Rachel Otwell

Illinois Edition Producer / Reporter

217-206-6407

Rachel focuses on the arts, community, and diverse culture. She's a 2012 graduate of the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois Springfield. While working toward that degree she spent a session covering the state legislature for WUIS and Illinois Public Radio with a focus on fracking. Rachel also holds degrees from UIS in Liberal & Integrative Studies, Women & Gender Studies, and African-American Studies. She's tutored Rwandan refugees in Ohio, volunteered at a Kenyan orphanage,  served as an activities assistant at a nursing home, and volunteered at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand.

Rachel started a career in public media in 2011 when she interned for the National Public Radio program Tell Me More with Michel Martin in Washington, DC. Her reports have also appeared on NPR's Weekend Edition, NPR's All Things Considered, NPR's Morning Edition, and WorkingNow.org. 

Pages

Education Desk
10:46 am
Thu April 17, 2014

Interview: John Tinker & The Landmark Case On Students' Right To Free Speech

John Tinker
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Public schools are not allowed to forbid students' right to freedom of speech, unless it disrupts education. But that wasn't necessarily true until a court case from Iowa made its way to the Supreme Court back in the 60s. John Tinker was behind the case, known as Tinker v. Des Moines. He and other students went to school wearing black arm bands to protest the Vietnam War. They were kicked out and told not to come back to class unless they removed the bands and the rest as they say, is history.

Read more
Education Desk
6:57 am
Fri April 11, 2014

Charter Schools: What Does The Future Hold?

Teacher Mr. Gilbert at Roberston Charter School in Decatur
Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Charter schools have long been a divisive issue. Supporters say they allow schools to teach kids free of burdensome regulations.  Opponents say they take money away from traditional schools.  In Illinois this year, those views are colliding.  In the final installment of our series, we find out about the fight at the statehouse and what it might mean for charters:

Read more
Charter Schools
8:55 am
Thu April 10, 2014

Charter Schools: The Fix Ailing Districts Need?

Students at Ball Charter
Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Nearly two decades ago when the state legislature paved the way for charter schools, Republicans were in control and touted them as an innovative way to improve education by removing many rules and regulations. Now there are about 145 charter school campuses across the state, the vast majority in Chicago. Supporters say they are the change an ailing education system needs, but it's a contentious topic. In this report, the first of a two-part series, we visit a charter school and explore the differing opinions about them:

Read more
UIS Theatre
6:00 am
Mon April 7, 2014

'How I Learned To Drive' At UIS

Missy Thibodeaux-Thompson

The theater department at University of Illinois Springfield is known for putting on thought-provoking and modern plays. The one premiering this weekend is no exception, called 'How I Learned to Drive' it follows the tale of a woman looking back at her adolescence, a time wrought with some pretty heavy issues. Rachel Otwell recently spoke with the director, Missy Thibodeaux-Thompson and actor and co-dramaturg Christina Craig: 

Read more
DEMO Project
1:39 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Local Professor Combines Art, Lincoln & Drones

Erica Holst, curator of collections at SAA and artist Mike Miller
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

This weekend two openings will take place on the campus of the Springfield Art Association. One will combine the artworks of University of Illinois Springfield faculty in an exhibit called, Trigger: New Work by UIS Art Faculty. That will be in the new M.G. Nelson Family Gallery. The reception is on Friday, 5:30-7:30pm. The exhibit will run through April 25.  

Read more
The Hoogland
7:00 am
Tue April 1, 2014

'Enchanted April' Play At The Hoogland

Carly Shank (L) and Leigh Steiner
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Enchanted April is a play set nearly a decade ago about two English women who go off to Italy together for a vacation in an empty castle. They advertise for traveling companions, and the result is a story rich in self-awakenings that combine the unique personalities and life-experiences of four women. We recently spoke with two actors in the play which opens this weekend in Springfield, Carly Shank and Leigh Steiner.

Read more
ALPLM
8:00 am
Tue March 25, 2014

"Women & The Right To Vote: Does It Matter?" - Event Thursday

Angela Winand (left) & Eileen Mackevich

It's been nearly a century since women gained the right to vote through a federal amendment. But there are still lessons to be learned from the suffrage movement, and many women still face inequality. Female lawmakers, historians, and political scientists will convene at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum's Union Theatre in Springfield on Thursday night to discuss the lasting impact of women's suffrage. Issues discussed will include the fight for equal pay and representation in government.

Read more
District 186
8:00 am
Wed March 19, 2014

District 186 Identifies Individuals Who Could Lose Jobs

 The Springfield school board had earlier approved the reduction of over 40 positions for next school year. On Monday the board identified which specific workers may be without a job as a result. Dave Heinzel is one of them. The board voted to give him what's called a reduction in force notice. He oversees media production - and helps keep the district website up and running.

