The Great River Teacher Corps: Public Education Is Essential to Rural Development

Western Illinois University recognizes the members of the Great River Teacher Corps.

November 14, 2018 |

The Great River Teacher Corps is the new teacher corps coordinated by Western Illinois University, Macomb, IL. Pictured from left to right: Greg Montalvo, COEHS Assistant Dean of Educator Preparation; Hannah Libby, a student participant at the Great River Teacher Corps; Emilee Rains, a student participant at the Great River Teacher Corps; Connor Sullivan, a student participant at the Great River Teacher Corps; and Barry Witten, Curriculum & Instruction professor at Western Illinois University.

Editor note: We thank the College of Education & Human Services and the Great River Teacher Corps at Western Illinois University for inviting us to their "Public Education is Essential for Rural Development" event.

During the event, our Director, Gary Funk, presented a lecture on the challenges and the advantages of rural education. This lecture is one more example of the work of RSC's Western Illinois Hub, which is anchored by the Galesburg Community Foundation in partnership with Monmouth College. In addition, the three inaugural members of the Great River Teacher Corps were introduced at the event.

We invite you to meet the Great River Teacher Corps student participants.

The Great River Teacher Corps (GRTC) was created to address the looming teacher shortage in rural Illinois. Through regional grants funding and donations from local foundations, the GRTC provides opportunities to future teachers to follow their dreams in teaching. In turn, these future teachers are committed to teach in west central Illinois schools, contributing to rural education in Illinois.

The GRTC is a student-centered undergraduate program with a service component where participants are required to participate in value-added placed based learning activities that will focus on issues in rural schools. Administrators of the GRTC program have created partnerships with Regional Offices of Education, school district superintendents and local communities in 22 counties to ensure their participation in both recommendation of applicants and the hiring of GRTC graduates.

For more information about the GRTC at Western, visit

We now invite you to read the stories of the new members of the GRTC!

Hannah Libby

"I want to teach in small Illinois rural schools because I came from one. I believe there are great benefits to teaching in a small school. I can gain better professional relationships with my students due to smaller numbers. This could help me teach them in more in one on one situations which in turn could help them excel. Small schools bring various opportunities for all students to participate in if they choose. Teaching agriculture especially in a small rural school, I hope to influence my students someday in a positive way and help them gain knowledge, leadership, and responsibility the way my Agriculture experiences did for me in my schooling." Please read Hannah reflection in its entirety.

Emilee Rains

"I want to teach in a small school/town because of the close relationships I will be able to form with my community, students and parents. It is important to me to form these tight-knit relationships because I believe academic success starts at home with the parents and students valuing education. Place-based learning is also a great, interactive approach to teaching students about the community around them.

I would like to teach either first or second grade because I want to develop a strong work ethic in my students that values and wants to continue their education." Please read Emilee's reflection in its entirety.

Connor Sullivan

"I see myself teaching 9th and 11th grade English Language Arts as well as Creative Writing. For me, it’s always been a hard decision to make. I’ve always just wanted to be a teacher who was there to support his students through their struggles and successes. As I went through the public school system myself, I would change my mind based on the grade level I was in at the time, never really having one stick out to me. Being a teacher, to me, isn’t about the subject or grade you teach, it’s all about who you are teaching and why you’re teaching them. I’ve always been told by family, friends, and colleagues that I could be a successful teacher in any grade level and I think that all lies on the passion for your students’ success in the classroom. I’ve learned recently that it doesn’t matter who or what you’re teaching, as long you’re teaching your students with a genuine passion that’s true to who you are and what you are for them." Please read Connor's reflection in its entirety.

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