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Ayala named Cook County Co-Regional Teacher of the Year

Published February 2, 2023

Dr. Michael Ayala, world languages teacher at John Hersey High School, has been named Cook County Co-Regional Teacher of the Year for 2023.

Ayala is also a finalist for the statewide Illinois Teacher of the Year award, which will be announced later this year. District 214 boasts two of the 13 finalists; Specialized Schools teacher Nicole McCormick was named 2023 Special Education Teacher of the Year, and also will be in the running for the statewide award.

Ayala has been teaching Spanish, AP Spanish and Heritage Spanish at Hersey for nearly 30 years. He established the Spanish for Heritage Learners curriculum and is club sponsor of the Latin American Student Organization.

“I am humbled beyond belief,” said Ayala. “I have been teaching for over 32 years, and 29 of those have been at John Hersey High School. I have worked hard to make a difference in students' lives and this recognition speaks to the impact that my life’s work has had in the lives of many students. This recognition reminds me that the work we do as teachers matters.

“I am still on cloud nine!”

In recommending Ayala for the award, Hersey Principal Keir Rogers wrote: “I recall during my first encounter with Dr. Ayala 12 years ago that his core values were very much aligned to the needs of all students. He advocated access for a group of students who were unseen in terms of their potential.”

Ayala received a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a Ed.D. in education from Loyola University in Chicago. He began his District 214 career as assistant to the dean at Hersey before moving to his role teaching Spanish in 1994. He has served multiple times as an officer for the Illinois Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, and was named the group’s Foreign Language Teacher of the Year in 2021.

Associate Principal Joe Krajacic wrote of Ayala: “What is special about Mike Ayala is his ability to persuade students to believe in themselves…Students who have come into contact with him are made aware of and believe they are valued not only as individuals but as members of the larger school community.”

Said Ayala: “Our profession is a labor of love—love for our students, our subject matter and learning. I would like to be remembered as a teacher who taught my students how to be caring, respectful, honest and good global citizens of the world–and yes of course, as a teacher who taught them Spanish.”