Santa Maria Public School Teacher Wins National Teaching Award!

Receives $5,000 award and story by award-winning journalist

WASHINGTON, D.C. - November 1, 2018

Kevin Ilac, a teacher and wrestling coach at Pioneer Valley High School, has been given the prestigious national Honored teaching award for November.  As part of his honor, Ilac received a $5,000 cash award and a $1,000 gift card, and was profiled by journalist Lizzie Johnson of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Ilac found his calling when he himself was a high schooler and he tutored fellow wrestlers after practice.  “The feeling that I had, knowing that I helped those kids rise up and achieve something that they thought they couldn’t achieve was super addictive.  From that moment on, my goal was to become a teacher.”

Ilac teaches government and AVID college prep in addition to coaching wrestling, but for many of his students he has become a friend, mentor, and father figure.  A record number of students nominated Ilac for the Honored award. One of those was Amada Villalobos, who says Ilac believed in her when no one else did. When she couldn’t afford to purchase a $10 novel for class, he paid for it.  When he found her walking along the road, arms laden with groceries, he picked her up and drove her home. Villalobos is now studying creative writing at NYU and credits Ilac with her remarkable success.

“They’re looking to me to be that person in their life to guide them,” Ilac says of his students. “When you can get up in front of them and say, ‘I’ve walked this line. I’ve been in your shoes, and I know what it’s like to go through this process.’  It’s nothing I am doing. I don’t think I’m special in any way. I just connect with kids and make them realize what they have inside of them.”

Read the full story of Kevin Ilac and Amada Villalobos here.

About Honored

Honored is a nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping great teachers in the classroom and to inspiring a new generation of talent to pursue teaching. Each month, Honored shines a spotlight on a teacher who has changed the life of a single student. The Honoree receives a $5,000 cash award, and Honored partners with a world-class writer to tell their story. Honorees are selected from K-12 teachers of all subjects at public, private and charter schools across the country. Honored’s National Advisory Board includes luminaries such as the internationally best-selling author Michael Lewis, founder Charles Best, Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp, and FEED cofounder Lauren Bush Lauren.

For more information about Honored, visit For regular updates on Honored and our monthly Honorees, follow and like us on, and

Honored Press Contact

Karen Sonneborn
[email protected]