Illinois is currently facing a significant teacher shortage, which is greatly affecting rural schools and communities where the shortage is most acute. Over the past five years, Western Illinois University has been making great strides to help conquer this shortage by prioritizing the development of new programs designed to help recruit, incentivize, place, and graduate more teachers.
In 2018, Western Illinois University received a capacity building grant from our Illinois Hub anchor, the Galesburg Community Foundation to launch their Great River Teacher Corps (GRTC), a program that “recruits and develops highly talented teachers to work in schools in West Central Illinois.” The GRTC program provides students with scholarship assistance in exchange for a 3-year commitment to teach at rural school in one of 22 eligible counties.
Since the launch of the GRTC program, WIU has launched a new Master of Arts in Teacher (MAT) - Alternative Licensing Program, allowing program candidates to be hired by a school district on a provisional license and earn a salary while working through the program. Launched in January of 2021, the MAT program has already registered more than 120 students and placed 65 teachers this year.
Now, WIU has received a $650,000 grant from the Illinois State Board of Education to develop a teacher residency program. With these funds, the university will have three years to partner with public schools to develop and launch a new teacher residency program. Similar to a medical residency program, Eric Sheffield, WIU’s College of Education Assistant Dean, says that the new teacher residency program will provide funds “to support MAT students who are out in classrooms.”
Thank you to Eric Sheffield and Denny Barr for their continued collaboration with RSC and for the great work in rural education! Learn more about the launch of the Great River Teacher Corps, the importance of the rural teacher corps concept, and other efforts that are part of the Rural Schools Collaborative Rural Teacher Corps Network.