Alternatives in Education Interviews

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Alternatives in Education Interviews

Charles Abelmann - Alternatives in Education

Dr. Charles Abelmann, the Director of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, reviews the history of the school created in 1896 by John Dewey, as well as its current structure and operation. Dr. Abelmann provides insight on the school's current two campuses: PreK-Grade 2 and the original campus for Grades 3-12. He also discusses the school's philosophy and mission, the relationship with the University of Chicago, its many unique programs and course offerings, sports and activities, faculty selection, hands on student experiences, and student enrollment (around 2000 students).

Lela Baum - Alternatives in Education

Fluffy Baum discusses the history of the Bond County Pre-kindergarten, Parenting, and Birth-to-Three programs, which began as the result of a competitive state grant in 1989. Fluffy explains how these three programs began, covering school districts in Bond and Fayette Counties. Following a split between the two counties, Baum discussed the two Bond school districts of Mulberry Grove C.U. #1 and Bond County C.U. #2. She talks at length about the growth of the program from 40 children to 240 children, and its development over her many years of service.

Wayne Bevis - Alternatives in Education

Wayne Bevis discusses the history of Lindblom Math and Science Academy, founded in 1919, through its restructuring in 2005 and his involvement as a resident principal, assistant principal, and principal since 2008. Lindblom is a selective school serving some 1,365 students in grades 7 through 12. It is located in the West Englewood neighborhood of Chicago and emphasizes math, science, and technology. That focus translates into success for its graduates as they move on to college and the world beyond.

Gerald Binder - Alternatives in Education

Jerry Binder discusses his involvement with the Whiteside Area Career Center (WACC) in Sterling, Illinois. He has served in several positions over his 23 years with the school, including the Sterling High School Principal, a Director of Human Resources and now the Director of Development at WACC. He discusses the history of the WACC, the state's first area vocational center, beginning in 1966. At that time, the Center served only Whiteside County school districts. Today, the school has 600-700 students enrolled in 12 different programs, and covers 19 school districts and 4 parochial schools in 5 counties-Bureau, Carroll, Lee, Ogle, and Whiteside.

Kristin Burns - Alternatives in Education

Kristin Burns discusses her involvement at Keith Country Day School in Rockford, Illinois, where she has taught history, government and economics since 2008. She tells about the school's history dating back to 1916, and its various locations in Rockford. Kristin reviews the school‘s philosophy, student application and selection process, tuition and scholarship opportunities, its curriculum, the school's organizational structure, school funding, accreditation, and extracurriculars. She also examines the challenges and the advantages of being an independent school located in Rockford.

Shegan Campbell - Alternatives in Education

Shegan Campbell talks about the creation of Kids Science Labs as a model to help promote a child's interest in science education through creativity and curiosity. Campbell co-founded KSL in 2010 with Keith Norsym. Kids Science Labs has locations in Chicago, Northbrook, Wheaton, and Seattle, with a future location planned in Vernon Hills, Illinois. The Labs are geared for ages 2-14 through summer camps, yearly on-site courses, field trips, birthday parties, day camps, and programs during school breaks.

Lt. Lauren Carthan - Alternatives in Education

Lt. Lauren Carthan, a 22 year veteran of the United States Navy, discusses her involvement with the East Aurora High School's Naval Junior ROTC (NJROTC) program, where she served as its first female instructor and now as the Senior Naval Instructor. She discusses the history of East Aurora’s NJROTC program which began in 1996. At the time of the interview, the program ranked as the nation’s largest with over 600 students involved. Her review includes the NJROTC curriculum, cadet activities, cadet competition, and the program's role in the school and in the community.

Kathy Crum - Alternatives in Education

Kathy Crum discusses her work at Graham Elementary School (pre-K through 5th grade) and the school's year-round schooling model. Kathy worked in the Springfield, Illinois School District #186. Her school was the district’s second balanced schedule school (year round scheduling) following the lead of Southern View Elementary School. Kathy discussed the advantages and challenges of this type of school scheduling at length, and also covered the preparation needed to successfully implement this educational approach.

Geoff Deigan - Alternatives in Education

Geoff Deigan talks about his involvement with the Prairie Crossing Charter School near Grayslake, Illinois as a school parent, board of directors member, and CEO of the school. He covers the history of the Prairie Crossing beginning in 1989, and its gradual development as a K thru 8 school. He also discussed the state's oversight, the relationship with the two public school districts involved, as well as the school’s source of funding, its curriculum, school activities and sports, student eligibility through a lottery, the role of parents, teacher/staff selection and the campus. The school is one of only fifteen charter schools outside of Chicago, and has been the recipient of numerous national awards.

