USF Joins State Planning Program to Help Recruit, Retain Teachers of Color

Joliet, Ill. – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) recently announced that 24 Illinois colleges and universities, including the University of St. Francis (USF), have volunteered for a pilot program to develop plans to recruit and retain future teachers of color. The pilot will help establish best practices ahead of ISBE requiring all 54 Illinois educator preparation programs to develop plans next year.

“The diversity of Illinois is one of our state’s greatest strengths – including in our classrooms,” said Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker. “By recruiting faculty of color who share their students’ lived experiences or expand their perspectives, our schools can empower more students to achieve their goals and pursue their passions. This pilot program is just the beginning of ISBE’s recruitment efforts and I commend the leadership of the 24 colleges and universities who have volunteered to spearhead this initiative with us.”

“I applaud the 24 colleges and universities that have volunteered to lead the way in breaking down barriers for people of color to join the teaching profession,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “All students, and especially students of color, benefit from having diverse educators throughout their school experiences. My own mentors in my career have been people of color like me. When the role models and people in positions of authority in our lives look like us, that shapes our perception of our place in the world in a positive and powerful way.”

USF College of Education dean John Gambro, Ed.D., said that the pilot program aligns closely with some of USF’s top priorities.

“The University of St. Francis places equity and social justice as a top priority.  The work of this pilot program is essential in ensuring that students in Illinois have access to teachers of color who can make a positive impact on the learning and development of all students.  We view this collaboration as an opportunity to share some of our successes and learn from other successful programs from across the state,” Gambro said.

A press release from the IBHE explained the recruitment and retention efforts are part of ISBE’s three-year strategic plan, which includes the goal of increasing teacher diversity in Illinois public schools. The 2021 Illinois Report Card released last week showed that 82 percent of practicing Illinois teachers identify as White, whereas only 47 percent of Illinois public school students identify as White.

The release also cited research from the Learning Policy Institute which shows that teachers of color boost the academic performance of students of color, including reading and math test scores, graduation rates, and aspirations to attend college. Studies also show that students taught by teachers of the same race are less likely to be chronically absent and less likely to experience exclusionary discipline.

The number of teachers of color in the profession has grown incrementally over the past three years. The pilot announced today will help speed that progress by supporting programs in addressing their specific barriers to increasing candidate diversity. Pilot participants will draft their plans, receive feedback from a peer review committee composed primarily of Diverse and Learner Ready Teacher Network members, and meet to exchange ideas and collaborate. Pilot participants will finalize their plans by May 31 and reconvene in the future to dialogue about what strategies worked.

The comprehensive listing of participating Illinois colleges and universities includes:

  • Augustana College
  • Benedictine University
  • Blackburn College
  • Chicago State University
  • DePaul University
  • Dominican University
  • Eastern Illinois University
  • Eureka College
  • Governors State University
  • Greenville University
  • Illinois College
  • Illinois State University
  • Lewis University
  • National Louis University
  • Northeastern Illinois University
  • Northern Illinois University
  • Rockford University
  • Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville
  • Trinity International University
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • University of St. Francis
  • VanderCook College of Music
  • Western Illinois University

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 52,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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Three MERIT Scholarship Recipients Announced

Joliet, Ill. – Taking on the challenge of inspiring the next generation of students is a responsibility that teachers proudly accept. For Jasmine Flores, Isabel Jaquez and Crystal Mendoza, who are the three newest MERIT (Multicultural Education Recruitment in Teaching) Scholarship recipients at the University of St. Francis (USF), that challenge is one they are ready to assume.

The MERIT program is a partnership between USF, Joliet Township High School District 204, Joliet Public Schools District 86 and the Joliet business community. The MERIT Scholarship provides scholarship funds for qualifying students of color who major in education at USF. Recipients are required to teach in a Joliet school for either four years (Joliet Township High School District 204 and other area seniors planning to attend USF for four years) or two years (Joliet Junior College students planning to transfer to USF for two years). Ultimately, the program is intended to help recruit, prepare, place and induct a new generation of teachers of color for Joliet’s schools.

As the three recipients prepare to begin their respective educational journeys in the fall, they are thankful for the opportunity presented to them through the MERIT program.

“To be a MERIT Scholar, it means that I am given the opportunity to learn and grow into the teacher I want to be. It means that I am learning about the community I will be working in and connecting with students to prepare myself as an educator. As a MERIT Scholar, I am being trained to be a leader and an influence not only to the children, but to everyone who surrounds me,” said Flores, who graduated from Joliet Central in 2018 and then recently graduated from Joliet Junior College.

“To me, being a MERIT Scholar means that I am going to get the opportunity to be the best possible teacher I can be for my students. I also get to be for someone else, what I never got as a little girl, a teacher who looks like me. While all of my teachers were amazing, none of them looked like me nor had a similar background as me or had the same passion that I do for my culture. Being a MERIT Scholar means that I am going to be a teacher in a community where there are many children of color, and I get to be their teacher. My students will walk into my classroom and see someone who is like them, someone who can show them they can be any they want to be regardless of where they came from or what color their skin is,” said Jaquez, who is a graduate of Bolingbrook High School.

