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Illinois State holds civic learning and engagement conference

Chicago and Decatur teachers hold panel for attendees of the American Democracy Project Conference

In September, the National Center for Urban Education (NCUE) participated in the American Democracy Project (ADP) two-day conference on Illinois State University’s campus.

Professor Lance Lippert and Professor Stephen Hunt from the School of Communications as well as College of Education Associate Dean Barbara Meyer invited NCUE to present at this unique conference which convened all of the state universities in Illinois that are part of ADP. Governors State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville; University of Illinois, Springfield; Western Illinois, and Illinois State University participated in the conference, which was sponsored by the McCormick Foundation.

The theme of the conference was “Civic learning in teacher education preparation: Centering community and student voices as democracy in action in education.”  NCUE was selected because of its model that centers university, school, and community as equal partners in teacher preparation.

On the first Saturday, NCUE staff presented alongside Illinois State faculty, community partners, and NCUE program graduates to give conference attendees an authentic window into the history of the development of this model and also into the ongoing process of collaboration that sustains the program. All participating universities were asked to bring community and school partners to attend the conference in addition to their faculty to emphasize the importance of all stakeholders’ input in teacher preparation.

Jennifer O’Malley, director of the NCUE Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline; Shannon Mittleman, director of the NCUE Decatur Teacher Education Pipeline; and Cliff Cobert, director of the Peoria Teacher Education Pipeline first gave an overview of the program which began its work in 2004. Lunch offered a panel of teachers who participated in NCUE programs while attending Illinois State. The four teachers currently teaching in the three urban cities involved in NCUE, Amanda Martin ’16 and Matthew Miller ’14 of Chicago Public Schools, Caroline Schorsch ’16 of Decatur Public Schools, and Lucy Kaiser ’17 of Peoria Public Schools, shared how the model has impacted their journey through teacher preparation into the classroom.

“Participating in the ADP conference as an Illinois State alum, current teacher, and CTEP participant truly made things come full circle for me,” Martin said. “I was elated to have the opportunity to share my story and express how working with the pipeline has played a major role in my success as an educator. Opportunities such as the ADP conference continue to further my perspective as a teacher and push me to further develop my practice and share my purpose with people who are just as passionate as I am. ”

Jennifer O’Malley, Cliff Cobert, and Shannon Mittleman present to the audience.

The afternoon provided smaller group roundtable sessions for attendees to learn more about how the model is implemented on the ground in different contexts, communities, and cities. The NCUE presentation on the first day set the stage for a second Saturday which asked the participating universities and their stakeholders to think about what they are already doing to center community in their teacher education programs and integrate other ideas sparked by the NCUE presentation.

The participating universities returned to Illinois State three weeks later to share plans for extending and reenergizing civic and community engagement in teacher preparation. NCUE staff, community, and school partners facilitated the feedback sessions as all participants worked together to think through issues of authentic collaboration and implementation with each group’s plans. It was exciting to see all of the ideas for expanded partnerships in urban and rural contexts around the state.

Discussions will continue as participants return to their respective universities and communities to work together and put their ideas for democracy in education into action.