Kim Deschamps - Alternatives in Education

Kim Deschamps discusses her work at the Knox-Warren (KW) Special Education Cooperative as a social worker, administrator, and now as the director of the seven-member cooperative located in western Illinois. The Cooperative provides education for those students covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Deschamps discusses the history of the KW cooperative created in 1968, the 14 types of disabilities the cooperative serves, and also the Cooperative's training responsibilities from birth to three and also its transition plans from ages 14-22. She also addressed federal special education funding and challenges in finding certified teachers in rural areas.

Dawn Earl - Alternatives in Education

Dawn Earl discusses her involvement with Wheaton Academy, a private non-denominational Christian high school, from the perspective of a parent of two sons who attended the school and now as Director of Alumni Relations. She covers the school‘s longtime history dating back to 1853, founded by abolitionists. She discussed its historic connection to Wheaton College, the creation of the current campus site in 1945, the new building upgrades, and the role of parents and the alumni in helping fund support for the school.

Julie Embalabala - Alternatives in Education

Julie (Van Sledright) Embalabala grew up in central Michigan in a strong Dutch Reformed community and attended parochial schools until her college years at Central Michigan University. While there she decided that when she had a family of her own, she would home school her chidren. Shortly after that she met Peter Embalabala, a grad student majoring in mathematics. Following their marriage in 1986, they moved to Springfield, Illinois in 1991. For most of the next two decades Julie home schooled their seven children. She talks extensively about that experience, highlighting the many advantages of home schooling, as well as the challenges.

Jodi Ferriell - Alternatives in Education

Jodi Ferriell serves as the director of the Capital Area Career Center in Springfield, Illinois, a school for junior and senior high school students seeking to acquire knowledge and skills that are needed to move on to college and to enter the workforce. The school provides career and technical educational services to eighteen public school systems through seventeen courses and programs in the Springfield, Illinois area. CACC programs also offer college credits and professional certification opportunities.

Darrell Fesser - Alternatives in Education

Darrell Fesser discusses his involvement with the Okaw Area Vocational Center (OAVC) located in Vandalia, Illinois. Darrell had been involved with OAVC for thirty-six years at the time of this interview, first teaching agriculture classes, and for the last twenty-five years as its director. He discusses the history of the OAVC, which was the third Illinois area vocational center, beginning in 1967. The Center enrolls students in grades 11-12 from several counties: Bond, Fayette, Effingham, Christian, Montgomery, and Marion, and offers a wide variety of vocational programs.

Jennifer Foster - Alternatives in Education

Jennifer Foster served as the Adult Education Deputy Director for the Illinois Community College Board. She discusses her work at the Illinois College Board, overseeing the Illinois Equivalency Certificate program which allowed students beginning at age seventeen an opportunity to earn a high school equivalency degree. They can do so via the passage of one of three tests: the General Educational Development Test (GED), the High School Equivalency Test (HiSet) or the Test Assessing Secondary Completion Test (TASC). This Equivalency Certificate was authorized by the Illinois General Assembly and gives the Illinois Community College Board the authority to select the tests, establish testing guidelines and minimum passage standards, and establish the state and local fees for exams, transcripts, and credentials.

Cathy Gruzinsky - Alternatives in Education

Cathy Gruzinsky discusses her involvement with Quest Academy (Creative Children’s Academy) in her role as an elementary teacher at the school from 1988 to 1995, and again from 2005 to the time of the interview. She covers the history of the Academy dating back to its creation in 1982, and its various locations in Arlington Heights, Mt. Prospect, and Palatine. This interview covers the school’s gifted philosophy, its curriculum, the daily instruction, student eligibility, tuition costs, and extra student activities. Cathy also explores the advantages of a school for gifted children.

Susan Henry - Alternatives in Education

Susan Henry, of Springfield, Illinois, home schooled her three children beginning in the early 1990s through the 2000s. She took all three from Kindergarten through the 12th grade, and all three went on to college and successful careers. She talks about that experience at length, giving insights into the benefits and challenges of home schooling. Susan used the Abeka Homeschool curriculum throughout, tailoring her instruction for each child's unique learning style. She concentrated not only on the traditional subjects, but also emphasizing character development as well as her children's socialization skills.

