(EFFINGHAM, Illinois – November 18, 2021) Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation is pleased to announce that five area new teachers have been named recipients of the 2021 Central Illinois Rural Teacher Corps grant program: Lesley Woods of Mattoon High School, Peighton Donnel of Windsor Elementary School, Rylee Watson of Hutsonville Grade School, Shayna Phillips of Effingham Jr. High School, Ashley Drake, of St. John’s Lutheran School. Grants are awarded to new teachers in our region.

Lesley Woods of Mattoon High School received $200 for “Tuning into Teaching.” Lessley states that “on every day of the week, the classroom is a noisy and distracting place for many. With each student potentially being in a different spot in the curriculum, the distractions grow even more. A classroom set of headphones will allow students who are not receiving direct instruction to better focus on the tasks they have at hand. When needed they can watch instructional videos and get back to proving their competencies in math or listen to explained examples of equations that are uploaded to further help them in their learning. Even if they are not watching an instructional video or audio examples, they can be listening to music or using their headphones to cancel background noise, assisting in their education in yet another method.”



Peighton Donnel of Windsor Elementary School received $200 for “Classroom Supplies.” Peighton states “The items purchased will aide students in active and hands on learning. These items will be used in math and literacy centers along with some self-exploration areas or “Maker Spaces”.





Shayna Phillips of Effingham Jr. High School received $200 for “Building My Classroom Library.” Shayna said “The funds will eliminate the wait and get students the books they want, right when they need them. It allows me to expand genres of my library that are lacking. I am continuously looking for new sports novels to engage my athletic population of readers who are often more hesitant to love reading. This grant allows me to spend money on books focusing on people of all demographics. Right now, I have only a handful of books with stories of students with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ community, members of the Black community, and more, but as I’ve found after reflecting on my first year of teaching, this simply isn’t enough. Stories such as “The Hate You Give”, “Wonder”, “A Long Walk to Water”, and more give student’s insight into what life is like for people different than them. These stories build empathy in children and allow them to consider people from different perspectives. This grant gives me the freedom to find award-winning current young adult literature books and introduce them to my students and young readers.”


Rylee Watson of Hutsonville Grade School received $200 for “The Chocolate Touch Novel Unit.” Rylee says “With this project, the students will be growing their literacy with a fun book. This book is exciting for my students to read and follow along with. With this novel study, the students will be having discussions, completing comprehension activities, and learning new vocabulary. Throughout the reading, they will relate other subjects to the book as much as possible. The Chocolate Touch also involves social emotional lessons, which is very important for our students. This book will motivate my students to read and enjoy it. My students love the comedy genre, so this is right up their alley. This book study will get them excited to read chapter books and find books that they enjoy.”




Ashley Drake of St. John’s School received $200 for “Keep on Spelling.”  In Ashley’s words “This program will effectively help students learn to spell their spelling words with more than just a piece of paper and a pen. It will include kinesthetic, fine motor skills, and tactile learning. I have learned if you include more than one of your senses, you have a better chance of learning. ….To students past and future, spelling should be fun and not be something that we are dragging our feet to learn. As technology advances, sadly our brain decreases on spelling. Because we don’t have to rely on ourselves, we can just ask about technology. Including these different ways, it will include helping children who may be dyslexic, have a learning disability, or just have trouble studying for tests in a fun way. It’s time to enjoy third grade and teach others that there’s more than one way to spell a word and learn about the chunks and figure out what makes them click.”


The Central Illinois Rural Teacher Corps fund of Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation is committed to supporting new teachers in our region. For more information, please contact Alex Pleasant, President/CEO of Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation, at 217-342-4988 or alex@enrichingourcommunity.org.  Visit the Foundation’s website at EnrichingOurCommunity.org/.

Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation was established in 2009 due to a merger between Effingham County Community Foundation (est. 1999) and Mattoon Area Community Foundation (est. 1980). Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization managing permanent and non-permanent assets for the long-term benefit of communities in southeastern Illinois.