School District 186 officers surprise student facing hardships (, 2/12/18)

Many times, parents and teachers may not realize when a child is struggling.

One student at Southeast was having a hard time.

Now a viral District 186 post, reaching over 10,000 people within one day, shows how two school officers took money out of their own pockets to buy something special for that student.

Two Southeast High School officers, Andy Tinsley and Larry Hale, presented freshman Johnathon Wood with his very own Kindle.

“I was just so amazed,” Wood said. “They were so nice.”

But this kind gesture comes after hardship.

“He was down,”1st-year Resource Officer Andy Tinsley said. “He was just down in the dumps.”

“He would push me around,” Johnathon said. “Call me names [and] talk about my family.”

He reached out to the officers saying he was getting bullied in school.

“How hard bullying is and it just brought me and them closer,” Wood said. “And we talked about like, how I like reading. We just stuck together and we’ve just been bonding ever since.”

According to, reports are going up, which may be due to raising awareness.

But for Johnathon, there was more.

“He said his mom went to work from 5 am to 5 pm every day,” Tinsley said. “He was just so proud of her and he worried all the time.”

“We began to get a little picture of what this kid was going through and our hearts went out to him,” Southeast High School Security Officer Larry Hale said.

Johnathon’s escape is reading books. He went through 5-6 books a week.

“An escape and peace of mind,” Johnathon said.

District 186 officials say students can struggle.

“Whether academically, socially, emotionally,” Public Relations Marketing Coordinator for District 186 Bree Hankins said. “When they have issues, we’re just glad we have so many caring adults. There’s a wealth of support there for all of our students.”

“Over my 24 years here,” Hale said. “And 30 years coaching basketball… hundreds [and] hundreds of kids.”

Hale has helped out many kids who confide in him with their struggles.

“Have a good heart,” Tinsley said. “Good things happen.”

“I didn’t think they would get me that,” Johnathon said. “It’s been making my day. I’ve been smiling ever since.”

Johnathon said he plans on going to Harvard to become a book writer or engineer.

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Congratulations to Lindsey Jensen, Illinois Teacher of the Year!

“I really want to make my profession proud, and I really want to advocate, not only for students, but for teachers as well. I absolutely think it’s the most important job in the world, but it is a challenging job, and I want to be someone who brings attention to all that teachers do.” Lindsey Jensen, Illinois Teacher of the Year 2017

186 educators: enjoy your well-earned break!

UIS Perspectives: Educating leaders in education (, 12/16/17)

What makes successful K-12 schools tick? A recent study cited by Education Pioneers, a nationwide school improvement project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, concluded school leadership is a critical factor. Along with excellent teachers, outstanding principals and superintendents have significant impact on how well students learn in school.

That impact is the reason that, in addition to preparing highly-qualified K-12 teachers, UIS offers graduate programs in Educational Leadership that prepare principals, superintendents and other school personnel for leadership roles in schools throughout central Illinois and beyond.

Scott Day, a faculty member at UIS for 20 years (and winner of the 2017 Faculty Excellence Award), leads the Educational Leadership program. “What attracts students to our program,” says Day, “is top-notch faculty with extensive experience working as principals and superintendents.”

“Our graduates always say how well prepared they feel for the job based on the program’s course projects and the extensive internship requirement,” he continues. “The professional preparation is about as realistic as you can get — and that is the key to our (and our graduates’) success.”

Hanfu Mi, Dean of the College of Education and Human Services, agrees: “Faculty who teach in the Educational Leadership program have not only had careers as successful principals and superintendents, they also remain connected to people and issues of importance in K-12 in Illinois — engaging in research, service and other professional activities that keep them informed of exactly what is going on in the schools across the state.”

“Dr. Day is a good example of that connectivity,” Dean Mi continues. “He currently serves on the Executive Board of the Illinois Principals Association and spends significant time each semester in the schools, mentoring current graduate students (most of whom are also full-time teachers) and advising alums who continue to stay connected to the faculty long after they complete the program.”

Jennifer Gill, Superintendent of Springfield Public School District 186, is one of those alums. Gill was born and raised in Springfield, where she graduated from Springfield High School and later taught at Wanless Elementary School, one of 23 elementary schools in the district. “I chose the University of Illinois at Springfield for my Masters Degree in Educational Administration due to strong recommendations from educators in my community,” says Gill. “I quickly realized the opportunity to learn from professors who were practitioners as well as those who were grounded in educational research was the blend of support for which I was looking.”

Dr. Gill later returned to UIS for her Superintendent’s licensure and the Chief School Business Endorsement, working with a cohort of fellow educators with whom she maintains valuable professional relationships today.

Superintendent Gill is not the only UIS Educational Leadership alum in District 186. In fact, more than 60% of the principals employed in the Springfield Public Schools today are proud graduates of the program. Another alum is Lyn Williams, who became principal of Southeast High School this fall after serving 11 years in other roles in the district, most recently as Assistant Principal at Lanphier High School.

“Finding a graduate program that provided me with research-based instruction and real-life relevance was my priority when choosing both a principalship program and a superintendency program,” says Williams. “The expertise of my instructors at UIS allows for class time to be spent problem-solving around real-world case studies and the discussion is filled with dynamic analysis and insight that is second to none.”

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