By Andrea Lynn
One of American education's most vexing problems -- the shortage of non-white teachers -- is being met head-on in the country's heartland.
The College of Education at the UI has been selected to lead a major partnership program to encourage minority students to become teachers.
The program, "Teachers for the 21st Century: Recruiting, Mentoring and Placing Culturally Diverse Teachers," is supported by a three-year $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Bonnie Armbruster and Georgia Earnest Garcia, professors in the college's department of curriculum and instruction, are co-principal investigators of the project. Illinois is one of three institutions to receive a grant from the Education Department's new grant program to attract minorities to teaching.
According to Armbruster, the dearth of minority teachers is "a particularly significant problem given the growing number of children from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds who are entering our schools today. Not only do we need minority teachers to serve as role models, but we also need their knowledge and input to help the rest of us learn how to better serve minority populations."
The UI plan is to identify students who indicate an interest in teaching; to provide them with high-quality professional development experiences and support; and to institute a network of mentoring and placement that prepares the students to enter the field of teaching and supports them in their job search and their first years of teaching. College of Education partners include South Suburban College, Elgin Community College, the Golden Apple Foundation for Excellence in Teaching, City Year Chicago, The Association of Illinois Middle-level Schools, the Illinois Alliance of Essential Schools and a consortium of human resource directors from six Illinois school districts.
Melva S. Kelly, a former Chicago schoolteacher, has been selected as project coordinator. Other College of Education team members include professors Eunice Greer and Arlette Ingram Willis, curriculum and instruction; Betty Merchant, educational organization and leadership; and Mildred Trent, director of the Educational Placement Office.
The project team's first job will be to put together an advisory committee and to begin searching for resources already available on the campus, Armbruster said. The team hopes to be in the field -- at middle schools, high schools and community colleges -- by next spring.
"The program is in place," Armbruster said. "We just have to find the students to come into it." There is no limit on the number of students that will be brought into the program, she said, and there is every hope that financial aid will be available to them. Armbruster also hopes that the grant money is just the beginning of a continuing effort at Illinois to recruit, support and place minority teachers. Among other things, the team will be looking for corporate support.