Community Partner Pathway is a partnership between Illinois State University and five central Illinois community colleges including Carl Sandburg College, Heartland Community College, Illinois Central College, Illinois Valley Community College, and Spoon River College. The six higher education institutions will work in collaboration on this degree and licensure program that will prepare working professionals to teach elementary education with an English as a Second Language endorsement in their home communities.

Illinois faces a dire educator shortage with 4,500 open positions across the state. Rural communities have been hit particularly hard with the teacher shortage and this strategic partnership will ensure that small communities and school districts will have more high-quality teachers.

“Our mission is to provide the best teachers for Illinois and I’m proud of the work that our faculty and staff in the School of Teaching and Learning have done with our community college partners,” said Dr. James Wolfinger, dean of the College of Education. “This new program is remarkably innovative because it allows us to prepare teachers in their home communities and to build on the students’ experiences in the classroom as paraprofessionals and other roles.”

Together with the community colleges, the COE will prepare community members to teach in local schools. Students who are place bound because of work or family obligations will have the opportunity to expand their skillset and knowledge so they can earn a degree and Professional Educator License and enter the classroom as a teacher. Students will take courses part time in online and hybrid settings, with limited face to face sessions held on Illinois State’s campus on Saturdays. The first cohort will begin Illinois State coursework in 2022.

“As an Illinois State agriculture education alumnus who transferred from Spoon River College, I know firsthand the important role that school districts play in our rural Illinois communities,” said Curt Oldfield ‘97, president of Spoon River College. “I am proud that school districts, community colleges and Illinois State have come together to bring a high quality, creatively delivered solution to Illinois communities that helps address the state’s shortage.”

Applications for the first cohort are open and encouraged as soon as possible to ensure registration in the appropriate community college courses in Fall 2021.

The Community Partner Pathway program is part of a larger CommuniTeach initiative in which Illinois State is developing new teacher education pathways in many parts of the state focused on developing local talent to be the highest quality educators. Each program provides access through nontraditional pathways that meet students’ needs for flexible schedules, integration into the local community for clinical experiences and student teaching, and a high-quality Illinois State University education in students’ home communities.