Golden Apple inducts inaugural class into Accelerators’ program

Golden Apple inducts inaugural class into Accelerators’ program

Golden Apple announced Aug. 3 that it inducted 30 individuals into the inaugural class of the organization’s Accelerator’s Program, a residency and licensure expediting the preparation of highly-qualified teachers in areas of need, including southern, central and western Illinois.

Golden Apple organized the program in December 2019 in an effort to address Illinois’ teacher shortage crisis and help fill 1,800 vacant educator positions throughout the state.

The program targeted and recruited career changers who hold bachelor’s degrees as well as college seniors not in teacher preparation programs.

After receiving nearly 300 applications, the 30 accelerators were selected and officially began their training, virtually, this June.

Gillespie Community Unit School District No. 7 has an individual currently training to be an instructor at each of its three educational facilities. They are Evan Baugh (Ben-Gil Elementary), Nikki Katich (Gillespie Middle School) and Daniel Allen (Gillespie High School).

All program participants are to receive a $25,000 stipend to apply toward coursework or living expenses as they pursue their teaching license and coursework at a partner university. They will additionally participate in a one-year residency and training program in a targeted partner school district.

Accelerators will earn their teaching license by next summer and enter the teaching profession at the start of the 2021-22 school year with a job placement attached to a minumum four-year commitment to their assigned partner district.

“This inaugural class of accelerators will, over the next year, be readying themselves to enter the classroom in schools across southern, central, and western Illinois and start chipping away at the teacher shortage crisis facing districts across the state,” said Golden Apple President Alan Mather. “Through the work of our scholars program, Golden Apple has been working for more than 30 years to prepare future educators and this program is a great complement to this work as we look to resolve the teacher shortage.”

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 through significant experiences in active classrooms.

Golden Apple is partnering with two institutions of higher education – Blackburn College and Eastern Illinois University – where accelerators are taking their teacher licensure coursework. Classes include diversity in teacher education, educating children with exceptional needs, and curriculum, philosophy, and instructional methods of middle school teaching.

“Blackburn College recognizes that there are so many unfilled teaching positions in Illinois that need high quality teachers,” said Blackburn College Professor of Education and former Golden Apple Scholar Michelle Stacy. “We believe Blackburn can help provide opportunities by partnering with the Golden Apple Foundation to match high-need areas around the state with dedicated teacher candidates. We’re very excited to be a higher education partner.”

Over the next academic year, participants will continue their coursework while additionally participating in a teacher residency program in their partner school district four days each week.

Participants will complete any necessary final steps to meet Illinois State Board of Education licensure requirements during the following summer and will begin teaching in their own classrooms at the start of the 2021-22 school year.

“Our organization is in a position today to make a meaningful impact on this crisis thanks to support from both Governor Pritzker and the Illinois General Assembly,” said Golden Apple Chief Exceutive Officer Alicia Winckler. “They recognize the urgency associated with this crisis and we are very grateful that they have put their faith in Golden Apple to carry out this important work. In these uncertain times, we must remain committed to ensuring that children throughout the state, regardless of where they live or their income, have access to well-prepared and highly effective teachers so that students may reach their full potential.”

After the accelerators program pilot year, Golden Apple will strive to expand and partner with more districts across Illinois to introduce even more teachers into high-need schools and subject areas.

In addition to the accelerators program, Golden Apple is addressing the teacher shortage through its established Scholars program – a longer-term solution that uniquely prepares high school seniors plus first- and second-year Illinois college students to thrive in the most challenging school environments where resilient teachers are needed most.

This marks the fifth consecutive year that Golden Apple has inducted more than 200 Scholars into the program in response to the state’s teacher shortage. In total, more than 800 undergraduates are preparing to become teachers via the Golden Apple Scholars program and will fill vacancies throughout Illinois after graduation.

Together, the two programs are expected to deliver more than 200 new teachers and residents to Illinois classrooms in the 2020-21  school year.

For more information or to apply for the 2021 cohorts, visit www.goldenapple.org/accelerators.