On August 24, 2021, the National Center for Urban Education (NCUE) had the pleasure of hosting the first Taste of ISU event with future Redbird educators from the recently launched program Teach Chicago Tomorrow (TCT). It was a wonderful day full of new experiences for first-year students: meeting new people and learning more about ISU and its community partners, schools, faculty, and staff.
Taste of ISU is an event created for the TCT initiative, a pathway partnership between Chicago Public Schools (CPS), City Colleges of Chicago (CCC), and Illinois State University (ISU) that offers aspiring teachers a structured pathway from high school to college to career.
Participating students, recruited from CPS high schools, are enrolled in CCC for the first two years where they earn an associate degree after successfully completing general education course work requirements. They then earn a bachelor’s degree in education from ISU. They complete course work and clinical experiences through a combination of in-person courses in Chicago and online learning.
This summer’s cohort (TCT’s first) spent the day participating in interactive activities specifically prepared by ISU and community partners for Taste of ISU. Participants started with a session hosted by Breakthrough Urban Ministries where they learned about becoming community teachers and how working with the community will support their journey in becoming effective urban educators. Students also attended a presentation by community scholar Darius Parker from Kuumba Lynx who led a workshop on identity and intersectionality with TCT students as well as CPS, Breakthrough, and ISU staff.
“Community means a great deal to me, and any opportunity to grow and learn together I cherish,” Parker said. “I always tell my participants that I am not all knowing nor am I an ‘expert,’ but I am an expert in my experience, and I encourage them to do and be the same. I am deeply grateful to ISU for allowing me to facilitate a session on identity and how our many interactions truly make up who we are.”
Centering the day in community impacted all of the participants, students and staff. Carlos Muñoz Márquez from the CPS Office of School Counseling and Postsecondary Advising shared, “As a new CPS employee, I did not have any idea what to expect from the Taste of ISU. During my attendance, Darius Parker facilitated an engaging discussion on intersectionality. What I realized is that these discussions are critical for all youth to explore in order to have a clear foundation to be successful in becoming change-making and empathetic teachers.”
During the afternoon session, students were able to visit the ISU Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline (CTEP) office and interact with College of Education (COE) Dean Jim Wolfinger, who joined the group remotely to welcome students to ISU. Students spent the rest of the afternoon learning more about ISU curriculum.
Faculty from the School of Teaching and Learning and the Department of Special Education joined TCT students interested in bilingual education and special education to explain the programs in depth and have a Q&A session.
“Meeting with this group reminded me how important their knowledge of Chicago, including experience as bilingual students in CPS, will be in their preparation to become teachers,” said Dr. Elizabeth Skinner, ISU faculty member in the bilingual/bicultural elementary program. “I’m excited to be a part of that work and can’t wait until they transfer to ISU.”
Throughout the day, students got the chance to share their experiences and start building relationships with ISU faculty and staff, community partners, and CPS staff as well as with each other. Students at the Taste of ISU event learned about their educational options, what they can do as students, and how they will be supported, not only by ISU faculty and staff, but also by staff from Chicago community partners, Breakthrough, Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation, Latinos Progresando, and North River Commission.
“The day was a great opportunity to build relationships and encourage students on their journey to become teachers,” said Kelli Appel, director of Enrollment and Transition Services in the ISU College of Education. “It was also helpful to spend time sharing details about their future programs and opportunities with ISU.”
Teach Chicago Tomorrow is a comprehensive program created to alleviate the shortage of teachers in Chicago. The partnerships between CPS, CCC, ISU, and community partners will prepare effective, urban-focused community teachers who will go back home to teach and influence the next generation.
If it is true that it takes a village to raise a child, then it is also true that it takes the whole community to prepare exceptional teachers.