Grant Showcase: 3D Printer


“Only Your Imagination Limits You”, a grant written by Kaj Holm, for a 3-D printer was funded to continue having our classrooms use innovative technology in a time where budget cuts have been regularly made.  Part 2 expands on my project by acquiring a 3-D scanner to add to the printer.  This will greatly assist with the many future projects I plan to implement in the classroom. 

Over the course of the engineering unit, students will be able to plan for designing something that can be physically made. After properly following the process of design and engineering, students can implement their ideas into real life products.  Materials can be created to be utilized in the classroom as well.  Students who choose to build with their hands prototypes out of common items, can turn around and have a solid plastic version of their imagination brought to life. This is also helpful in a time where computer lab usage is taken up by standardized testing. 

Grants Showcase: 3D Printing at Jefferson

Ryan He, a very well-spoken and inquisitive fourth grader at Jefferson School, taught the board all about 3D printing and showed us some 3D plastic objects made with the Cube 3rd generation printer. His teacher and recipient of the grant, Jodi Kline assisted in the presentation. Watch the video below to learn more.

Grant Showcase: The Choices Program for CMS Social Studies

Mary Ann Crome, Jennifer Dryden, Laura St. Gemme and Holly Pantle showcased the Choices program at the CUSD#1 Excellence in Education Foundation Board meeting in April. This curriculum promotes an inquiry based approach to explore real world issues and develops skills in critical thinking, civic literacy, media and digital communication, creativity and innovation.

Honor a Teacher Program Raises More Than $1,600 for Teacher Grants

Thank you generous donors who honored your favorite teacher, coach, administrator or staff member who works for the Charleston Unit School District #1. The board members distributed scrumptious Kathy's Cookies and handwritten thank you letters to 43 appreciative employees. This netted over $1,600 for teacher grants that will be given out in the spring. A special thanks goes to Tim Hutti, Tim McCollum and Melanie Mills of the board who went above and beyond helping to make this first year fundraiser a success.

You can still give online to honor an employee of CUSD#1. They won't receive the cookies, but will receive an email that shares your thoughts. Click the Donate button for more information.

Jeanne Dau is EEF fundraising chair and teacher of the regional entrepreneurial class called ClassE. Please feel free to contact Jeanne at to discuss the Honor a Teacher Program or other ways to give.

Jeanne Dau is EEF fundraising chair and teacher of the regional entrepreneurial class called ClassE. Please feel free to contact Jeanne at to discuss the Honor a Teacher Program or other ways to give.

Grant Showcase: Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi

Blog written by Jodi Cline

I am very thankful for the Excellence in Education Foundation grant award I received in the Spring of 2015 for 10 Raspberry Pi, monitors, and keyboards. I am the district’s Gifted and Talented Education teacher and we use these credit-card sized computers every day in our classroom. Students in our classroom complete math assignments and then have the opportunity to use the Pi to access a variety of computer coding languages like Scratch and Python through games and coding websites.

Computer-science related fields have been rapidly growing throughout recent years. By 2018, the CS field is projected to represent 51% of all of the jobs in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) areas. Having access to the Raspberry Pi in our classroom has allowed students to gain experience in this growing field.

Jodi Cline

Grant Showcase: Jefferson Students Write Their Own Books

student books

Blog submitted by Jefferson school teacher Yvonne Larson.

A sincere thanks is owed to the Charleston Excellence in Education Foundation. As a Spring 2015 Small Grant recipient, I am pleased to share that, nearly 100 Charleston students, ranging in ages 3-13, took home books that they themselves had co-authored/ illustrated. Together, we are proving that giving students the opportunity to take more pride in their writing by putting their works into actual books can only be a good thing. 



Student quotes:

"Zion is funny, is nice, and calls me dad." -Jeb

"I'm happy about the buddy book, and so is Hank!" -Imani

"I think buddy books are great because it gives your buddy something to remember you by." -Victoria

"I think it'll be something special to the buddies and their parents." -Sophie

Grant Showcase: WWI Material for Charleston Middle School

Ms. Holly Pantle, Media Specialist, and Mr. Chris Bily, Social Studies teacher, at Charleston Middle School submitted a grant to purchase new and updated non-fiction, primary, and secondary source materials specific to World War I.  Since a wide variety of resources about WWI are often less readily available in schools than those for WWII, the students greatly benefited from the grant.

The diverse needs of middle school students were considered as leveled texts, a range of formats, and a wide-range of high-interest topics were selected. As a result, students were able to research, investigate, and create projects for CPI propaganda posters and speeches. The projects included creating an imaginary advertisement agency and poster along with writing a two-minute persuasive speech.

Excellence in Education Foundation grant
Excellence in Education grant
Excellence in Education Foundation grant


Grant Showcase: Cuisenair Rods and Hovercam

Kaj Holm, 5th grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary, received a grant from Excellence in Education Foundation to further his classroom teaching.  He describes below how Cuisenair Rods and Hovercam, purchased from the grant, have made learning easier and a lot more fun for students.

1.       Cuisenaire Rods

The goal of this project was to get students more involved with the learning of fractions.  This mathematics manipulative certainly helped achieve a higher level of understanding then I had anticipated.  The Cuisenaire rods helped students develop a way to look at fractions and recognize that all the pieces do not have to come from the same wholes. That a fraction of something can be either the same or different depending on what the whole actually represents.  The students can try and understand this through traditional algorithms but visual hands on learning can certainly solidify that base knowledge the student needs to succeed.  This additional tool certainly proved beneficial to the learning of the 5th grade classroom.


