District 202 alumna, career educator wins 2017 Niehus Award

Central Elementary School Principal Linda DiLeo

Professionally speaking, Central Elementary School Principal Linda DiLeo has never known a world besides District 202.

So, it makes perfect sense that she is the recipient of the 2017 Walter G. and Juanita F. Niehus Award which honors certified or non-certified staff and support members who have shown extraordinary commitment to students, parents and employees.

The Plainfield Foundation for Excellence will present the Niehus Award to DiLeo at the District 202 Board of Education’s June 26 regular meeting. The meeting will start at 7:30 p.m. at the District 202 Administrative Center, 15732 Howard Street, Plainfield. The Foundation administers the Niehus Award on behalf of the Niehus family.

The Niehus Award, established in 1986, honors the legacies of former District 202 Superintendent of Schools Walter Niehus and his wife, respected former teacher Juanita Niehus.

If time alone were the measure, DiLeo would certainly meet the Niehus Award’s criteria of “extraordinary commitment.” She attended Central Elementary School from second grade on, Indian Trail Middle School and graduated from (then) Plainfield High School, and has worked in District 202 since 1985.

“Linda DiLeo has lived and breathed District 202 nearly her entire life,” said Foundation Chairperson Matthew Starr.

“But that, in and of itself wouldn’t necessarily earn someone this honor. Niehus Award winners are nominated by their peers, and Linda’s peers love her,” he said.

“For 32 years, Linda has shown tremendous dedication to the schools, families and children and staff that she has served and worked with. She is truly an amazing, valued, respected, loved and admired member of District 202,” Starr said.

After high school graduation, DiLeo earned an undergraduate degree from Southern Illinois University. She then earned a master’s degree from the University of Illinois.

She started teaching at Crystal Lawns Elementary in the spring of 1985, then moved to Walker’s Grove Elementary in 1992 and stayed for seven years. DiLeo became Central Elementary School assistant principal in 1999 and then principal in 2001.

Winning the Niehus Award is especially meaningful since she knew the Walter and Juanita Niehus family, DiLeo said.

“I saw their deep love for education and this district on a daily basis,” DiLeo said. “I am honored to be recognized as having even half of their passion and dedication! I have truly been blessed to work with many great people in District 202,” she said.

“It is the staff, administrators, board members, students, and families who make this district so special and I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of that.”

DiLeo’s favorite professional memory goes right back to where she started her schooling “career” in second grade.

“It was when I was chosen to return to Central as an administrator. I had so many great memories there as a student so being there in a leadership role was very fulfilling,” DiLeo said.

She credits the passion shown daily by Central’s staff, students and families for her own love for education – and for keeping her coming back to work each day after nearly 32 years.

“We have a staff that is so dedicated and invested in the children, and families who are so supportive of their children’s’ education, it’s an energizing combination,” DiLeo said.

“Plus the free daily hugs are a great way to start each day!”



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