Foundations will help groom future teachers

Steven Barnum, Assistant News Editor

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Numerous foundations will allow students from Western Illinois University to teach in Illinois schools.

Western is receiving a grant in the amount of $28,000 that will give three students the opportunity to join the Great River Teacher Corps (GRTC). The trio includes two juniors and one sophomore, who are each majoring in an education-related field.

The GRTC is an undergraduate program that focuses on preparing soon-to-be educators to be comfortable and effective teaching in schools in small and rural environments. Students enrolled in the program will gain hands-on experience through participation. The GRTC program is active in 22 countries around the world.

This opportunity is possible due to funding from groups like the Galesburg Community Foundation, Northwest Missouri, the Tracy Family Foundation, the Community Foundation Serving West Central Illinois and the Fellheimer Trust. Additionally, several individuals in the Macomb community gave sizable donations.

Hannah Libby is an agriculture education major from Oneida, Ill. and she believes that there are benefits to teaching in a small school.

“I can gain better professional relationships with my students due to smaller numbers,” Libby said. “Small schools bring various opportunities for all students to participate in.”

Libby is hopeful her major will prove to be valuable.

“Teaching agriculture, especially in a small rural school, I hope to influence my students someday in a positive way, and help them gain knowledge, leadership and responsibility, the way my agriculture experience did for me in my schooling.”

Emilee Rains, an elementary education major from East Moline, Ill., is excited to provide children with a lasting impact.

“It is going to be a rewarding experience being a part of something that is going to make a difference in the lives of future students,” Rains said.

The program is especially important in today’s trend, which indicates a decline in those looking to teach in Illinois. According to wiu.edu, Illinois will have a shortage of more than 20,000 teachers by the year 2020. Governor Bruce Rauner has tried to combat the lack of educators by simplifying the process of carrying over teaching licenses from out of state. Another suggested reason why teachers are choosing other states is the low starting salaries in Illinois; however, the Illinois State Board did not mention raising wages in their 7-step plan last month, per herald-review.com.

Connor Sullivan will also be a beneficiary of what the program has to offer. The English education major has a connection to the area, having attended school in McDonough County.

“I believe that schools of need deserve great quality teachers and I hope to fill that much-in-demand role after completing my degree at WIU,” Sullivan said. “I appreciate the smaller class size found in rural schools as it provides the opportunity to build close-knit relationships with students, parents and community members.”

The GRTC will begin grooming the students in the near future. The program will aim to convince students to commit to teaching in a rural school for the first three years after they get their degree from Western.

An additional $20,000 in grant money is on the table if the corps program is able to raise $24,000 before the year 2020. The offer is designed to provide an incentive to strive for more students at Western to join the program.

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