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Golden Apple Starts Program To Address Teacher Shortage In Downstate Illinois

Alan Mather
Alan Mather, president of Golden Apple organization.

Illinois is still facing another crisis alongside COVID-19—a shortage of teachers. And one impacts the other.

Over half of teachers are over 50 years old, and some are immunocompromised themselves or have relatives who are. Teachers care deeply about their classrooms, but they may be rethinking what it means to be in a classroom or packed hallways with a bunch of kids.

“The 1,800 vacancies that started this year was certainly a terrible number,” said Alan Mather, president of Golden Apple, an organization that supports future teachers. “We're worried about what the teacher shortage is going to look like under COVID-19 and what that's going to mean for people staying in the profession, so we think it's even more important than ever.”

Golden Apple has supported teachers for over 30 years, and it’s attacking the shortage problem with a new program called Accelerators. Accelerators is teacher residency program that expands the teacher pipeline by targeting seniors in college who are not currently education majors as well as career changers with bachelor’s degrees who would like to become teachers.

Golden Apple recruited 30 candidates for the summer of 2020, and they will receive their teacher licenses by 2021. After licenses are obtained the teachers will be able to enter the teaching profession full time in the 2021-22 school year.

Candidates must live in southern, central, or western Illinois and agree to teach in partner communities for at least four years.

“I think there are oftentimes people who do not want to go in to teach in those communities. I think sometimes there are those who say, you know, ‘I don't live there. Why am I going to move to a rural community I don't know to begin teaching?’ And so our Accelerators program specifically finds those who live in specific communities, those communities where the shortages are, who have bachelor’s degrees but did not go through a teacher education program, and who may be looking for more meaning in their lives,” Mather said.

Program participants will receive job placements at partner school districts, a teaching license within 15 months and one year residency and training. This year’s pilot placements include Deer Creek-Mackinaw High School in Mackinaw and Tri-Point High School in Cullom.

The first Accelerators are focused in high-needs areas such as special education, the STEM fields, physical education, and bilingual education. Golden Apple plans to expand Accelerators to elementary education and middle school in Year 2.

“We elevate the profession so that we have a diversity of teachers that reflects the student body across the state,” Mather said.

Listen to our full interview with Mather below:

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Camberyn Kelley is a WGLT intern focused on reporting and online writing. She is also a student in Illinois State University's School of Communication.
Ryan Denham is the content director for WGLT and WCBU.