Coles County mourns the death of former school principal Les Edwards | Education
MATTOON – The local education community mourns the death of Les Edwards, who was the first principal of Williams Elementary School in the Mattoon District and the last principal of his former Humboldt school.
Edwards, who died Friday at the age of 77, was from Shelbyville and also later served as the student teacher coordinator for Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
Edwards’ obituary reports that he graduated from Shelbyville High School in 1962 and then continued his education at Eastern, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in education. After graduating from college, he taught sixth grade at Humboldt for 20 years. While teaching, Edwards earned a master’s degree from Eastern and later became director of Humboldt.
Mattoon’s retired teacher Michelle Englund said she started her career in 1985 in the East, when Edwards hired her to work at Humboldt School, where all teachers and families students knew each other.
“He was a very remarkable administrator. If you were in his building, you were considered family,” Englund said. She added that Edwards was also active in the small town of Humboldt and hosted a school’s 125th anniversary celebration there in 1986. “Mr. Edwards was very caring about his community. “
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In 2003, the Mattoon District closed Humboldt and its other neighborhood elementary schools and relocated students to the newly built Riddle and Williams Elementary Schools. Edwards was appointed that year as Williams’ first manager, 1709 S. Ninth St.
Larry Lilly, retired Mattoon District Superintendent, said Edwards and his Williams deputy principal Alan Hawkins had organized reading challenges to encourage their students to buy books. He said these challenges often resulted in the two directors wearing silly costumes or even ending up on the roof.
“He had a lot of fun with the kids in school. He was the grandpa type, and the kids loved him and he loved them,” Lilly said.
Lilly and Englund, who also worked at Williams, said Edwards was also known as a great storyteller and musician. For example, Lilly said Edwards would write songs about retired teachers and then perform them on his guitar.
In 2005, Edwards retired as manager of Williams and helped Kris Maleske take on the responsibilities of this position. Maleske said Edwards made sure he heard the story of the school’s namesake Arland D. Williams Jr., a native of Mattoon, who drowned after helping five other passengers on Flight 90d ‘Air Florida crashed to escape from the sinking plane in the Potomac River in 1982.
“Les was very welcoming and gave me time as the manager of the new building, which included sharing any special information about Arland D. Williams Jr., his friends and family,” said Maleske. “Les was also very proud of the faculty and staff at WES and all the special friendships made in Mattoon, Humboldt, Charleston and of course Shelbyville.”
After resigning from Williams School, Edwards returned to Eastern as the student teacher coordinator and helped place many prospective teachers in schools in the Illinois college area. He held this position until his retirement two years ago at the end of more than 50 years in the field of local education.
“Edwards has continued to have an impact on the education landscape in the region,” said Lilly. “He made the world a better place.”