SHELBYVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Eastern Illinois University has launched a pilot program to encourage students training to be teachers to consider looking for employment in rural communities rather than urban centers.
Doug Bower, dean of education at Eastern Illinois, said the program, called Teacher Corps, takes students on trips to rural districts to tour schools and talk to teachers about their experiences working there, the (Decatur) Herald and Review reported.
“The whole idea is for them to get to know faculty, get to know students, get to know the staff, and get to know the community,” said Bower. “To us, the most important part of a rural school is that partnership between school and community and how it all co-exists.”
A group of Eastern Illinois University students recently visited schools in Shelbyville and were greeted with open arms.
“The staff and administrators in Shelbyville wouldn’t trade their close-knit community, and they wanted to help the young teachers-to-be to see it through their eyes. Every teacher in every building knows every kid’s name. If that’s the kind of atmosphere you want to teach in, a rural school is the right place.” said Denise Bence, district superintendent of Shelbyville.
Illinois schools had over 2,800 vacant positions as of last fall, according to data from the State Board of Education.
A 2015 survey found that 60 percent of districts in the state had trouble filling all of their teaching positions, according to the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools.
Russ Tomblin, principal of Moulton Middle School, said he told the students that even if they don’t decide to teach in Shelbyville, he hopes they would still consider working in a rural district.
“The reason you should consider a rural location is because of the community,” Tomblin said. “Our community is outstanding and you get a chance to feel that you’re really a part of it.”