Congratulations to Niles West’s 2023 Zemsky Teacher of the Year!

Tina Schmidt was awarded the 2023 Zemsky Teacher of the Year Award! She was nominated by many of her students and selected amongst the 46 nominees as the winner. Our student government completes this selection process by viewing all submissions without any indicators of name, gender identity, or department. 
Here are  few things Tina‘s students had to sY about her excellence as a teacher:


“Mrs. Schmidt is always pushing us to become better young adults. She gives the best advice and is our number 1 supporter. She cares about our education and always pushes us.”
“Mrs. Schmidt deserves this award because of the time she takes to learn about each of her students as people and not just students. She takes time to get to know us personally by learning about what we are involved in and what we enjoy doing outside of school. She understands that we are human, that we are busy, and that we make mistakes. However, she believes it is important to push us to work hard in school each day to reach our full potential. I look forward to going to her class each day because of the community environment she has built in the room. Everyone in the class is able to work together with ease, and it is a very supportive learning environment.”
Mrs. Schmidt goes beyond simply teaching students, she is truly an incredible being. Mrs. Schmidt assures her students understand the 
material through supporting every single step of our learning process. She encourages going to see her outside of class for extra support, understanding the importance of independence, and makes sure we feel supported either way. Mrs. Schmidt celebrates all of the accomplishments of our classmates (academic achievements, sports recognitions) – she is our biggest supporter. You can feel like love she has, not only her profession, but even more for her students. She highlights our hard work as individuals, leading us to feeling uplifted for being recognized. She has created an environment for her students to thrive and engage, simply with her persona as a human. She encourages mistakes as our way to learn from each other and grow together. She is amazing at what she does and continues to maintain such a great connection with each and every one of her students. I am genuinely so blessed to have come across such a phenomenal teacher as Mrs. Schmidt unconditionally is. “
When we surprised Tina during one of her classes today her students cheered and even embraced her in a hug, it is clear that she is having a huge impact in her classroom! Tina will be formally recognized during the Accolades ceremony on May 17th, but please take a moment to congratulate her if you see her!

Niles West Announced its 2023 Distinguished Alumni!


* * Distinguished Alum 2023 * *
Dr. Philip Zazove, Class of 1969

Philip Zazove was born essentially deaf though it wasn’t discovered until he was 4.  He was the first deaf person mainstreamed in public schools in the Northern Chicago suburban area. Similarly, after high school, several colleges rejected him because of his deafness. During all those years, he encountered many challenges and obstacles related to his condition and his consequent speech “accent.” Nevertheless, he succeeded.

Despite his excellent academic record at Northwestern University, Philip encountered rejection in his first thirty-four medical school applications. Undaunted, he persevered and was accepted at Rutgers Medical School.  He later transferred to Washington University in St. Louis where he received his M.D. degree.  As far as we know, he’s the third deaf physician in America.  Philip did his residency at the University of Utah Hospitals in Family Medicine received his Executive MBA from Northwestern a few years later.

After 8 years of private practice, Philip’s wife (also a physician) was recruited to be on the faculty at the University of Michigan.  He also joined the faculty, where after a year-long, national search, he was eventually selected Chair of Family Medicine at the University of Michigan.

Due to his intellect and love of learning, his downright grit and his desire to serve others in medicine writ large, especially in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community along with the general disability community.  His inordinate proclivity to find ways to improve their lives through various efforts including pioneering research and philanthropic leadership combined make Philip a most deserving candidate for this recognition. He has authored and published close to 100 peer-reviewed medical articles and chapters and has written two books.  His first one, “When the Phone Rings, My Bed Shakes: Memoirs of a Deaf Doctor”, is an insightful read about his experiences along the way from his youth to his quest to becoming and practicing as a doctor.  The second is a novel featuring a deaf protagonist.  He has presented at numerous conferences and settings worldwide, with a focus on improving the health of people with disabilities.  Philip has taken on numerous local, state and national leadership roles, many of them geared to improve the lives of people with disabilities as well as to improve the health of all Americans.  He has also won multiple national awards for his service and work.

Philip’s sterling character, his indomitable spirit and exemplary concern for others comprise a set of intangibles which match his praiseworthy body of lifetime achievement in the face of his disability. His fabulous curriculum vitae would make him an exceptional candidate even if he had no hearing barriers. The hand he was dealt magnifies and makes more inspiring all that he has accomplished. He, along with his family, created a foundation 20 years ago which annually grants scholarship assistance to hearing-impaired college students. The number of awardees has grown over time, and there have been over 50 recipients of these grants of up to $16,000 thousand dollars per person over four years.

Philip and his wife have two daughters, four grandchildren, and two dogs.  He enjoys cross country skiing, kayaking, golf, good books, writing books and spending time with friends.

