St. Teresa expands its early childhood program

News-DemocratJuly 15, 2014 

Teachers and volunteers have been hard at work the last several months transforming the former St. John's Daycare building in Belleville into the St. Teresa School Monsignor Eichenseer Early Childhood Center.

Community members interested in learning more about the school programs for 3 and 4 year olds offered at the center are invited to an open house from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at 2620 Lebanon Ave.

St. Teresa School Principal Skip Birdsong said there are still spots available in both programs for either half-or full-day students. Currently, approximately 40 students are enrolled at the center, which has the capacity for 60.

Jeannie O'Dell, a former first-grade teacher at St. Teresa School, will teach the 3-year-olds, and teachers Beth Irwin and Nichole Mueller will continue to teach the 4-year-olds. Birdsong said the 4-year-old program will be bilingual this fall with students learning in both English and Spanish.

Birdsong said the facility has been overhauled with new carpet and fresh paint throughout, new tile in the bathrooms and a renovated kitchen. The early childhood center has three classrooms each with an interactive white board for students, a computer lab and a library area.

Moving the pre-kindergarten program to the center will allow for the addition of a science lab at St. Teresa School in the future.

The space available at the early childhood center allowed St. Teresa to add a 3-year-old program, which Birdsong said the community has requested for many years.

Birdsong, the new principal at St. Teresa, will oversee both the kindergarten through eighth-grade school and the early childhood center. Dennis Grimmer retired after 10 years as principal at St. Teresa. Birdsong was previously the principal at Granite City High School.


The Harmony-Emge District 175 School Board promoted assistant principal Tracy Brown as the new fifth- through sixth-grade principal at the Intermediate Center at Emge Junior High School in Bellevillle during the June 30 school board meeting. Brown has been with the district for two years and also serves as the special education coordinator for the district.

At a special school board meeting last week, the board hired a new seventh- and eighth-grade Principal Steven "Matt" Graham. Graham was previously a fifth- through eighth-grade principal in Knoxville, Ill. He has also been a kindergarten through 12th-grade principal in Edinburg and a dean of students in Rantoul.

Both Graham and Brown will earn $68,437 annually.

The school board also appointed Scott Loeffler of Belleville as the new board member to fulfill the term left by Murray Bell. Loeffler is a project manager/estimator for Padgett Building and Remodeling Co., Inc. in Swansea.


Teachers from East St. Louis School District 189 are participating in the STEM Teacher Quality Initiative this week and next week at Washington University's Danforth Campus in St. Louis. In all, 106 teachers from Missouri and Illinois school districts will take part in the initiative that aims to get children interested in science, technology, engineering and math careers early in their education. The program is free to school district's that qualify.


Kohl's Department Stores honored two local students with $1,000 scholarships toward higher education. The youths were recognized for making a positive impact in their local communities.

Local recipients of $1,000 scholarships were Emilee Adams, 12, of Edwardsville and Mariah Christ, 18, of Swansea.

In an effort to provide comfort to those who suffer from a serious illness, Emilee started Blanket for Friends, a group that makes and sells blankets to community members with the promise that for every blanket sold, one will be donated to someone in need. To date, Blankets for Friends has donated more than 100 blankets to area hospices, women's shelters and children's hospitals.

Learning that everyone doesn't have safe access to fresh drinking water inspired Mariah to start Well Wishers, an organization that collects donations to drill wells in Third World countries. To date, through fundraising efforts, the group has collected enough money to drill eight wells in Africa.

Do you have an item for Education Matters or an education-related story tip? We want to know about it. Send your ideas to Jamie Forsythe at or call 618-239-2562. Follow her on Twitter at @BND_JForsythe.


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