Metro-East News

Higher Education: Lindenwood-Belleville names distinguished alumni

Lindenwood University-Belleville has begun a distinguished alumni award for graduate education and counseling students.

The first two winners are school counselor Amy Champion from the Madison Student Support Center and sixth-grade teacher Monet Webster from Abraham Lincoln School in Belleville.

The Madison School Support Center provides resources to middle school and high school students from within Madison School District, according to Champion. The curriculum provides a “second chance” for students, an alternative to being expelled from school.

Students are encouraged to meet with Champion once or more per week, as a means of coping with trauma, managing anger, or discovering the root of other antisocial behaviors. Most of the students in the program are on legal probation and come from a troubled home or community.

“In this area — and more so with our student population — the drug scene is very high; gang involvement occurs,” Champion said. “So they’ve lived through a lot of trauma in their regular life.”

As a result, Champion often has to act as a behaviorist in additional to a counselor; at times, she has to be confrontational with her students.

“I carry a walkie (talkie) everywhere around the building … in case there’s an emergency here and they need me,” Champion said. “Every now and again there could be a restraint or the police could be called, and I’m always available to be in the room when that’s going on to help de-escalate the situation.”

Overall, Champion said she considers working at the Madison Student Support Center to be a positive, yet challenging, career. She said she enjoys working as a team member and providing anger replacement training in a class setting.

Her major goal is to find ways to keep students on task and in the classroom.

“That, in and of itself, is a successful day for them — if they were able to stay in the classroom,” Champion said.

Webster felt like she was “called to the career” and is grateful for the difference she can see daily in her students’ lives.

“To see kids thinking and thinking critically, not just worried about Minecraft or Call of Duty or what we’re doing on the weekend,” Webster said of her standards for success. “They are in my class every day; we are thinking about real issues. We’re talking about the hurricane that almost hit Mexico or McDonald’s changing to cage free eggs. They’re talking about the issues and thinking about ‘how does that affect me?’”

That’s what the job is all about for Webster.

“Watching them make those connections is a very cool thing,” Webster said.

Her first year as a teacher in District 118, Webster said she went to school in the district as a child.

Webster graduated from Lindenwood in 2013 with a Master of Arts in education, completing the initial certification requirements and obtaining her Illinois Professional Educator License as an adult learner.

McKendree debaters sweep at latest tournament

The McKendree University speech and debate team wrapped up its fall competition with a first place team finish at Webster University’s Study Break tournament, winning both the junior and novice divisions.

Five colleges and universities, including DePauw University, Missouri Western State University, and the University of Missouri, attended the tournament on Dec. 5.

Representing McKendree were senior Lauren Apetz; juniors Taylor Rossi and Brittany Watt; sophomores Beth Graham, David Junge, and Adam Kaul; and first-years Mickey Causey, Justin Fausz, Kaitlyn Hutchison, Jazzmine Mitchell, and Andrew Wagner. Sophomores Alex Baldwin and Gage Simmons served as student coaches.

In the junior division, the team of Graham and Kaul posted a 4-0 record. They defeated Webster University in finals to win the tournament. Apetz and Junge finished 2-2, taking third place in the division. Junge was the second place speaker, while Kaul and Graham were third and fourth, respectively.

In the novice division, the team of Hutchison and Mitchell also went 4-0 in prelims. Along with Fausz, who went 3-1 debating ‘maverick,’ they took first and second place, closing out finals. The team of Rossi and Wagner, also posted a 3-1 record, taking third place, while Causey and Watt went 1-3 and finished fifth. Fausz won second place speaker, while Wagner, Rossi, Hutchison and Mitchell finished third, fourth, seventh and eighth, respectively.

The team will compete at John Brown University’s Golden Eagle tournament in January.

Besserman named to SWIC Foundation Board

Real estate broker Tina Besserman of Granite City has been named to the Southwestern Illinois College Foundation Board. As a board member, she will support the Foundation’s efforts to provide special educational and cultural activities that are not part of the college budget.

Besserman is heavily involved in community service and volunteer work. She is a member of the Granite City Rotary Club and Granite City Chamber of Commerce. She received the rotary’s Paul Harris Fellow award and has served as president of the Granite City Optimists. She actively participates in their annual Camelot Auction, which she chaired for many years.

She has a great interest in youth, and has been recognized by the Boy Scouts for her leadership skills. She also took part in the first CEO Entrepreneur Program with the Granite City High School.

She also serves as a commissioner on the Granite City Housing Authority’s board and works closely with the city economic developer on addressing needs for housing in Granite City.

Besserman and her husband, Jerry, reside in Granite City and have one son, Matthew, who resides in Mt. Vernon.

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