Niles West Distinguished Alumnus Award 2022-2023 Nomination

The Distinguished Alumnus Award is given to select Niles West alumni. The selection is made by a committee of current Niles West students and members of the Education Foundation, based on the following criteria:

1. graduated from Niles West
2. attended at least three years of high school at a District 219 high school (this can also include Niles East),
3. has made a significant contribution to his or her field and/or in the community, and
4. had a meaningful experience as a student at Niles West High School.

The recipient of this award will be asked to attend our annual Senior Accolades program to accept their award and give a brief speech about their experiences in high school and post high school. The accolades ceremony will take place on May 17 at 7:00 PM . At this ceremony, current students are also recognized for their accomplishments in areas of athletics, scholarship, and community engagement.

Previous nominations are taken into consideration each year. Nominations are accepted until February 28, 2023. Questions about this award, the nomination process, or selection process can be sent to Sarah Struebing [email protected].

Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients
(2010 to Present)

2023 – Dr. Philip Zazove, ’69
2022 – Michelle Mekky, ’89
2021 – Amin Lakhani ’07
2020 – Megan Goldish, ’89
2019 – Brett Kopf, ’05
2018 – Marcy Lerner Steindler, ’77
2017 – Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow, ’63
2016 – Judge Merrick Garland ’70
2016 – Dr. Robert A. Ganz, ‘72
2015 – Rich Beckman, ’72
2014 – Tom ’86 and Dita, ’86 (Jusufi) Merkel
2013 – Howard Sandroff, ’67
2012 – Dennis Hu, ’07
2011 – Judy Hsu, ’88
2010 – Dr. Steven Dayan, ’85

[Reminder] Final Meeting Tonight! High School Milestones with Dr. Harris

We are excited to continue our Family Engagement Series tonight with Dr. Harris from 6:30 pm-7:30 pm. In High School Milestones, we will explore how to best align the interests and aspirations of students with rigorous academic enrichment opportunities that the district has available. Please see the Zoom credentials below! Please contact Alexsandra ([email protected]) if you have questions in the meantime!

Join Zoom Meeting 

Meeting ID: 893 1847 2363

2nd meeting tonight!

We are excited to continue our Family Engagement Series tonight with Dr. Harris from 6:30pm-7:30 pm. In Impactful Advocacy, we will draw on how consistent school engagement fosters high-level performance in and out of the classroom. Please see the Zoom credentials below!

Join Zoom Meeting Meeting ID: 896 9422 5678



Congrats to Our D219 “YES I CAN” Award Winners!

The Illinois Council for Exceptional Children (ICEC) in Region 4 has hosted its first annual “YES I CAN STUDENT STAR ” awards ceremony on January 25th at our district’s very own Bridges Adult Transition Center. 

This night was the 100th year anniversary of the non-profit organization for special education. The ICEC is a professional association of educators dedicated to advancing the success of children with exceptionalities. They accomplish their mission through advocacy, standards, and professional development. 

13 school districts have been represented and 29 students were awarded, including four from D219. The students were nominated for achievement in one of the seven categories: Transition Work, Academics, Self-Advocacy, School & Community, Technology, Artist Skills, and Social Emotional Learning.

Matt Joffe nominated Connor Holland from Bridges Adult Transition Center for his accomplishments under the category of Transition Work.

  Joffee, during his speech, said that he had known Holland for five years and that the amount of growth that he has seen in him has been tremendous. He has joined the Special Olympics and has participated in the four sports that District 219 offers; he has been a model athlete winning medals in the four sports. “Plus, what a great cheerleader he is for his fellow athletes,” claimed Joffee. In addition to that, Holland works at the local Jewel in competitive employment and has been learning how to read his schedule, asking for help from staff.

Joffe also nominated William Schejbal from Bridges Adult Transition Center under the category of Transition Work  Schejbal has participated in the Special Olympics at Niles West and Bridges all the years he has been in District 219. He has been a model athlete participating in all four sports that D219 offers. “He is one of the first students to cheer on his fellow athletes and the first with a fist bump to offer congratulations.”

Leonore Moran nominated Isabella Dillon from Niles West for her achievements in the Artist Skills category. Bella has been a leader in Arts Appreciation for the last 4 years. She has done multiple leading roles in our annual Arts Appreciation Show including Moana and Anna in Frozen. “Her charisma and personality always shine through when she is performing. Her hard work and dedication have always helped show other students to embrace the arts.”

Moran nominated Ricky Riley from Niles West under the Artist Skills category as well. Riley has been a leader in Arts Appreciation since he started as a freshman. “He is always engaged and willing to participate. His energy and enthusiasm always shine through when he is performing or just participating in daily class. His energy is infectious and always lifts up other students.” His talents are highlighted when he does his roles in the Arts, including helping narrate this year’s show “Something Kind of Frozen” with his role as Kristof.

