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Thumbs up to a remarkable run by the Massac County Lady Patriots golf team. The Lady Patriots failed to qualify for the state tournament this year, ending a run of 14 straight tournament appearances. During that incredible run, Massac County won four state championships, posted three runner-up fines and took third place twice. Although the Patriots came up short this year, they still have another streak intact — they have now won five straight regionals and 17 out of the last 18. When you talk about girls golf in the State of Illinois, Massac County is one of the standards other programs strive to emulate. And, while the team streak ended, the Lady Patriots are sending three individuals — Madie Coakley, Lily Conkle and Alexis Frazine — to state.

Thumbs down to the continued teacher shortage in Southern Illinois. The math is disheartening. In 2019, John A. Logan, Rend Lake, Shawnee, Southeastern Illinois and Kaskaskia colleges graduated a total of 28 students combined from their early childhood education programs. At the same time, Southern Illinois had openings for 79 teachers and assistant teachers. The reasons for the shortage are varied, fewer people are enrolling in teaching programs. And, the state board of education recently changed minimum requirements for substitute teaching licenses. The bottom line — there are more positions than teachers to fill them. “It’s a brave new world,” said Bonnie Brackett, who owns a Marion-based early learning center. “It used to be that I would run an ad in The Southern and get multiple qualified individuals for the position. Over the last two years, I can advertise for weeks, get 15 applicants and none of them are teacher-qualified.”

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Thumbs up to the new exhibits unveiled at Fort Defiance State Park in Cairo that display the history of water routes used on the Trail of Tears, the forced resettlement of the Cherokee Nation to Oklahoma. Members of the Cherokee Nation living east of the Mississippi River were placed on steamboats and flatboats up the river to Ware. The new exhibits are among several in Southern Illinois marking the shameful slice of American history. Other markers are located in Pope, Johnson and Union Counties. “Cherokee people don’t commemorate this journey and this sad story because we want to capture our ancestors in the roles of victims,” said Troy Wayne Poteete, executive director of the National Trail of Tears Association. “There’s no doubt they were victims. But they didn’t let that define them. They rebuilt our nation. Every time we mark a place, it’s that opportunity to tell the larger story, and that is we survived. We survived the removal. We survived the Civil War. We survived the statehood in Oklahoma and the allotment of our lands. It’s an opportunity for us to talk about a larger story, not just that sad chapter.” And, the new exhibits will make sure that that history is with us forever.

Thumbs up to Ed Oliver of Norris City for his tireless efforts to preserve the history of “The Big Inch” — a massive interstate oil pipeline built during World War II that connected Texas oil fields to refineries in the American interior. The construction of the pipeline was necessitated by German U-boats sinking tankers along the Atlantic coast. Norris City was about the midway point of the construction and was at the junction of the Big Four and the Baltimore and Ohio railroads. In March of last year Oliver contacted the Illinois State Historical Society, asking for an historical marker at the site of the Big Inch terminal. The marker has been completed. There are hopes the dedication of the marker will come as soon as Veteran’s Day.

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