Naperville District 204 Grows Its Own Teachers

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The next generation of Indian Prairie School District 204 teachers may be walking the halls already. The District is working to attract current students to become its own next generation of teachers with a new Grow Your Own Teachers program.  Since summer 2021, the district has collaborated with the Indian Prairie Education Association to create activities and clubs that encourage kids to consider education as a career.

Growing Future Teachers

“We want to start with introducing them to what its like to be an educator as young as kindergarten, and then also working all the way up through high school to provide them with some real tangible examples of being an educator,” according to Dr. Louis Lee, the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources.

The program starts with “The World of Work,” an elementary curriculum where kids learn about a variety of careers, including education.

Middle school students can join clubs that simulate classroom settings and learn about the profession directly from educators.

High school kids can job-shadow teachers and learn about lesson planning, and talk with universities about education at career fairs like the one that kicked off this program.

“We know that if we can get more people to take a look under that hood and really understand what it’s like to have that engine running, they’ll have more appreciation for what it means to actually be a teacher in the end,” Lee said.

Teacher Shortage Solution

The program also aims to help secure District 204’s future in the midst of a nationwide teacher shortage. The district hasn’t seen the negative effects of the shortage that some other districts have, but they want to stay ahead of the issue.

“We don’t want to wait to where we have a lot of openings in our general ed teaching staff. We want to be proactive and be able to start to think about how we’re going to fill those openings,” Lee said.

Coming Home

Over 200 of the district’s current teachers are alumni of the district already, with some of them actively working on this new program themselves. That familiarity can have great benefits for teachers.

“For me, it’s a sense of comfort to come back here, it’s home, it’s a sense of familiarity. A lot of the teachers that I had growing up, both in middle school and high school, are still here, so it’s a built in support system,” according to Indian Prairie Education Association President Katie Popp.

Supporting students now to lead the next generation.

Naperville News 17’s Casey Flanagan reports.

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