LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Elizabeth Wayne

Position: Special Education Teacher
School: Washington Junior High School
School District: Rock Island - Milan School District #41
City, State: Rock Island, IL

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Elizabeth Wayne was nominated by the parent of a student, Fred Venable III, who was assisted by the school's principal, Kristin Allen

Once in a while, you hear about that one teacher who made a difference. For Venable's son, Fred IV, Ms. Wayne is that teacher.

Fred is a special needs child who was unable to read until last year, when he started at Washington Junior High School. With her methods, knowledge, and experience, Ms. Wayne has tapped into Fred's intellect and abilities, He's progressing by leaps and bounds, learning reading, writing, life skills, and everything in between.

"The great part is that he is with her for the next two years," Venable III said. "Elizabeth needs to be recognized for her contribution to all the special needs children she's taught in her career. I'm blessed with my son and Ms Wayne's efforts to his education. It really takes a saint to work with special needs children. I think we all know that it must be extremely challenging."

In grammar school, Venable III was told that his son would probably never read a book. In his first year at Washington Junior High, however, Ms. Wayne recognized Fred's potential immediately, as well as what motivates him to learn. Her "little sponge" or "superstar" as she calls him, started to read.

"If she's able to do this for my son, how many other students has she been able to affect in her career? Think about that. Think about her legacy," Venable III said.

Fast forward a year later, and Fred IV has come so far.  He has surpassed all of his IEP goals by so much that they had to be revised.

For a number of years, Ms. Wayne has been the lead teacher on the PBIS Team, which focuses on creating a positive school environment. The PBIS efforts include setting school-wide expectations for students, as well as celebrating their successes. Whenever help is needed in the building in any way, Ms. Wayne is one of the first to step up. This has included painting, supporting a recycling effort with special education students, and setting up the many events that faculty hosts for students and parents. Most importantly, it is the work that Ms. Wayne does with her students day in and day out that brings joy to everyone at WJHS. Room 202 is a popular place. Ms. Wayne and her students teach patience, understanding, and acceptance to her colleagues.

Ms. Wayne also serves as a member of the school wide Building Leadership Team and the Building Intervention Team. She is an active member of the Special Education Department. In addition, she makes it a priority to be a part of a content area Professional Learning Community (PLC). This year, she is part of the Science PLC. Ms. Wayne also serves as a teacher association representative for her building, and she is a trained mentor teacher for the Rock Island-Milan School District.

"Liz consistently shines as a star teacher. She is a veteran in the field, but one who never stops learning. Liz devotes countless hours to preparing lessons for her students. She is a master at creating a balance of academic learning experiences with real world learning experiences for her students. She is, without a doubt, her students’ biggest fan!" Allen said. "Love, warmth, and comfort are three words that come to mind when I think of her classroom. With the support and assistance of her two para-professionals, Wendi and Carol, Liz builds a wonderful world of learning in her room. Students thrive with the multiple approaches and resources Liz uses to accelerate their learning." 

Ms. Wayne's students are held to high standards like every other student in the school, and their parents/guardians are so proud of their results. Ms. Wayne works hard to assimilate her students into the larger student body. She takes her work as an educator very seriously. Her students’ safety and well-being are always at the forefront of everything she does.

"In working with Individual Education Plans and other confidential student or family information, Liz displays the highest of standards in both supporting and protecting her students’ rights. Liz carries this same approach to other areas of involvement throughout the school," Allen said.

Comments (55)

Sterling Terry Posted over a year ago

The kids at Washington benefit from the work she does every day

Fred Venable Posted over a year ago

Ms. Wayne is my favorite teacher. I love her for teaching me to read. She helps me read better. I like to read a lot at home. Ms. Wayne is funny and makes me laugh.

Larsen Horton Posted over a year ago

Ms. Wayne is my favorite teacher because I love her for helping me. I like staying after school for “WIN” and reading more.

Austin Huff Posted over a year ago

I like Ms. Wayne’s kindness. Ms. Wayne helps me be responsible and being safe. Ms. Wayne is funny and makes me laugh. Ms. Wayne keeps me on my toes.

Frank Holmes Posted over a year ago

Ms. Wayne is a special teacher because she is very nice to everyone. She helps me learn new things. Ms. Wayne is a funny teacher. She is one of My favorite teachers.

Chris Brown Posted over a year ago

Ms. Wayne is the best teacher because she helps me to be able to read and also to be able to read to my friends.

