“Will it play in Peoria?” is a question which became popular during the vaudeville era. Peoria was seen as a city whose citizens represented a true cross-section of America. It was believed that if a new show was successful in Peoria, it would be successful anywhere. The question is still used today.

“I think the key ingredient in pre-service training is ‘experience’ and STEP-UP provided many experiences for me.” Knobloch said.

Senior special education major Shelby Knobloch is finding out that the programs of the National Center for Urban Education (NCUE) certainly “play in Peoria.” NCUE’s mission is to cultivate and sustain innovative, resilient, and effective educators for urban schools and their communities. NCUE partners with Chicago Public Schools (CPS), Decatur Public Schools (DPS), and Peoria Public Schools (PPS) to develop and support new teachers in each community.

In June 2018 she participated in NCUE’s Summer Teacher Education Partnership for Urban Preparation First Look Experience (STEP-UP FLEX) program in Peoria. Knobloch and other STEP-UP FLEX Fellows spent one week in June living with host families, co-teaching in the Peoria Public Schools summer school program, participating in service-learning projects, and becoming more familiar with Peoria and Peoria Public Schools.

ISU special education student teaches in her classroom.

Shelby Knobloch in her classroom at Harrison Community Learning Center

In June 2019, Knobloch and Sarah Lyons, another 2018 Peoria STEP-UP FLEX Fellow, returned to Peoria, joining three other ISU education majors in the full, month-long NCUE STEP-UP program. During the month, the Fellows became immersed in Peoria and PPS, developing a network of teachers, school administrators, and community members. STEP-UP is designed to assist students in building this network to provide support for them when they return to Peoria to student teach, and, hopefully, begin their first teaching position in PPS.

“I think the key ingredient in pre-service training is ‘experience’ and STEP-UP provided many experiences for me,” Knobloch said.

Knobloch began her student teaching experience in August 2019, working with her cooperating teacher, Shelly Fessler, at Harrison Community Learning Center. Her placement is in a behaviorally disordered/emotionally disturbed (BD/ED) classroom, a setting she had not previously considered. The placement not only introduced her to a different experience, she now wants to teach in a similar classroom. She will complete her student teaching and graduate from ISU in December and will begin her teaching career in Peoria in January 2020.

Knobloch has found it to be most rewarding when her students have that “light bulb” moment when they understand a new concept. She said she had learned important lessons from her students so far.

“To have patience. We must meet their basic and emotional needs before they are ready to learn,” she said.

Lyons, also a special education major, is currently working at Peoria’s Manual High School for her Field Base program. She will student teach in PPS during the Spring 2020 semester.

Obviously, the NCUE programs ‘play in Peoria’ and Shelby will soon join the ranks of Peoria teachers.