Education

One teen helps give entire student body a voice in school district

Teen might be your 7th grader's high school teacher, kindergartener's superintendent

Collinsville High School senior Emma Weil is both the student council president and the student representative on the Collinsville Unit 10 School Board. Emma wants to be a high school social studies teacher and eventually district superintendent.
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Collinsville High School senior Emma Weil is both the student council president and the student representative on the Collinsville Unit 10 School Board. Emma wants to be a high school social studies teacher and eventually district superintendent.

If you’re a Collinsville High School student who wants something done — or would like to lodge a complaint, perhaps — there’s one person to see.

Emma Weil, a senior this year, is both the student council president and the student representative on the Unit 10 School Board.

Sometimes classmates will ask her to go all the way to the school board to fix “silly” flaws in their school, she said.

“In the hallways out here, we have like, ‘Be innovative,’ really cliche posters. I’ve had some kids come up to me like, ‘Emma, we need to get those down. Those are bad,’” she said. “The posters are bad. The posters could go down. But I have some other ideas.”

Emma is only the second teen to serve on the school board. She attends the monthly meetings to offer a student’s perspective as a non-voting member. School Board President Gary Peccola said they’re adding on to the responsibilities this year to ensure Emma offers the board a clearer picture of the whole district — all 13 schools and more than 6,000 students.

They’re hoping Emma can be a liaison between the student body and the board to find out what concerns other students have and what the board can do to help them. Peccola said it was up to Emma to decide how to communicate with her peers. She had the idea to set up interviews with panels of five to 10 students from each grade level in Unit 10.

“I have to keep in mind that I’m interviewing high schoolers and kindergarteners with the same questions,” Emma said. “So making sure that they can answer them with answers that I can do something about is important to me.”

One of Emma’s questions for students is: Do you enjoy school?

“I get up in the morning, I’m like, ‘I get to do this at school!’ and you should. You should want to get up like that,” she said. “... Like I know I can’t miss school because I have to be at ceramics.” That’s one of her favorite classes.

Emma enjoys being in school so much, she wants to spend her career in one, too — as a future high school teacher, and eventually the superintendent of an entire district. She wants to encourage kids to look forward to coming to school, too, and help them if they get discouraged along the way, just like her family helped her.

“I remember when I was younger, I wasn’t the smartest person in my class. It always kind of took a toll on me. And my parents are amazing. They’ve always pushed me to do incredible things, and they were always there to support me through that time when I felt like I wasn’t the best or I didn’t do things like everybody else did,” Emma said.

She wants to teach either social studies or English someday.

“I’m really bad at math, so that would be no good for anyone,” Emma said. “Those subjects open a different part of your mind than science and math; The part that connects to human relations and...problem solving and psychology, ethics, morals, values, and I find all that so fascinating. And I want to be passionate about what I’m doing so that I can influence others to be passionate.”

Peccola said he hasn’t had much interaction with Emma yet this year, but he can see how enthusiastic she is.

“She’s very excited to be the student school board member,” he said. “...My first impression is a positive one. I’m looking forward to working with her.”

I get up in the morning, I’m like, ‘I get to do this at school!’ and you should. You should want to get up like that.

Emma Weil, senior at Collinsville High School

Q: Is teaching something that you’ve always know that you wanted to do?

A: “I’ve always known that I wanted to work with people and that I needed a job to do that. I cannot sit. I’m a very active person. Everything I do has to be hands-on ... and teaching allows that, as well as inspiring people; And that’s huge for me.”

Q: How did you first find out about the student representative position on the Collinsville school board and why did you want to get involved?

A: “It was my junior year and I heard it over the announcements. This was probably the third time I heard it because I didn’t think too much about it. And in junior year, I kind of changed what I wanted to be when I grew up every other day — because that’s what you do, right? That week, I was like, ‘I’m going to be a teacher.’ So when I heard it over the announcements, I was like, ‘You know, that works with what I’m wanting to pursue and that’s something that I’d be interested in.’

And I do hold lots of leadership positions here at the high school. I liked the idea of having one that gave students a bigger voice outside of the high school but within all of Unit 10.”

Q: Was your first school board meeting in September what you were expecting or were there some surprises?

A: “At first, there were a lot of numbers, which is kind of what I expected. I didn’t expect something very exciting. But we had a teacher from DIS (Dorris Intermediate School) come and speak about the program he’s doing there with the kids, and that was amazing and I loved hearing about that. And I realized, as a student school board representative, I do represent all the students, not just the ones at the high school but K-12. And to see how these kids work with a teacher at another school level was really exciting. I think that was probably my favorite part of the meeting.”

Q: What are some of the issues that you want to make sure the school board is paying attention to this year?

A: “...How teachers are being reviewed here at the high school. I think the system could be much better done so that teachers are more fairly reviewed and also can improve their teaching and not stay stagnant throughout their entire teaching careers. That’s probably the biggest one for me right now.”

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes

Meet Emma Weil

  • Age: 18
  • School: Senior at Collinsville High School
  • Colleges she’s considering: Murray State University in Kentucky; Missouri State University; Truman State University in Missouri
  • Parents: Memorie and Thomas
  • Siblings: CHS freshman Anna Grace, 14; and seventh-grader Nathan, 12
  • Pets: Two dogs — Elvis, a Great Pyrenees, and Priscilla, a black Labrador
  • School activities: President of Student Council, president of Key Club, National Honor Society, Kahok Ambassadors, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, tutor and varsity girls volleyball for the last three years
  • Hobbies: Active volunteer at her church, St. John Evangelical United Church of Christ in Collinsville
  • Role models: Mother, father and Audrey Hepburn
  • Favorite subjects in school: Leadership class and ceramics
  • Least favorite subjects in school: Math
  • Favorite movie: “The Breakfast Club,” “Top Gun” and Disney’s “Tangled”
  • Favorite music: Soft music
  • Favorite food: Salmon — “I get it everywhere.”
  • Favorite restaurant: Sugo’s in Edwardsville
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