FREEPORT, ILLINOIS — The Highland Community College Board of Trustees approved the Elementary Education Pathway to support the completion of a Bachelor of Elementary Education with Western Illinois University (WIU).
The instructor-led classes will take place on the Highland campus and are open to Freeport High School students, while still in high school, to pursue a bachelor’s degree through WIU. Students who have already completed their associate’s degree are also eligible for this pathway to education.
“High school students can begin this educational pathway by taking dual credit courses through Highland, complete their Associate of Arts degree at Highland, and then transfer to Western Illinois University to complete their Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education,” said Chris Kuberski, president of Highland Community College.
By creating this partnership with WIU and local high schools such as Freeport, Highland is providing the opportunity for students to complete their coursework and student teaching without leaving the region. This is a true “grow your own” approach to identifying qualified teachers who will invest their talents within our region.
“This agreement addresses the regional shortage of qualified elementary teachers,” said Kuberski.
According to the Illinois State Board of Education, currently, there are 1,984 unfilled teaching positions in the state. Thirty of these vacancies are in Carroll, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, and Whiteside counties.
Chris Shockey, Director of Human Resources for the Freeport School District, said, “This partnership is the culmination of several conversations between the Freeport School District, Highland Community College and Western Illinois University over the last year and a half to identify how the three organizations can work together to address the teacher shortage in northwest Illinois.”
He adds, “This program eliminates the travel barrier some students experience, provides them the opportunity to gain valuable experience, and develop their teaching skills within the local districts, ideally resulting in many of them staying in the region to teach upon graduation.”
Beth Summers, Ph.D., principal of Freeport High Schools states, “The WIU agreement brings us full circle from YouScience aptitude testing in which indicates teaching is FHS’ top aptitude, to our LEAD Academy Teaching pathway at FHS, to HCC and WIU. Earning a WIU degree right here in Freeport is a game-changer for growing our future teachers and represents exactly what the career academy model is all about — growing our future workforce.”
The agreement will provide an opportunity for students to begin the Elementary Education Pathway at Freeport High School via dual credit, complete an Associate of Arts Degree at Highland, and complete the Bachelor of Education in Elementary Education from WIU on Highland’s campus.
“Students will build a strong educational foundation at Highland, where they can take advantage of small class sizes and individualized attention,” said Chelsea Martinez, Psychology/Education instructor. “They can then finish their degree and earn their Illinois Professional Educator license through WIU’s exemplary undergraduate Elementary Education program.”
She adds, “The partnership offers a flexible pathway for prospective teachers to complete a high-quality college education locally. There are many curious, enthusiastic, and creative students in our education courses at Highland and this partnership offers them a chance to pursue their educational and career goals in their community.”
For more on educational opportunities at Highland, visit highland.edu.