Hollis Axelrod and Julie Witczak are two special teachers in the Deerfield public schools.
Both Axelrod and Witczak got a surprise recently when members of the Chicago Bears organization showed up in their classroom to pay tribute. They are two of only 16 teachers in Chicgoland to be so honored.
Axelrod was leading her Kipling School kindergarten class in song during the annual Thanksgiving feast for parents Nov. 17 when Principal Adrienne Moseley told everyone there was a special guest in the room.
That is when Chicago Bears owner George McCasky took the microphone and told everyone Axelrod was selected as a Symetra Hero in the Classroom. This is a joint program with the Bears, Symetra and the National Football League.
Rebecca Zelken was one of Axelrod’s students and all three of her children have gone through the same kindergarten. She nominated Axelrod for the honor.
“I nominated her because she loves all of the children that she's had for decades," Zelken, said. "She gives them confidence and makes them feel good about themselves. They all feel so special. That stays with them."
For Witczak, the surprise was literally much bigger. When McCasky came into her seventh grade classroom at Caruso Middle School he was accompanied by Bears’ tight end Kellen Davis. She was nominated by Cathleen Rosenzweig.
“Julie (Witczak) reaches out to know the whole child, increase a child's esteem and intellect, and engage students in learning activities that are fun as well as skill driven,” Rosenzweig said. “Her warm sense of humor and the values she transmits to her students works to ensure that many more of her students will be bright and contributing members of our changing society.”
When both teachers attend the Bears game Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs—part of their prize was a pair of tickets each to the game—their accomplishments will be lauded on jumbotron on the scoreboard.
They also received a $250 gift card to buy supplies for their classrooms and a Bears jersey. Their schools got a $1,000 check.