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Oneok grant supports Teacher Appreciation program

For a group of local teachers, the answer to the age-old question “What did you do on your summer vacation?” will include spend time relaxing at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon.

Two people in kayaks on the water, with one taking a selfie of the two of them.
(Photo by Anthony Schalk)

The relaxation was part of the Forest Preserve’s Teacher Appreciation program, now in its fourth year. The program was supported by a $3,000 grant from Oneok, an energy company that operates natural gas pipelines in Will County.  

The daylong Teacher Appreciation program included outdoor yoga, kayaking and self-guided activities including a hike, crafts, games like "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" and an escape room. The grant from Oneok covered the cost of supplies, lunch and beverages as well as appreciation gifts for the educators who attended. 

“This is like the best day of the summer,” said Katey Perry, a staff member at Galloway Elementary School in Channahon, who attended with a group of coworkers. 

Perry and other Galloway teachers and staff said the program is a great way to spend time with coworkers away from the school environment. “

It’s nice to meet up with coworkers out of school and not talk about school,” said Danielle Feiner, another Galloway teacher who attended.

The Teacher Appreciation program is also a way for teachers to learn more about what Four Rivers and the Forest Preserve have to offer by way of both educational opportunities and recreation and programming options for individuals and families.

“Being here helps us see that we can definitely bring the kids,” said Christina Duris, who also works at Galloway Elementary School. “It helps us see all the different areas and how we would fit here on a field trip.”

For Steve and Belinda Bair of Plainfield, the program gives them ideas for things to do as a family with their kids. It’s their third year attending, and they enjoy the opportunity to spend time together.

“It’s everything we like,” said Steve Bair, an elementary school PE teacher in Bellwood. “I like being outside, she likes being outside. We both like the crafting. It’s just fun, especially since we’re married. It’s like a built-in date and teacher appreciation.”

Belinda Bair, a high school English teacher in Oswego, said they appreciate that the program is offered at the beginning of summer, giving them a chance to decompress from the busy year. 

“It’s all planned, it’s all organized. You don’t have to think about it,” she said.

And of course, local teachers deserve appreciation for the work they do, said Tara Neff, executive director of The Nature Foundation of Will County.

“Teacher Appreciation is this really nice way to build relationships with the education system generally and all the teachers who come through there,” Neff said. “It’s a way to show our thanks.”

The grant for the Teacher Appreciation program is not the first time Oneok has supported projects and initiatives at Four Rivers. In 2017, the Forest Preserve received $4,000 to create a Water Quality Lab field trip for students in grades 6 to 12, and Oneok has also provided additional financial support in subsequent years to enable the field trip to continue being offered. 


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