STERLING — Carmen I. Ayala, state superintendent of education, will be on hand to greet students aspiring to careers in education and also provide the featured presentation during an April 29 symposium at Sauk Valley Community College.
The symposium is the work of a partnership between the college and Regional Office of Education 47 to address the teacher shortage, which is statewide in scope but is keenly felt in northwest Illinois.
“The teacher shortage is getting kind of scary, to tell the truth,” said Chanda McDonnell with ROE 47.
Eight out of 10 school districts in Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties said in a 2021 survey they are experiencing problems filling openings for teachers and substitute teachers — and most think the problem will get only worse.
The survey, which was conducted by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendent of Schools, revealed that 18% of posted teacher positions in Sauk Valley schools went unfilled or were filled with a hire deemed “less-than-qualified.”
The shortages are no longer felt by one type of location, the survey showed. More than 80% of districts in urban centers, the suburbs and rural communities all report hiring difficulties.
The symposium is an opportunity for high school-age students who are considering a vocation in education to meet with Ayala and other local administrators, investigate different career paths, and talk to retired teachers about personal and professional fulfillment the job brings.
Representatives of the state’s colleges and universities will also be on hand to talk about their teaching programs.
The immediate goal of the Education Pathways programs run by area high schools is to let students explore the teaching career path before college and see if it suits them.
But ultimately, McDonnell says, it’s to start a pipeline so qualified and certified teachers make their way back to their home regions to start their careers.
“We’re hoping they will build that feeling to come back,” McDonnell said.
At the symposium there will also be a ceremony for those area students who have already earned an Education Endorsement on their high school diploma.
Area districts that have existing Pathways programs or are in the process of developing them are Dixon Public Schools, Rock Falls High School, Morrison, River Bend in Fulton, Amboy, Sterling Public Schools, Ashton-Franklin Center, Prophetstown-Lyndon-Tampico, Forrestville Valley and the Regional Center for Change.
A Career and Technical Education pathway grant from the Illinois State Board of Education is paying for the event.
The CTE program was created by the state legislature in 2016 under the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act, more commonly referred to as the PWR Act. It requires schools develop career-readiness pathways that, when completed, are reflected by special endorsements on graduate diplomas.
In the Education Pathway, there is an individualized learning plan that includes coursework, six hours of post-secondary credit and college readiness in math and English language arts. The students take part in 60 hours of work-paced learning. The schools are to provide mentors who serve as guides for those students who are taking part. This includes job shadowing, career fairs and building skills to give them an edge in gaining employment.
For more information about attending the symposium, contact McDonnell at 815-677-2457.
Carmen I. Ayala
State Superintendent of Education
Illinois State Board of Education
Career: Superintendent at Berwyn North District 98. Also administrative posts at Plainfield District 202, Community Consolidated District 300, Aurora East District 131. Bilingual-bicultural education teacher at Chicago Public Schools.
Education: Bachelor’s degree Mundelein College, master’s degree Dominican University, doctorate Loyola University-Chicago.