Nichole Heyen - Alternatives in Education

Nichole Heyen discussed her work at the Lincoln Magnet School (Gr. 6-8) as a teacher, counselor, administrative intern, and principal. She reviewed the school's philosophy and mission, and also discussed its curriculum, emphasis on technology, the incorporation of resource projects, student eligibility, plus availability of electives and advanced classes. Nichole also talks about the importance of parental involvement, and the benefits of the school's business and government partnerships. In 2014 Nichole received Horace Mann Administrator of the Year award.

Kori Hockett - Alternatives in Education

Kori Hockett discusses her eighteen years at Wheaton Academy, first as a social studies teacher, then as Assistant Principal, and since 2017 as Principal. She discusses the school‘s philosophy, the student application and selection process, tuition and the availability of scholarships. She also talks about the school's unique curriculum, including Winterim (winter interim experiences), Project LEAD, advisory groups, Living Curriculum and religious classes. Finally, she addresses the challenges and advantages of being an independent religious school as well as Wheaton's funding, teacher backgrounds, accreditation, and Wheaton Academy's successful extracurricular programs.

Shawn Hoffmann - Alternatives in Education

Shawn Hoffmann discusses his involvement with Trinity Lutheran School over a 23 year history, which includes serving there as a science teacher and now the school's principal. The school, in Bloomington, Illinois, enrolls students from age three through the 8th grade. Hoffmann discusses the history of Trinity Lutheran School, which dates back to 1858. He also talks about the school's philosophy, tuition and scholarship availability, its curriculum, which includes academic, religious, service and extracurricular programs, a typical school day, school funding, teacher recruitment and accreditation.

Felice Hybert - Alternatives in Education

Felice Hybert discusses the implementation of the Competency Based Learning Model in Kankakee High School, which was begun in 2016 with the incoming freshman class. Hybert explains how the district implemented this competency model, which included training of staff, remodeling of the high school to meet the new teaching strategies, the scheduling of students, and what a typical day is like for students. Kankakee High School's CBL program is a pilot program for the Illinois State Board of Education under the Post Secondary and Work Force Readiness Act of 2016.

Victor Iturralde - Alternatives in Education

Victor Iturralde discusses his eight years at Eric Solorio Academy High School located in the Gage Park section of Chicago. He has been the principal since the school opened in 2010; it now serves 1,200 students. The interview covers the building of this environmental friendly school, its opening through staggered classes (one graded added yearly), its role as a Chicago Public neighborhood school, its high expectations for student attendance, academic achievement and success, and the large number of extracurricular and sports available to students. The school features a young and talented staff that focuses on collaboration, teaming and professional development.

Janet Kehoe - Alternatives in Education

For over twenty-two years Janet Kehoe of Athens, Illinois has home schooled her seven children. She began with her first child to insure he would not be bored in school. Janet enjoyed it so much that she decided to home school all of her children. She discusses the home schooling process in detail, highlighting the rewards and the challenges of home schooling children, activities with other home schoolers, and dealing with colleges on issues such as transcripts and scholarships.

James 'Jim' Kinsella - Alternatives in Education

Jim Kinsella discusses his 17 year involvement as a teacher and administrator with on-line learning through the Illinois Virtual School. He tells about the creation of the on-line learning school which was first run by the Illinois State Board of Education, then by the Illinois Math-Science Academy, and now by the Peoria Regional Office. Jim outlines the changes which have taken place with on-line learning since the school's creation in 2001. He discusses the Virtual Learning School’s mission (high quality expanded opportunities to all Illinois students), strategies for teaching in this format, and the new types of technology being used.

Mary Klinenberger - Alternatives in Education

Mary Klingenberger discusses her involvement with Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School, both from the perspective as a former student, and then as President beginning in 2013. She discusses the history of Mother McAuley, beginning in 1827 when Catherine McAuley created a House of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland, and to the Sisters of Mercy, who began an all-girls school in Chicago in 1846. She also explores the school‘s philosophy and curriculum, student application and selection, tuition and the availability of scholarships, and extracurricular opportunities in thirteen sports. The challenges and advantages of being a single gender liberal arts high school located on the south side of Chicago were also reviewed.

Jennifer Kolar-Burden - Alternatives in Education

Jennifer Kolar-Burden discusses her 15-year involvement as a teacher and curriculum coordinator for the Illinois Virtual School, which offers a wide selection of on-line courses. The school’s mission is to provide high quality and expanded opportunities to all Illinois students. She discusses the courses the virtual school offers, the growing number of students involved (now 6000), the grades it serves (5-12), and partnerships they have formed with Illinois public, private, and home schools. She reviews how teachers are selected, and how one teaches an on-line course. Jennifer also explains the school’s accreditations process from the Illinois State Board of Education, the College Board, NCAA, and Quality Matters.