Read more
District 186
6:00 am
Mon March 17, 2014

Lopez & Eastvold Lay Out Opposing Tax Referendum Ideas To Help Schools

Katharine Eastvold and Adam Lopez
Credit Rachel Otwell

School districts across the state are facing increasingly desperate budget situations, and the future doesn't look much better if things continue down the some path.

Read more
Local Artists
11:58 am
Wed March 12, 2014

Artist Adam Perschbacher Has "Disillusions"

Adam Perschbacher at WUIS
Rachel Otwell

Adam Perschbacher's artwork is edgy - quite literally. His geometric, 3D works range from black and white simplicity, to the jagged and colorful. The local artist's work is currently on display at the Madden Arts Center in Decatur and runs through March 29th. The solo-exhibition is called, "DISILLUSION: The Objects of Adam G.

Read more
Education
2:36 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

School Officials Call Potential Cuts 'Devastating'

As the state legislature threatens additional cuts to local schools, education officials are firing back. Some say taking more money away from students would be morally reprehensible.

Read more
DEMO Project/Springfield Art Association
10:05 am
Fri March 7, 2014

New Media Art Exhibits On The SAA Campus

Brian Charles Patterson is an artist from Utah who creates unique video and audio compilations. His exhibit that addresses climate change is called, 'As Long As There Is No Tomorrow.' It will be at the at DEMO Project (732 N. 4th St.) now through March 29th. The opening is Friday night from 6 to 9 at the Springfield Art Association.

Read more
District 186
2:24 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Budget Talk: Bob Hill On Challenges Facing District 186

Bob Hill
Credit sps186.org

Dozens of District 186 employees will be without a job come the end of the school year. A week ago the interim superintendent, Bob Hill, suggested cutting teaching jobs at all levels. On Tuesday he came to the board with further cuts, including in technology and special education. 

Read more
Local Bands
11:03 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Local Group War Magic Plays Unique Neo-Folk

Mark Reynolds (left, on keys) & Alistair Reynolds (on guitar) of War Magic
Credit Rachel Otwell

War Magic is a local folk band that you probably haven't heart of. The group's been called "dream-folk" and "neo-folk" - and they've only played a handful of shows in town. Alistair Reynolds and Mark Reynolds recently joined us to talk about their project and share some of their unique music: 

Read more
District 186
4:31 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Dist. 186 Will Look At Additional Cuts To Budget

The original list of proposed cuts as presented to the School board on 2/24/14
Credit provided by District 186

As Springfield public schools look to save around $5 million dollars, jobs and programs are on the chopping block. And yet, some say even those cuts would not save enough. 

Read more
The Arts
11:22 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Students Compete With 'Poetry Out Loud'

Area high school students who competed in the 2014 Central Illinois 'Poetry Out Loud' Regional Contest
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Most teenagers spend more time on the internet chatting with friends than reading books - let alone poetry. However, the art form has seen a recent resurgence, and in some circles is even considered "hip." In Springfield, 14 area high school students recently competed in the regional version of the Poetry Out Loud contest to recite a wide variety of poems from memory.

Read more
District 186
8:00 am
Thu February 20, 2014

Conference Explores Host Of Disabilities, From ADHD to Autism

Often times, the strongest advocates for students with disabilities are their parents. Dr. Holly Novak is a member of the group Springfield Parents For Students with Disabilities. On Saturday the group hosts its "6th Annual Disability to Possibility Conference" from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm at Southeast High School.

Read more
District 186
9:30 am
Wed February 19, 2014

District 186 Moves Up Vaccination Deadline

Springfield District 186 plans to give parents and students a shorter deadline for immunizations and physicals next school year. They'll have to be completed by the 10th day of school, which means around the end of August. That's much sooner than this year's mid-October deadline. Around 500 students failed to comply and some were out of school for up to 3 weeks.

Read more
District 186
9:24 am
Tue February 18, 2014

Parents Angry School Stayed Open, District 186 Responds

Credit Ingrid Taylar/Flickr

Monday's ice storm didn’t stop Springfield public schools from holding classes. But it also meant many school buses were late to pick up students. Parents complained of students waiting up to 45 minutes in the cold and freezing rain as buses maneuvered the slick roads. Many took to the district’s Facebook page to hurl insults about the decision to keep school open.

Read more
Education Desk Features
8:00 am
Tue February 18, 2014

Illinois Lottery: A Shell Game For School Funding?

Lottery ads at the Hometown Pantry
Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Many people are aware that the Illinois Lottery helps fund schools. But just how much do the proceeds actually help? Well, that's what we aimed to find out:

    

Most of the money for the state's public schools K-12 come from local sources, like property taxes. The state contributes a large portion as well, and the lottery profits are part of that, but just how much? To find that out, our first stop is the Hometown Pantry at the intersection of Edwards and MacArthur in Springfield.

