Last year, the Springfield School District faced no small task in needing to hire 150 new teachers because of retirements and resignations. Alexander Ikejiaku, director of human resources and development for the district, believes that the Grow Your Own Teachers initiative is a solution to future teacher shortages that many school districts across the state will face.
Last year, the Springfield School District faced no small task in needing to hire 150 new teachers because of retirements and resignations.
Alexander Ikejiaku, director of human resources and development for the district, believes that the Grow Your Own Teachers initiative is a solution to future teacher shortages that many school districts across the state will face.
Madeline Talbott, organizer for Grow Your Own Teachers Illinois and the grass-roots organization Action Now, said the program was developed to help communities that struggle with staffing and low performance in their schools.
“We have identified a solution to the problem from within those same communities,” Talbott said. “We are working to train people from the community where hard-to-staff schools are located, to become fully certified and highly qualified teachers in those communities.”
Sixteen Illinois locations are participating in the program, whose participants and organizers came together at the Capitol Tuesday to rally for continued state funding. The group wants $4.5 million allocated for the fiscal year that starts in July, which would be an increase of $1.5 million.
According to a news release, the $4.5 million would be used to support existing students enrolled in the program who are already in college, as well as to help recruit and enroll other prospective teachers on waiting lists.
The funding increase would help meet the organization’s goal of 1,000 teachers by 2016. Currently, the program has 545 prospective teachers statewide.
“Depending on where you’re located, you may or may not run into trouble finding qualified teachers,” Ikejiaku said. “Therefore, this program harnesses local supply.
Getting people into the program and getting them ready to come into the pipeline, you know it makes my job a lot easier.”
Doris Chambers of Springfield said she’s excited to be a part of the Grow Your Own Teacher initiative. She was a youth program director for an after-school program at the Springfield Urban League for 15 years and worked at Douglas School (for students with behavioral problems) as a teacher’s aide before becoming a GYO candidate.
“Right now, our children are starving for quality education,” Chambers said.
“They need to get motivated. To get a child that is not in the mainstream and is at Douglas School, and they tell you, ‘Forget education, I don’t need that. I can make money,’ your heart breaks. You begin to share with them the pros and cons.
“I began to draw from them what they really want to do in life. You can’t just deal with them on the surface, you have to deal with them as a whole.”
Meagan Sexton can be reached at (217) 782-6882.
List of community organizations and colleges involved with GYO:
Organizations: Community Caring Conference, Tri-County Urban League
Colleges: Bradley University and Illinois Central College
Organization: Springfield Urban League
Colleges: Lincoln Land Community College, University of Illinois-Springfield and Springfield College in Illinois/Benedictine
Organization: Hands that Help
Colleges: National Louis University and Rock Valley College
How to apply:
Meet with the local GYO coordinator to learn about the program, time lines and requirements.
Apply to participate in the GYO initiative in your community.
Find copies of your transcripts from high school and any college courses.
Assess with higher education partners, your academic history.
Join a cohort.
Criteria for applicants:
Must have a high school diploma or General Equivalency Diploma, but you may not already have a bachelor’s degree from college.
Need to be eligible for financial aid, which means you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident.
Must be a paraprofessional or school aide, parent, or community member active in local schools.