Father Ronald Margherio - Alternatives in Education

Father Ronald Margherio discusses his 54 year involvement with St. Bede Academy (Grades 9-12) located between Peru and Spring Valley, Illinois. Father Ronald has been a student, Novice, teacher, superintendent, development director, and now the chaplain at the Academy. He discusses the Academy’s history, including its transition from an all-boys school to a coed school, and its beginnings as a boarding school into a day academy, and now an academy with a small boarding presence for international students. Serving up to 300 students, the school campus encompasses 100 acres, including a working farm, a chapel, a new science wing, and the school's main building dating from 1890. Father Margherio also discussed the school's Benedictine philosophy and reviews its curriculum.

Andrea Markert - Alternatives in Education

Andrea Markert talks about the University High Lab School, which is part of Illinois State University. The school, formed in 1857, is the oldest “normal” school in the country, and has a set enrollment of 600 students. She discusses the school’s work in research and educational innovation, its role as a Teacher Education Center, its curriculum, student eligibility, its relationship with Thomas Metcalf K-8 school, athletic/activities programs, and its governance through Illinois State University.

Lynn Martin - Alternatives in Education

Lynn Martin discusses the history of Elgin Academy, which was founded in 1836, from her perspective as Registrar, Administrative Assistant Upper School, and currently Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications. (2007-2018). She talks about the importance of Elgin Academy to the local community for over 180 years, first as a liberal arts high school and now also a Prek-8 school. Martin discusses the role of the Sears family in its early years, the school's liberal arts curriculum, the school’s philosophy/mission statement and the importance of field trip experiences for its students. The school, as Lynn explains, lives up to its motto of 'Taking Learning Personally.'

Kevin McClain - Alternatives in Education

Kevin McClain, together with his wife Linda, decided to send their four children to private school for their entire elementary and secondary school experiences, citing better structure, discipline and the quality of education as some of the key reasons for doing so. He discusses the experiences of their four children during their years of elementary education and secondary education at Sacred Heart Griffin High School in Springfield, Illinois, as well as their college education at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana.

Robert 'Bob' Muzikowski - Alternatives in Education

Bob Muzikowski talks about his vision for Chicago Hope Academy, and its creation in 2005. Chicago Hope is a non-denominational Judeo-Christian High School located in the near west side of Chicago, with 270 students in attendance in 2019. Muzikowski discusses the campus site, student enrollment, the school’s funding, its rigorous curriculum, leading to 100% going on to post-education experiences, the school's religious and service requirements, as well as student athletics and activities, teacher selection, and advantages and challenges for a private non-denominational religious school.

Jason Patera - Alternatives in Education

ason Patera discusses his involvement with the Chicago Academy for the Arts over a twenty year period, beginning when he was a high school intern, and which continued in 1998 when he was a teacher at his first school. Patera is now the Executive Director at the Academy. He discusses the history of the Academy dating back to 1981 when arts enthusiasts established it as an independent performing arts school. Patera explains the school‘s philosophy, student recruitment and eligibility, tuition, scholarship opportunities and its curriculum, which includes both academic subjects and the performing arts. He also discusses the students' projects and performances, and the challenges and advantages of being an independent performing arts school in a large metropolitan area.

Serena Preston - Alternatives in Education

Serena Preston is the Superintendent of the School for the Visually Impaired located in Jacksonville, Illinois. The school is governed and funded through the Illinois Department of Human Services; Department of Rehabilitation Services. Ms. Preston’s describes the special population being served at the School for the Visually Impaired, and how the school addresses each student’s individual needs. She also reviews the school's curriculum, life skills classes and extra-curricular activities available for the students.

Brent Rademacher - Alternatives in Education

Brent Rademacher discusses the history of Bismark-Henning Rossville-Alvin Cooperative High School, Illinois's second cooperative high school, which began in 2017-2018. The deactivation/reorganization let Rossville-Alvin high school students choose between Bismarck-Henning or Hoopeston Area. Rademacher explains the effort that led to a referendum resulting in the creation of the Bismarck-Henning and Rossville-Alvin. Based on student input, the school's colors and nickname remained the same, while the school's name was changed, as well as the governance structure of the Board of Education, and the financial responsibilities of each district. Brent also discusses the school's new Agriculture program.

