Carterville, Ill. – “School” extends far beyond the walls of Tri-C Elementary School for Andrea Mooneyham. The long-time kindergarten teacher and community volunteer continues to support local families and students with meals and e-learning packets following the closing of Illinois schools in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
WSIU Public Broadcasting, a service of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is pleased to announce Mooneyham as the new Educator recipient of the quarterly ‘Neighborly’ award for the first quarter of 2020.
After nearly four decades of teaching, Mooneyham retired at the end of the school year. “I love being a teacher. Teachers get into this work because their heart is really there for others. A lot of us are giving in our classroom and outside of the classroom, too. It was definitely the job for me.”
Mooneyham taught her last day of school on March 6, the day before spring break started, and all schools were closed due to the pandemic shortly thereafter. She expected to come back later in the spring and have many more weeks of teaching, “to provide a sense of closure, which has made the transition to retirement both challenging and emotional.”
A mother of three, Mooneyham said her career of service was inspired by her dad, a former teacher and coach who “would do anything for anybody.” Despite the challenges of distance learning and the pandemic, she noted how resilient kids are and shared that she has deepened her focus on supporting parents.
“Mrs. Mooneyham embodies the kindergarten teaching spirit with a fun, can-do attitude and a spirit of liveliness about her that is contagious. She can turn average to fabulous whether it is food, desserts, furniture, flower arrangements or a room makeover. She has the vision and a special touch about her that makes others come alive,” said fellow teacher, Kelly Webb.
“I was not surprised at all that on the first day of the state mandated school closure, Mrs. Mooneyham was asking how and where she was needed to help our school district. She is a volunteer to the depths of her soul. Within days, she found her place, showing up to work with the support staff at 7:30 a.m., preparing and packing meals that would be delivered throughout our community via bus routes where she would be one of the people handing those out. This was something she did because she wanted to, not because she had to or was asked.”
In addition to her long-time work with early learners, Mooneyham has volunteered for many organizations and committees, including the Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) team, which focuses on finding the best in children at school and establishing practices for them to take outside of school. Webb, who added that Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is her all-time favorite television show, defines a good neighbor as someone “who is always willing to lend a hand, set a good example and is available when needed. A good neighbor is someone who brightens the room upon entrance and someone who makes others better in their presence.In other woods, Mooneyham exemplifies the tenets of a good neighbor.
“Mrs. Mooneyham is a teacher, teammate, friend and leader in our community, a mom, grandma, wife and daughter. She is always willing to lend a hand to a friend, someone who delivers the best meals when you've had a hospital stay. She's got experience when it comes to the daily grind of our profession and often knows when to insert the lightheartedness to a situation that needs it at just the right moment,” Webb said. In retirement, Mooneyham plans to continue volunteering and pursuing her interests of home decorating, crafting, traveling and spending more time with family. Lucky students might see her in the classroom occasionally when school resumes as she hopes to substitute teach for her “K Crew” in the future.
“I’m going to miss our team because we are very, very close. It's been a wonderful place to work, and I've made wonderful lifelong friends,” Mooneyham said. “And I am really going to miss the children. I will truly miss their eagerness to learn and unconditional love for their teacher and classmates, and especially their hugs!”
About One Region All Neighbors
Inspired by the life and legacy of Fred Rogers and in honor of his vision, WSIU’s One Region, All Neighbors initiative encourages community members to nominate those who are making positive contributions through acts of kindness, compassion and service. Each quarter, winners are chosen from nominations submitted by the public in five categories—individual, youth, educator, community group and business. WSIU recognizes these winners on its television and radio stations, website and social media. All awardees and nominators will be invited to attend a special ceremony where they will be recognized for their outstanding contributions to their communities.
Nominate Your Neighbors
WSIU encourages the public to participate in One Region, All Neighbors campaign by nominating neighbors online at http://www.wsiu.org/neighbor and sharing on social media using #WeAreAllNeighbors.
About WSIU Public Broadcasting
WSIU Public Broadcasting is licensed to the Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University and is an integral part of the College of Mass Communication & Media Arts on the Carbondale campus. The WSIU stations reach more than five million people across six states and beyond through five digital public television channels, three public radio stations, a radio information service, a website and education and outreach services.
WSIU's mission is to improve the quality of life of the people they serve. The WSIU stations partner with other community organizations to promote positive change and to support the academic and public service missions of Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Learn more and get the latest station news online at and on WSIU's Facebook and Twitter pages. WSIU's programs and services are partially funded by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.