Education and learning

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In four years of medical school, Illinois Director of Public Health Ngozi Ezike didn’t have to treat a single case of measles.

The World Health Organization certified the United States measles free in the year 2000. But after an outbreak in New York that started last year, the US came dangerously close to losing the designation.

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University President Lisa Freeman announced the “Huskie Pledge” grant program in her State of the University speech. 

Illinois students enrolling as full-time freshmen at NIU in fall 2020 will be awarded a grant to totally cover their first year of tuition and general fees. To meet the grant criteria, they must come in with a 3.0 or higher high school GPA and have a household income of under $75,000.

Spencer Tritt

More than 1,000 students missed their fourth school day on Monday. Negotiations continue, but the two sides say little progress has been made since last week.

The Mendota Education Association says it’s just about on the same page with the school board when it comes to base salary increases. Sticking points have been the schedule of teachers’ salaries and how much they will have to pay for family insurance. They also want specific provisions about plan time and recess duties.

The Sound of Science - 'Particle Accelerators'

Oct 18, 2019

SAM: Welcome to the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m Sam from NIU STEM Outreach.

PHILIPPE: And I’m Philippe Piot from NIU Physics – and Sam, I want to talk about particle accelerators which are becoming increasingly useful for everyday life.

S: You and I could talk all day about them. For our listeners, though, give us a thumbnail.

P: Particle accelerators boost the energy of particles and beams for various applications. For example, CERN in Europe collided two proton beams to confirm the Higgs Boson back in 2012.

Peter Medlin

It’s late afternoon and the sun is setting over the fields next to Central High School in Burlington. Inside, four students stand at the front of a classroom. Their advisor hits the stopwatch on his phone and they launch into their presentation. 

“'Each story builds upon one another and began to further define us as a chapter...'” says one of the student officers, junior Eric Metz. “Oh...that's my ending part.” 


Chase Cavanaugh

At the beginning of the school year, Rockford Public Schools experienced a ransomware cyberattack knocking out digital equipment across the district. More than a month later, the technology is still not all the way back.

The most important services, like their online grading and attendance systems just returned at the end of last week. But, whether they work perfectly or not can still be hit and miss.

Mel Gilfillan is the president of the Rockford Education Association. He said he’s been hearing similar concerns from teachers in the district.

Peter Medlin

About a mile away from Northern Illinois University’s campus in DeKalb, a nice 2-story house on the corner of Woodlawn Drive is vacant. The only sign of wear in sight is on a small metal sign in the freshly cut yard where the address is slowly rusting away. 

Built in 1955, this house has been home to the presidents of NIU. But, when Dr. Lisa Freeman was hired last year, she already had a home in DeKalb.

Northern Illinois University

A Northern Illinois University administrator will chair the Illinois Innovation Network Council.

The Network is a collection of 15 hubs based at state universities. Each hub is a center of research, entrepreneurship, education, and workforce development; and the Council is a way to better coordinate their projects.  NIU's inaugural chairman is Vice President for Research and Innovation Partnerships Dr. Gerald Blazey. Blazey says all the hubs have a central connection to the Discovery Partners Institute in downtown Chicago.

Logo design by Spencer Tritt

This week, a conversation with Lissette Jacobson about growing up the daughter of Mexican immigrants, social justice, using football to bond with boys in her school and what it takes to be a successful administrator. She is the new principal of Pioneer Elementary School in West Chicago.

The Sound of Science - 'Interstellar Objects'

Oct 4, 2019

Jeremy: I’m Jeremy Benson with Sam Watt from NIU STEM Outreach, and it’s time for another episode of the Sound of Science on WNIJ.

Sam: Today’s question comes from Pablo, and it’s not just out of this world - it’s interstellar. Pablo asks, “How do scientists know if an object came from outside our solar system?”

Jeremy: That’s a really good question, Pablo. Especially since scientists are now studying the second interstellar object that we’ve detected.

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission is holding its fourth annual "College Changes Everything" month.

The campaign consists of workshops around the state covering college admissions and applying for financial aid. Lynne Baker is the communications director for the agency. She says the campaign is catching on.

“We have over 300 high schools and 215 towns and cities in Illinois that have scheduled either a college application and/or a FAFSA completion workshop this fall. More are being scheduled every week,” she said.

District 300

Eastview Elementary School in Algonquin was honored as a National Blue Ribbon School.

This is the first time in more than three decades (and the second time ever) a school in Community School District 300 has received the distinction.

The award recognizes either “Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing” or, like Eastview, “Exemplary High Performing” schools.

It’s based on student scores placing in the Top 15 in the state for Math and English.

Jim Zursin is the principal at Eastview.

The STEM Read Podcast - Going Wild

Sep 30, 2019

Going Wild with Peter Brown and Dr. Holly Jones

In this episode of the STEM Read Podcast Gillian King-Cargile (@gkingcargile), Kristin Brynteson (@kbrynteson), and Melanie Koss (@melaniekoss) sit down with NIU Biology professor Holly Jones, Ph.D., and author of The Wild Robot Peter Brown (@itspeterbrown) to talk island ecosystems, endangered species, writing, and robotics. 

The Sound of Science - 'Photographing a Black Hole'

Sep 27, 2019

Jeremy: I’m Jeremy Benson

Sam: And I’m Sam Watt

Jeremy: And this is the Sound of Science on WNIJ.

