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Illinois State University Chicago Teacher Pipeline

Illinois State's STEP-UP Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline Featured on PBS NewsHour With GAGDC Auburn Gresham GOLD Highlights!

Illinois State moves up in U.S. News ranking Illinois State adds Starbucks location as additional dining option Fall 2016 Speaker Series announced CAST Hall of Fame inductees for 2016 Reactions: Flooding could be sign of new normal International Business Institute focus of U-Club, September 16 Research and Honors Screening of the film The Hunting Ground, September 19 Celebrate autumn at the ISU Horticulture Center, September 17 Planetarium show explores telescope technology

The nearly 9-minute segment focused on the College of Education’s Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline (CTEP) and its Summer Teacher Education Partnership for Urban Preparation (STEP-UP) program.

Reporter Lisa Stark interviewed several STEP-UP Fellows, who completed the one-month summer internship prior to student teaching. The Illinois State students live with a host family, collaborate with community-based organizations, and intern with a neighborhood school.

“These schools deserve good teachers, just like any other school district.” —Asia-Ana Williams

STEP-UP provides Fellows an in-depth understanding of one partner community by fully immersing them in the neighborhood and is the best way to prepare to become a Chicago Public Schools teacher. Since 2010, 91 percent of STEP-UP alumni who began their teaching careers in Chicago are still in the district.

Illinois State student and STEP-UP Fellow Asia-Ana Williams was featured in the NewsHour story. Williams grew up in Chicago and is working in the largely Hispanic community of Little Village.

“We all came from so many different backgrounds, but I think that the common ground was always that we all wanted to be good teachers,” Williams told NewsHour. “These schools deserve good teachers, just like any other school district.”

Learn more about the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline and the College of Education, which is the largest preparer of teachers in Illinois.

Watch the full video above and read the recap at STEP-UP was also featured on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight program in 2015.

A short video produced by Education Week also features Illinois State alumna Kyla Bailenson, assistant principal in Chicago’s William G. Hibbard Elementary School, talking about the importance of a student-centered, culturally relevant curriculum.

Ryan Denham can be reached at


A close, multi-year partnership with The Chicago Teacher Pipeline Partnership out of Illinois Sate University's College of Education.  A preeminent urban teacher education program focusing on not only the development of well trained urban educators, but also the development of students in inner city communities on the south, west and north sides of Chicago.  Utilizing the stratgey of total immersion for the prospective teachers, the GADC as community partner, our network of community-engaged schools and our community based partners all benefit from the resources brought to us by the TEACHER + PLUS program. 

Digging Deeper in Auburn Gresham: A first-person perspective

During this spring semester the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline (CTEP) staff and our community partners have launched a pilot to enhance our urban redesigned courses and the complementary clinical visits.   In Auburn Gresham, Sheenita Robinson of Greater Auburn Gresham Community Development Corporation (GAGDC) and I set out to develop a more engaging and mutually beneficial clinical visit planning process.  Sheenita shares her thoughts with me about why it is important to collaborate with ISU faculty for their upcoming clinical visits; "This is not a momentary visit; we hope that faculty can come in and think about the visit as an opportunity to engage and become invested in our community" she said. Through our partnerships with local community based organizations ISU students and faculty engaged with CTEP have all positively contributed to our three partner communities of Auburn Gresham, Albany Park and Little Village as well as gained invaluable knowledge and experiences.

The goal of our programing and our community partnerships is to continue this symbiotic relationship and use our collaboration as a platform to elevate the caliber of urban education students that will hopefully become CPS teachers. Urban redesigned courses and our clinical visits are often the first opportunity ISU students have to explore possibilities of teaching in an urban setting. Therefore we work to produce an experience that is intentional and inspiring to our future urban education students.

