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Downers Grove

District 99 teachers win Those Who Excel awards from ISBE

Downers Grove South High School teachers Mike McGinnis, left, Scott Parker, center, and Ryan Altenburg, right, used the school's 3-D printers to create face shields for health care workers. The teachers won an Illinois State Board of Education Those Who Excel award for their efforts. Courtesy of Mark Molinari
Downers Grove South High School teachers Mike McGinnis, left, Scott Parker, center, and Ryan Altenburg, right, used the school's 3-D printers to create face shields for health care workers. The teachers won an Illinois State Board of Education Those Who Excel award for their efforts. Courtesy of Mark Molinari

DOWNERS GROVE - The Illinois State Board of Education has recognized the work of Community High School District 99 staff members as part of its Those Who Excel Award program:

Downers Grove South High Teachers Ryan Altenburg, Mike McGinnis, Mark Molinari and Scott Parker earned the highest honor of excellence in the team category for creating face shields.

District 99 Business Manager Jeree Ethridge earned meritorious recognition in the educational service personnel category for her work in distributing food to the community.

The South High face shield team started creating face shields at the start of the pandemic using the school’s 3-D printers, which were donated by the District 99 Education Foundation. The team ultimately donated more than 8,000 face shields to over 160 different facilities across the state and locally to hospitals.

Community members showed their support by donating more than $15,000 in partnership with the District 99 Education Foundation. After the face shield costs were covered, funds were directed to families and needs related to COVID-19.

“Our teachers displayed remarkable talent and ability to respond at the very onset of the pandemic,” said Hank Thiele, superintendent of District 99. “By creating face shields and managing the production of thousands of these items to donate to health care workers, the team of teachers translated their knowledge of engineering and science into a meaningful and life-saving real-world application.”

“They not only provided PPE (personal protective equipment) for those in need, they provided necessities to our families in need,” said Ed Schwartz, principal of South High. “They did what good teachers do – they modeled for their students what is really important.”

Jeree Ethrige drew upon her financial and organizational talents to invent and orchestrate a massive effort to keep low-income students in the community fed throughout the crisis. She has led the district’s food and transportation partners to adapt and respond, and has worked closely with them on all aspects of the process, including food ordering and transportation logistics.

“Members of our community, staff, parents and students have all been positively affected as a result of Jeree’s competent leadership skills,” said District 99 Controller Mark Staehlin. “She oversees the daily operations of this program and then works late into the evenings and weekends to keep up with her ‘normal’ daily responsibilities.”

“Jeree treats our families in need as valued clients--not as an obligation or burden,” said Thiele. “Facing the most challenging of situations, Jeree exemplifies what it means to excel, and what it truly means to meet the needs of our students.”

“I am proud to congratulate each one of these staff members for their enormous contributions,” said District 99 Board of Education President Nancy Kupka. “They are a great asset not only to our students and families, but our wider community as well.”

Since 1970, the Illinois State Board of Education has sponsored Those Who Excel to honor individuals who have made significant contributions to our state's public and nonpublic elementary and secondary schools.

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