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By Cynthia Haggitt
Schools have started and according to a press release from the Associated Press website, “A statewide study from regional school superintendents found that Illinois’ teacher shortage continues to worsen, especially in school districts in Central and Southern Illinois.”
Illinois is one of many states facing this problem. In the education system, the Illinois School of Education has been using programs such as the Golden Apple Accelerators program to help combat this shortage.
Golden Apple Accelerators provides a path to teaching for career-changers and college seniors who commit to living and teaching in targeted school districts in Southern, Central, and Western Illinois for four years after obtaining their teaching license.
“I used this program last year, we were the inaugural group, the first group of leaders and that was last year, Nikki Katich said. “This is an accelerated teacher licensure program and it is aimed towards career changing adults that already have a bachelor’s degree in some other fields other than education.
Katich has bachelors in business marketing and is in her early forties, and she went into teaching because she loved it and wanted a career change. So, she started substitute teaching in her home district where she lives and learned about the program from her principal.
“Golden Apple partners with accredited universities, colleges, who have a teacher license or program who will give instructions in the summer. It’s very intense taking alot of credit hours(up to 18 hrs) in a short period of time. But as long as you follow the path laid out for you, a person will be okay depending on how they test and study,” Katich said.
She said she continued with a large coursework online in the fall.
“I did another 15 hours, credit hours, and also in a classroom. And then I was ready to teach in the spring of last year. So I am a licensed special education teacher. I was part of the first group to go through and I went through Blackburn College. There’s many perks to this program and you are given a stipend which helps pay for tuition, so the education is free. There is a mentorship program where I am genuinely mentored by highly qualified teachers that have been in the profession for years and years and years.” Katich said.
She said she will always have that mentor mentoring program access because she was part of this program. Nikki was amazed at how much help she received from the program. She mentioned that the Golden Apple Accelerator’s program will help you find a job, they help you with placement and the program itself goes beyond just getting a license to teach. It is a program that will help you throughout your teaching career commitments.
According to the Golden Apples Accelerator website, “The Accelerators program was designed to meet the teacher shortage crisis head on throughout Southern, Central and Western Ill by recruiting, preparing and mentoring college seniors and non-educators with bachelor’s degrees looking to make a difference in classrooms right in their communities. Here are some of the requirements a person needs to follow and what a future student will get as they go through the program to obtain a teaching license within 15 months. Here is some of that information from their webpage:
• “Up to $25,000 stipend to apply to coursework and/or housing,”
• “One-year residency and training program in a targeted partner school district in Southern, Central, or Western Ill,”
• “Pursue coursework and earn credit at a partner university,”
• “Job placement in a partner school district in Southern, Central, or Western Ill; begin teaching full-time in Fall 2023,”
• “Instruction from award-winning educators,”
• “Mentoring in the first years of teaching,”
• “College seniors attending universities or colleges who are not currently on a teaching pathway,”
• “Career-changers who hold bachelor’s degrees,”
• “Illinois residents, U.S. citizens, eligible non-citizens, or Illinois Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students live in or are from communities in Southern, Central, or Western Illinois,”
• “Able to commit to working in an Illinois school-of-need for four years after program completion.”
• GPA requirement. Golden Apple does not have their own GPA requirement for Accelerator participants. However, Golden Apple works with university partners who may have their own GPA requirements. Golden Apple matches their requirement to whatever the candidate’s university partner requires.
• Subject matter areas of need. According to the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools’ 2020 Educator Shortage Study, some of the hardest to fill positions are in: Special Education, Math, Science, Social Work, Psychology, and Speech Path. Positions in ELA (English Language Arts) and P.E. are becoming increasingly difficult to fill as well.
• For more information about how to apply to the program a person can go to their website at :www.goldenapple.org.