Staff Sgt. Ethan Wheeler, 23, of Trenton, assigned to the 126th Operations Support Squadron, was selected to receive the U.S. Air National Guard's Staff Sgt. Henry "Red" Erwin Outstanding Enlisted Aircrew Member of the Year Award. Gov. Bruce Rauner met with Wheeler in his office on Jan. 11 to honor Wheeler for being selected.
Rauner shook hands with Wheeler and presented him with a congratulatory letter.
"The leaders of this organization couldn't be more proud of Wheeler," said Maj. Gen. Richard Hayes Jr., the adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard. "He set the example for airmen throughout the force with his accomplishments this year and I know he will continue to do great things."
The annual award recognizes enlisted aircrew members for their outstanding accomplishments, leadership and self-improvement in support of the enlisted aircrew operations field.
During the time period covered for the award, Wheeler deployed to Southwest Asia where he completed 61 combat aerial refueling missions and encountered five in-flight emergencies involving coalition fighter aircraft and his own KC-135 Stratotanker. While in theater, he also flew over 670 operational and training hours to accrue the most hours of any enlisted aircrew member in his deployed wing at that time.
Wheeler is a 2012 graduate of Highland High School. He is the son of Jonathan Wheeler Sr. (stepmother Nikki Wheeler) and the late Susan Wheeler.
Local author Brenda Martin Kohlbrecher, in collaboration with Breese Public Library, will be speaking about adoption, sharing nuggets of her personal story, and introducing her recently published books on this truth: faith + adoption = family.
The speaking event is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28, and will last approximately one hour.
Brenda is the wife of Perm-A-Green Lawns owner Kurt Kohlbrecher, mother of Kyle Kohlbrecher (26 - who resides in Lakemoor, a suburb of Chicago) and adopted daughter Makala (18 - currently enrolled at Southeast Missouri State). She is a former Damiansville teacher, and longtime resident of Trenton.
The first title, "Baby Steps of Faith – hope for your adoption journey," is a unique devotional written to inspire, encourage, and strengthen women dealing with infertility, couples contemplating adoption or currently in the process, and families simply adopting in response to a child’s need for a forever home. Read stories and excerpts penned years ago in the author’s adoption journal. Discover how God’s Word brought healing, opened her heart, and changed her life.
The author invites you to journal your adoption experiences in this interactive resource. Take time to reflect and respond to the Personal Reflection Questions that follow each devotional entry and discover God’s great love for you and the call to adoption. It just takes Baby Steps of Faith.
The second title, "What Did I Do When I Came Home to You?" is a beautifully illustrated children’s book (ages 4-9) with a fast pace rhythmical storyline. Adoption turns into adventure when Makala and her backyard friends search for answers to her ba-zillion questions! Together, they ultimately discover the answer to one endearing, repetitious question, “What did I do when I came home to you? It’s a great resource to introduce adoption to all children.
These books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian bookstores and author direct.
To learn more about Brenda’s personal story, schedule a speaking engagement for your upcoming women’s event, conduct an interview, or you can contact the author via facebook.com/foreverhomeadoption books or facebook.com/brenda kohlbrecher. Her email address is brendakohlbrecher@sbcglob al.net.
Returning to District 12 Elementary after a nearly 10-year stint at the helm of two other southern Illinois school districts, new District 12 Superintendent Jeff Strieker of Breese said he is still in learning mode.
Strieker returned to the district Jan. 1 and looks forward to working with the personnel, school board, parents and the community to bring District 12 into the future.
“Financial concerns of this district have been well documented, and I’m learning more about that every day,” Strieker said. “While I’m in the learning mode, my priorities are to ensure that the best educational experience for the kids and the best work environment for the employees is in place.”
While Strieker is experiencing a lot of “firsts” in his initial few weeks as superintendent at District 12, he is certainly familiar with his surroundings. He spent 13 years of his educational career, from 1994 to 2007, at District 12 — seven years teaching Language Arts, Math and Social Sciences to grades 5-8 (as well as coaching basketball) and six years as principal.
At the start of the 2007-08 school year, Strieker accepted a position as assistant superintendent at Bond County Community Unit #2 School District in Greenville. He served as superintendent at Bond County CUSD from 2009-2015.
In 2015, Strieker became superintendent at Litchfield Community Unit School District #12, and he was serving in that position when the superintendent’s job in Breese became available.
“When the opportunity presented itself, I applied,” Strieker said. “This is an opportunity for me to be closer to home for my family.”
Strieker explained that the Litchfield CUSD school board was well aware of the health-related concerns within his family.
“The Litchfield school district was overwhelmingly supportive of me and allowed me to exit my contract prematurely, midway through my three-year term,” he said.
For the past two years, Breese District 12 Elementary has been operating under the direction of part-time, interim Superintendent John Mullett with principals in place at both the Breese and Beckemeyer campuses.
The District 12 School Board made a decision to post the full-time superintendent’s position in August after Melanie Becker, former principal of the Breese campus, resigned to accept a position with Salem Elementary School District #111.
The school board posted the vacancy with a Jan. 1, 2017 start date. Strieker was one of 22 applicants for the position.
Kerrick Rahm, formerly principal at the Beckemeyer campus, will now handle principal duties at both campuses.
Strieker will assist with some of the minor principal duties while also focusing on the structural, organizational and financial duties of his superintendent’s position.
“I start my day in Beckemeyer and then head to Breese,” he said.
“I’ve been gone for almost 10 years so I’m gathering a lot of information. I’m looking to address things that need to be addressed in a positive way.”
An open line of communication will be key to the future success of the school district, he said.
“As the year goes on, I want to bring in personnel, board members, parents and members of the community to get input into future structural decisions,” he said.
He also looks forward to working with his fellow superintendents in the county to best prepare the elementary students for their high school education and beyond.
On an interesting note, Strieker said his return to District 12 makes sense on a couple of different levels.
“I was formerly at Unit School District #12 (in Litchfield) and now I’m returning to an Elementary School District #12. I’m the 12th child of 14 kids. I came from a school with purple Panthers as a mascot and now I am once again a purple and white Bobcat.”
In fact, he’s been loyal to the cat family for almost all of his life.
“I was an Albers (Elementay) Cougar, a Central (High School) Cougar, a McKendree (Univerity) Bobcat, an SIUE Cougar and an Eastern Illinois University Panther. You give me a purple shirt with a paw print on it and I’m good.”
Jeff and his wife Alicia reside in Breese with their two children, Alexis, who is studying business and corporate communications at Southeast Missouri State University, and Jack, a senior at Central Community High School in Breese.
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