Hovercam Solo 8:

This piece of classroom technology changed the way I did many of my hands on activities across all of my subjects.  More than just a document camera, the Hovercam is able to take screen shots as well as record what is happening under that camera.  This allows instructions to be easily repeated without wasting additional materials in the process. Student placement no longer is an issue when showing examples because of the benefit of having these examples on the SmartBoard rather than being held up in the air in my hand.  Any visual can now be shown with incredible detail.  When sharing information with colleagues, these saved visuals help aid with explanations to help come up with best practice in our teaching.  This small, easy to move piece of technology has been a blessing to have in the classroom. 

The EEF has been supporting Charleston schools, students, and teachers for over 20 years.  In that time, we have awarded more than $400,000 in grants to teachers in the school district. Learn more about our grants here.

Kaj Holm

5th Grade Teacher – Jefferson Elementary

Cross-Country Coach – Charleston Middle School

Assistant Girls Track Coach – Charleston High School

Winter Weather Brings out the Heart in All of Us

On this snow day, I am admiring the beautiful white landscape and listening to the howling wind. The wind isn't the only thing howling around Charleston. The State of Illinois budget impasse has everyone in education howling and wondering about how this will affect Charleston schools. This is when I know that now, more than ever, our job at the Excellence in Education Foundation is important and crucial to the quality of education for our students.

The EEF has looked at different ways to support our mission of enhancing education in our school district. Our first goal is to raise enough money and create a sustainable endowment of $500,000 so we can confidently give out $20,000 per year in grants. These grants are given to the teachers to buy equipment, pay for supplemental programming and encourage innovative new techniques in the classroom. We have to raise an additional $150,00 - $175,000 to achieve that goal. One and 1/2 years ago we had the first Homecoming Happening that raised approximately $25,000 toward that cause. Last fall, we sold fun pasta at the football games and on-line. Be on the lookout for our next project - "Thank a Teacher Program" coming this Spring. You will have the opportunity to thank a teacher and give to the foundation all in one wonderful act of giving.

But what can you do now? It's a snow day, so I challenge you to do the following:

  1. Like this blog and share it with all your friends on Facebook and Twitter and sign up to receive more blogs like this.
  2. Like the EEF page on Facebook.
  3. Consider giving by clicking on the "Donate" page and give what is in your heart.
This blog was submitted by Jeanne Dau, EEF Fundraising Chair

This blog was submitted by Jeanne Dau, EEF Fundraising Chair

Lincoln Funeral Train Provides Educational Tours for Students

Lincoln Funeral Train

EEF Grant Showcase – The Lincoln Funeral Train

Awarded to Pam Evans, Jefferson Elementary School

The Lincoln Funeral Train pulled into Charleston on May 4, 2015. This project was a joint venture with the City of Charleston. Dianne Ratliff was the spearhead for bringing it here. The Excellence in Education grant helped to fund almost half of the cost so that it could be offered free to the public. The train was available for tours on May 5th and 6th.

EEF grant winner Pam Evans in front of the Lincoln Funeral Train.

EEF grant winner Pam Evans in front of the Lincoln Funeral Train.

All of the students from Carl Sandburg, Jefferson Elementary and Charleston Middle School toured the Funeral Car from 8 am to 3 pm. The Funeral Car was also open to the public each evening. Some people actually travelled several hours for this opportunity. There were approximately 3500 visitors that passed through the car during its short visit including 1400 school children from Charleston, Mattoon, and Marshall along with those from private schools and home schools. The students enjoyed seeing what the train would have looked like 150 years ago and thought it was really cool! They also had the chance to visit the Lincoln-Douglas Debate Museum that is onsite as well as listen to the speakers that were on hand to authenticate the experience with their period dress and conversations. On the walk back to school, the students passed through the nearby cemetery to visit the gravesites of several of Lincoln's relatives.


This blog was submitted by EEF board member Tim McCollum.

This blog was submitted by EEF board member Tim McCollum.



Welcome to the new website for the Excellence in Education Foundation!  We have moved from the CUSD#1 page to increase our visibility, inform you how our grants support students and teachers in the community, and call attention to ways that you can join our efforts to enhance excellence in education in the Charleston schools.

Visit us regularly to learn how we are working with teachers to improve educational opportunities for Charleston students. Future blogs will include “grants in action” reports of how local teachers are using grants awarded by the EEF in their classrooms. I think you’ll be impressed with how our teachers are using money from our grants to create innovative and creative learning opportunities for students. Many of the grant projects also provide direct benefits to the community. For example, the Lincoln Funeral Train exhibit at the Coles County Fairgrounds last spring was not only a learning opportunity for hundreds of local students, but it was also open to the public for three days.

The EEF has been active in the Charleston community for over twenty years, enhancing educational opportunities for CUSD#1 students, and enriching the creative environment in our schools by supporting teachers through grants that are awarded each year. Strong schools promote strong communities. In tough economic times in our state, it has never been more important to support our teachers so they can maintain excellence in their classrooms.

Last year, the EEF board committed to a major fundraising campaign to ensure the sustainability of our grants well into the future. Toward that end, we sponsored the first “Homecoming Happening” event as a way of honoring Charleston alumni and raising money for future students. We plan to continue holding this event every three years. We have a bold goal of increasing the amount of money granted to teachers in coming years. We need your assistance to make this happen.  Support our fundraisers. Attend our events. Donate to our cause.

You can help us keep our schools strong. In this season of giving, I encourage you to support our mission with a year-end gift to the Excellence in Education Foundation. One hundred percent of your donation goes directly into Charleston classrooms.  Invest in our community by giving to our schools. Hit the “give” button on this page to join us.

Thank you for visiting our page today.  Share our website and come back again soon.


Melanie Mills

2015-2016 President, EEF

Melanie Mills