Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation (CUSF) will honor four teachers in 2022 with the Shining Star Awards. Selected Unit 4 and District 116 teachers are nominated by their peers and exhibit exemplary service, extra effort, enthusiastic attitude and innovative ideas that noticeably benefit their students. Unit 4 Schools are represented by Jeniece Mitchell, 6th grade reading teacher at Franklin STEAM Academy, and Michael Crossin, Unit 4 Young Adult Program special education teacher. Urbana District 116 is represented by Lucy Kebler, second grade teacher at Dr. Preston L. Williams Jr. Elementary, and Jodi Miller, kindergarten teacher at Leal Elementary School.

2022 Unit 4 Shining Star Selections


Jeniece Mitchell

Franklin Steam Academy

Jeniece Mitchell has been helping students at Franklin navigate the challenges of COVID with innovation, enthusiasm and a focus on building success and confidence. Her nominator says “she has the vision and models relationship building for our students, collaborative efforts for our parents and serves as an educational liaison for the CU community.” She is a classroom innovator who is able to modify assignments for students who need additional academic support. During COVID she took on the added task of mentoring new teachers and works collaboratively with her colleagues to make sure that student needs are being met. She has helped coordinate speakers and activities that connect with her students’ interests related to Black History and learning through the Holocaust Museum activities. Her nominator says, “if you walk into her classroom, you will see a passionate teacher, facilitator, and mentor expending extra energy to share her space, time and funds with her students.”


Michael Crossin

Unit 4 Young Adult Program

Michael Crossin has been teaching in Unit 4 schools as a vocational coordinator the past 27 years. Students in the Young Adult Program, are 18-22 and have moderate to severe disabilities. Michael’s primary goal is to help students increase their employability skills through internships and help find employment for students which they can maintain after graduation. Michael cultivates relationships with local businesses in order to match his students with business opportunities. Michael’s nominator notes, “Imagine trying to make these connections for and with students during COVID!” Michael works with students in their homes and teaches them how to take the MTD to and from work. He makes himself available through the matching process, from the interview to the on-the-job training. His nominator notes, “Having access to paid employment is life-altering for these students and their families. Michael’s dedication to helping students learn the vocational skills that make them employable is only the beginning as he continues to support them in their transition to living and working in the community.”

2022 District 116 Shining Star Selections


Lucy Kebler

Dr. Williams Elementary

Lucy Kebler began the 2021-22 school year as a 5th grade teacher at Dr. Williams Elementary facing all the same challenges of returning to school norms and routines after a year of remote and hybrid learning. When a second-grade teacher in the school left mid-way through the year, Lucy was asked to move to teach second grade. Her nominator said “Miss Kebler entered a new classroom, with students and parents in the middle of ongoing COVID challenges. She immediately focused on providing a safe and welcoming environment during this difficult transition for her new students. She made her lessons memorable and took great care to communicate with parents about what their children might be experiencing with their new teacher. She focused on attending to her students’ social and emotional learning needs and was a resilient and positive support for students and parents during this most challenging time.” She took initiative to get to know her students and their families and always has a clear picture of what their needs might require from her. “Lucy was an example of resiliency, as she led others with empathy and compassion in this mid-year transition.”


Jodi Miller

Leal Elementary

Jodi Miller is a kindergarten teacher at Leal Elementary. Her nominator says “Jodi is all about hands-on learning activities and offers to help other teachers do the same as she mentors and sets the example here at Leal.” Jodi has been an essential part of maintaining the Leal school gardens. From the sensory garden to the pollinator garden and vegetable beds, Jodi helps make sure students are able to have real-life experiences with the life cycles of plants. She has written grants to acquire gardening supplies and puts in many hours after school and on weekends so the students and families can enjoy and learn from the gardens.” As a kindergarten teacher she helps families transition from pre-school by sharing information and resources to help families prepare for their child’s first year at Leal.

All Shining Star teacher recipients will receive a $500 grant from CUSF for their classrooms. Teachers will be recognized at the annual CUSF Spring Fling Teacher Appreciation Social 5/4/22 at Riggs in Urbana. The mission of the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation is to invest in educators and students by supporting creativity, innovation and excellence in Champaign and Urbana public schools.