In the Spring of 1966, Elizabeth M. Rueck, chairperson of the Barrington Consolidated High School (BCHS) science department; Katherine Taft, BCHS chemistry and Earth science teacher; together with Ms. Nadine Dungan, a State of Illinois science supervisor; Sister Mary Alvernia, OFSC, of Madonna High School; and Sister Mary Wilma, SJ, of Nazareth Academy were invited to a meeting in St. Louis by Hank Blindel, NSTA’s liaison for state and chapter groups. Following this dialogue and with financial support from Barrington Consolidated High School and the Illinois Office of Education, plus the enthusiastic support from the science staff at BHCS and other volunteers, the process of a establishing a state affiliate of NSTA was begun.
Barrington Consolidated High School provided the initial facilities, funding, staff, and motivation for the founding of a statewide organization. With the support of the Illinois Office of Education and the help of many volunteers, letters were sent to elementary, middle, and high school teachers of science inviting them to the October, 1966 NSTA regional convention in Chicago and to an organizational meeting of the Illinois Science Teachers. At this meeting of science teachers, Rueck was selected as the chairperson of this new science teachers group. Her selection was based on two considerations. First, Barrington was far enough from Chicago that it would not be viewed as a Chicago organization, but rather a statewide effort; and second, Rueck was well known for getting things done. The following statement by BCHS superintendent Robert Finley regarding her ability best exemplified her reputation, “Give her the job and get the hell out of her way!” In March, 1967 Rueck was officially elected the first president of the Illinois Science Teachers Association.
Planning for the first ISTA conference, to be held in the fall at LaSalle-Peru Community College and High School, began immediately with Mary Keegan serving as the first ISTA conference chair. There was consensus from the very beginning that the conference program collectively would encompass grade levels kindergarten through university science education and all science disciplines. The first program reflected this balance with a kindergarten teacher presenting a session on Sensory Observations; high school teachers presenting sessions titled Physics in Illinois and Model Making in Chemistry; and junior high teachers presenting IPS: Introductory Physical Science. Program sessions also included Evaluating Science Instruction and Engineering Concepts. This balanced program strategy was a success with 650 attendees and fifty-four exhibitors participating in the conference. The first conference drew science educators from as far away as Marion, even though it meant leaving home at 3AM!
The 1968 NSTA regional conference in Chicago served as the state conference the next year. The second annual ISTA conference was held in Rock Island in September 1969 and included a Friday afternoon and evening session. Lois Case served as the program chairperson for this conference and Maurice Kellogg chaired the Friday evening program.
ISTA has continued to sponsor an annual conference at sites such as Edwardsville, Chicago, Bloomington, Springfield, Rock Island, and Peoria, ensuring statewide coverage. Membership continued to grow under the aegis of early presidents which included Elizabeth Rueck, Hal Bunkelmann, Maurice Kellogg, Darrell Goar, Donald Hamilton, and Lois Case.