Two excellent teachers are 2000 Christa McAuliffe Fellows

May 12, 2000

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Chicago – Two teachers have been named Illinois’ 2000 Christa McAuliffe Fellows for innovative projects to help students see the heavens and clean a portion of the DuPage River.

Heidi Blair, a teacher at Glenn Westlake Middle School in Lombard, and Cathy Wentworth, who teaches fifth grade at Heyworth Elementary School in Heyworth will each receive $15,000 from a U.S. Dept. of Education grant to support their Fellowship projects. The program is administered nationally by the Council of Chief State School Officers and locally by the Illinois State Board of Education.

“Cathy and Heidi have come up with innovative educational projects that will help their students be the best they can be and at the same time bring improvements to education that can be shared statewide,” said State Superintendent of Education Glenn W. McGee

The Christa McAuliffe Fellowship is awarded annually to innovative educators with at least eight years’ teaching experience. McAuliffe Fellows must create and complete projects that will improve education. The projects must also support state education priorities. The fellowship was created in 1987 in honor of Christa McAuliffe, the New Hampshire teacher who served as an astronaut on the ill-fated space shuttle Challenger in January 1986.

Blair, a 13-year veteran teacher, will create a curriculum unit called the “DuPage Watershed Analysis” to train middle school science students in water quality analysis and conduct a comparative study of the east branch of the DuPage River.

Based on the project’s results, students will later work with the DuPage County Forest Preserve and Morton Arboretum to correct problems found in the east branch of the river. Finally, the research gathered through the project will support an application to the state to raise and release small mouth bass into the river’s east branch.

Wentworth will use her fellowship funds to create a large, “backyard” astronomy project for her students and the Heyworth community.

Believing that students often learn best through hands-on work, Wentworth, a teacher since 1982 plans to use a professional-model telescope, mobile star lab, on-line connections with astronomers and trips to assorted planetariums and astronomy museums to create a new curriculum for her district.

That curriculum will then be made available to other districts statewide. Pictures of stars taken as part of this project will be posted on the school’s website. The instructional unit will wrap up with a community star party complete with stargazing and an astronomical “fashion show” of student designs showing what they learned through the curriculum.

For the first time, the State Board this year is also awarding three McAuliffe Awards of Merit. The top three non-Fellow finalists will each receive $1,000.

William Hector, of Community Unit District 99 High School North in Downers Grove proposed to create and conduct a series of statewide workshops on the importance of organ donation.

Patricia Marshall of University High School in Normal proposed to create an interdisciplinary curriculum for her district and make it available to other districts through the Internet.

Sally Stone, of Tarkington Elementary School in Wheeling proposed to create a curriculum focusing on the global impact of oceans.