Linda Rose Posted over a year ago

Ms. Wayne is the best teacher because she helps me do my homework when I stay for WIN after school.

Curtis Ryan Posted over a year ago

Ms. Wayne teaches me Math and Life Skills and Literature and English and Social Skills. She is the greatest teacher because she teaches me about Science. Ms. Wayne teaches me how to solve problems.

Kyle Mata Posted over a year ago

I have fun with Ms. Wayne because she is funny. I like Ms. Wayne because she plays games. Ms. Wayne has helped me be more independent.

Mary Keen Posted over a year ago

I liked when Ms. Wayne came to my house and helped me with my school work.

Fred L. Venable III Posted over a year ago

Nancy (Lundell) Roberts Posted over a year ago

So proud of you Liz!! You were just a "babe in arms" when I knew you and your family, but it was thrilling to read the article of your great accomplishments in The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus last week. Everyone needs someone to look up to and who guides them with genuine support especially in their junior high years. On behalf of Rock Island, THANKS FOR MAKING A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF YOUNG PEOPLE!!!

Julie Sweeney Posted over a year ago

Ms. Wayne took my nephew from a non-confident child and turned him into an independent, confident, amazing young man. She worked with his potential and helped him read, write, listen, learn and he had fun getting there. This large family's lives were changed by his increased capabilities and his happiness. She worked tirelessly with his family and extended family to create this miracle young man that we enjoy every day. She will always be a part of our family. We are forever grateful for her talent, her effort and her beautiful heart. Ms. Wayne will always be a winner for all of us!

Solomon Israel Posted over a year ago

I can honestly say Elizabeth is one of the most dedicated special needs educators I've had the pleasure of knowing and seeing in action. Her interaction with her students and their parents truly shows the commitment she has to her profession. You can't help but notice the heartfelt connection she has with her students.

Amy Patton Posted over a year ago

Congratulations on your nomination, Liz. You are an amazing teacher, friend, person!

Karess Posted over a year ago

As Charlie Sheen says, this article is "WNN!INGI"

Fred Venable III Posted over a year ago

Washington Jr. High website: :)

Lisa Frain Posted over a year ago

I have know Liz for over 20 years our girls were in the same classes starting when they were in Kindergarten she is a dynamic woman and even though I have not seen her in teaching action I have seen her skills at thinking outside the box. This honor does not surprise me in any way. I hope she gets the award.

Mary Rossmiller Posted over a year ago

Teachers do their job above and beyond everyday with a smile! This is a great example. Congratulations on your nomination!

Jarrin Williams Posted over a year ago

I taught at WJHS during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years and for 2017 and 2018, I had a classroom very near Ms. Wayne's room. On a daily basis, I got to witness, firsthand, the positive impact Ms. Wayne's teachings have had on her students. I got to know all of her students in that time, including Fred. Her relationships with her students is awe-inspiring. Ms. Wayne is not only a teacher, she is also a mother to every one of her students. This Lifechanger of the Year nomination is very well-deserved! I'm glad to see Ms. Wayne being recognized for the work she does with our students at WJHS!

Tony Patton Posted over a year ago

M. Wayne is the embodiment of what a dedicated teacher who cares about educating our children is all about. Everyone learns differently, and her approach to find what works for each student, along with the positive reinforce is paying dividends with her classes. Congratulations on a job well done and very much deserved.

Keith Rossmiller Posted over a year ago

What a wonderful story. I have worked with Fred for 22 years at Genesis. My wife is a teacher, and my daughter is in college to be a teacher. I shared this story with both of them, to truly show what a huge difference teachers make every day. A lot of times, the teacher(s) are discouraged by all the negative aspects of teaching and dealing with challenging students and parents. This is a reminder of why they chose teaching in the first place. Thank you for your dedication and daily work with the kids of the past, present, and future. Teachers are amazing!

Liz brown Posted over a year ago

Ms Wayne is a wonderful teacher. It's great to know we have a teacher who loves our children and cares as much about their learning as we do as parents.

Fred Venable III Posted over a year ago

Well done Katherine Bauer! :)

JANICE OVENS Posted over a year ago

My niece is a student of Ms.Wayne. She was unable to read and write since she has been her student total change in her learning and her outlook on everything . THANKS MS.WAYNE

Ginger Long Posted over a year ago

I have had the pleasure of working in special education with Liz for many years. She is a consummate professional who always puts her students’ needs first. She has that wonderful talent of being able to build a student’s self confidence, teach them foundational skills and help them soar to new heights and possibilities. Congratulations to this deeply passionate and caring educator for this nomination. But more importantly thank you for helping this young man grow!

