Tag Archives: Bonnie Whildin

Kaneland staff members recognized by state arts group

KANELAND—March 17 was a joyous celebration of the arts—not only for the state of Illinois, but arts in the Kaneland School District.

March 17 was the Annual Illinois Alliance for Arts Education (IAAE) Awards and Recognition Ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield. The IAAE chooses recipients from a list of nominees submitted by various people in the fine arts. Dr. Charles McCormick, former Kaneland School District superintendent, and Bonnie Whildin, art specialist at John Stewart Elementary School, both received recognition awards.

McCormick received the recognition award for School Administration and attended the ceremony with his wife, Jennifer. Whildin was originally nominated in the category of Arts Educator, but was honored as an Art Exemplar instead. Art Exemplar is a new category created by the IAAE for recipients who exemplify art excellence in various fields.

Whildin attended the ceremony with her husband, Mike, and received a round of applause after her first sentence, “I love telling people that I am an art teacher.”

The Kaneland honorees were presented their awards by Maria Dripps-Paulson, executive director of the Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival (KCFAF). Also in the audience supporting the honorees were Kaneland High School Assistant Principal and KCFAF committee member Diane McFarlin, and Kaneland John Stewart Elementary School Principal Laura Garland. Both recipients were further honored by receiving a certificate of congratulations by state Rep. Kay Hatcher.”

John Stewart program aims to expose more students to the arts

by Keith Beebe
ELBURN—The old adage of turning life’s lemons into lemonade might be a tad cliche at this point, but it’s a concept that seems to be working just fine for the art department at Kaneland John Stewart Elementary School.

“We applied for a $3,000 grant from Crayola where you were supposed to come up with a dream scenario for your arts program, and we submitted the idea of having a different artist give a presentation at the school each month,” said Bonnie Whildin, an art teacher at John Stewart. “I was sure we were going to get that grant, but we didn’t, so I just said, ‘Let’s see if we can still do this (idea) with all the connections we have.’”

As it turns out, quite a few artists have been more than willing to donate their time and energy to Whildin’s cause, as both she and her co-teacher, Heidi Gilkey, have put together an event intended to host a different artist on the second Wednesday of each month.

And these artists are not getting paid to appear, either.

“It’s really sweet of them to donate their time, because we really don’t have the money to pay them,” Whildin said.

Larry Cimaglio, an artist from Wheaton who specializes in glass blowing, visited John Stewart on Dec. 8 and gave a 90-minute demonstration that included students making their own glass jewelry.

“This event is intended to bring art into the school, bring artists into the school and give the community more exposure,” Cimaglio said. “I talked about glass art (during the presentation) and gave my viewpoint on the importance of art, and I cited two studies by the Guggenheim Museum that talked about the relativity between art education and literacy, and also art education and problem solving.”

Whildin said more than 30 people showed up to Cimaglio’s demonstration last Thursday evening.

“We thought that was a very good response for the first show, especially since we’re now in a paperless society and can’t send advertisements on actual paper home with the kids so their parents can read it,” Whildin said.

The next art demonstration is scheduled for Jan. 12 and will feature clay artists Joe Hernandez, a former ceramics teacher at Waubonsee Community College, and Cory McCrory. Additional art demonstrations are scheduled for Feb. 9, March 9 and April 13—the Wednesday following the Kaneland Fine Arts Festival, which will take place on April 10.

“We always think this (upcoming) Fine Arts Festival will be the best one ever, and even though we’re struggling with the finances, I think we’ll be fine,” Whildin said. “We have a good following, and I don’t believe there’s another event in the Kaneland School District that brings out 3,000 people like we do … and it’s free to get in.”

John Stewart revs up for Vets Day

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—John Stewart Elementary School students are going all out for American veterans this month. They have been busy writing thank-you cards to U.S. servicemen, composing poems about the military, and filling showcases with memorabilia from family members who served in the armed forces.

“Every grade is involved,” said Bonnie Whildin, John Stewart art teacher and a coordinator of the events.

The hallways are draped in red, white and blue, and showcases display items that students have gathered including medals from relatives who were soldiers.

On Thursday, Nov. 11, the school will culminate these activities with a flag-raising in the morning, with all 650 students each waving miniature U.S. flags. Following the day’s kickoff will be local veterans’ visits to classrooms throughout the day and an assembly between 2:45 and 3:15 p.m. During the assembly, students will read the letters, and the Kaneland Middle School musical ensemble will play patriotic numbers including “Taps.”

Also during the afternoon ceremony, one of Whildin’s relatives, U.S. Navy Seal William Bishop, will speak about his military experiences.

Elburn American Legion Post 630 Commander Wiley Overley is one of the local servicemen who will speak in a classroom during the day. He admires what the students have done this month to acknowledge U.S. servicemen.

“It’s really a big deal for them,” Overley said.

