Illinois State University’s College of Education hosted its third annual Future Teacher Conference (FTCON) in person. Following CDC and the University’s health guidelines, over 800 high school students and 100 education personnel from over 30 Illinois school districts participated in various workshops throughout the day. According to the FTCON website, the conference, which welcomed high school students considering a career in education, is designed to inform students about the process of becoming a teacher and what to expect after graduation as they enter the classroom.
This year, over 80 students from various Chicago Public School (CPS) Teacher Academy programs (cps.edu/academics/career-and-technical-education/education-and-training) came to campus to attend the conference. Students were recruited through the National Center for Urban Education’s (NCUE) partner schools in three of the five communities to attend the conference (ncue.illinoisstate.edu/about). The day started with an inspirational opening session, including Illinois State education alum Brandon Thorton and performances by various student organizations.
Next, students and education personnel were invited to attend two different morning sessions. During the 10:15 a.m. session, a few CPS students participated in “From CPS Student to ISU Redbird” where students learned about ISU’s longstanding partnership with CPS and opportunities for scholarships, student teaching with CPS, and supports for success. One new program the Teach Chicago Tomorrow (TCT) initiative (teach.cps.edu/teach-chicago-tomorrow) involves a partnership between CPS, City Colleges of Chicago, and ISU’s College of Education. Through TCT, CPS graduates have the opportunity to receive an ISU undergraduate degree in education and Illinois teaching license in special education, bilingual elementary, or elementary with ESL with all course work offered locally in Chicago. Upon successful completion of the program, students have guaranteed employment in the district that was home to many of them as K-12 students and a chance to become the next generation of urban teachers.
Another session that students enjoyed was the student panel where participants heard from current ISU education students about their experiences on campus. It was an opportunity for high school students to ask questions and learn about other ways to get involved as education majors.
One high school student said they enjoyed the session because it gave a look into what current students are actually experiencing while becoming a teacher. NCUE’s Lead Faculty Liaison and Curriculum Developer Dr. Becky Beucher presented on Restorative Practices, one of the center’s main initiatives, in collaboration with community partners. High school students participated in an interactive session about the healing power of repairing classroom communities through shared learning and decision making with the goal to cultivate empathy and connection through cultural foundations of restorative practices.
A session that education personnel enjoyed was Diversifying the Teacher Pipeline. Dr. Maria Zamudio, executive director for the National Center for Urban Education, along with the assistant superintendent of Human Resources for Bloomington District 87, Sherri Thomas, discussed the significant issue of increasing the diversity of future and current people in the field of education. While CPS personnel knew it was a heavy topic to unpack, the information offered to spark the discussion was very insightful.
During lunch, students were able to attend a table fair that included information from all education programs and several student organizations. Students enjoyed learning about all the different opportunities ISU’s College of Education has to offer. After lunch, students and education personnel attended one more workshop before heading back to their respective towns.
“One of my students was hesitant to come at first, but now they were glad they did,” said Mr. Johnson, social studies teacher and post-secondary co-lead at Westinghouse College Prep. “They’re even more interested in becoming a teacher now.”
Many of the CPS students who attended agreed that it was worth getting up extra early to travel to Illinois State.