Sam: Today’s question comes from Peter who asks, “How can scientists take a picture of black hole?”

Jeremy: Let’s see if we can’t shed some light on that one for you Peter. You may have heard the team that produced the first black hole images just received an award for their work.  But how do you take a picture of something that doesn’t emit any light?

Logo design by Spencer Tritt

Rich Egger, news director at Tri States Public Radio in Macomb, joins us for a special edition episode of Teachers’ Lounge. Public radio stations across the state collaborated on our “Enrollment Exodus” series chronicling enrollment challenges facing Illinois colleges and universities, especially since the 2015-2017 state budget impasse.

Rich Egger

As part of our statewide “Enrollment Exodus” collaboration, WNIJ’s Peter Medlin spoke with Tri States Public Radio News Director Rich Egger. They talked about Egger’s reporting on Western Illinois University and how enrollment decline affects every part of their community.

A four-year degree is not the only option for students when they finish high school. But many choose community college in an effort to join the workforce sooner and save on tuition costs.

Community colleges funnel a lot of students into four-year institutions.

So-called articulation agreements like the ones John A. Logan Community College has with Southern Illinois University let students feel secure their credits will transfer, and count toward a degree.

When Francisco Gamino arrived at Parkland College four years ago, he didn’t know how to balance work and find the time he needed to study.

What happens when universities see enrollment plunge year after year? For many Illinois schools, they focus on how to hold on to the students already walking their halls. Students often leave between their first and second year.


Tammy Yates was excited to come to Macomb seven years ago. Yates and her partner Chad Hunziker opened Chubby's, a restaurant on West Adams Street, just a few blocks from the Western Illinois University campus.

"Just the vibe of the whole campus in 2012 was happy. It was positive and people were having fun," said Yates.

"It’s a little different now."

The Sound of Science - 'Kayaking'

Sep 20, 2019

Sam: Welcome to the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m Sam from NIU STEM Outreach. 

Christine: And I’m Christine from NIU Outdoor Adventures, and this weekend I’m going kayaking.

Sam: If you’ve never been in a kayak, it’s like most other boats - except really narrow. And light weight. And you’re almost sitting below the water level.

How Illinois FFA Adapts To Keep Growing

Sep 19, 2019
Sean Crawford / WUIS

Illinois Future Farmers of America set a record last year for membership. They also broke their record for enrollment across all agriculture education. This year, they’re set to surpass both again.

Changes In Store For NIU Title IX Office

Sep 17, 2019
Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University's Title IX coordinator says there are changes being made to her office.  They come in a response to a student protest in May.  

Title IX prohibits sex discrimination at education institutions receiving federal funding.  Coordinator Sarah Garner says her office is currently in the process of hiring a Title IX investigator. 

Peter Medlin

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos' 2019 back-to-school tour was met with protest at Jefferson High School in Rockford on Monday.

DeVos said they chose Jefferson because of the school’s career-oriented programs in manufacturing and entrepreneurship.

The Sound of Science - 'Rock Climbing'

Sep 13, 2019

Sam: Welcome to the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m Sam from NIU STEM Outreach. 

Christine: And I’m Christine from NIU Outdoor Adventures – and I’m going rock climbing! 

Sam: So what’s the science behind that – other than gravity? 

Christine: It’s about the life-saving engineering that keeps you from falling: the carabiner attached to the top, the belay device the safety person at the bottom uses, and the rope in between. 

Sam: Let’s start with the carabiner at the top. How does that giant metal clip keep a climber safe? 

Logo design by Spencer Tritt

Since returning to DeKalb a decade ago, Maurice McDavid has held many titles. Some call him their teacher, others call him their preacher. To some of his elementary school students, he even goes by his hip-hop moniker, Mr. McDizzle. But above all of that, he's trying to be an advocate in the town he was raised in.

Also on the show, a topic with both international and personal ramifications: cybersecurity.

Chase Cavanaugh

It’s the end of summer in northern Illinois, and the Carey family is preparing for the new school year. But the student they’re helping is a guest to their house.

“My name is Ezgi and I’m coming from Turkey. I’m an exchange student here. Here I’m living in Illinois, Geneva, and I’m going to Geneva Community High School.”

The Sound Of Science - 'Cryptobiotic Soil'

Sep 6, 2019

SAM: Welcome to the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m Sam from NIU STEM Outreach.

CHRISTINE: And I’m Christine from NIU Outdoor Adventures. Ever wonder why parks and rangers insist that you stay on the trails?

SAM: I’m sure safety has a lot to do with it, but I wonder if sustainability also applies.

CHRISTINE: Yes, and that goes for every ecosystem – including deserts! Deserts have a unique system called cryptobiotic soil. 

SAM: Crypto meaning hidden, and biotic meaning living so… Soil we can’t see?

Failure Bites - "This is Your Brain on Failure" Part 2

Sep 6, 2019

Dr. Amanda Durik returns with more tasty information on how failure and our brains are connected. Stay tuned this fall for the second season of Failure Bites.

Photo by Spencer Tritt

Illinois’ teacher shortage has only gotten worse over the past few years. The legislature passed measures in the last year meant to help relieve the problem. But, as the academic year begins, school officials still have concerns.