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Rainbow PUSH awards Teacher of the Year

1/29/2014, 10:28 p.m.
Joliet Central High School Photography Teacher Joe Baltz received the Rainbow Coalition/Operation PUSH Teacher of the Year award during a ...
Joliet Central High School Photography Teacher Joe Baltz has received the Rainbow Coaltion/Operation PUSH Teacher of the Year award for 2014.

Joliet Central High School Photography Teacher Joe Baltz received the Rainbow Coalition/Operation PUSH Teacher of the Year award during a special service on Jan. 19.

Ray Lescher, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Joliet, nominated Baltz for the award. Lescher, vice president of Rainbow Coalition/Operation PUSH, has known Baltz for 10 years as an educator and parishioner.

The Rainbow PUSH Coalition (RPC) is a multi-racial, multi-issue, progressive, international membership organization fighting for social change, and Lescher felt that Baltz’s teaching principles embodied the mission of the organization.

“Joe is one the most inspiring, creative and affirming teachers that I know,” Lescher said. “I shared his biography and principles with the board and they unanimously selected him as Teacher of the Year.”

Baltz has been a photography teacher at Central since 2000 and has past teaching experience at U of I, JJC and USF. He holds a two masters degrees and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington. In 2012, he received the Joliet Area Great Teacher Award.

He said he believes that personal engagement is the key to teaching students and his principles include the belief that “a student will learn No-thing unless he wants to learn Some-thing,” and “if you are good at one skill, you can be good at another.”

In February of 2011, student in his class were invited to hold a solo exhibition at Joliet Junior College. In the 110 year history of the college, no high school has ever achieved this honor because most high school shows feature a variety of schools from the region. His students were also featured in two international photo magazines, Shutterbug and Silvershotz. Shutterbug is produced in America with a circulation, both postal and internet, of approximately 1.3 million subscribers. Silvershotz is a fine art photo magazine published in Australia with a postal subscription of 83,000. Both magazines broke a long standing tradition of featuring only individual students for recognition.

Baltz expressed humble gratitude for receiving e Teacher of the Year and noted the work of the organization that recognized him. “The people of Operation Push are incredible human beings. This is a volunteer organization and they work endless hours for nothing to help people who have nothing,” Baltz said. “Their only rewards are to see justice served and suffering for the poorest of the poor reduced. They are courageous people. They speak truth to power even when power is sitting right in front of them.

“To be included in their ranks, even briefly, is a true honor and one that affected me deeply.”