Jessica Israel Posted over a year ago

What a wonderful representation of the exemplary teaching staff housed by the Rock Island-Milan School District. #thishouserocks

Hannah Rodriguez Posted over a year ago

Liz!!!!!! Congratulations!!! This is incredible and so deserved! I loved reading more about how you have helped Fred and your work in the district. I can't wait to see Jessica again, but I am sending you and everyone else love from Seattle! Hope this is a fantastic school year for you <3

Annette Posted over a year ago

Liz is a very caring, dedicated teacher that loves doing her job. She puts in 100% when it comes to her family and students and never has anything negative to say. She is definitely the type of teacher I strive to be.

Amanda Forslund Posted over a year ago

As a Rock Island parent, my children attended WJHS. I have always thought our teachers were excellent until I saw this story on the news. This story moved me to happy tears on how successful and proficient her student Fred has become under her care. Bravo Ms. Wayne!

Jessica Posted over a year ago

Liz goes above and beyond as a teacher every single day. The love she has for each and every student that has stepped foot into her classrooms is incredible. She has been devoted to making changes in her students' lives for 20 plus years now and has impacted so many. She truly is a life changer.

Francesca Posted over a year ago

Liz Wayne is my mother, and throughout my life she has modeled what it means to be passionate about one’s life work. My mother shows compassion and creativity with each student that enters room. She challenges herself to ensure the success of all students, rewriting the wheel as many times as it takes! She is truly an inspiration.

Patricia Walls Posted over a year ago

Elizabeth Wayne is truly a phenomenal woman and I feel distinctly honored and privileged to say she was one of mentors early on in my career. Her knowledge of teaching all students is unparalleled. She knew/knows how to reach the unreachable. She knew/knows how to love the unlovable. Being the caring and compassionate person that she is, she showed me how to do it, too. She was always willing to listen and provide me with direction that would be beneficial to my students and my personal goals (as an educator). This woman knows how to make you feel like a super hero ready to face any challenges that come your way. Everybody needs a Liz in their corner, but the mold was broken when she was created. Thank you, Elizabeth Wayne for being one of my Life Changers.

Jackie Wayne Posted over a year ago

Liz displays the compassion and empathy that is often lacking in this world. She is a bright spot for her students and their families. Her commitment is unwavering. No one deserves this nomination more. Congrats!

Drew Posted over a year ago

Liz has always been there for her friends, family, and students. Her passion to grow and care for everyone extends beyond what you see, and is reflected in the relationships in her life and the results for her students. Congrats!!

Bill Wayne Posted over a year ago

Liz is very passionate about most everything she does, especially her family and her students. She always works to bring out the best in each of her students. Congratulations on your nomination.

Francesca Randle Posted over a year ago

Ms. Wayne is a phenomenal educator and is committed to the success all of her students. So proud to see this nomination!

Jimmy Posted over a year ago

I know Liz very well, she is a very positive and passionate person! Liz is dedicated to her students, family , profession! Liz uses her own intellectual curiosity in all aspects of her life. That’s a real professional! Congratulations

Sandra bowen Posted over a year ago

Liz is a positive role model for adults as well as her students. She is patient and kind and genuinely cares about people. She seeks and brings out the best in people. I’m happy to support her nomination

Dave Posted over a year ago

Liz is very strong and passionate about her students, family, and her profession. Congratulations well deserved nomination she has my vote.

Gwen Tombergs Posted over a year ago

Liz Wayne is an amazing teacher who puts her whole heart into her kids. She challenges them, she believes in them, but most of all she loves them unconditionally. This is one testimonial of many that are out there.

Karen Burns Posted over a year ago

Liz was definitely a life changer for our daughter Abbi. At the end of 7th grade we were at a standstill. Abbi was too young to start high school and we hadn’t found an appropriate placement for 8th grade. We were contacted by a neighboring school district and invited to send our daughter there . We were a little bit nervous about having to send Abbi out of her home district and further away form our home. That quickly changed as soon as we met Liz. She welcomed Abbi and my husband and I, with open arms , just the same as she does with each of her students. Abbi learned so much that year . Liz met Abbi where she was at with both academic and functional life skills. Abbi progressed much further with those skills than even we thought she may be capable of. Abbi was only with Liz for one year as we had to return to our home district for high school . That one year made all of the difference for our daughter. We were able to set attainable and appropriate IEP goals for Abbi as she entered high school . I truly believe that was the turning point for her. We will always be grateful for the chance to meet Liz Wayne and for all that she did for Abbi and all of her students . She truly cares about each and every one. The school district is very lucky to have Liz and her team at WJH !

