by Brandon LaChance
The biggest institution in Dwight is Dwight Township High School. Every child in the village receives their education from DTHS and what they do with it from there is a representation of Dwight.
Mark Pagel and Jane Kresl took their Trojan education and have shared it with other communities.
Not just shared, but extensively, as both have been recognized as top educators in Illinois.
Pagel was recognized by the Illinois Principals Association as the Principal of the Year for 2021-22 and Kresl was awarded the Teacher of the Year by the Kiwanis Club of Peoria.
“I was so incredibly honored to receive the Illinois state-wide Principal of the Year Award for 2022. Honestly, it’s such a team effort and I feel like it’s so much more than I deserve,” Pagel said. “When you’re working in education, teachers, administrators, the support staff, educators, we don’t do what we do for awards.
“They’re wonderful when they come in, but honestly, from Day 1 – and I think anyone you talk to who knows me would agree – I’m just all about the kids as all teachers are. We do this because we have a love for kids. We want to make a positive difference in their lives, we want to help them be their best selves, and we want to create amazing memories around teaching and learning together that stick with them for their entire lives.
“Kids are the why of why we do what we do. That makes every day a joy to go to school because you get to spend your day with kids.”
Pagel, who is married to Shari (celebrating their 31st Anniversary on March 23) and have three kids in Marissa (29), Brennan (26), and Garrett (23), has been the principal of Prairieview Elementary in Downers Grove for the last eight years.
His current position came after graduating from Dwight in 1985, Illinois State University in 1990, teaching middle school math for 12 years, principal at Dwight Junior High from 2002-2011, and a principal in Elwood for three years.
After connecting with superintendent Tim Arnold in Elwood, Pagel is working with his mentor again through the Central Cass District, of which Prairieview is a part.
“Part of leaving Dwight and going to the suburbs was career opportunities. I live in Shorewood, so the move to Elwood brought me closer to home,” Pagel said. “My kids were at a younger age and heavily in volved with a lot of activities in school and so I wanted to be more available, involved in their school careers. I spent a lot of my time when they were much younger at events for other kids. I just didn’t want to miss my own kids’ events.
“Working for Tim Arnold was a draw for me as well. Arnold had changed positions and became the superintendent of Center Cass School District. I jumped at the opportunity to work with him again. We’re very like-minded, but we also challenge each other in the very best way possible to become better leaders for our community.”
Pagel knows he didn’t win this award alone. He praised his co-workers and his wife for being just as much of the award as he is.
“So much of this award is a credit to her. She was the one when I was coaching, teaching, and taking night classes, she was the one at home raising the kids and taking care of things on the home front,” Pagel said. “Everything of who I am today, I owe to her. She is the reason I am here today and the reason I’ve received all of the wonderful messages I have for receiving the award.”
Kresl comes from a teaching family tree. If you’ve ever been to the DTHS gymnasium, you may notice the Kresl name.
“I knew I wanted to be a teacher from the start. My parents were both teachers,” Kresl said. “The gymnasium at Dwight Township High School is named after my father (John “AJ” Kresl), my mother (Janet Kresl), my grandmother, and my grandfather – the Kresl Memorial Gym. I just followed in their footsteps.”
Not only were her parents and grandparents teachers, but her brother-in-law, aunt, daughter, and sister are as well.
Kresl graduated from Dwight in 1994 and went to Joliet Junior College for her Associate’s Degree and to play softball and basketball. The National Board Certified Teacher received both her Bachelor and Masters Degrees from ISU.
She was then hired by District 150 in Peoria in 1999 and has been a special education teacher at Manual High School in Peoria since 2008.
“I ended up in Peoria because I did all of my field base and student teaching in Peoria. Then I was offered a job when I was student teaching and I took it,” Kresl said. “I enjoy being around the kids, the students, being able to help students out, gain relationships with them, watch them grow, help them through the good and bad times, being able to change lives, let kids know they’re worth something and could have a career, and lead them in the right path.”
Kresl’s Teacher of the Year Award provided by the Kiwanis Club of Peoria was voted on by her peers as each school sends in a nominee.
Being recognized by her co-workers is special for Kresl.
“It means a lot. Working at Manual, there is a lot of challenges,” Kresl said. Really, I can’t do what I do here without our administration team and any of the teachers. I am who I am because of my parents, but also because of the teachers and the administration I work with. Teaching is always a team effort.”
Both Pagel and Kresl said they’re glad they were raised and received their education in Dwight. Their upbringings helped them become the positive role models they are for all communities.
Brandon LaChance is a journalist with The Paper. He can be reached at 815-876-7941, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @LaChanceWriter.