Veterans, active service personnel wanted

Kaneland—On Thursday, Nov. 11, Kaneland John Stewart Elementary School will hold a Veterans Day celebration near the flagpole at 8:55 a.m. and at an afternoon assembly at 2:45 p.m.

During the event, area Boy Scouts will raise the colors, and veterans will speak. In addition, Kaneland Harter Middle School will present the Morning Brass Ensemble, a collection of Kaneland School District students who will perform patriotic songs led by director Dan Zielinski.

Kaneland is seeking veterans who are available that day to go to classrooms to do a short-question-and-answer period. The district is also inviting veterans to join them at the end of the day for the assembly.

If you are a veteran or are in active service, please contact Bonnie Whildin at (630) 365-8170, ext. 119, or via e-mail at bonnie.whildin@kaneland.org.

Visitors view works, meet artists at juried art show reception

by Susan O’Neill
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove resident Debbie Thill said she had just recently started visiting the Sugar Grove Public Library. Thill and her husband Bill had a good reason to visit the library Friday. Their son Joe’s three photographs had been chosen for the Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival Juried Art Show, which is displayed on the walls of the Sugar Grove Library though April 30.

The Thills were just a few of approximately 100 visitors who came to view more than 40 works of art by 20 artists, and to meet the artists during a reception at the library.

“This is exactly what the library is for,” Sugar Grove Library Beverly Holmes Hughes said.

Hughes said she hopes to offer the library’s ample space for more events such as this into the future.

The juried art show is a kick-off to the Fine Arts Festival that will take place at the Kaneland High School on Sunday, April 18, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Artists were invited to enter two- and three-dimensional media artwork, including painting, drawing, photography, printmaking, mixed media, fiber art, clay, glass, jewelry and sculpture into the show.

Artists included Kaneville resident and watercolor painter Bob J. Krajecki, Elburn multi-media painter Jeanette Rehmel, Big Rock resident and fiber artist Natasha Lehrer, Marengo black-and-white photographer Teresa Baber, and more.

“The judge is going to have a hard time (choosing the winners),” said Bonnie Whildin, the event founder and coordinator, as well as a Kaneland John Stewart art teacher.

The Fine Arts Festival will be held at the Kaneland High School and will include Kaneland faculty and students’ artwork, as well as hands-on learning opportunities in visual arts, poetry, literary arts, music, dance and theater.

Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival Juried Art Show
Work is displayed at the Sugar Grove Public Library during regular business hours until April 30
For more information,
visit the
website or the
website for
hours of operation

Visitors match up a three-dimensional piece of art with its creator at the Kaneland Community Fine Arts Juried Art Show at the Sugar Grove Public Library last Friday.
Photo by Susan O’Neill

Kaneland Fine Arts Festival set for April 19

When the Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival opens its doors on Sunday, April 19, at Kaneland High School, visitors will be invited to look, touch, hear, see, smell, taste and participate fully in an amazing choice of arts experiences.

The Fine Arts Festival was created as a way to expose all people in the community to the fine arts in as many forms as possible. Admission is free. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Student work will be presented along with a juried fine art show. Performances will take place in the new fine arts theater on campus, and the cafeteria will be transformed into the less-formal Arts Pavilion setting for additional performances, workshops and refreshments for purchase from the high school’s culinary arts kitchen. Workshops in glass fusing, drum making, Aztec dancing and etching are only a few of the hands-on activities offered. Face painting, caricatures and a “Spontaneous Folk Ensemble” (bring your instrument, or just sing along) are other activities that welcome participation by attendees of all ages and experience levels.

“We are very proud to be able to include a number of Kaneland High School graduates in our professional artist lineup again this year,” said Bonnie Whildin, Art Specialist at Kaneland John Stewart Elementary School. “Christine Marie Heath, a vocalist working in musical theatre and on opera stages from Broadway to international, will appear at the Fine Arts Festival on Sunday. And playwright Nic Wehrwein, another Kaneland graduate whose work has won national acclaim, will present a new work performed in readers’ theater format featuring Kaneland alumni.”

For more information on the festival, contact Maria Dripps-Paulson, Community Liaison for the festival, at (630) 365-5100 ext. 180 or e-mail maria.drippspaulson@ kaneland.org.

Kaneland Community
Fine Arts Festival
Sunday, April 19
11 am to 6 pm
Kaneland High School
47W623 Keslinger Road
Maple Park
Admission is free
Look, touch, hear, see, smell, taste and participate fully
in an amazing choice
of arts experiences.
For more information, contact Maria Dripps-Paulson
(630) 365-5100 ext. 180 or e-mail

Cultural comparisons

Visitor from Japanese Ministry of Education studies the American way at Kaneland

by Lynn Meredith

Learning about one another’s cultures is an eye-opening experience, and it was one that the fourth and fifth grades at John Stewart Elementary School had when Sayaka Iwamura from Japan came to visit. But they weren’t the only ones who learned a thing or two: Iwamura did as well.

