• CES News

Caring for Our Kids - Meet the CES OT/PT Staff!

The Occupational and Physical Therapy staff work in tandem to improve the gross and fine motor abilities of our students with special needs in order to improve functioning within the educational setting.

Mariah Eilerman and student

Mariah Eilerman - OT (Occupational Therapist)

Mariah was hired in February 2018 to serve as an Occupational Therapist at Chatham Elementary School, Glenwood Elementary School, and Glenwood High School. Prior to joining our District, she worked as an OT in rehabilitation and long-term care settings.

Mariah graduated high school from Calhoun High School in Hardin, Illinois. She then went on to earn her Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy from Maryville University in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2009.

About her chosen profession, she says, “Occupational therapy is a very rewarding profession, as we get to facilitate individualized growth, development, and independence for our clients/students, no matter the setting of OT. Getting to focus on what is important and purposeful to each individual we work with, makes every day different and makes us, as clinicians, always having to challenge and grow, ourselves. School-based OT has always been my dream since graduating from OT school. The kids bring so much joy and challenge me to always learn more, to work to be a better OT every day. Watching our students hit new milestones, be successful in their daily functional and school-based activities, and achieve tasks they have worked so hard towards both in OT and in the classroom makes me happy and grateful I chose to be an OT.”

Mariah is married to Drew, and together they have two children, Audrey (4) and Gus (2). On her own time, she enjoys camping, traveling, gardening, landscaping, being outdoors, and spending time with family/family gatherings.

Alicia Hawkins and student

Alicia Hawkins - COTA (Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant)

Alicia began at Ball-Chatham in December 2015 as a COTA at Chatham Elementary School and Glenwood Middle School. Prior to working for Ball-Chatham, she worked for the State of Illinois at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) on the CHIPRA grant (Child Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act).

Alicia is a graduate of Greenfield High School, Class of 2005. From there, she studied at McKendree University, earning a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training and a minor in Sports Psychology in 2009. She went on to earn her Master’s degree in Public Health from UIS in 2011. Thereafter, she enrolled at Lincoln Land Community College, and in 2014 earned her Associate’s degree in Applied Science - Occupational Therapy Assistant.

About her profession, she says she loves occupational therapy, especially in the school setting, because she enjoys collaborating with the teachers, staff, and other related service providers to ensure that each student is successful in his/her school environment. She believes the biggest challenge in occupational therapy is that there is no “cookie-cutter approach” to the work they do, since each child has different needs, and a plan must be developed to fit each of their individualized sessions.

Alicia is married to Drew, and together they have two sons: Rowan, age 5; and River, age 3. Her most favorite thing to do is plan and go on hiking trips with her husband and sons!

Brenda Vail and student

Brenda Vail - PT (Physical Therapist)

The Ball-Chatham School District hired Mrs. Brenda Vail in May 2010 as a part-time Physical Therapist. Due to increased student needs, she transitioned to full-time employment with the District in 2011. She serves in all of our schools. Prior to joining our District, she worked as a Physical Therapist at: Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois; at Jayne Shover Easter Seals in Elgin, Illinois. She also worked as a Pediatric Physical Therapist at HSHS St. John’s Hospital, and as a Physical Therapist at the Rochester School District.

Brenda graduated in 1984 from St. Charles High School, St. Charles, Illinois. She then graduated from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Therapy in 1988. In order to serve her students better, she studied and received Assistive Technology Certification. She is also certified as a Child Passenger Safety Technician and has additional training in special needs child passenger safety.

She says that she likes the fact that she gets to interact with a wide variety of people. “I am able to help people of all ages become the best version of themselves,” says Brenda. “I love being active, and I share that love for movement with the children and adults I work with. I also like that no two workdays are ever the same.”

In discussing the challenges of her profession, she says, “There is only one of me to provide physical therapy services to the entire Ball-Chatham School District. Often times what I am requesting a person to do is difficult and I need to come up with a way to make hard work fun and rewarding. I am very accustomed to using my hands or actions and not verbal directions to get the people I work with to participate. I also make changes to activities by watching how people participate. Trying to provide virtual physical therapy services has been one of the most difficult challenges I have had to face.”

Brenda is married to Michael and has two daughters, Nicole, and Emily; a son-in-law, Aaron; and one granddaughter, Adeline. On her own time, she enjoys running, biking, triathlons, yoga, sewing, and gardening.

Amy Shoemaker

Amy Shoemaker - Physical Therapy Assistant

Amy was hired in September 2020 to serve as a Physical Therapy Assistant at each of our schools. Prior to joining our District, she joins our team after 16 years of serving patients at Memorial Medical Center and is currently serving students in the area through Sangamon Area Special Education District (SASED).

Amy graduated from New Berlin High School in 2001, and received her Associate’s in Applied Science, Physical Therapy Assistant, from Lakeland College in 2004.

About her profession, she says she enjoys working with the students to gain the most functional mobility in their school. “Each day I can be creative to make therapy fun!” she says.

Amy is married to Gene, and has three children: Maycee, Will, and Paisley. On her own time, she enjoys spending time with family, and arts and crafts.