Accelerators Program Recruiting More Aspiring Educators to Address Illinois’ Teacher Shortage Crisis
Golden Apple, an Illinois nonprofit committed to preparing, supporting, and mentoring aspiring teachers, is now accepting applicants for its Accelerator’s class of 2021. The one-year teacher residency and licensure program expedites the preparation of highly-qualified teachers in areas throughout the state that are most in need – notably southern, central, and western Illinois. Golden Apple launched the program last December to address Illinois’ teacher shortage crisis and fill critical positions throughout our state, and this work is more critical now than ever before as the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the growing teacher shortage with nearly 2,000 teacher vacancies across Illinois at the start of 2020.
Accelerators targets and recruits career changers with bachelor’s degrees and college seniors not enrolled in teacher preparation programs. Participants receive: a $25,000 to $30,000 stipend for coursework or living expenses as they pursue a teaching license; courses at a partner university; and participate in a one-year residency and training program in a targeted partner school district. Golden Apple is striving to expand its ‘Accelerators’ program in 2021 by setting a goal to accept 150-200 participants, adding additional licensure pathways including Elementary and Early Childhood Education, and partnering with additional higher education partners and school districts across Illinois.
“While school districts across Illinois have struggled to fill select teaching positions in recent years, unfortunately, COVID-19 has exacerbated the situation and led to widespread shortages,” said Alicia Winckler, CEO of Golden Apple. “Golden Apple has a proven track record of preparing future educators. At this time, we are strengthening our commitment to grow to become a material solution to the teacher shortage. By doing the right work in a high quality way, we put Illinois children on a path to reach their full potential.”
In its inaugural year, 30 Accelerators were selected from nearly 300 applications and began their training, virtually, in June of 2020. They will earn their teaching licenses by the summer of 2021. Participants were placed in 22 school districts throughout southern, central, and western Illinois and will teach in that partner school district for at least four years. Over 50% of the class already had classroom experience, and all are pursuing teaching licenses in several high-need subject areas: Special Education, Science, Physical Education, Business, English Language Arts (ELA) and English as a Second Language (ESL).
“Our inaugural class of Accelerators have already played a pivotal role in impacting the lives and futures of students adapting to remote learning and those adapting to hybrid learning models in schools across southern, central, and western Illinois, and now we’re looking to the future to see how we can expand with our 2021 class,” said Alan Mather, President of Golden Apple. “The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the growing teacher shortage which makes Golden Apple’s work to resolve the shortage by expanding the state’s pipeline of highly effective educators through inspiring, developing, and supporting teacher and school leader excellence in Illinois, especially in schools-of-need, more important than ever.”
The one-year residency and licensure program serves the dual purpose of providing immediate, additional teaching assistance to understaffed districts while better preparing the cohort of new teachers with highly qualified oversight. Once the 2021 class is selected and inducted, participants will begin pursuing their teacher license in the summer of 2021 with the goal to begin teaching in their own classrooms at the start of the 2022/2023 academic year.
Golden Apple is continuing partnerships with Blackburn College and Eastern Illinois University. The organization is also continuing to have meetings with prospective new higher education and school district partners across the state. Here’s how the partnership will work: Partner districts will provide a valuable residency placement to an Accelerator, place a mentor teacher from the district with the Accelerator, allow for appropriate release time to complete university coursework, and partner to hire the Accelerator and enhance the development of the Accelerator in the two years following the residency. To learn more about or apply for the program, interested parties can visit: www.goldenapple.org/accelerators.
“This is our first year partnering with Golden Apple and the Accelerator program. Currently, the Freeport School District has one Accelerator in our district, and we are hopeful this number will increase,” said Dr. Anna Alvarado, Superintendent of Freeport School District. “The Accelerator program benefits everyone; individuals with bachelor’s degrees wanting to become teachers and the district by placing future educators who commit to staying for four years upon successful completion of the program in our buildings.”
Golden Apple is also addressing the teacher shortage through its established Scholars program, which recruits high school seniors and first-and second-year college students in Illinois to thrive in challenging school environments where teachers are needed the most. In total, more than 800 Scholars participated in Scholars Institutes this past summer to prepare to become teachers in schools-of-need throughout the state. Together, Accelerators and Scholars will deliver hundreds of new teachers and teacher residents to Illinois classrooms in the 2020/2021 school year alone.
Golden Apple has a proven track record of preparing resilient educators, retaining 82% of their Scholars who began teaching for five years or more, compared to Illinois’ retention rate of 54%. In addition to addressing the teacher shortage in terms of overall quantity, Golden Apple’s future growth will support increased diversity inside the profession. Right now, only 15% of Illinois teachers are teachers of color. In sharp contrast, over half of Golden Apple Scholars are teachers of color. By recruiting Scholars who later return to teach in the communities from which they came, Scholars inspire students with similar backgrounds and cultures. Research demonstrates that students of color grow more academically when they see teachers and leaders that look like them and with whom they can relate culturally.
About Golden Apple
Golden Apple’s mission is to inspire, develop and support teacher and school leader excellence in Illinois, especially in schools-of-need. Our leading-edge preparation delivers exceptional teachers who make an impact. We help students thrive in the classroom and in life. Since our beginning, we have recognized master educators annually; and, these master educators prepare the future generation of teachers. Our vision is an Illinois in which every classroom has a great teacher and to realize this, we are committed to making a material difference in resolving the teacher shortage throughout Illinois. Visit www.goldenapple.org/accelerators for more information, or to apply to the 2021 Accelerators cohort.