Gerianne Benisch Posted over a year ago

Liz Wayne is a dedicated, caring, selfless, compassionate and caring lady. Our son had the privilege of having Miss Wayne as his teacher for three years. She always put his needs before her own, somehow doing that for all her students. She focused ALWAYS on his strengths and built upon those. She adjusted her way of teaching to how he learned things, not having him adjust to her style. Her style was (and still is)about the success of her students. She maintained an approach of relating to us that showed she had his best interests at heart from the first moment we met her. We will be forever grateful to Liz and her positive influence on our son. He progressed at an alarming rate under her care. Just the mention of her name brings a smile to our sons face as well as our entire family. Congratulations on this nomination Liz - there is no one more deserving!

Tonya Posted over a year ago

Liz is a Warrior! I am honored to work with such a caring educator, who always has her students on her mind and heart. If you know Liz you know how much she loves what she does and the students she works with daily. Thank you for bringing positiveness to my day.

Joe Mowen Posted over a year ago

Ms. Wayne is an amazing teacher who always advocates for her students. She is hardworking, caring, and puts the needs of her students above anything else. She also takes multiple leadership roles at Washington and is an asset on many levels. Congratulations and way to go. You deserve it.

Kristin Posted over a year ago

The work Liz does with our students is amazing! They teach us all what love, patience, caring, and understanding really mean.

Marge Posted over a year ago

As a member of the Fred family fan club I am touched to hear about the hard work, compassion and dedication that Ms. Wayne has shown Fred IV, his entire school community and to the teaching profession. As a school social worker I always say that amazing teachers make my job easier - kudos to you Ms. Wayne, you’ve got my vote!

Anne Posted over a year ago

From reading this page, and hearing Fred IV, progress from Fred III, I would have to say this Liz is very deserving of this Life Changer Award. Thank you Liz, for your patience and kindness toward the many children you have touched!

Amy Posted over a year ago

Liz has always had the most amazing connection with her students! I can't imagine a more deserving individual for the Life Chsnger Award. Keep on keeping on!

Kelly Neeson Posted over a year ago

Well deserved and overdue. Liz, was my teacher 20plus years ago. Her dedication and support still has an impact on my life today. I definately would not be the person I am today without her.

Scott Holtan Posted over a year ago

I cannot agree more with everything in this article. My Autistic son Ryan excelled in many aspects while attending Washington Jr. High with Ms. Wayne. At the end of his time with Ms. Wayne, he got up in front of the whole school at an assembly and recited the Pledge of Allegience. Way beyond my wildest expectations. He was a Winning Warrier recipient also. Ms. Wayne's dedication to her students, the students at Washington, and everyone she deals with through her position is a shining example of what being at the top of your game is all about. Kudos to Ms. Wayne and her staff at Washington for creating an awesome learning environment for kids who learn a little differently than most. It is a gift that not everyone has!

Wendi Posted over a year ago

This has been the best job I have ever had. They always say that the people you work with can make all the difference. Liz make a positive difference in each persons life she touches. Our students aren’t just student to us they are family. She goes above and beyond to make sure they are happy and feel safe every day. She makes learning fun for them. I couldn’t have had a better teacher/coworker to work with. She makes it easy working together for our student in our class and for the entire school. On those difficult days our saying “just breathe!” It works! We work! There is no better place I would want to be than this classroom with a very caring and wonderful teacher, coworker, friend and person.

Scott Johannsen Posted over a year ago

Teacher are a national treasure. Thanks for all you do.

Lisa Wells Posted over a year ago

I have had the privilege of working next to Ms. Wayne for many years now. I get to see first hand all that she does with and for her students! They truly are a huge part of the Washington Junior High School family! Keep up the great work, Liz, and thanks for being such an inspiring educator and leader!

Kathy Ruggeberg Posted over a year ago

Congratulations on being nominated as a Life Changer of the Year! In the visits I have made to your classroom, it is truly evident the passion and drive you have to provide your students with the life skills needed to be successful. Students are flourishing in your classroom. They are learning how to cook, taking community based outings to various local restaurants and grocery stores to practice the skills they are learning in the classroom, navigating public transportation, and finding ways to sharpen the saw by participating in bowling, dancing, etc. Kudos to you, Liz. You ARE a life changer!