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ISU's Chicago Teacher Program Aims To Address Diversity Gap

Hovey Hall entrance
Illinois State University
Illinois State University
Illinois State University has launched a new program to help Chicago Public Schools address a major teaching shortage.

Illinois State University's new effort to help Chicago Public Schools develop more homegrown teacherscould help diversify ISU's student population.

Jim Wolfinger portrait
Credit Illinois State University
ISU College of Education Dean Jim Wolfinger said the Teach Chicago Tomorrow will help teachers in Chicago Public Schools better reflect the student body.

ISU College of Education Dean Jim Wolfinger said the Teach Chicago Tomorrow program's biggest need is to recruit and develop more Black and Hispanic teachers to better match the student population there.

“I think everyone involved is seeing this as a path breaking way of preparing teachers for the 21st century, especially as we think about the changing demographics of the United States,” Wolfinger said. “How are we as colleges of education doing all we can to invite everybody in to becoming teachers and working in classrooms.”

Just 20% of ISU's College of Education students are minorities, including 9% Hispanic and 6% Black.

Maria Zamudio portrait
Credit Illinois State University
Maria Zamudio, executive director of the National Center for Urban Education in ISU's College of Education, said Teach Chicago Tomorrow can use its well established connections with community groups in Chicago that can provide additional support to help aspiring teachers.

“For some students… for a university that is mostly white sometimes it’s more difficult,” said Maria Zamudio, who runs the National Center for Urban Education in ISU's College of Education. “We also have some of the barriers in terms of access to college.”

The student population in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is nearly 90% Black and Hispanic while about half of its teachers are white.

ISU’s student body is currently 27% minority, including 31% among the freshman class.

The new initiative, which ISU and Chicago city and school officials announced last week, enables aspiring teachers to get their teaching degree while going to college in Chicago for four years.

They can earn an associate degree in two years at City College of Chicago and take ISU classes for two years at NCUE offices and other locations in Chicago. Graduates would get first dibs on teaching jobs in CPS schools.

Zamudio said the university can use the connections with community groups it helped build in the 15 years of its teacher pipeline to help aspiring teachers feel welcome.

“We want to prepare community teachers and let the students know the community is there to help them and to support them,” she said. “This has been very important for us.”

Wolfinger said the college wants to focus mostly on finding elementary and special education teachers, which CPS officials said is the greatest need.

The ISU College of Education has a similar program to develop special ed teachers in Peoria and is developing a teacher pipeline for central Illinois that is working with several community colleges downstate.

“It highlights the need that we have as a College of Education to be good partners with our (pre K-through 12) districts and also with our community colleges because we know that so often is the access point to help people get into teaching as a career,” Wolfinger said.

ISU is the largest supplier of teachers in the state and one of the largest in the Midwest. One in six Illinois teachers are ISU grads.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.