Valley View schools using state program to address teacher shortage

Valley View School District  Paraprofessional Dana Gilbreath signs her commitment to the VVSD Elevate U program with VVSD Director of Human Resources Dr. Rovel Pollock.

Valley View Community School District 365U is putting to use financial support and resources from a state program to elevate teachers and at the same time address teacher shortages.

Twelve Valley View staff members are pursuing master’s degrees and special skill certifications that will lead to their becoming certified teachers and filling vacancies through the State of Illinois Teacher Vacancy Grant pilot program, according to a news release from Valley View 356U.

VVSD Director of Human Resources Rovel Pollock initiated Elevate U by piloting a Grow Your Own Program last year despite limited funding, according to the release.

The teacher vacancy grant played a crucial role in supporting the expansion of initiatives to develop paraprofessionals into qualified classroom teachers. To facilitate the program, VVSD is working in partnership with BloomBoard, a talent development provider helping school districts with educator advancement solutions, according to the release.

A portion of the district’s annual grant will underwrite on-the-job degree and certification programs for educators currently working full-time in VVSD who also commit to an additional three years of service after completing the program, according to the release.

Among the initial class of 12 is current VVSD paraprofessional Dana Gilbreath.

Gilbreath is in her fifth year as a paraprofessional at Brooks Middle School, her 16th with VVSD overall and is pursuing a master’s degree in teaching and learning in English language arts.

“Teaching has always been a love of mine and something that I wanted to do. I earned my bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1999 and intended to become a teacher,” Gilbreath said in the release. “But life has a funny way of happening and taking you down different paths. With this program, I now have the chance to finish my working career doing exactly what I have always wanted to do.”

Gilbreath made her commitment to becoming a full-time teacher official at a special “signing ceremony” hosted by VVSD in mid-November.

Research supports the importance of investing in the expertise of educational support staff because of the likelihood of retention and established best teaching practices, the district said.

“Securing funding through the teacher vacancy grant was a source of great excitement for VVSD, particularly because it allows us to expand our efforts by offering an on-the-job apprenticeship in collaboration with Bloomboard for our paraprofessionals,” Pollack said in the release “Witnessing the realization of this program is a dream come true, as it brings to life VVSD’s strategic plan.”

“We’re excited to be able to grow and advance our current staff while they continue to support our learners and school community,” said Rachel Kinder, VVSD superintendent of schools. “Thanks to the teacher vacancy grant and BloomBoard’s apprenticeship model, we can make career advancement attainable and a benefit of employment in Valley View while we also build our talent pipeline and work to fill critical teacher vacancies.”