Congratulations to all of the students who won awards, and thank you to all the staff who nominated those students.

[Reminder] 1st Meeting Tonight! School and Family Partnerships that Produce

D219 Parents/Caregivers, 


We are so excited about our first session in our Parent Engagement Series tonight with Dr. Harris. In this session, titled School and Family Partnerships that Produce, we will be focusing on providing parents with ways to identify school and district-based resources. We believe that this is key to focus on because it is important to establish and build relationships that can foster positive exchanges that support the home, school, and community. We look forward to collaborating together. 

Please see the Zoom credentials below for the meeting. Meeting ID: 880 6306 9166

Giving Tuesday Donation to Niles West!

Hello Niles West Family,

Today is Giving Tuesday, and I am thrilled to announce a very generous donation that Niles West will receive from a 1972 Niles West alum, Mr. Barry Berger, and his wife Mrs. Taffy Berger.

Mr. Berger contacted me in August to let me know that he and his wife, Taffy, set up a foundation to give back to the organizations that helped them achieve the success they have experienced in their careers. Niles West is one of those organizations. He spoke of his very fond memories of Niles West and how it made him the person he is today.

Mr. Berger grew a successful home health care business in Los Angeles after leaving Lincolnwood. He has a very warm place in his heart for those in need of special care. With the Bergers’ donation this year, we plan to offer several student scholarships, give a lump sum to the Niles West Special Education Department to support student programs, and also provide funding to the Educational Foundation to help students in need. Mr. and Mrs. Berger plan to provide an annual donation of $50,000 to Niles West for the next 10 years.

Our students are very fortunate to receive this generous donation, and we are always amazed at the commitment to and pride for Niles West that many of our alumni demonstrate. This is a special place for so many. We are humbled and thankful for the Bergers’ generosity on this Giving Tuesday.

Please see below a bio and history of Barry and Taffy Berger.

Taffy and Barry Berger Biography

Taffy Steinfeld-Berger was born in the Bronx and moved to New Jersey where she graduated from Teaneck High School. Upon graduation from high school, Taffy enrolled at Boston University, majoring in Art.

Taffy moved to Los Angeles in 1974 and met Barry Berger in 1984, and they married in 1985. Upon their marriage, Taffy joined Barry in growing his business that was started 5 years earlier. She oversaw about 100 employees along with managing the general operations of providing quality home health care services to the community. She grew to be a leader in Accredited’s growth and was responsible for its success. The Bergers have no children but have always had dogs. Currently they have 2 dogs, Spanky and Dudley.

Barry Berger was born in Lincolnwood and is the youngest of 4 children. All four children graduated from Lincoln Hall and Niles West. Upon graduation, Barry moved to Phoenix and attended Mesa Community College and transferred to Arizona State University and graduated in 1976 with a BS degree in Business. Barry’s interest in business started at 9 years old, when he started working for his father’s jewelry store in Chicago. After graduating from ASU, Barry moved to Los Angeles and worked for a radiology company that provided nuclear medicine and ultrasound services to hospitals. Barry saw the future of health care, and at age 26, ventured out on his own to open up a home care company. Accredited Home Health was founded in 1980. Throughout the years, Accredited grew by providing skilled and unskilled home health care services to the senior and developmentally disabled population. Accredited developed a delivery system for the state of California that saved the state millions and millions of dollars per year by providing a service that offered respite care to the developmentally disabled. Accredited provided skilled home health care including nursing, physical, occupational and speech therapy. Accredited maintained a census of over 1000 patients per month while maintaining a 4.5 star rating as scored by Medicare. Accredited also provided caregivers throughout Southern California to assist individuals with their daily activities of living.

The Bergers saw an opportunity to retire and sell the business in 2021. Accredited was sold on November 30, 2021 to a publicly traded company. At the end, Accredited services over 10,000 clients per month and employed 2500 per week.

The Bergers are very grateful for what they have achieved. They built a business by treating people honestly and with respect. Taffy and Barry decided to set up a charitable foundation upon their retirement and decided along with “paying it forward,” they would also “pay it backwards.”

Barry has fond memories of growing up in Lincolnwood and attending Lincolnwood Schools and Niles West. From being “Camper of the Year” at the $3.00 summer camp Lincolnwood Recreation in 1963, to attending the bonfire at the Halloween Party at the park, to the friends he made in Lincolnwood and Niles West, he could not imagine a better way to spend his youth.

“It is our sincere pleasure to be able to make this commitment.” –Taffy and Barry Berger