Winnebago County News Briefs

Chronicle Media


IDOT focuses on safe traffic flow during eclipse

The Illinois Department of Transportation says it will make sure traffic keeps moving and the traveling public remains safe leading up to the solar eclipse. Carbondale is in the path of the total eclipse, making it one of the prime viewing areas in the country for the Aug. 21 event. The rest of the state will experience a partial eclipse of approximately 90 percent.

Unlike some states, Illinois is placing no special restrictions on truck activities because of the eclipse. To help with traffic flow, lane closures on major IDOT projects in the southern part of the state will be lifted during the weekend before the eclipse and the following day. Throughout the state, digital message boards will communicate traffic and safety messages.

The department also is coordinating with Illinois State Police and local law enforcement to ensure that traffic control points are appropriately staffed.

If you are traveling during the eclipse, here are some commonsense tips:

  • Plan ahead: Do not expect to park and view the eclipse from the side of the road.
  • Anticipate increased pedestrian and bike traffic near popular viewing areas.
  • Do not wear special viewing glasses or take photos of the eclipse while driving.
  • On the day of the eclipse, drive with your headlights on. · Use the Getting Around Illinois website to get the latest on traffic conditions.


Early childhood education coordinator received award

Melissa Johnson, coordinator for Early Childhood Education at Highland Community College, earned the Distinguished Teaching Award by EarlyEdU, an Alliance for Head Start and Early Childhood Teaching, at their annual conference held June 19 in Seattle, WA.

“Recipients are chosen based on the number of EarlyEdU courses taught, participation in Alliance activities, and other contributions to the Alliance,” said Suzanne Walker, Higher Education Coordinator for EarlyEdU at the University of Washington in Seattle. “Melissa was the outstanding faculty member in all of these categories. She taught steadily and consistently with our courses for two years now. She’s been an advocate for EarlyEdU in Illinois and has given us useful feedback about the courses. We were happy to honor her this year.”

“I am extremely honored to receive this national recognition,” Johnson said. “Anything I do for the field of early childhood education is very important to me, and to know that I was recognized among two-and four-year faculty from all over the country is an honor.”

EarlyEdU was founded in 2015 with funding from the Office of Head Start. As of July 1, 2017, funding comes from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Attendees of the annual conference come from all over the country, representing two-and four-year colleges and universities. EarlyEdU focuses on early childhood education and offers research-based courses to improve teaching. A team of early childhood experts from top universities developed the EarlyEdU courses offered for instruction.

Johnson is the second recipient of this award. She has been the coordinator for Early Childhood Education at Highland for the past ten years.

Johnson’s initiatives and accomplishments made during her tenure at Highland include the following: created online and hybrid courses; improved access for working professionals through the creation of various class scheduling; obtained Entitled Institution status through Gateways to Opportunity to offer ECE Credentials; piloted a new state credential (1 of 5 institutions selected); created Early Childhood transfer degree option; achieved Master of Online Teaching certificate through the Illinois Online; and, serves as co-chair for Illinois Associate Degree Early Childhood Teacher Educators.


Group will gaze at stars, discuss meteor shower

Northern Illinois University’s STEM Café will host an evening of stargazing and discussion with astronomy experts during the annual Perseid meteor shower. 

The free, family-friendly event will be from 7 to 10:30 p.m. Aug. 12 at Rochelle Municipal Airport, 1201 E. Gurler Road. Food will be sold, including a $15 build-your-own burger or vegetarian option, cash bar, and an $8 chicken tender meal for children. 

The discussion will begin at 7:15 p.m. After dark, guests can watch the meteor shower and view the night sky using their own telescopes or ones provided by NIU. Although the weather can interfere with viewing, the event will be held rain or shine. 

STEM educator Jeremy Benson will set up telescopes for night viewing and talk with guests about what they can expect to see and what causes a meteor shower. 

Paul Stoddard, an associate professor of geology and environmental geosciences, will talk about the solar eclipse that’s set to happen Aug. 21, and explain what causes the phenomenon and what to look for. 

NASA Solar System Ambassador Joel Knapper will discuss NASA’s future missions. 

For information, call (815) 753-4751 or email 


–Winnebago County News Briefs–