Elizabeth Dribin-Khoshaba Wins 2022 Teacher of the Year


Khoshaba with students after winning Teacher of the Year.

By Emma Schieffer, Opinions Editor

Senior Isabelle Padron sat before the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) sponsor, Elizabeth Dribin-Khoshaba, as Padron read her scholarship essay about the teacher who had most impacted Padron in high school. At the end of the essay, Khoshaba turned to Padron, tears in her eyes full of appreciation and pride for her student. Later that semester, Khoshaba would enter the CEC (Council for Exceptional Children) classroom to balloons and celebrations—she had been announced as the 2022 David Zemsky Teacher of the Year. Nominated by students, Khoshaba was chosen for the award because of her dedicated hard work within the Special Education department and the impact that she’s had on the students at Niles West.

“I can say with confidence that I am not the only student who has been impacted by Mrs. Khoshaba. She won Teacher of the Year for a reason. Every time she walks the halls students never hesitate to say hello, and she knows every single one of their names. My two other members of the executive board for CEC also have been greatly impacted by her. We all are pursuing teaching because of her. Students sit in her room and in her office because they feel safe in the community she has built,” Padron said.

Khoshaba has worked in D219 at both Niles Central and Niles West, as well as having attended high school at Niles North. Here at West, Khoshaba works in the special education department as well as the CEC club sponsor. She became a special education teacher with the help of her older sister.

“I have an older sister and she has down syndrome, and growing up I saw what a difference her teachers made, not just in her life but in the life of my parents. They were huge support systems to my parents,” Khoshaba said. “Those teachers really embraced my sister as a whole human being and wanted her to be an independent adult. They didn’t want her to have to depend on everybody to get places and to eat and to take care of herself. They really influenced her being an independent person and that was really big for me.”

Khoshaba smiles when thinking about the impact and relationship she has with her students.

“When you think about teaching kids and human beings and young human beings. I spend so much time with these young people, and I turn them into people that I want to spend so much time with. [I think], ‘what things do I really need to reinforce?’ When I hang out with my friends, I don’t think about how much they know about commas or Algebra. I think, ‘are they kind people, are they giving, are they gracious, are they helpful?'” Koshaba said.

Khoshaba’s impact goes beyond the classroom, with colleagues learning and admiring the hard work that Koshaba shows and the dedication she puts into her job.

“Mrs. Khoshaba is, by far, one of my favorite people in my world. I have known her for about eight years. We worked together at Central and here. She is the kindest, most compassionate, devoted teacher I know. She has great ideas to guide, shape, help and encourage students. She takes her time to get to know all her students and co-workers to the fullest. Working with her is a privilege. I have learned so much from her,” friend and colleague Ann Wiberg said.

“Mrs. Khoshaba is a force in the classroom. Every student wants to work with her and talk to her because she is positive, kind and honest. They will immediately ask where she is if she is not present because they notice and feel it. She has high expectations for every student but gives them the tools and resources to make sure they accomplish those goals and be successful. She never gives up on any student but goes above and beyond to make sure they feel supported. She has a deep knowledge of how to differentiate for the vast needs of her students without losing the integrity of the lesson or skill being taught. But this is because she has an in-depth knowledge about the students in front of her and can recognize what they need to continue to grow as learners and human beings,” co-teacher Stephanie Iafrate said.

“I am constantly looking up to Mrs. Khoshaba as a teacher. She cares so much for her students and has a clear passion for teaching and working with them. She is always looking for new, creative ways to do things, and is open to all ideas,” CEC co-sponsor Kate Romack said.

The nominees for the Teacher of the Year Award are selected and voted on by students.

“It was great [because] they surprised me at CEC club. … The love that comes out of these young people is just overwhelming. They were supposed to surprise me at my department meeting with my colleagues but it was so awesome to be surprised at my club meeting because so many of my club members were there, two of the students that recommended me were there and they were some of the [people] I hugged right when I walked in,” Khoshaba said.

“I was shocked. I was overwhelmed. It was the best surprise. I’ve only been here for five years. I’ve been in the district longer and I used to work at [Niles] Central. At Central there’s like seven teachers and so you come here and there are so many teachers here and there are so many teachers who have been working here for so long, and when you think of Teacher of the Year, you think of teachers who have been here for forever, so I did not expect it but it was an honor,” Khoshaba said. “I come here to teach students and to see that they know that I love them and I appreciate them and they feel that enough to recommend me for such an honor is huge, it [was] utter shock,” Khoshaba said.

“Mrs. Khoshaba showed me who I was. She did not see the quiet girl, terrified of the future; she saw a leader. She helped me find my path here at Niles West that I plan to pursue for the rest of my life. Because of her, I found my love for Special Education. She introduced me to the Council For Exceptional Children (CEC), which I have been a part of throughout my entire high school career. In my four years of high school, I have become a person I am proud to be because of her,” senior Olivia Benyamin said.

“Mrs. Khoshaba actually changed my life. There’s no other way to put it. She is the main person who made me realize I wanted to pursue Special Education in college. She is always there to just listen and give the best advice. Khoshaba is a person that everyone needs in their life because she is such a light in Niles West. Khoshaba always knows how to make the bad days better,” Padron said.

“When you know how somebody gets elected Teachers of the Year and you know it’s all student-generated there’s no higher compliment,” Khoshaba said.