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As America celebrates its independence with parades and fireworks today, teachers in Champaign and Urbana are getting ready to celebrate American history in the classroom come August.
As part of the Urbana school district's American History Teachers' Collaborative Fellowship program, 15 teachers are spending 40 hours each this summer doing hands-on research in local museums and archives.
CHAMPAIGN – The journey that brought Cristobal Gonzalez to a stage in Krannert Center for the Performing Arts last month, accepting his high school diploma along with nearly 300 classmates, began a world away.
Gonzalez grew up in a small, rural village in the mountains of Guatemala, a place with no electricity, no running water, no means of transportation except for walking or horses. Parents and children worked together on coffee and sugar plantations to put food on the table.
CHAMPAIGN – John Kirkpatrick grew up lending a helping hand to others – something learned by example from his parents.
As a kid growing up in Granite City, near St. Louis, he helped fill sandbags alongside his parents and seven siblings when the Mississippi River flooded. In college, he went on work trips with Campus Crusade for Christ, and he later volunteered in Manila and Bangkok and spent a summer teaching English in Mexico City.
CHAMPAIGN – Twenty years ago, Judah Christian School graduated its first high school class ... of three.
This fall, 17 students will start their senior year at the school. They are among 112 students in the high school and nearly 500 students who attend Judah Christian.
DANVILLE – Kathy Sturgeon thought about her acceptance speech, wondering if she should tell her story.
"It's not really appropriate, is it?" she thought, just before accepting the Outstanding Faculty of the Year award at the Illinois Community College Trustee Association's annual convention.
URBANA – Fred Schlipf, who has been the Urbana Free Library's executive director since August 1974 and who recently oversaw a major library expansion, is planning to retire next year.
Schlipf, 64, said he will step down next May. The 10 months of lead time will give the library board plenty of time to have a successor in place when he steps down, he said.
CHAMPAIGN – The rural Newton County, Texas, neighborhood where Zelema Harris grew up in the 1940s and '50s had a distinct identity.
It was "just where the black folks lived."
CHAMPAIGN – Sarah Heffley has her own Web site, with photos from her trip to Canada and her own blog, complete with up-to-date posting.
"You can change what the cursor looks like," she said as she fiddled with her purple-and-pink home page. "I'm trying to figure it out."
CHAMPAIGN – A federal judge has called for a hearing in the Champaign school district's consent decree case.
The school district filed a motion last fall asking for an extension of time in which to add seats north of University Avenue, something required by the consent decree. That motion has never been heard.
CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign school district is ending this fiscal year in the red, but next year should be better. The district should have a balanced budget for the coming school year, says Gene Logas, chief financial officer for the district.
Logas said the district will start out the fiscal year, which begins July 1, with a deficit of about $2 million. But an infusion of money from the district's working cash fund will help balance next year's budget.