Participants in the teacher pathways gathering funded by grants from Galesburg Community Foundation and the Compeer Financial Rural Collaboration Project.

Collaboration builds stronger teacher pathways

Investing in the development and retention of talented teachers does more than enrich the lives of students. “It also serves as a catalyst for economic growth and vitality within the region,” says Joshua Gibb, President & CEO of Galesburg Community Foundation.

To find ways to attract and retain teachers in Knox, Warren, and Henderson counties, Galesburg Community Foundation and the Compeer Financial Rural Collaboration Project funded a six-month planning grant to the Rural Schools Collaborative and Regional Office of Education #33. The grant was used to coordinate three in-person meetings that brought together individuals with unique perspectives on the challenges and opportunities educators face.

Participants in the sessions included representatives from Western Illinois University and Carl Sandburg, Monmouth, and Knox Colleges; current teachers and students; and community education partners.

The overarching goal of the sessions was to address the educator pathway as a continuum, viewing the process of recruiting, training, supporting, and retaining educators as a continuous and interconnected system.

At the conclusion of the sessions, the group had outlined the following action areas:

  • Facilitate collaboration among higher education partners to align programs and incorporate direct perspectives from current teachers to local teacher preparation leaders.
  • Increase awareness of available resources and align efforts to avoid duplication of work and encourage collaboration.
  • Promote the teaching profession and share positive stories from schools.
  • Engage the community beyond teachers to support schools and explore ways to involve education ambassadors.
  • Build capacity within schools by addressing staff overload and the lack of readily available support from substitutes, aides, and mentors.
  • Develop holistic, comprehensive pathways to help teachers find grants, resources, and opportunities to collaborate.

Following these meetings, several of the partners connected on efforts to align credit transfers between institutions, and many attendees are now participating in a local Grow-Your-Own planning project, in partnership with Western Illinois University. These efforts aim to address the local teacher shortage collaboratively, instead of siloed efforts at a single institution. Additionally, Knox College recently held a local teacher panel to build interest in rural teaching careers that included positive stories of mission-driven educators.

Participants plan to continue meeting to build out specific strategies across organizations within each of the action areas. “We wish to thank Galesburg Community Foundation for their support of this project, which created multiple opportunities for authentic relationship-building across organizations,” said Taylor McCabe-Juhnke, Rural Schools Collaborative Executive Director and meeting co-facilitator.

Rural Schools Collaborative has team members based locally in Galesburg and Monmouth, but as a national nonprofit, they work with rural schools and communities across the country to grow strong rural teacher leaders. McCabe-Juhnke sees the work done locally as a opportunity that can be replicated more broadly. “This project was both aspirational and flexible. It serves as a national framework that other regions could adopt.”

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Haley Sloss

Charitable Giving Coordinator

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Haley provides support to enhance the function and success of the Charitable Giving and Affiliate Teams. She ensures donors receive a personal approach to philanthropy through outstanding customer service by supporting charitable giving for donors and fund holders across the state.