LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Sunil Mody

Position: Principal
School: Northlake Middle School
School District: Berkeley School District 87
City, State: Northlake, IL

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Photini Sikaras Posted 4 days ago

December, 2019 Dear Selection Committee: It is with great pleasure that I write this letter of recommendation for Dr. Sunil Mody for Life Changer of the Year. Dr. Mody has served as an educator for 20 years, in the roles of teacher, English Department Chair, and for the last 10 years, as principal of Northlake Middle School. I have had the honor of working with him for 10 years as my principal and getting to know him professionally, personally, and as a confidant. Dr. Mody is an example of an exemplary man, truly living the American dream. He began his journey as a young boy from India to the United States, and he has evolved into an ethical, honorable man, who passionately serves his community, by his example and actions. His experiences of learning English as a second language, overcoming many obstacles, and guiding his parents, have provided him with the drive to serve children in a highly diverse community, help them persevere, and transform their lives. Dr. Mody’s goal to help students thrive, communities prosper, and teachers grow, can be seen in his daily actions. He has helped create a safe, welcoming, and nurturing climate in our school, by building trusting and meaningful relationships with students, families, and staff. He ensures only the highest quality education is provided to our students and also ensures the whole child is addressed, by making social emotional learning (SEL) a priority in our school, ensuring all staff receives professional development on trauma-informed practices and the Illinois SEL standards. As a result, SEL and vital prevention and intervention skills are taught daily to all students, not only to those in need of responsive services. Northlake Middle School is a family. Due to Dr. Mody’s leadership and example, the environment is safe, welcoming, and warm. This is evident in the trusting relationships Dr. Mody builds with our students, staff, and families, and in the social-emotional programs he ensures are implemented in our school, to ensure our students feel a sense of belonging. Dr. Mody ensured the implementation of the Signs of Suicide program by Elyssa’s Mission, which provided vital suicide prevention and education for 500 students and saved lives. Dr. Mody collaborates with students, teachers, and families, to build relationships and create a safe and welcoming learning environment that fosters deep respect, trust, kindness, and a love of learning. He creates many parent engagement events, such as Dinner with the Principal and our Northlake family, incorporating cultural folk dance and ethnic food, and Coffee/Tea with the Principal. He also conducts SEL Nights, led by the SEL team, which include the support of our community resource providers. Dr. Mody ensures our families have all the mental health resources and support they need and also informs our families of the mental health support provided at our school to meet our students’ needs, while being receptive to their feedback. Dr. Mody’s passion, vision, and leadership inspire our students, staff, and families to develop social-emotionally, achieve academic success, and strive for excellence. Sunil’s student centered vision and dedication to help students succeed is evident in all his actions. Dr. Mody always sets high expectations and challenges all students and staff to reach their maximum potential. He provides the support, resources, and commitment necessary to empower students and help them succeed. Through Dr. Mody’s leadership, our students have outperformed the national norms consistently, and our school has moved from underperforming to commendable in our district report card. Furthermore, 30 percent of our eighth grade students feeding into district 209, are accepted into the district’s magnet school, Proviso Math and Science Academy (PMSA). His clearly defined high standards of conduct for our students have resulted in the lowest discipline in the last ten years. Dr. Mody’s passion for excellence and higher education has led to the creation of the first annual RISE! Conference in 2017. The RISE! Conference empowered our Latino middle school students and their parents to pursue their hopes and dreams through higher education. He ensured his vision became a reality by forming a committee and working with the counselor to collaborate with community leaders, activists, local high schools, colleges/universities, and motivational speakers to help inform, transform and inspire our students and parents accomplish their goals. Dr. Mody cares deeply about the school and the students. His interactions with students demonstrate genuine warmth, trust, and respect. He understands the power relationships have in transforming lives and makes every effort to be a trusted adult for our students. He also ensures all students have a trusted adult they can turn to. He is always visible at school, all events, and leads by example, whether it be by high fiving students in the hallway, playing soccer with them outside, or making positive phone calls home. Dr. Mody demonstrates that the Principal’s office is a welcoming place for all students, by eating lunch with our students on a regular basis and bringing students in for positive affirmations. Dr. Mody has also created a boys’ mentor group, providing much needed guidance, support, and mentorship to at-risk youth, by meeting weekly, providing a safe place, developing trusting relationships, playing basketball, and being that needed role-model. He has created the “Adopt a Student” program, where each adult “adopts” a student. In 2018, our adopted students achieved the highest academic growth of all our students. Furthermore, Dr. Mody created the “You Inspire Me Challenge”, where each adult created a video to tell a student why they are their reason come to school every day. The passion Dr. Mody has for his students, families, and staff is unparalleled. His passion for excellence shines in the face of every single student. Sunil believes every student has the capacity to thrive and commits to making that belief a reality. When students and their families speak of Dr. Mody, they do so with admiration and trust. He is the positive force in the success and transformation of our students at Northlake Middle School. For these reasons, I can think of no other person better qualified to receive the award of Life Changer of the Year than Dr. Sunil Mody. Sincerely, Photini Sikaras Lead School Counselor Northlake Middle School