  1. Transition from School to Adulthood SED 360 is an example of how this elevated collaboration came to fruition. Sheenita and I held several Skype and conference calls with Dr. Shelden as we worked to create an event that would benefit our ISU students' education as well as the Auburn Gresham community and schools. Dr. Shelden's goal for the trip was for her students to "gain an understanding of students, families and community organizations…views on barriers and assets related to successful transition for youth with disabilities or who are 'at risk.'" Dr. Shelden had a vision to create a semester long project in which an initial trip could bring ISU students face to face with community partners that work within programs that assist youth with these transitional skills.Since communities and higher education groups rarely cross collaborate in this manner, it took the expertise and developed relationships of GAGDC and our community liaison Sheenita to pull together a panel of professionals that would be open to work on an ongoing basis with students to develop curriculum and programing that would support special education students and "at risk youth" in life skills development. Through their network we gained partnerships with, Urban Partnership Bank, Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago and CVS Health.

On a sunny, but cold day in February our ISU students attended a panel discussion with these community representatives at Urban Partnership Bank. Our panelist began explaining their role in their organizations and how they serve the Auburn Gresham community. The ISU students asked several questions about barriers for urban youth and lack of resources to support these initiatives. The panelists were open about their hurdles to overcome; however, explained how they are creatively solving some of these bigger social issues by building alliances. Aurora Cruz of GAGDC shared how she brings ex-offenders to CAPS meetings to help them transition back into the mainstream and find resources that can keep them "on track." Urban Partnership Bank shared how they have designed banking systems that can help families that have made financial missteps, fix their credit. Amy Lawrence an ISU alum and current special educator at Simeon high school talked about how she has worked to gain her students and families trust in a community that she does not reflect racially.

After the panel we all enjoyed a meal from a locally Black owned and operated restaurant. For many of our students this was their first experience trying gumbo. During our lunch we broke out into small working groups so students could meet one on one with representatives from our partner organizations to strategize project ideas that would benefit the community. Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago Executive Director, Jannice Simmons, spoke to the students about the challenge of getting people to attend financial literacy workshops. Jannice explained how they have developed a targeted, block by block strategy, that centers around a local elementary school to engage families that may be in a housing crisis. The students in this group strategized on how engaging students in school could pull the parents in. "I remember in my elementary school we had an interactive fair in which we used play money," said one ISU student. Other students thought about incentives they could give families to interest them in attending a financial literacy workshop. Sheenita shared how "just developing a plan that could help teachers reach out to parents about financial literacy is a big help."Many teachers in CPS want to support their families, but they often do not always have the time to develop a plan to get it done. The students and Dr. Shelden will continue to develop curriculum and or an action plan that they will deliver back to the Auburn Gresham community.

During our planning process for Dr. Shelden's visit, Sheenita and I ran against some significant barriers in getting organizations involved due to massive state funding cuts. Being involved in the community, it is very evident to us how these funding cuts in early childhood education, youth employment and violence prevention initiatives impact the delicate web of social services. However, we quickly realized that many ISU students do not share in our experience of how vital these resources are to struggling communities. In response, we created a Community Resources Simulator workshop for the students and developed three scenarios based on real stories of some our neediest families. Sheenita pulled together a local resource guide that could help these families with their complex real life challenges. We divided the students into groups and asked them to take the place of these families and use the resource guide to come up with a plan of how they would problem solve their current situation. Our students worked together to come up with some comprehensive plans. It was inspiring to see them make connections we had not even anticipated. Many of them highlighted one of Auburn Gresham's key institutions St. Sabina Church and their Arch Youth Center and Employment Center. After they came to their own understanding of how these resources could help their fictitious families navigate hardships, we had an honest dialogue of how our state cuts have significantly impaired their ability to deliver these services and in some instances the services no longer exist because of these dollars being pulled. This was a great exercise in letting our future urban educators get a taste of what life is really like for their urban students. We hope to continue to build and strengthen this bridge between ISU students and our partner communities. Our goal is that these clinical visits will prepare our students to utilize their imagination and problem solving skills to become prepared and influential urban educators.


