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Kids write letters to nominate their teacher

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — Education has taken a different turn in Illinois over the past couple weeks.

Schools are closed to the public and teachers aren't able to interact with students.

However, prior to all of the statewide changes, some special mail was sent to WREX.

Four handwritten letters all nominating a teacher for Teacher of the Week.

That teacher is Toni Altamore, a fourth grade teacher at Spring Creek Elementary.

The Rockford native has nearly 30 years of teaching in the Forest City under her belt.

She has learned a lot in all her years in the classroom and is happy to be able to pay it forward to kids year after year.

"I like the creativity of being a teacher. I like that you can perform, you can teach, you can help kids," Altamore said.

"I love kids and I love learning so I can give a little back of what I gained."

She works with kids to get them under a "growth" mindset.

It's a strategy used to get students thinking positively with whatever they try to do in and outside of school.

"Instead of saying 'I can't do this, this is too hard,' It's saying 'I can do this. I just need to try my best and I can accomplish this,'" Altamore said.

Something unique about Ms. Altamore's class is that it acts as the post office for the entire school.

This makes the sending handwritten letters a little more understandable.

The kids had different reasons for wanting to nominate Ms. Altamore, but there were a couple of common themes.

She's very helpful and very nice.

Here's some of what they kids had to say:

"I like Ms. Altamore as a teacher because she's really nice and when we get stuck on stuff, she makes it better by helping other students," Aira Llamada said.

"If we're stumped on something, she helps us out with the problem and helps us on the back table and tells what to fix. We learn from our mistakes and she helps us," Elijah Contrares said.

"She's just a nice teacher, she has a lot of courage. She'll let us play games if we behave," Cheng Zhao said.

"Ms. Altamore is a nice person and she lets us get free time at the end of the day whenever we go home," Angel Berlange said.

A kind person who does whatever she can to help kids learn.

That's who Ms. Altamore is to these kids.

Her classroom is a constant cycle of positive energy for everyone to feed off of.

"When they're interested in learning. I just want to keep giving more and more and so I just try to find things that they're interested in and bring that into the classroom," Altamore said.

"I think it's really sweet that the kids thought of me and decided to write letters to nominate me. I love the fact they think I make learning fun because that's what I try to do. I try to tell them learning can be fun. School is fun."

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the effort to find positivity is needed.

13 News encourages anyone who is or knows someone doing something to help others through this difficult time to contact us.

You can reach out to us on facebook at WREX-TV or you can send an email to

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Evan Leake

Evan Leake anchors for 13 News Today and 13 News at Noon. Evan grew up in Darien, Illinois, a south-west suburb of Chicago. He came to WREX in 2017 and worked his way to the anchor desk in May of 2019. He coordinates both the Teacher of the Week and Inspiring 815 series for 13 News. You can connect with Evan at or Evan Leake on Facebook.

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