Past Event

Our Teachers – How to Find Them, How to Keep Them

How can schools and communities help attract and keep the best teachers for their students?


This second installment of our Continuing Ed. series in Decatur looks how to attract and retain the best teachers for public schools in Decatur and throughout Illinois. Participants will first hear a short keynote about statewide teacher-training programs from Robert Lee (Teacher Education Pipeline Program at Illinois State University) – followed by a more local perspective from Shannon Mittleman (Decatur Teacher Education Pipeline Program).

Participants will then break up into small groups for a chance to delve into the subject more. Lee and Mittleman will travel around to each group, alongside Deloris Brown (principal of Stephen Decatur Middle School) and Chris DeSanto (math teacher and baseball coach at Eisenhower High School).

Finally, participants will gather for an assembly moderated by Teena Zindel-McWilliams (coordinator of curriculum and grants at Richland Community College) where everyone will have a chance to share their voice and hear what others thought – featuring a closing performance by Eisenhower high school students.

About the Participants

Robert Lee is executive director of statewide urban programs and partnerships at Illinois State University and founding director of its Teacher Education Pipeline. He has developed partnerships involving the university’s teacher-producing colleges, school districts throughout Illinois, and community-based organizations.  These partnerships aim to foster culturally responsive and resilient teachers for urban schools and communities. The United States Department of Education has called the Teacher Education Pipeline an “exemplary cultural immersion teacher education model.” Lee’s writings on community-embedded teacher preparation and related subjects have been published in journals and books. He has received awards from national organizations, including the Leadership Academy Award from the Association of Teacher Educators Council of Past Presidents. A graduate of Pepperdine University, he holds advanced degrees from Harvard and DePaul universities.

Shannon Mittleman directs the Decatur Teacher Education Pipeline affiliated with Illinois State University. The program represents a partnership among the University, the Education Coalition of Macon County, and Decatur public schools. She works to cultivate and sustain innovative, resilient, and effective educators for schools in Decatur. Originally from Oklahoma, she and her family have called Decatur home for the past 15 years.  She began her career with Decatur School District 61 in 2006 as a middle school science teacher and became the district’s science and social studies curriculum coordinator in 2011. Her two children have attended Decatur public schools since kindergarten. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, the University of Illinois, and the American College of Education and is now pursuing a doctorate in teaching and learning from Illinois State University.

Deloris Brown joined Stephen Decatur Middle School as assistant principal in 2012 and became its principal the following year. Previously, she was a social sciences teacher (2007-2011) and data leader (2011-2012) at Lanphier High School in Springfield. The daughter of an educator and a Baptist pastor from the south suburbs of Chicago, she completed a bachelor’s degree in history education and political science and a master’s degree in education administration at Illinois State University.

Chris DeSanto is a native of Oak Forest, Illinois, and a graduate of Tinley Park High School. He earned a degree in mathematics with honors and teacher’s certification at Eastern Illinois University in 2012. He taught for two years at MacArthur High School in Decatur before joining Eisenhower High School, where he teaches classes in algebra and geometry and serves as the head varsity baseball coach.

Teena Zindel-McWilliams is currently the Coordinator of Curriculum and Grants at Richland Community College, where she has worked for the past 34 years in a number of positions. Ms. Zindel-McWIlliams is an active participant in the Richland Speakers Bureau, making presentations on a variety of historical topics. She has served on the Decatur Public Library Board of Trustees, on the DPL Friends Board, and currently on the DPL Foundation. She has worked with several community organizations on developing Strategic Plans and is a facilitator for planning and development at Richland. Ms. Zindel-McWilliams currently services as Chair of the Marketing Committee for the Lincoln Trails Council, Boy Scouts of America, and is a member of Delta Kappa Gamma, Beta Sigma Chapter. She and her husband Brad live in Decatur, and their son Sam, who attended Parsons, Thomas Jefferson, and Eisenhower, resides in Santa Cruz, CA, where he works as an Ocean Engineer.

More on Continuing Ed.: Parents and the Future of Illinois Public Schools

Continuing Ed. is a yearlong, statewide series working with parents, schools, and communities across the state – in Chicago, Decatur, Elgin, and Jackson County to move the conversation about public education back to parents. For the complete schedule and more information, see

If you require a sign interpreter or any other arrangements to fully participate in this program, please contact at least 72 hours in advance of the event. For more information, please call (312)422-5580.