CONNECT 2014-2015 Launches at Westcott and Madero

by Linnea Kennedy

Civic Opportunities to Network Needs for Educational and Community Transformation (CONNECT), is a mentorship program designed to promote positive youth development in public schools. CONNECT pairs Illinois State University (ISU) student mentors with middle school students, and together the pair forms a relationship through weekly Skype sessions, in-person school visits, and a mentee-designed community service project. This 9-month volunteer, service-learning program is open to all ISU teacher education majors who may wish to teach in urban, high need communities. The ISU CONNECT Initiative serves both Chicago Public Schools (CPS), and local schools in Normal, Illinois.

"CONNECT has a strong foundation in that it was formulated with evidence-based, best practices in mind that have been documented for youth development programs," explains Dr. Gary Creasey, Assistant Director of the TEACHER+PLUS project and Director of CONNECT. "[CONNECT] has clear goals and outcomes, and allows college students to help their mentees clarify a pathway to college. As many mentorship programs are designed to steer youth from negative outcomes, CONNECT is innovative in that there is a strong focus on positive youth development," Creasey notes.

Taylor Knowles, a sophomore Music Education major at ISU, is a CONNECT mentor paired with a student at Madero Middle School, located in Little Village, one of the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline (CTEP) partner communities. This is her first year participating in CONNECT. "I was interested in mentoring a CPS student partly because I want to teach in an urban area, and because I believed it would be a really positive, beneficial experience for my future mentee and me," she explained.

"I really enjoyed going to Madero and meeting my mentee," she said. "On the day I met my mentee for the first time she was incredibly talkative and not shy at all, but now that we're video chatting she does not talk nearly as much, which I was not expecting. This has pushed me to get creative with the way we talk, and instead of trying to have a simple conversation, I try to have some sort of question game to help keep the conversation going. I think this has been really helpful so far, so I'm excited to see how it progresses as the year goes on."

Lisa Browning, a senior Middle Level Education major, is a CONNECT mentor paired with a student at Westcott Elementary School located in Auburn Gresham, another CTEP partner community. As the president of Phi Sigma Sigma, Browning receives weekly emails to distribute to sorority members about various leadership opportunities available to ISU students. After receiving an email that included information on CONNECT, Browning was intrigued. "I did some research on CONNECT and I was really fascinated by it… I was interested in mentoring a CPS student because I wanted to get to know a student whose experience in school was different than mine," she explained. "CONNECT has given me the opportunity to get to know a new environment and discover what other students' daily lives are like."

Like Knowles, Browning also reports a positive first year experience in CONNECT. "The students were so excited when we were able to visit them and shadow them during their school day," Browning says. "My mentee introduced me to everyone she knew and I helped her with her schoolwork. Our Skype sessions have been successful. My mentee keeps me up to date on what is going on in school and in her personal life. I learn a lot about how the school is organized, which helps me as a college student striving for a degree in education," she notes.

"We have documented that CONNECT mentors have strong intentions to teach in urban schools from the program onset," Creasey declares. "What changes is urban teaching efficacy, or a growing confidence that one can make an impact in urban schools and communities. CONNECT mentors are often ethnically, culturally, economically, and geographically very different than the mentees they are working with. As the mentee often educates the mentors about the realities of their lives, schools, and communities, it is often difficult to discern who is the mentee and who is the mentor."

Currently, this year's cohort of CONNECT mentors are working on service learning project ideas to implement in spring 2015. "We are all understanding our students and figuring out what they want to make their community a better place. As mentors, we communicate with one another weekly and brainstorm ideas," Browning reports. Previous CONNECT community service projects have included refurbishing a neighborhood playground, establishing a teen reading room at North River Elementary, and repainting garden beds at Madero. (Pictured at left) "The Community Garden was a success," reports Rita Marquez, Madero site coordinator and 6th-8th grade Visual Arts teacher. "The students worked on planning, designing, and painting planters that captured the spirit of Little Village through traditional motifs of birds and patterns. The vivid colors of the planters and the lush blooms of squash, peppers, and tomatoes contributed a stunning view for our neighborhood."


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