CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — The Champaign-Urbana Schools Foundation (CUSF) announced Monday that first-grade educator Abby Donovan at Kenwood Elementary won the Mann-Hankel Teaching Excellence Award from the CUSF.

School officials said that this year is the third year CUSF has provided the award, established by Barbara Mann and her husband Steven Hankel. They said the award recognizes a Unit 4 tenured teacher who exemplifies the traits of Dedication, Integrity, Commitment to Every Student, Service, and Excellence.

The foundation said Donovan has made her teaching “home” at Kenwood Elementary for the past 12 years after graduating from Southern Illinois Carbondale in 2011. One of her nominators describes Donovan as “the foundation of our first-grade team who has mentored several grade-level colleagues. Her classroom is often utilized for ‘Learning Walks’ where teachers observe colleagues to gain ideas to shift their practice.”

The nominator added: “Donovan has served on almost every school committee and has helped to organize events that bring our school community together. Her first grade Thanksgiving Feast event has been a highlight for all Kenwood first graders and their families.”

Another teaching peer said that “Abby is almost always the classroom teacher that is assigned students with the most significant special needs. She is committed to every student and holds high expectations while teaching them how to persevere no matter what the circumstances. She sees all her students as those that can and will persevere. This growth mindset is instilled in her students, and continues as they move through our school.”

Donovan’s colleagues praised her service to the school and the students. Another colleague said: “Abby is well known for her family connections that last a lifetime. She is determined to support students in whatever they may need to achieve their fullest potential. Whether arranging for food, clothing or helping a student to find emergency dental assistance, her determination to not leave anyone behind is amazing.”

Barbara Mann, a former CUSF Board Chair, and her husband Steve shared their interest in creating the award.

“My parents were teachers and I grew up seeing their deep commitment to their students and firm belief that education was the path to success,” Mann said. “Their own lives were deeply impacted by the teachers who believed in them during their very challenging childhoods. Steve and I created this award to acknowledge them and all the teachers who have touched our lives.”

Mann added: “Our children had wonderful teachers at Unit 4 who nurtured them, challenged them, and gave them a firm foundation for success. This is our small way of expressing gratitude to all of them.”

The foundation said the Mann-Hankel Teaching Excellence Award honors a tenured educator with 10+ years of teaching experience, and a minimum of 5 years of service in Unit 4 schools. They said Donovan will also receive an award of $2,000.

More information about the foundation and its programs that benefit Champaign Unit 4 and Urbana District 116 teachers, students, and schools can be found online.