Siros is an algebra teacher at Chicago Bulls College Prep and has been with Noble for seven years. She grew up in Newbury Park, California, where she attended Newbury Park High School. She went on to get her Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration from San Diego State University. She has been working in education for 10 years, previously working as a composition teacher and dean of culture.

Q: What do you love about teaching?

A: “For me, being a teacher is a pathway to collaborating with our future leaders and empowering them to capitalize on their opportunities to impact our local and global community. I love watching students discover their own goals and identities. All students deserve loving teachers with high expectations that provide equitable support as they pursue their goals throughout high school and beyond.”

Q: Why is it important to you to serve Noble students?

A: “It is important for me to serve Noble students because our students deserve a loving education that holds them to high expectations and propels them to postsecondary options and success. In my mind, great teachers keep all doors open. I was afforded every option after high school because of my teachers. When I failed and wanted to give up, I had teachers who encouraged, or insisted on, my perseverance to success. Students at Noble deserve the same love and support.”

Siros celebrates her DT award with her students, family, and coworkers.

Q: What does it mean for you personally and professionally to be named a Distinguished Teacher?

A: “Being a Distinguished Teacher means that I get to continue to work towards excellence in the classroom my students and I build, and that we get to model this collaborative pursuit of excellence for other classrooms.”

Q: How did the Distinguished Teacher application and selection process contribute to your professional development this year?

A: “Distinguished Teacher served as a chance for constant feedback (largely from students and families) followed by reflection and adjustment. This contributed to my development this year, but also contributed to the development of our classroom and my students. While being a Distinguished Teacher is an individual recognition, it feels like a collaborative effort with students and families; the ongoing positive reinforcement and constructive feedback I have received over the past eight years at Noble led to this, so I owe much of my success to coworkers, students, families, and my community. I am excited that throughout this school year, this development was amplified by the Distinguished Teacher process and also thankful it will continue for years to come.”

Sean Smith | Pritzker College Prep

Sean is smiling. He has short brown hair and is wearing a black suit and silver tie.

Sean Smith is a chemistry teacher at Pritzker College Prep who has been with Noble for four years. He grew up in Cadillac, Michigan, where he attended Cadillac High School. He went on to get his bachelor’s degree from Kalamazoo College and then a Master of Science in Science Education from Lehman College. Smith has been working in education for 16 years; he last worked as a science instructional coach at EPIC Academy.

His free time is mostly spent coaching soccer, gardening, and biking around Chicago with his family.

Q: What do you love about teaching?

A: “Teaching is constantly challenging, surprising, and rewarding. The things that I love about teaching vary on a daily basis because there are so many different aspects to it as a job. It is never boring, and there are always unsolved puzzles and challenges that require creative solutions. I also appreciate the unpredictability and surprises that come from teaching students who have their own unique ideas, questions, and quirks. The exact same lesson or lab could produce different data, conclusions, or questions based on what students are bringing into the classroom.

From a bigger picture perspective, I believe that educational equity is one of the most important ways that we can all can achieve their our potential, and I am proud to work to create a more equitable educational system.”

Q: Why is it important to you to serve Noble students?

A: “Our students represent our city and communities. I see them walking to school as I bike to work in the morning, hear how excited they are to go downtown to see the Bean on the weekends, and even see them working at Macy’s Santaland. They bring their unique ideas, experiences, and curiosity into class every day and make our class their own. Their future is Chicago’s future, and they deserve high quality educational experiences and opportunities to reach their full potential.”

Smith is surprised by his family and coworkers for his DT award announcement.

Q: What does it mean for you personally and professionally to be named a Distinguished Teacher?

A: “Being named a Distinguished Teacher was a nice way to recognize the time, energy, and work that I’ve put into my craft of teaching high school chemistry, as well as the expertise I’ve gained over the last 16 years of teaching. With teaching, there’s no day-to-day recognition of the extra time we put in on the weekends or after school brainstorming lessons, setting up labs, grading, or the million other things on our minds. So, it’s just nice to have the extra recognition for the outcomes that all of these little things produce.”

Q: How did the Distinguished Teacher application and selection process contribute to your professional development this year?

A: “Going through the process pushed me to pause and reflect on the rationale and effectiveness of different aspects of my class and practice. By explaining the rationale for different decisions I’ve made and classroom practices, I had to question myself on whether they actually had the intended impact and were producing the intended results. It pushed me to look harder at data and be self-reflective about what was working and what wasn’t working, and then look for ways to improve the processes that weren’t having the intended impact. Overall, it helped me refine my day-to-day classroom practices and ensure they were more effective and efficient.”

About the Distinguished Teachers program

Distinguished Teachers must be in at least their fourth year teaching at Noble, having exemplified Noble’s core values and traits in five key areas:

  • Student Growth: Are your students achieving exceptional growth?
  • Classroom Culture: In what ways have you created a strong classroom in which students feel invested, empowered, and connected?
  • Instructional Rigor: In what ways does your classroom culture, planning, and instruction push students’ cognitive lift, quality responses, and intentional use of time?
  • Inclusion and Relevance: How is your classroom inclusive of and/or relevant to the students that you serve?
  • Extended Impact: How have you directly impacted your school, the community it serves, and/or our network outside of your classroom?

These Distinguished Teachers applied for the program by submitting written narratives and a portfolio of artifacts including comprehensive data. Finalists then participated in classroom observations and debriefs, student surveys, a panel interview, and reference checks over the course of several months.

The Distinguished Teacher designation will come with several clearly defined benefits:

  • An additional $10,000 award on top of base salary, as determined by the Noble Salary Schedule, each year for the duration of employment as a teacher at Noble;
  • Opportunities to engage in professional development specific to Distinguished Teachers as well as facilitate professional development experiences across Noble Schools;
  • Unique opportunities to participate in network-wide decisions across functions;
  • Participation in the selection of future Distinguished Teachers.

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