The University of Illinois Springfield School of Education has partnered with Springfield School District 186 to support the district’s new Diverse Workforce Pipeline Program. The goal of the program is to increase the number of diverse teachers in District 186 classrooms.
The new pipeline will allow current paraprofessionals, including substitute teachers, teacher’s aides and volunteers, already working for District 186 to finish educational requirements needed to become fully-licensed teachers. The accelerated program will allow students to become teachers in under two years.
“We are working together to reduce the teacher shortage in District 186, to fill the gap,” said Christie Magoulias, PhD, interim director of the UIS School of Education. “For the past several years, District 186 has needed additional teachers in areas such as early childhood, secondary education and special education. The need is everywhere.”
The District 186 paraprofessionals who take part in the pipeline will have their tuition, fees and books fully-funded by money awarded to District 186 through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). District 186 has allocated $2 million in ESSR III funds to make this opportunity available to teacher candidates. The federal ESSER funding was made possible through the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“When I approached UIS regarding establishing the Diverse Workforce Pipeline Program during the summer of 2021, and asked them if we could jointly make this a reality, the response was an emphatic “Yes!,” said Jamar Scott, chief equity and school improvement officer for Springfield School District 186. “We began a series of meetings in a which we determined the logistics for District 186 candidates to have a streamlined admissions, enrollment and registration processes as well as ongoing support as they matriculate through UIS’ degree and/or teacher certification programs.”
Magoulias said the partnership creates a unique opportunity for paraprofessionals, who are interested in becoming licensed teachers, to earn their degree for free, move into a full-time teaching position and increase their salary.
“We’re focused on finding paraprofessionals that have already earned some college credits towards the teaching license they need,” Magoulias said. “So, if they already have a bachelor’s degree, all they need to do to become a licensed teacher is finish their coursework in education and pass required licensing tests. If they have an associate's degree, they can finish their bachelor’s degree with us at UIS in a variety of subject areas and also the education coursework in order to become a licensed teacher.”
The goal of the program is to have at least 24 paraprofessionals enrolled in the pipeline at UIS over the next two years, with a special focus on diversifying the teacher workforce with teachers of color and first-generation college students.
“I am very hopeful that our partnership will enable a significant number of diverse teacher applicants to obtain certification within the ESSR III funding cycle,” Scott said. “We have eight future teacher candidates who have been admitted to UIS and the Diverse Teacher Workforce Pipeline so far. We are hopeful that we will multiply this number significantly over the next several semesters.”
The UIS partnership with District 186 came about due to a longstanding relationship between the School of Education and the district.
“We’re increasing the UIS footprint to help our community,” Magoulias said. “Because we already had a good partnership between District 186 and the School of Education, we were able to work through several complications and advise students through personal attention because we share the same goal – reducing the teacher shortage in our local schools and getting teachers trained for the workforce – because we need qualified teachers right now.”
The UIS School of Education hopes to create teacher pipelines with other districts in the near future and is currently in communication with Peoria Public Schools District 150 and Ball-Chatham Community Unit School District No. 5.