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Top teachers bring talents to educating

An excellent work ethic permeates the Quad-Cities and is certainly evident in school classrooms throughout the area, said Harry Litchfield, the Quad-Cities' sole representative on the Illinois State Board of Education.

``We have some of the most dedicated educators and administrators I have seen throughout the state,'' said Mr. Litchfield of Coal Valley. ``Because of them, a lot of what we are doing is being successful. I feel very positive about this part of the state and know we are doing a lot of good things.''

The area typically attracts top teachers, Rock Island County Regional Superintendent of Schools Joe Vermeire said.

Two community colleges, Marycrest International University, St. Ambrose University, Augustana College and The Grad Center (representing 13 different colleges in Illinois and Iowa) constantly provide area schools with impressive new teacher recruits, he said.

``I think we're getting the cream of the crop,'' Mr. Vermeire said. ``Many student teachers, for example, decide later to stay with the school districts, so there's a large opportunity to get excellent teachers.''

Mr. Vermeire's office also provides additional training and strong support for teachers to enhance educational quality in the Quad-Cities, Mr. Litchfield said.

A lot of good programs are going on in the schools and numerous students and teachers receive benefits and noteworthy recognition as a result, Mr. Vermeire said.

Rock Island County boasts two year-round schools in Rock Island, and another possible one is being considered by the East Moline School board, he said. Horace Mann Choice in Rock Island has hosted more than 100 visitors from dozens of other school districts, colleges and universities from across the Midwest wanting to study the year-round approach.

A comprehensive school-to-work program spearheaded by the Illinois Quad City Chamber of Commerce has become one of the best models in the state.

``We have a number of alternatives in Rock Island County Schools for kids at risk, including the Rock River Alternative School in Geneseo and the Black Hawk College Outreach Center, Mr. Vermeire said. ``Rock Island-Milan and Moline school districts also have alternative high school programs.''

An Area Career Center at United Township High School also provides high-caliber vocational education to students throughout the Quad-Cities and surrounding areas.

The Regional Office of Education also coordinates an Internet network for area schools as they keep pace with the changing world of technology.

A number of community organizations and agencies also help provide additional educational opportunities or support for students and teachers, he said. Project Success and Safe Schools programs, for example, use the work of community volunteers.

A variety of social-service and substance-abuse prevention agencies, provide additional services.

Many valuable business partnerships also exist among area schools and local industries, including notable long-standing relationships United Township and Moline school districts have shared with Deere Harvester.

A variety of recognition programs also exist, including quarterly awards presented by Deere Harvester to students and staff at United Township and Moline, and academic achievement awards given annually by the Illinois Quad City Chamber of Commerce over the past 39 years to students throughout the area.

The Dispatch and the The Rock Island Argus have sponsored an annual Master Teacher recognition program for seven years, saluting 129 of the area's top teachers and presenting them with brass bells mounted on hand-crafted plaques.

Area teachers and staff also have fared well in the Illinois State Board of Education's Those Who Excel program. Last year, for example, Westmer bus driver Philip Fogelsong Jr. was one of 52 people in the state to receive an award of excellence, the highest of three levels in the recognition program. Four other Quad-Cities area residents also received recognition from the state board last year.

Schools in the Quad-Cities share the same problem many districts face as far as a shortage of state funding, Mr. Litchfield said. However, many foundations, booster clubs, civic groups, clubs and organizations, and businesses supplement school funding by offering a myriad of grants, gifts of equipment, scholarships and donations.

Mr. Vermeire asked schools to send lists of other ``good things happening at your school.'' Some of the responses received, listed randomly, include:

-- Rock Island-Milan -- Audubon Elementary: ``Polite is Right'' education, peer mediation and conflict resolution programs, successful inclusion programs for children with special needs; Lincoln Elementary: developing interdisciplinary fine-arts curriculum; Earl Hanson Elementary: parent-involvement activities, literature circles, and civic oration contest for intermediate students; Grant Intensive Basic Elementary: dress code to deter societal fads and environmental concerns, and full-time parent coordinator; Longfellow: family computer literacy program, and extended-day program to help students complete homework; Horace Mann Choice: mandated parent involvement, non-graded multi-age classrooms, multi-cultural centered curriculum, and foreign language program; Frances Willard Elementary: Families and Schools Together program, Aggression Replacement Training, PREP program designed to develop character skills; and Thomas Jefferson Elementary: St. Jude Math-a-thon, Star Lab Planetarium program, and Milan Bike Registration and Safety Program.

-- Rockridge -- Community-school partnership to build new all-weather track, successful parent university program, Reynolds grade-school students participating in ``You Can Soar'' recreation and an assembly featuring Rudy Ruettiger of the movie ``Rudy'' fame.

-- Silvis -- People in Zany Acting Styles student group performing skits and plays about positive behaviors and anti-drug and alcohol messages, gardening project at Niabi Zoo, and no-detention/no-referral parties.

-- Winola Elementary -- ``Reach Out and Read'' program for first graders, and Western Illinois University Regional Touring Theater Co. to present ``Edward and the Pirates'' March 27.

-- Matherville Intermediate -- Illinois Power Classroom Grant program, Family Reading Night featuring a ``Fairy Tale Feud'' pitting parents against the children in answering trivia questions about fairy tales, folk tales and nursery rhymes, and adult computer classes.

-- Sherrard -- School-to-work partnership with Rock Island Arsenal, 15-acre working farm site on school property run by students, and community play/pre-school run by students at the high school.

-- By Leon Lagerstam (February 9, 1998)

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