District 214's Educator Prep aims to identify future teachers
When Amanda Garcia was young, she didn't enjoy school. There was trouble at home, and she carried it with her into the classroom.
But she had two special elementary school teachers who listened to her, supported her learning and, as she says, helped her find her path.
Now, "I want to connect with students and feel like I've made a difference in their lives like my teachers did for me," Garcia said.
A sophomore at Rolling Meadows High School, Garcia is among 25 Northwest Suburban High School District 214 students who have signed a commitment to Educator Prep, a program dedicated to identifying and cultivating future teachers.
Educator Prep is a collaboration among District 214, local elementary districts including all of District 214's feeder schools, a national organization called Educators Rising, and Northeastern Illinois and National Louis universities.
District 214 Superintendent David Schuler said the program can change not only student's lives and careers but also the future of education.
"We're impacting public education in this country," he said. "We are being that incubator to change the world."
Next year, 900 District 214 students will be enrolled in the Educator Prep pathway, meaning they will take a specific sequence of courses targeted to their future careers as teachers.
Those students also will have access to dual credit opportunities at National Louis University or Northeastern Illinois, classroom observations in area schools and internships.
For students who attend National Louis or Northeastern after high school, there will be special professional development programs from District 214, including a guaranteed student-teaching position there or in a local elementary district, Schuler said.
After college, those students also are guaranteed a job interview in District 214 or a partner district if the position they are seeking is open.
Each District 214 high school will start a chapter of the Educators Rising club, said Dan Brown, co-director of the national group.
Brown said the work District 214 is doing to encourage people to become teachers is important locally and nationally.
"We have a crisis in this country in terms of teacher recruitment," Brown said. "The eyes of the teaching profession are on this district."
According to Educators Rising, there will be a need for 1.5 million new teachers by 2020, and one-third of teachers leave the profession in their first three years. Officials also said there is increasing demand for skilled bilingual teachers and teachers of diverse backgrounds to better reflect the changing needs and demographics of students across the country.
Garcia said the program has helped her understand what her future will look like.
"Now I don't have to worry about which college I should go to or what is my next step," she said.
"It's a clear path, which is great."
Elk Grove sophomore Thomas Carpenter, who wants to become a high school U.S. history teacher, is excited about the opportunity to get classroom experience before he even goes to college.
"It's a great way to get students involved in teaching early," he said.
"I can get that experience and start learning about my future right away."