Father Joel Rippinger - Alternatives in Education

Father Joel Rippinger has served as a teacher, coach and chaplain at the Marmion Academy (an all-boys Catholic school in the Benedictine tradition) for over forty years, and reviews the history of the school dating back to 1933. The school has an ongoing connection with Marmion Abbey, and has featured an ROTC curriculum since 1935. Father Joel reviewed the school's LEAD curriculum, the importance of student community service, the Academy’s move from a residential program to a day program, and the school's partnership with its sister school (first Madonna and now Rosary). Marmion Academy is a college prep school with a strong extracurricular component.

Lauren Sartain - Alternatives in Education

Lauren Sartain discusses the GoCPS (Go Chicago Public Schools) process used by parents and students to select the appropriate CPS high school, and the research in which she has participated. This research, performed by a combination of the University of Chicago Educational Research Consortium and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, looked at how the GoCPS system functioned and how school selection using the lottery and student points worked. One research project followed a freshmen class as it progressed through its high school years, and what role distance (home to school) played in that decision.

Lucille Shaw - Alternatives in Education

Lucille Shaw discusses her long history with Chicago High School for the Agricultural Sciences as a teacher, program director, Department Chair, and Assistant Principal (1986-2018). The interview covers the creation of Chicago High School for the Agricultural Sciences and its unique status nationwide as a pure agricultural school under the direction of the Chicago Public Schools ( CPS). Topics covered include gradual building expansion, student selection, its unique curriculum, academic load, sports

Emmett Slingsby - Alternatives in Education

Emmett Slingsby discusses his work at the Illinois State Board of Education on public and non-public school recognition. He explains the differences between the standards for public and non-public schools. Slingsby also talks about the advantages of being a recognized school. He addressed home schooling, and the recognition process for residential schools. In addition, he reviewed the school code for approving foreign language study in ethnics schools, non-public driving education, and residential/boarding schools. He also discussed the compliance teams that visit both public and non-public schools, and their review of health records, school calendars, safety reports, curriculum, board policies and teacher/administration certification.

Corena Steinmeyer - Alternatives in Education

Corena Steinmeyer discusses her work as the director of the Lee County Special Education Association. The Association consists of two school districts located in northern Illinois: Dixon and Paw Paw. Corena talks about the organization of the association and its relationship with the Dixon School District. She details the association's agreement structure and reviews the training responsibilities of the Cooperative, its role for ages birth to three, the transition plans from ages 14 through 21, and the Individual Education Plan (IEP). She also discusses the many challenges facing special education cooperatives and associations.

Stacy Stewart - Alternatives in Education

Stacy Stewart, Principal of Belmont-Craigin Elementary School, discusses the implementation of the Personalized Learning Model in the K-8 School. She explains the training involved for teachers, the teaching strategies used, and the role of student leadership. Stewart also talks about her assessment of the students' progress over a five year time frame. Collaboration with other schools using this model is also reviewed.

Peter Thomas - Alternatives in Education

Director Peter Thomas discusses his involvement with the Lincoln ChalleNGe Academy going back to its creation in 1993 by the Defense Authorization Act. It was created to serve as a youth intervention program for ages 16-18 who had dropped out of school, and did so in partnership with the Illinois National Guard. Thomas talks about the selection of the former Chanute Air Base at Rantoul as its campus, the relationship with the Dept. of Defense, the National Guard, and the State of Illinois, how students become eligible, and the criteria for eligibility. It is a five and a half month academic program followed by a year long mentor program. He also discusses the eight core objectives each cadet completes and the extra activities in which cadets can participate.

Gary Urwiler - Alternatives in Education

Gary Urwiler discusses his involvement with Mooseheart City and School from his perspective as a Mooseheart student, teacher, coach, principal/superintendent, and now Executive Director. The institution is a home for children and teens in need, from infancy through high school. The interview covers the long history of Mooseheart (Happy City), the school’s organization from birth to age 21, its curriculum, vocational training, sports and Naval ROTC program. Urwiler provides insights into a typical student's life at the school, the generous support the city and school receives from Moose Lodges, Mooseheart Charities, and private donors.

Genevra Walters - Alternatives in Education

Dr. Genevra Walters, the Superintendent of Kankakee School District #111, discusses the implementation of the Competency Based Learning Model in her school district, beginning with Kankakee High School's freshmen class. She discussed the philosophy of competency-based learning, which emphasizes mastery of all competencies in order to earn credit. She also reviewed the use of career exploration and the promotion of work ethic, professionalism, communication, collaboration and problem solving. Dr. Walters explained how the district will implement this competency model throughout the district on a year by year basis. Kankakee High School is a pilot program for the Illinois State Board of Education under the Post Secondary and Work Force Readiness Act of 2016.

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