Read more
District 186
12:43 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Interview: Jennifer Gill, Incoming 186 Superintendent

Jennifer Gill
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

It took about a year - but Springfield has officially found a replacement for its previous district 186 superintendent. Jennifer Gill will take over the role on May 1st. She's been a teacher and administrator in the district. She'll be leaving her current role as the director of teaching and learning for the McLean County Unit 5 School District. This interview begins with Gill reflecting on how she became a third-generation educator:

Read more
District 186
11:05 am
Mon February 10, 2014

District 186 Considers Tax Referendum Possibilities

Springfield's district 186 is struggling to fill a 5 million dollar gap in the budget for the coming school year. A group of parents and community members say they have an answer to supplementing the district's budget: raise property taxes. But passing a referendum will prove challenging. And if it's going to happen, some say efforts to get the word out need to ramp up now. 

Read more
Local Bands
10:51 am
Thu February 6, 2014

The Complaint Line: Love, Marriage And Rock & Roll

http://thecomplaintlinemusic.com

It's no secret that marriage, disagreements, and nagging can sometimes go hand-in-hand.

And, with lyrics highlighting the challenges of romantic relationships, a local wedded pair has started a band together - calling it 'The Complaint Line'.

The duo is joined by two others who complete the rock set. The group (Shawnda Phillips on bass and vocals, John Phillips on guitar and vocals, Dayton Cripe on guitar and vocals, and Randy Anderson on drums) recently joined Rachel Otwell in the Suggs Studio for this performance and chat: 

Read more
The Legacy
3:22 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

Last Chance To See Hedwig And The Angry Inch’s Gender-Bending Rock

Patrick Russell as Hedwig. Photo by John Muchow of Muchow Photography.

(We're revisiting this year-old interview since the musical has made a return. Friday and Saturday are the final performances at The Legacy Theatre in Springfield. Tickets here.)

Read more
UIS Visual Arts Gallery
9:27 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Artist Explores IL Environmental History & Hopes To Change Its Future

 Kevin Veara’s interests and passions may seem a bit unrelated. From wildlife preservation, to tattoos, to bird-watching and painting. Lately he’s been working to restore the presence of wildlife – on his own property and through his art. His work is on display at the UIS Visual Arts Gallery and there’s an opening reception tonight there from 5:30 to 8. WUIS’ Rachel Otwell recently spoke with Veara:

Read more
Education
3:34 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Quinn Lays Out Ed. Initiatives But Doubts Arise

Governor Quinn spent much of his State of the State address on Wednesday addressing education. He says investing in education is a sure way to grow jobs as well as the economy. It's a sentiment that's hard to argue with. His focus on early education was an echo of President Obama's own emphasis on the subject in his last two State of the Union addresses, and Quinn has also previously pushed the idea of making pre-K more widely available. New this year though, Quinn says he wants to double the amount of MAP scholarships offered, which help low-income students attend state universities.

Read more
UIS
9:52 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Decision Made: UIS Will Remain 'Prairie Stars'

uis.edu

The UIS team name will remain the same, after over a year of discussions on whether or not to change it. A consultant group hired by the university came up with suggestions like  the Springers, Sabers, and Mammoths. The consultant group cost the university nearly $20,000. After putting together a task force and soliciting the opinions of students, alumni, and faculty, a decision has been made. UIS Chancellor Susan Koch told WUIS, "Prairie Stars may not be the perfect name, but it's our name. And it's been our name since the 1970s ...

Read more
School Choice
7:00 am
Tue January 28, 2014

School Choice Movement Pushes Agenda

Credit http://schoolchoiceweek.com

 Ask any teacher, superintendent, or government official about it and many would say education funding is in need of some serious change. Local districts are struggling to make ends meet as state and federal appropriations drop - and that means layoffs, school closures, and even shortening the school day in some cases. Some education reform activists say the answer to fixing this problem and others within the system is something called "school choice."

Read more
Education
12:57 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

Students Must Make Up Cancelled Classes

 Four extra days of class have been added to the calendar for Springfield public schools, pushing the last day to June 4th. WUIS took a look at how it's decided that school should be canceled ...

Read more
Education
2:13 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

U of I Board OKs Tuition Increase & UIS Student Union

The future UIS student union
Credit uis.edu

Newly approved tuition increases at the University of Illinois mean that four years of college on the flagship campus will top $100,000 for many students. Trustees voted Thursday to raise tuition by 1.7 %. They also increased fees and housing costs. Vice President for Academic Affairs Christopher Pierre says the increases sticks to a university plan to keep increases in line with inflation.

Read more

Pages