Everyone is called to do something in his or her lifetime. Some are called to be scientists, some are called to be firefighters, and yes, some are even called to be teachers. For those that feel this calling, there is a program in Illinois designed to help those aspiring teachers.
In the last several years, Illinois has experienced a teacher shortage, especially in the Chicago area. According to the Illinois Association of School Boards, in 2017, 56% of school districts in Illinois reported that they felt they had a minor problem with shortages, and 22% felt that they had a major problem with shortages. In 2019, 85% of school districts reported to have minor and major problems with shortages. The Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois Program was started in order to chip away at these percentages and give future teachers opportunities to help schools.
Not only does Golden Apple want to produce more teachers, they aim to produce more high-quality teachers. There are several types of support that scholars receive to ensure that they are reaching this goal. Past scholars and current teachers act as mentors for active scholars. This mentorship takes place both in the summer and during the school year, as well as when the scholar gets his or her first teaching position. Additionally, scholars have the opportunity to obtain hours of in-classroom experiences by attending institutes for a few weeks in the summer. The locations vary each summer, so scholars are able to teach in urban and rural areas. The institutes also provide best-practice strategies taught by groups who specialize in educational instruction.
Kelly Lenz, a 2018 graduate of Greenville University, took part in the training from Golden Apple during her undergraduate years. Lenz is currently a special education teacher at ITW David Speer Academy in Chicago. As she looked back at her experience as a Golden Apple Scholar, Lenz had many positive thoughts on the program. “The most beneficial aspect of Golden Apple is the time spent in classrooms over the summer. GA Scholars spend a lot of time figuring out what does and doesn’t work for students and themselves. All of this extra time practicing teaching really prepared me for my career.”
Now that she has been teaching for a few years, Lenz can see how Golden Apple has helped her in the long run. She would recommend this program to others that are pursuing education. Lenz said, “Golden Apple expanded on several ideas I was taught in college – it took things I kind of knew about and made me an expert. I was also exposed to classrooms and people I typically wouldn’t interact with, which opened me up to different opportunities. Golden Apple really does provide several solid opportunities for teachers to learn, grow, and connect with other teachers and administrators.”
Although teaching can be tough, it is a profession that will always be needed. Lenz gives this advice to those looking to become teachers: “Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. You will learn so much more and get so much more from the experience if you let yourself be vulnerable and open. Be open to change, embrace it, and get creative.”
Golden Apple has helped many teachers go into the classroom prepared. If you feel the calling to be a teacher, Golden Apple may be for you too.
Seniors in high school and first-year college students are eligible to apply. For more information about the scholarship program, visit The Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media by Hannah Krukewitt.