3 Will County colleges join program to recruit more teachers of color

Lewis University, the University of St. Francis and Governors State University will participate in the pilot program

Three universities in Will County signed onto a statewide effort to increase diversity among Illinois teachers.

The Illinois State Board of Education recently announced that 24 colleges and universities had volunteered for a pilot program to develop plans to recruit and retain future teachers of color, according to a news release.

Lewis University in Romeoville, the University of St. Francis in Joliet and Governors State University in University Park were among the schools which signed up.

The program aims to establish best practices ahead of the ISBE requiring all 54 Illinois educator preparation programs to develop plans next year.

“The diversity of Illinois is one of our state’s greatest strengths – including in our classrooms,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement. “By recruiting faculty of color who share their students’ lived experiences or expand their perspectives, our schools can empower more students to achieve their goals and pursue their passions.”

State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala said in a statement she applauded the 24 institutions that volunteered to “lead the way in breaking down barriers for people of color to join the teaching profession.”

“All students, and especially students of color, benefit from having diverse educators throughout their school experiences,” Ayala said. “My own mentors in my career have been people of color like me. When the role models and people in positions of authority in our lives look like us, that shapes our perception of our place in the world in a positive and powerful way.”

USF College of Education Dean John Gambro said the pilot program aligns closely with his school’s top priorities.

“The University of St. Francis places equity and social justice as a top priority,” Gambro said in a statement. “The work of this pilot program is essential in ensuring that students in Illinois have access to teachers of color who can make a positive impact on the learning and development of all students.”

USF has already partnered with local school districts to help train students who want to become teachers.

The ISBE said diversifying the state teacher workforce is part of its three-year strategic plan. The 2021 Illinois Report Card released this month found that 82% of practicing Illinois teachers identify as white, whereas only 47% of public school students identify as white, according to the news release.