Richland County Elementary School
Richland County Community Unit #1
Cris Edwards has been an educator for three decades, having taught for 14 years before becoming an administrator in 2007. As principal of Richland County Elementary School (RCES) since 2019, Edwards has made it her top priority to meet the social, emotional, and academic needs of the school’s large, high-poverty, high-mobility student population. To this end, Edwards has implemented a variety of programs to serve the whole child, including the Handle With Care program, which facilitates communication and collaboration between public agencies in supporting students experiencing trauma. The school also has integrated daily 15-minute Morning Meetings to strengthen connections between teachers and students, set the tone for the day, and deliver mini-lessons on life skills using tools like the Leader in Me curriculum, Second Step curriculum and Zones of Regulation. Under Edwards’ leadership, RCES is a Leader in Me school, and this year became one of only a handful of schools globally to earn Legacy Status. Adept at cultivating fruitful community partnerships, Edwards worked with the local Rotary Club to launch a creative solution to the summer slide: a school bus turned mobile library that meets students at parks, swimming pools, and daycare centers to create opportunities for continued learning and reinforcement. Edwards strives to be a mentor for future teachers and administrators, actively recruiting young minds to join and sustain the profession. She holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Eastern Illinois University.