The PPS Foundation recognizes that we have so many AMAZING people who are involved in our Peoria Public Schools community.  Check out the list below for those who have been awarded the PPS Foundation HERO or SHERO of the month.  These individuals have gone above and beyond to improve and strengthen Peoria Public Schools, and we are truly grateful for their time and talents.


May 2021: Geri Hammer, Director of Employee Services at Peoria Public Schools

The PPS Foundation was so pleased to be able to present this well deserved Shero of the Month Award to Geri Hammer. Geri is the Director of Employee Services at Peoria Public Schools and has worked in the district for 39 years. Geri was taken by surprise the morning that we presented the award to her. She is one of the hardest working employees we have in this district, and she is often a behind the scenes leader! The PPS Foundation team has loved working with Geri over the years too. She has helped with making sure our school badges are working properly, getting our email accounts set up for new staff, and runs our staff payroll deductions for our 365 Breakfast. She also provides referrals for our fundraising events and much more. It truly was a special day to give this award to Geri. Congrats and THANK YOU for being so wonderful to work with!


April 2021: Dr. Thom Simpson, retired PPS Administrator

Dr. Simpson is a retired PPS administrator and life long educator and his dedication to students has continued in his retirement. He works diligently with the district to help reimagine education for all children, donating his time and talents to spearheading such impactful programs as the new PPS strategic plan, the district attendance program, and work to increase internship opportunities for the students. Yet with all that on his plate, he still invests time with the Foundation by participating on our 365 Breakfast committee and advising with our career development programs. He was instrumental in the development of the See It Be It primary school career exploration initiative by creating essential skills criteria for the program and helping with the implementation of grade level speakers and career field trips. He is an amazing asset to the Peoria Public Schools community, and we are so grateful to have his support!


March 2021: Shar'Ron Ford, Front Desk Gatekeeper at Manual High School

It has been said the “True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers, not to enrich the leaders.” Exemplifying the mission of the PPS Foundation to work for the enrichment of the students, this passion is the hallmark of the work done by Ms. Ford each day at Manual High School. She takes her role as the front desk gatekeeper seriously, supporting the RAMly kids each day by recording their comings and goings, being a cheerleader for them in their achievements, and supporting them in their concerns. She also has gone above and beyond to support the Foundation with our work by identifying needs of the students, helping with coordination of our career speakers and guests to Manual, and following up on community and alumni support to the school. She really is a “Shero”, and we appreciate all she does.


February 2021: Mike Illuzzi, Mentor, Volunteer and Retired PPS Principal

With Valentine's Day, February is the perfect month to give this special award to a man that has a huge heart. He is one of the finest principals our school district has ever had. He is widely respected among educators, students, community members, and all who have ever interacted with. Mike continues to serve as a mentor to administrators, educators, personal friends and most importantly students. He has over the years mentored hundreds of students who have been deeply impacted by his positive, kind hearted nature. In retirement, he still leads and serves others on a daily basis. Most recently, he has been tutoring ESL students at Lincoln School virtually. We are so thankful for his friendship and support at the PPS Foundation. Thank you, Mike. You truly are a HERO!


January 2021: No one in particular this month.  We have an amazing community of volunteers and supporters!


December 2020: Pam Wiley, Director of the Food Pantry at the PPS Wraparound Center

Pam is the Director of the Food Pantry at the Peoria Public School's Wraparound Center. She has volunteered her time since the doors of the Wraparound Center opened in 2018. The food pantry serves approximately 200 individuals and families each week with fresh fruits, vegetables, and other food items. Director of the Wraparound Center, Derrick Booth, said, "I consider the Food Pantry our anchor institution. The pantry allows us to see individuals from our community week after week and develop relationships that build trust and also allows us to connect them to the resources and services they need". 


November 2020: Dr. Susan Grzanich, Innovation and Grants Officer and Director, Woodruff Career and Technical Center

We are so thankful for all of Dr. Grzanich's support in helping the PPS Foundation fulfill our mission. Everything she does is with our students first and foremost in her mind. As Innovation and Grants Officer and Director, Woodruff Career and Technical Center for the district, she has coordinated the efforts of innovative education programs, as well as spearheading the efforts to bring millions in grant money to PPS. As a friend of the Foundation, she is generous with time, talents, and treasure, always willing to support a Foundation event, volunteer for our programing, and share her talents as a trusted mentor, offering professional advice on our activities. We value all her insight and support immensely. 


October 2020: Brittany Duffield, Junction City Property Manager and Realtor

Brittany is a licensed realtor and property manager at Junction City, where our Foundation home office is located. We are so grateful to have our office in this wonderful central location in our community and consider ourselves lucky to work with Brittany!  Not only has Brittany been wonderful to work with as property manager, but she is also an amazing partner that serves as a huge advocate for our work and mission. All of our staff and board members love working with her.  The hugely successful annual Wine & Whiskey Walk fundraising event was created by Brittany and has allowed the PPS Foundation to be the community charity partner. It is a wonderfully fun outside event that raises money for our work and public schools. Even though we have a pause this year due to pandemic, she hopes to come back next Fall with an even bigger and better event! 


September 2020: Stacy Hardin, Owner of Book Rack Used Books & Gifts

Stacy is the owner of the Book Rack Used Books & Gifts.  You may have seen her on the news this summer or even heard that she was the recipient of the “Those who Excel 2020 Volunteer of the Year” award for the school district.  Stacy loves promoting the importance of reading and she is dedicating herself to promoting literacy in Peoria Schools. Through her Book Rack Literacy Foundation, she is giving free books to all Peoria Public Schools K-8 classrooms. Her store also sponsors the Little Free Library at Hines Primary School, and fills it with books on a regular basis.  If you have not been to her store, please stop in to say “hello and thank you.” She’s AMAZING!! 


August 2020: Alex O'Shaughnessy, PPS Graduate and Foundation Volunteer

Alex is a recent graduate of Richwoods High School and is attending Bradley University this year. He has been working with the PPS Foundation for close to ten years and is truly deserving of this award. Alex has volunteered at many of our events, helped with our programming, putting supply bags together, and so much more. We love Alex and appreciate so much his awesome support over the years.  We look forward to seeing the many great things he does post PPS.  

July 2020: Elise Scheil, Hy-Vee Store Director

Elise is the store director for Hy-Vee in Sheridan Village and is such a delight to work with. Since COVID hit, she has been an integral part of our Little Free Pantry program and pivotal in the food distribution set up. She has gone above and beyond to partner Hy-Vee with Peoria Public Schools and to make sure that healthy and wanted food options are available for our families and students. Hy-Vee has been organizing many weekly deliveries to many different locations, and Elise has stepped up to this big challenge. 


HEROES/SHEROES from Last School Year (2019-2020)

June 2020 Michael Murphy, PPS Foundation Volunteer and PPS Parent

May 2020:  No one in particular this month - You are all awesome!

April 2020 No one in particular this month - Shout out to all the wonderful people in our community!

March 2020 Barbara Pierce, PPS Communications Specialist 

February 2020 Tracey Jones, PPS Executive Administrative Assistant

January 2020:  Jitske (Jetty) Miedema-Fox, Culinary Arts Program at Woodruff Career & Technical Center

December 2019:  Alex Romero, Administrative Building's Daytime Custodian 

November 2019:  Naomi Armstrong, PPS Administrative Assistant

October 2019:  Mary Newman-Evans, English Teacher at Manual

September 2019 Lillian Bishop, PPS Transportation Department

August 2019 Stan Hangen, Community Liaison at Manual