For Mendoza, a graduate of Joliet West High School, the opportunity is an example of a dream coming true.

“To be a MERIT Scholar means the world to me because it will help me turn my dream into a reality. Further, it will allow me to share my experience with a diverse group of students,” she said.

While there are many opportunities that come with a career in education, the three newest MERIT Scholars are driven by the impact they aspire to have on their future students.

“I am looking forward to being a teacher because I want to be the one who gets to inspire the next generation to believe in themselves and what they can achieve. No matter who they are or where they come from, I will always want to bring the best out of my students, even if it starts with a smile,” said Flores.

Jaquez believes that building relationships with students is an important characteristic of an effective classroom.

“I look forward most to building relationships with my students and watching them grow as students and as people. Building relationships is so important to a classroom setting. Students learn better when they trust and know their teacher. Even though I have not met my students and many of them probably don’t even exist yet, I love them, and I look forward to getting to know each and every one of them,” she said.

Mendoza also points to the importance of the relationship between teacher and student.

“I look forward to getting to know the students and working with them to reach our goals. I not only want to share my knowledge, but I also want to cultivate relationships and make great memories together,” she said.

Specifically, all three MERIT Scholarship recipients look forward to the opportunity to teach in Joliet schools.

“As a student that lived in the Joliet area for most of my life, I grew to love the diverse atmosphere and the acceptance that was given in the school system. Even though I was surrounded with positive energy, there was still a divide between teachers and with the students; there were not enough minority teachers to balance with the minority populations of the schools,” said Flores, who would like to teach middle school social sciences. “Since I grew up in the Joliet public school systems, I had friends of different cultural and economic backgrounds and was able to understand and connect with those different from me. As a teacher, I want to be able the build relationships with my students through the understanding of the cultural norms and using them to create a unique curriculum that will inspire students, rather than bore students. I want to pursue education because I want to be the missing voice in faculty discussions to stand up for minorities and to give an insider perspective on what will benefit the majority.”

“It is not a secret that many kids in this world do not have someone at home who cheers them on, who tells them they are deeply loved and valued. I want to be a teacher because every child deserves to know they are loved and that they are worthy, every child deserves someone in their corner. My mission as a teacher is to be a confidant and a cheerleader for any student that needs one. I know that I can have a positive effect on the future by teaching every single student I have that they are treasured and valued,” said Jaquez, who would like to teach in elementary school.

“When one thinks about the gifts and talents they have to offer, why not use them to make a difference in the lives of young students. In my case, I would like to share the talents that I have to offer with students and my community. Ever since elementary school, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher. My dedication, interest, and passion for the field of education are some of the gifts that I have to offer, and I want to share them,” said Mendoza, who would like to become a high school U.S. history teacher.

Visit stfrancis.edu/merit for more information on the MERIT Program at USF.

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 52,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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USF Invites the Community to Celebrate Women’s History Month

Joliet, Ill. – The University of St. Francis (USF) Women’s History Month Committee has planned a series of events in honor of Women’s History Month and is excited to celebrate (both virtually and in person) with the community throughout March. 

The month kicks off on Wednesday, March 10 with The Clare Award presentation to Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). The virtual ceremony, which will begin at 12 p.m. on Zoom, will also honor last year’s recipient, Roxiana Fuqua of Generation Dance. The Clare Award seeks to highlight women of vision who have transformed the world in their time. Both honorees are exemplars for their fields and their communities.

On Thursday, March 11 at 3 p.m., Dr. Madonna Murphy (USF College of Education) will shine light on some significant women who have been important in the history of the University of St. Francis in her presentation, “101 Years of USF History Through the Decades: Important Women.” Murphy’s talk will begin with Mother Alfred Moes and then highlight one woman from each decade of 1920-2020.

On Friday, March 12 at 1 p.m., Dr. Deborah Glenn (USF College of Education) and Dr. Elizabeth McDermott (USF College of Arts & Sciences) will lead a discussion of Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner’s Women’s Suffrage. The book discussion continues in memory of Dr. Elva Dawson, a beloved USF professor who was scheduled to lead this discussion March 2020 when events were abruptly cancelled.

USF Women’s History Month Committee members Jessica Peek, USF Director of University Ministry and Dr. Mary Ann Andrade, Director of the USF Counseling & Wellness Center, will host a “Knit Happens: A Virtual Knitting Workshop for Beginners” on Tuesday, March 16 at 6 p.m.  Attendees can de-stress, learn about the importance of knitting in the women’s movement, and finish a project during the course of the meeting.

Continue to unwind and reflect by attending the screening and discussion of “On The Basis of Sex” on Thursday, March 25 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Sexton Auditorium located in the Moser Performing Arts Center (space is limited). An optional Zoom link will be provided.

To cap the month, we celebrate Women Who Light Our Way and Our Lives with a virtual Tea and video on Friday, March 26 at 2 p.m. honoring local women nominated by faculty and staff.

