MATTOON -- Student teachers from throughout Illinois and local children have been getting an education this summer at Riddle and Williams elementary schools in Mattoon.
Education majors who are taking part in a Golden Apple Scholars Summer Institute at Eastern Illinois University have been honing their teaching skills while leading summer enrichment classes at the Mattoon school district's two elementary schools.
Retired Charleston school district teacher Tim McCollum, who is directing the summer institute at Eastern, said college senior Golden Apple Scholars have taught summer classes at other areas school before but this is the first time they have worked at Mattoon schools.
McCollum said Golden Apple is a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that offers education majors the opportunity to get hundreds of hours of classroom experience, including during summer institutes, before they graduate.
"They wind up being extra well prepared future leaders," McCollum said. He added that the scholars are required to sign a contract to teach for five years in a school-of-need, which includes schools with high rates of low income students in rural areas such as East Central Illinois.
McCollum said administrators at the two Mattoon elementary schools helped make it possible for the Golden Apple Scholars to teach summer enrichment classes there. He said these programs were led at Riddle by Rachel Stuart and at Williams by Tracy Brogan, with assistance from Kelsey Cox.
Riddle fifth-grade teacher Stuart, who is a past Golden Apple Scholar, said the classes were offered for free for incoming students in grades first through fifth. She said local families enrolled 52 students for the classes at Riddle. She said the classes were held on mornings Monday-Thursday for three weeks, and concluded this week.
Stuart said the scholars have been responsible for developing and teaching lessons that include focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and math, as well as team building.
"It has been amazing. I have been really impressed by the scholars," Stuart said. She added that the participating children have been smiling and their parents have been saying that they want this summer program to return next summer.
Scholar Phoebe Issler, a Pinckneyville resident who is an elementary education major at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, said she has enjoyed having the independence of creating her own lesson plans and presenting these lessons in her own classroom.
Issler, who taught first graders at the Riddle site, said she was impressed by how knowledgeable the children already were about weather and other science topics. She said they were very engaged with classroom projects, such as making a tornado in a bottle and clouds in a jar.
Fifth-grader Ella Gergeni, daughter of David and Jenny Gergeni, said she had fun at Riddle taking part in improvisational skits and in science-related activities, such as cleaning water by straining out pollutants. Ella said the teachers of her summer enrichment class did a good job and were very nice.