Editorial: To get a teacher, grow a teacher

  • Brandon Zuniga, 17, of Rolling Meadows works with second graders at Lions Park Elementary School in Mount Prospect as part of a teacher prep program offered by Northwest Suburban High School District 214.

    Brandon Zuniga, 17, of Rolling Meadows works with second graders at Lions Park Elementary School in Mount Prospect as part of a teacher prep program offered by Northwest Suburban High School District 214. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted12/4/2019 5:38 PM

If cost or short supply make it hard to get something you need, you make it or grow it yourself.

That philosophy familiar to Depression-era elders might seem old-fashioned today. But it's the approach Northwest Suburban High School District 214 is taking to get highly qualified teachers into the pipeline in the face of a shortage.

 

District 214 has devised a program that works for the school district and its communities, makes sense for the would-be teachers among its students and has attracted grants to cover some of the costs plus seed money for schools that want to emulate District 214.

How's that for a trifecta?

District 214 recruits high schoolers into its Educator Prep program for three years of coursework and internships in the classroom in partnership with local elementary districts and special ed programs, as the Daily Herald's Madhu Krishnamurthy wrote this week.

Students who finish the program are guaranteed placement in education-degree programs at Northeastern Illinois University and National Louis University. The first students will graduate from college in two years, more than 100 District 214 students did teaching internships last year and about 1,000 students are taking the education courses.

District 214 hopes for a future payoff in solid new hires. While Illinois' teacher shortage is most acute downstate, teachers of color and teachers in special ed, English language learning and STEM -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- are in short supply everywhere.

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How are the eventual new teachers lured back to their home district? While in college, they are guaranteed student-teaching placements at District 214 or its partner schools. And, according to Stephanie Banchero, education program director for The Joyce Foundation, research shows most teachers work near where they grew up.

"Growing teachers in the community where they are probably going to live is a good idea," she said.

Career prep in high school is a growing trend that we support for many students. Programs that give high schoolers college credit, or at least the confidence that they've chosen the right path for themselves, can help keep costs under control.

Among the eight communities launching programs similar to District 214's are Indian Prairie Unit District 204 in Aurora and Naperville and Plainfield Unit District 202, with funding from the Joyce Foundation and Illinois P-20 Council. We'll watch for the dividend for future teachers and future students.

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