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Pictured, from left, are WIU alumni James Adamson, Jesus Aguirre and Alex Rangel.
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East Moline Middle School Students Learning from Leathernecks

October 8, 2020

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MACOMB/MOLINE, IL – Math students at East Moline's Glenview Middle School are in capable academic hands, with three Western Illinois University alumni teaching and mentoring in the department.

James Adamson, who received his master's degree in curriculum and instruction this summer, has been teaching eighth grade math at the school for 12 years. He was involved in the hiring of new math teachers for seventh and eighth grade, and helped choose 2019 WIU alumni and Quad Cities' natives Alex Rangel and Jesus Aguirre, who each received their bachelor's degrees in middle level and junior high education.

Rangel and Aguirre became friends at Blackhawk College in Moline, IL and began taking classes together after graduating and transitioning to WIU's Quad Cities campus to begin studying for their bachelor's degrees. After state teaching regulations changed in Illinois, the duo needed to move to Macomb to finish their degrees.

Aguirre finished his degree by student teaching at Glenview Middle School, while Rangel student taught at John Deere Middle School in Moline, IL. Both men graduated in December 2019.

Adamson said he had previously learned of the connection the two new teachers had to WIU when Aguirre was student teaching. Adamson now serves as Aguirre's mentor in his first year of teaching.

"Our school has a mentorship program so we can show new teachers the ropes," said Adamson.

After graduation, both Aguirre and Rangle served as substitute teachers until being hired at Glenview. In addition to beginning their first school year as full-time teachers, both men are doing so in a pandemic and without students in the desks of their classrooms.

"Everyone is having to adapt to all of this technology and transitioning the curriculum online," Aguirre said of his first year in the classroom. "We are trying to put 90-minutes of curriculum in one hour or less."

Because of the diversity among the school's 1,200 students, Aguirre and Rangel teach one section of their classes in Spanish each week, which helps those who use Spanish as their first language, but also helps English speakers learn the language as well.

"Our kids who are more English proficient are reacting in Spanish and that's valuable," said Aguirre.

Adamson said the practice also helps students who speak Spanish at home but learned to read in English.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Adamson said the hope is to have students transitioning to the school for 50 percent of their class time soon. One hidden benefit, he added, is that students already had been given Chromebooks before the pandemic, so the technology bridge was much easier.

"They received them in March, so they already knew how to use them when the pandemic started," he said.

Both Aguirre and Rangel credit the WIU faculty for helping them complete their education, particularly math professors Kim Hartweg and Jim Olsen.

"Jim Olsen took us under his wing," said Rangel. "We had done research with him and developed a logic program for middle school classrooms."

The three were supposed to present their research and new program at the centennial conference of the National Council of Teachers of Math, but the event was cancelled because of the pandemic.

Adamson said it was knowing that Aguirre and Rangel learned from high quality faculty at WIU, many who he already knew, that spurred him to encourage the school to hire both new teachers.

Adamson, Aguirre and Rangel all teach their classes in their classroom spaces, instead of at home. Adamson said he has been impressed with the school's administration during the pandemic.

"They are building relationships and are in contact with the parents," he said. "This year will teach the students responsibility. Some of the students in the lower grades are still in the elementary school mindset and this helps them be more independent."

Aguirre said he has watched administrators go door-to-door during the home-instruction period, checking on students and helping with any issues they have.

For more information on WIU's School of Education, visit

Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (
Office of University Communications & Marketing