“The biggest thing I was surprised at was everything is so big,” Iwamura said. “Houses are big, cars are big, food is big. When I go to the grocery store, the cart is big, so people buy a lot of things.”

Iwamura stands in front of the two classes at John Stewart Elementary School in Elburn on a cold and snowy day. Buses have been running late; teachers and students are scrambling to get the school day started. Iwamura and ESL Coordinator Katie Henigan themselves were running late as they drove in from DeKalb. Iwamura explains to the students about snow in Japan.

“We get snow, but we don’t have that much snow,” she said.

Soft-spoken, she is dressed in a kimono borrowed from art teacher Bonnie Whildin. Whildin purchased the piece in Japan two years ago when she went there on a Fulbright Scholarship. Iwamura shows the assembly pictures of cherry blossoms, bullet trains, shrine temples and baseball. Excitement stirs when she mentions the Japanese player who plays for the Cubs, Kosuke Fukudome.

Suzanne Girsch’s fourth-grade and Stephanie Thatcher’s fifth-grade students have been e-mailing back and forth with Iwamura as part of a reciprocal learning project that also included Kaneland High School exchange student Ryoko Kawaguchi, who is also from Japan.

Iwamura came to this country as part of the 2008 Long-term Educational Administration Program (LEAP) in order to improve her English skills, learn about the operations of the International Program offices at Northern Illinois University and the educational system in the United States, and then report back to the Ministry of Education in Japan.

She and nine other Japanese members of the 2008 LEAP program came to the U.S. in March. They spent six months at Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont., taking intensive English courses and traveling to national parks in the west.

“I enjoyed a lot the scenery. It is very vast,” Iwamura said.

On this day, the students have placed posters in the front of the Learning Center listing what they already know about Japan. In this column they have indicated that Japan is in Asia, that the people eat a lot of fish and that students go to school six days a week. The next column lists what they want to know about Japan. Sumo wrestling is high on the list, along with wondering why Japanese students go to school six days a week.

Their questions are answered not only by Iwamura, but Gina Dunham, who went to grade school in Japan, as well as from Whildin, who visited schools in Japan.

The Stewart elementary students learn that Japanese students not only attend regular school, but they also attend “school after school.” Students go to school from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., five days a week. Parents commonly pay extra for a sixth day of instruction. Boys and girls go to separate schools. Students eat in their classrooms, not in a cafeteria. If the teacher is unable to come to school, they don’t get a substitute but teach themselves. They walk to school, wear slippers in class and brush their teeth after eating.

Iwamura herself is learning about the differences in the two countries’ educational systems. She will write a report on what she observes when she returns to Japan.

“In Japan, you have to study hard before entering college, but it’s easier to graduate. In the U.S., it’s a little easier to get into college, but harder to graduate,” Iwamura said.

She said that the Japanese government decides the curriculum for the entire country. The relationships between student and teacher are more formal in Japan.

“Even though teachers encourage students to raise their hands to ask questions, the students don’t want to let other students know what they are thinking,” Iwamura said.

Iwamura lives in Tokyo and works at the Ministry of Education from 8 a.m. until midnight each day. She grew up in Yamanashi, Japan, a small town about two-and-a-half hours by car from Tokyo. She misses her family and friends, but saw them on their visit to New York. It was the first time her family had come to the United States.

Iwamura has seen a lot of the country, from Florida to Banff, Canada, New York City to Las Vegas. She tried rock-climbing in Montana and enjoyed the adventure. But she really liked traveling by car on the open road.

“One of the things I like here was the road trips. Four of us drove all the way from Montana to Illinois,” Iwamura said.

With all the positive things she had to say about her experiences here, from friendly people to good food, one thing she did not like.

“I liked Chicago, but I went downtown and my wallet was robbed. It was taken out of my backpack,” Iwamura said. “It’s safer in Japan.”

Student artists receive awards

by Lynn Meredith

            Six elementary students from Kaneland schools received awards for their art work and the opportunity to have it displayed in a traveling art show throughout the state.

            The Illinois Art Education Association judges works of art submitted from kindergartners through 12th graders. From the more than 500 works submitted, 40 are chosen. Kaneland has six of those awards, something that Superintendent Charlie McCormick said has been a regular occurrence.

            “As long as I can remember, since I came in 1994, Kaneland has had at least two and sometimes eight in the traveling gallery that goes around the state,” McCormick said. “That says a lot about the depth and quality of our art program here at Kaneland.”

            Bonnie Whildin, in her 24th year as an art teacher, said the competition is done through blind judging. The judges do not look at the schools, but they just choose the work that they like.

            The winners are Riley Capes for weaving, Jack Penniall for contour drawing, Allie Pyle for weaving, Kyla Rachas for winter shapes, Lauren Sparber for watercolor, and Jeffrey Wachter for cut-outs.

            The art show will be displayed in Dixon in January and February and Algonquin in March.