'It's a true honor': Smithton teacher receives award

News-DemocratAugust 6, 2013 

Fifth grade teacher Stephanie Berry at Smithton Community Consolidated School District 130 was selected as one of the top 10 history teachers in the state of Illinois.

"It's a true honor," Berry said. "I feel there are so many great teachers out there. I never categorized myself at that level."

Berry, 30, received a certificate of excellence from the Illinois State Board of Education. Twenty-seven history teachers were considered for the 2013 Illinois History Teacher of the Year award, which went to Laura Font, a teacher at Lombard School District 44 in DuPage County.

Smithton School secretary Kathy Belding nominated Berry for the award. "I was just honored to be nominated," Berry said.

As a teacher, Berry explained her goal is to help her students become as passionate about history as she is. "Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't," she said. "I want my students to get excited about anything they learn about, not just history."

At Smithton School, Berry teaches all the academic subjects to her students and incorporates history into other classes when she can. For instance, she has her students read "Number the Stars" by Lois Lowry, which incorporates the history of World War II.

Berry's love of history was sparked by her parents' interest in it. Her parents Vicki and Steve Schaefer live in Belleville.

She also enjoyed listening to her grandparents talk about their pasts. "Everyone has history that's part of them," Berry said.

Berry has a master's degree in education from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, a bachelor's degree in education from McKendree University and an associate's degree from Southwestern Illinois College.

She has taught at Smithton since 2005. Prior to that, she worked as a substitute teacher for Smithton, Millstadt Consolidated School District 160 and Belleville School District 118. Berry lives in Mascoutah with her husband Nick.

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The fourth annual back-to-school backpack event will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Belleville West High School. The event is sponsored by the education committee of the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce.

One thousand backpacks will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis. The event will also feature vendor tables from community organizations and businesses, as well as free food including hot dogs, chips and water.

It's open to any students, kindergarten through eighth grade, registered at the following school districts in Belleville: District 118, Belle Valley 119, Harmony-Emge 175, Signal Hill 181 and Whiteside District 115. Private school students at the following schools also are invited: Zion Lutheran Grade School, Blessed Sacrament Catholic School, Cathedral Grade School, St. Teresa Catholic School, Our Lady Queen of Peace School, and St. Mary-St. Augustine Catholic Grade School.

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Dupo Community School District 196 is holding an open house/meet-the-teachers event from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 14. Grade level meetings for teachers, parents and students will be held for: any Bluffview new student at 6:15 p.m. in the cafeteria; pre-kindergarten at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria; fourth grade at 6:15 p.m. in home rooms; fifth grade at 6:15 p.m. in the gym; and sixth grade at 7 p.m. in the gym. Seventh grade students and parents will meet at 7 p.m. in the high school cafeteria.

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Beck Area Career Center in Red Bud is now known as the Career Center of Southern Illinois. Community members will be able to tour the newly renovated center during an open house ceremony at 2 p.m. Sept. 27. State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, State Rep. Jerry Costello Jr., and retired U.S. Congressman Jerry Costello are expected to attend the event.

The center was spruced up with exterior paint and a cafeteria remodel. Two nursing classrooms and a nursing lab also was renovated by the center's own vocational students under the leadership and supervision of instructor Bruce Harmsen.

The center offers welding, automotive and various nursing programs. It serves full-day high school students, vocational students and adult students.

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East St. Louis School District 189 is instituting a new school start time for the 2013-14 school year. East St. Louis Senior High School and all district middle schools will begin at 7:30 a.m. The school day for high school students will end at 3 p.m. and for middle schoolers at 2:30 p.m. All district elementary schools will begin at 9 a.m. and finish at 3:30 p.m.

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GCS Credit Union recently donated 100 backpacks filled with school supplies to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwestern Illinois. GCS and Radio Disney AM1260 teamed up to donate the backpacks for the fourth year in a row. All backpacks will be distributed by Big Brothers Big Sisters to local children they serve. In addition, GCS employees raised $1,025 to purchase additional supplies for the children.

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Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Pharmacy students Opal Bacon and Cheyenne Newsome won the clinical skills competition at the Student National Pharmaceutical Association national meeting held recently at the New Orleans Downtown Marriott. The 48-team competition involved writing pharmaceutical care plans, presenting cases to judges, answering questions to defend their cases and counseling sessions. It was the first time that a SIUE team participated in the event.

The SIUE duo won $750 each, round-trip domestic airfare, an iPad mini and a $175 Amazon gift card to purchase pharmacy reference books. Kroger will provide a $750 grant for SIUE to put on a clinical skills competition on campus during the 2013-14 academic year.

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Ayusa International, a 30-year-old non-profit organization that promotes global learning and leadership through cultural exchange and leadership programs for high school students, is looking for families in Belleville, Edwardsville, Shiloh, O'Fallon, Collinsville, Columbia and Highland interested in housing international exchange students for the 2013-14 school year.

Host families provide three meals a day and a bedroom. For more information, visit www.ayusa.org or call 888-552-9872

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