The mission of Prairie Area Teaching Initiative is to inspire and support aspiring teachers from historically marginalized populations.

Real Ax Throwing ~ Fall 2023
Front row, left to right: Kelly Johnston, Hailee Hamilton, Callen Reitz
Back row, left to right: Tyler Wikoff, Grace Blair, Kaydence Lehman, Jeremy Hughes, Dr. Gray

What is PATI?

Prairie Area Teaching Initiative (PATI) is an initiative embedded within the School of Education. We recruit first-generation students, students of diversity, paraprofessionals, and/or substitute teachers from Illinois and grant support as they become future Illinois educators. 

PATI offers participants a unique support system characterized by mentoring and special opportunities to interact with local communities and students. The School of Education recommends candidates to the Illinois State Educator Preparation and Licensure Board for a Professional Educator License upon completion of requirements. In return, graduates agree to teach in Illinois for at least two years if said employment is available. 

Participants enrolled in PATI are provided a series of planned activities and incentives to increase motivation to teach in the local area and improve their aptitude for teaching. They are involved in both professional and volunteer efforts supporting the education of students. Each participant must complete a minimum of 10 hours of service learning per semester. 

Application Process

Available PATI Scholarships

  • Melinda and Alfred LaBarre Scholarship: As a former teacher, principal and Ball Foundation Consultant to the Springfield Ball Charter School, as well as member of Springfield’s District 186 School Board, Melinda LaBarre has invested many years in the educational integrity of Springfield’s students. Melinda and her husband, attorney Alfred “Pete” LaBarre, have established the Melinda A. and Alfred B. LaBarre Scholarship which will honor a qualified high school graduate of Springfield’s public school district with a minimum high school GPA of 3.0 upon graduation.
  • Peggy and Micah Bartlett Scholarship: Micah Bartlett was in the first generation of his family to graduate from college, earning an accounting degree from UIS and then going on to earn an MBA and his CPA license. Today Micah is president and CEO of Town and Country Financial Corporation. His wife, Peggy Bartlett, has also worked in banking. She now owns Colour Line Hair Studio in Geneva, Illinois. In 2008, Peggy and Micah visited a class with students in PATI, which helps to prepare students to become teachers. Many of the students are first-generation college students like Micah. The Bartletts were impressed with the students’ commitment and drive, and because they believe so strongly in education, they created a scholarship for students in the program.
  • Betty and Ralph Hurwitz Scholarship: This scholarship is part of a larger gift given by Ralph and Betty Hurwitz, long-time residents of Springfield. They established this larger fund to achieve three things for PATI: provide this current-use scholarship, help to purchase computers and other technology, and meet other needs in the program. Of note: Ralph Hurwitz, a realtor and developer in Springfield, was among the Springfield leaders who helped to establish Sangamon State University (which later became the University of Illinois Springfield). This group met every Saturday for a year locating and securing the land for the university.

Important Links

Prairie Area Teaching Initiative Staff

Dr. Ronda Gray
PATI Director
Brookens 328
Phone: (217) 206-7008

Rachel Rambach
PATI Graduate Assistant
Brookens 383