Partner Perspectives are written by members of the Community Consulting Board through the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. These articles provide examples of partnerships, best practices, and other insights from the viewpoint of Illinois State University’s community partners.
By Carmen Bergmann, assistant regional superintendent, Regional Office of Education 17
Illinois, like many other states, is suffering from a severe teacher shortage that is resulting in thousands of teaching positions going unfilled. As part of continued efforts to combat these shortages, the Bloomington Area Career Center, Olympia School District, the Regional Office of Education 17, Unit 5 School District, Illinois State University, Heartland Community College, and Illinois Wesleyan engaged in a partnership to host a Future Educator Forum for local high school students on February 20, 2019, during the school day.
The event was held at the Astroth Center on the Heartland Community College campus. Approximately 130 sophomores, juniors and seniors experienced an informative program designed to inform and excite students who have shown an interest in majoring in education. Upon arrival, they heard a short inspirational speech from Illinois State University professors April Mustian and Allison Meyer. They then had a chance to interact with panels of current college students from Heartland, Illinois State, and Illinois Wesleyan about their journey to become teachers and early career educators about their experiences in the classroom.
These students and teachers did an excellent job emphasizing the fact that although there are many paths that lead to the classroom, there is a passion and excitement common to all educators that make it worth the challenging journey. The students ended their experience by meeting with Illinois State University faculty in their preferred area of specialty so that they left with a vision for their next steps. On their way out, the students completed a self-reflection survey to determine whether education will be a good fit for them as a potential career.
This event was a great opportunity for some of our public school districts and the Regional Office of Education to collaborate with Illinois State University and other higher education institutions to create a learning bridge for students. We hope to continue to engage in partnerships like this that help students make connections with higher education institutions before they leave high school. It is important to have PK–12 educators and higher education faculty working in the same space because there are many partnerships possibilities that could support students at all levels. Specifically in the area of education, the Regional Office of Education is already working with the College of Education to discuss possible ongoing partnerships to address current needs, such as finding ways to connect the schools with teacher candidates as early as possible, or the development of pathways for high school students choosing education as a major in college. These partnerships allow us to use our unique strengths and resources in tandem to offer the best opportunities for our community.