All events are open to the public. Please contact Joanna Kourtidis at jkourtidis@stfrancis.edu with questions or for Zoom login information.

USF Women’s History Month Committee is comprised of faculty, staff, and administrators who are passionate about engaging students and the community.

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 51,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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USF Offering Book Study Series for Educators

Joliet, Ill. – The University of St. Francis (USF) College of Education is offering book study series that provides educators with common interests an opportunity to engage in educational topics and immediately apply them to the classroom and learning environment. Texts selected for the series focus on improving instruction and increasing student growth.

Schooltalk: Rethinking What We Say About and To Students Every Day
Mica Pollock, Author
April 12 – May 17, 2021 | online
Earn 15 PD hours
$50 plus cost of book

Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students
Zaretta L. Hammond, Author
May 17 – June 14, 2021 | online
Earn 9 PD hours
$50 plus cost of book

About the Book Study Format

Participants should note the following items regarding the book study series:

  • Upon registration, participants should purchase the book (book purchase information is available at registration) and begin reading the text at their leisure.
  • The link to the book study platform and specific due dates for activities will be sent to the preferred email (submitted with registration) the week prior to the start of the book study.
  • The text will be divided into sections. Participants will complete discussion posts with feedback to others and a final reflection explaining application of text to profession.
  • A moderator will participate in discussions, as well as review and provide feedback on final reflections.
  • Licensed Illinois educators must complete all required discussions/activities as assigned to receive professional development hours. No partial hours will be awarded.
  • Participants successfully completing a book study may choose to apply the experience toward one graduate credit. Additional fee applies for this option.

Visit stfrancis.edu/real/professional-learning/ to register for either book study or to explore additional educational opportunities.

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 51,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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Free Professional Development Opportunities for Educators

Joliet, Ill. – The University of St. Francis (USF) College of Education is offering educators free professional development through the new REAL Talk for Teachers webinar series. More information on REAL Talk and other upcoming education workshops and conferences at USF is available at stfrancis.edu/real/professional-learning.

REAL Talk for Teachers (and future teachers) Series
Classroom Hacks: Remote & In-Person with
Julie Hafner and Jen Pierson
March 2 | 6–7 p.m. | Free

Have you ever wondered how some teachers make it seem so easy? Many amazing educators have learned tips of the craft to make the classroom flow smoothly. Even simple changes can make a big impact. Learn tips to make your remote and in-person classroom even better!

Visit stfrancis.edu/real/professional-learning/ to register.

REAL Talk for Teachers (and future teachers) Series
Resumes, Interviews, and Getting Hired
with Courtney Orzel and Pete Sullivan
March 16 | 6–7 p.m. | Free

What do hiring administrators look for in resumes and during the interview process? Valuable insight for those just starting out and experienced educators exploring new opportunities.  Learn how to tighten up a job search, stand out as an applicant, and connect with those who can support job search efforts.

Visit stfrancis.edu/real/professional-learning/ to register.

REAL Talk for Teachers (and future teachers) Series
Licensure Update with the Will County ROE
April 19 | 6–7 p.m. | Free

Our friends at the Will County ROE will join us to chat about current license renewal requirements and process, endorsements, and the latest news from the Illinois State Board of Education.

Visit stfrancis.edu/real/professional-learning/ to register.

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 51,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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Scholarship Opportunity Supports Students of Color Who Aspire to Become Teachers

Joliet, Ill. – Local data has shown that there is a sharp contrast between student and teacher demographics. In fact, a large gap currently exists between the percentages of students of color and teachers of color in Joliet’s schools. A scholarship opportunity offered by the University of St. Francis (USF) for qualifying students of color who aspire to become teachers is helping to address this gap.

The Multicultural Education Recruitment in Teaching (MERIT) Scholarship at USF provides a four (4) year scholarship up to $8,000 per year for eligible seniors applying to USF as a first-year freshman, as well as a two (2) year scholarship up to $2,000 per year for eligible students applying to USF as a junior-level transfer. Awards are offered in conjunction with other scholarships/grants and will apply to the direct cost of USF full-time undergraduate tuition and fees. This scholarship opportunity is open to all eligible high school and community college students.

Scholarship requires that applicants are:

  • a student of African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino American, Asian American, or Native American origin;
  • a U.S. Citizen or eligible non U.S. Citizen with demonstrated financial need;
  • a high school or transfer student with a GPA of 3.00 or higher, and
  • able to commit to teach in Joliet public schools for either two or four years upon graduation from USF.

Scholars are selected based on qualities that indicate their potential to become exemplary teachers. Visit stfrancis.edu/merit to apply today or to request additional information. Review of applications will begin March 1, 2021 for the 2021–22 academic year.

The MERIT project is a partnership between the University of St. Francis (USF), Joliet Township High School District 204, Joliet Public Schools District 86, Joliet Junior College, and the surrounding community.

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 51,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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MERIT Scholarship