Illinois' 2016 Teacher of the Year won't be returning to her classroom in Peoria in January.

The Peoria Journal Star reports that Kim Thomas plans to speak at conferences, conduct professional development workshops and coach other teachers instead of going back to Woodruff Career and Technical Academy. That's where Thomas taught middle school math.

Thomas already is scheduled to go to a conference in Texas to meet other teacher-of-the-year winners from around the country. She'll also do a workshop for teachers at Banner Elementary School in Dunlap.

Thomas told her students before she left that they've got great teachers and promised to stay in touch.

Thomas says "building relationships is a huge part of teaching."

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