Metro-East News

Education Matters: New Athens teacher wins grant for classroom

Students at St. John Neumann Catholic School in Maryville gave two Christmas performances on Dec. 14.
Students at St. John Neumann Catholic School in Maryville gave two Christmas performances on Dec. 14.

Kamra Brandi won one of 10 grants from the Monroe County Electric Co-operative in December, and will be presented with the money in January.

Brandi teaches physics at New Athens High School. The small school has limited resources, says Nick Bambrough, another teacher at the school, and the $500 grant will go toward a Lego Mindstorms Education EV3 set, which contains color, gyro and ultrasonic sensors. It also has a computer that can be programed for robotics experiments.

Panthers going to Orange Bowl

The O’Fallon Township High School Marching Panthers will be performing at the 2016 Orange Bowl pregame and halftime shows on Dec. 31 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. The Orange Bowl will be between the Clemson Tigers and the Oklahoma Sooners.

Students performing in the show also are eligible to receive one semester of high school academic performing arts credit, according to the letter sent to the school. The band director, Melissa Gustafson-Hinds, will also receive a trip to Miami in the summer.

The Marching Panthers have also been nominated for the Sudler Shield, an international award from The John Philip Sousa Foundation and endowed by Louis and Virginia Sudler. It’s purpose is to recognize and honor bands who are at “a world class level of excellence.”

See ice, think twice

State Rep. Jerry Costello, a democrat from Smithton, wants schoolchildren to be safe around ice this winter and is helping launch Project Skipper.

“Many young people see a frozen body of water as a rare opportunity for recreation and fun, and it’s easy to ignore the danger that ice can present, which is why Project Skipper teaches children to ‘See Ice, Think Twice’,” Costello said

Project Skipper is a not-for-profit based in Waterloo and was started in memory of mother and son Kathy and Kadin Baxmeyer, who drowned after falling through ice in February of 2010.

Project Skipper provides ice safety information, explains how to estimate the ice’s safety, and describes procedures to help survive a fall through the ice.

Costello’s goal is to connect every school in his district with Project Skipper resources. Learn more at

Cheer squads qualify for state

Several squads joined those already qualified for the Illinois Cheerleading Coaches Association championship that will be in January. Those qualifying at the Edwardsville Invitational on Dec. 20 include Junior High squads at Waterloo, Alton, Coolidge and Breese Central and varsity teams at Breese Central and Columbia. A Highland squad also qualified as an all-girl stunt group. The state competition will be Jan. 9 and 10 at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield.

Nominate a teacher

Three teachers will win $1,000 for their own professional development, $1,000 for their school and an all-expense-paid trip to the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., in July.

The VFW Illinois District 14 is taking nominations now for teachers who show a commitment to teaching Americanism and patriotism to their students. Civic responsibility, flag etiquette, and helping students develop a better understanding of democratic values and beliefs are part of that commitment. Nomination forms are due to your local VFW Post by February 15.

The VFW enacted the Teacher of the Year award contest in 1999 as a way to identify and recognize America’s best educators. For more information, go to

Little Scholars receive gifts

The almost 60 children of the Discovery Center for Little Scholars at the SIUE East St. Louis Center received toys on Dec. 15 from the Gateway Chapter of The Links.

“Every year we have a huge party at the Ritz Carlton. This year, I said that we should forgo a party in lieu of donating the money to others,” said Jo Anne Parks, president of the Gateway Chapter of The Links.

Toys included dolls, balls, books and blocks. The Discovery Center serves children aged six weeks to 5 years old.

“Receiving these gifts for our children was such a surprise,” said Heidi Eichenseer, center coordinator of the Discovery Center for Little Scholars.

Christmas concert

More than 400 were treated to “The First Christmas” concert at St. John Neumann Catholic School in Maryville with an advent performance. The prekingergarten to eighth-grade performers had two concerts on Dec. 14, and songs included “Twinkle, Twinkle Christmas Star” and “Journey to Bethlehem”.