Belleville West wins innovative teaching competition

News-DemocratMay 21, 2014 

Belleville West High School was named the grand prize winner of the third annual Follett Challenge, a competition to identify, reward and promote the most innovative teaching and learning programs.

Belleville West, which last month was announced as one of the contest's four semifinalists, will earn $65,000 in products and services from Follett, one of the largest education solution providers.

The school won for its cutting-edge "Community of Readers" program, which challenges students in each grade level to become avid and engaged pleasure readers.

The program is in its fourth year. It was the brainchild of the school's English department as it explored ways to encourage students to read for sheer pleasure, in addition to reading for assignments.

"We saw too many students who were apathetic about reading, and we watched as our own classes sometimes settled into ruts," said John Lodle, Belleville West's English department chair. "We wanted to share our personal passion for books as well as spark new enthusiasm for reading in our students."

Each grade level at Belleville West is challenged to read one million pages for fun. In its first year, the school's freshmen read an average of 2,430 pages each, translating to more than 1.4 million pages total.

"The program has resulted in a change in the whole culture of our school, and it also resulted in some impressive gains on our school's standardized test scores," Lodle said.

Belleville West's video submission has been viewed on the Follett Challenge website more than 2,800 times, which has contributed to the English department's goal of helping to share the "Community of Readers" program concept with other schools across the country.

For more information on the Follett Challenge, visit

St. John the Baptist School in Smithton and the City of Edwardsville are this year's Green Infrastructure Award winners, announced by HeartLands Conservancy. Both of this year's award recipients were recognized at the Green Infrastructure breakfast in Collinsville.

St. John the Baptist School received the "Sarah Stein Award for Site Scale Green Infrastructure" and the city of Edwardsville received the "Olmsted Award for Community Scale Green Infrastructure."

St. John the Baptist School's project to build planters and plant native plants has shown the school's commitment to investing in green infrastructure. Not only do the native plants provide benefits including micro-habitats for wildlife, cleaner air and water, and a welcoming entrance for the school, they offer a way to educate school children on the value of native vegetation and give them an appreciation that they will carry into adulthood.

Belleville East High School student Emily Furlow, of Fairview Heights, was selected as the Illinois Winner of the National Peace Essay Contest and has earned a $1,000 academic scholarship. Emily's essay, "SSR in the Western Balkans," examined how security sector reform contributes to sustainable peace.

The Nu Chi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. in East St. Louis awarded a $1,000 scholarship to Brianne Lang, a student at O'Fallon Township High School. Brianne plans to attend the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

Chelsea Noser, of Collinsville High School, is this year's recipient of the Nicole R. Thorp Scholarship from GCS Credit Union. GCS awarded Noser for her volunteer work. Candidates were required to submit an essay explaining why saving and budgeting are important habits to develop.

Two Lebanon and Meridian high school students who already are taking classes at community colleges have been awarded Rotary International District 6510 scholarships for students enrolling in two-year institutions.

Lebanon senior Parker Seely will receive $2,500 to assist him in continuing his studies at Southwestern Illinois College. In addition, Meridian senior David Hileman, of Olmsted, will receive $2,500 to assist him in pursuing studies at Shawnee Community College.

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