Illinois Teacher Shortage And COVID-19

WNIJ’s Peter Medlin reports:

Spencer Tritt

It’s feared COVID-19 will make the current lack of teachers in Illinois even worse. That’s because some older and at-risk teachers are hesitant to come back to school during the pandemic.

The new Golden Apple Accelerators was created to speed up the process of getting aspiring educators into the classroom.

Josh Greve is just about to start his training to become a special education teacher at a middle school in Sterling. Like many “accelerators,” he didn’t go to school to become a teacher.

“But I had all these TA [teaching assistant] jobs throughout college. And what I learned is that I really liked helping people and really like teaching people things,” he said.

He’ll spend a year training hands on in the classroom while taking online licensing courses. After that, “accelerators” get hired to teach full time in those districts for four years.

Because of the pandemic, he still hasn’t met his mentor in person, even though school starts in less than a week.

Sterling has a blended online and in-person schedule this year. But, like many schools, they’re prioritizing hands-on work for students with special needs, so he won’t do much online teaching.

“I’m excited to get back into school and work one-on-one with students or with groups of students, rather than just sending out emails or doing video calls,” said Greve. “Because I think we can all agree it’s getting a bit old, even though it’s all we have right now.”

He will do online learning. As part of the program, he’s been taking online classes so he can get his teaching license by next year and start working full time.

The program is focusing on high-need positions like special education, bilingual-ed or STEM.

This year, there are around 4,800 unfilled education positions including nearly 2,000 teaching jobs.