Florence Coles Ballenger, a 1925 alumna of Eastern Illinois State Teachers College who grew up in Decatur, always felt that education was the key to everything. After graduating from the two year diploma program, she taught in Oak Park, Chicago City Junior College (now Kennedy-King College), and St. Petersburg (Florida) Junior College, retiring at age 70. Even after that, she continued to volunteer extensively as an English tutor through that school's Learning Support Center. Helen Gilbart, longtime friend and trustee of Ballenger's estate, said that Mrs. Ballenger had high expectations of her students and that education outside the classroom was as important to Ballenger as it was inside. She had a life-long love of travel and continued to do so until she was in her eighties. When she died at the age of 92 in April 1999, she left one third of her $3.6 million estate to Eastern Illinois University. Part of that legacy is now being used to provide materials and services to a new generation of teachers.
In early 1994, curricular materials and pre-K-12 textbooks were brought together in Booth Library's former Read & Relax Room. This was the beginning of what has become the Florence Coles Ballenger Teachers Center, a collection of teaching and learning materials and services for students and faculty of the College of Education and Professional Studies and to regional elementary and secondary public school teachers and administrators. The 4,750 square foot center, located just off the main foyer in the north end of the renovated Booth Library, includes Eastern's juvenile and preK-12 curriculum collections of more than 40,000 volumes; access to electronic databases related to education and teaching; seating and networked table space for 44 visitors; comfortable group seating areas for 11 visitors; 4 computers (in addition to approximately 210 throughout the rest of Booth Library); video and CD equipment; a staffed service desk; a variety of shelving and display areas for education materials; and programming and special activities for area teachers and education students.