Worth the Effort – Growing our own Teachers

In 2006 Rock Valley College signed on to a state-wide grant program, Grow Your Own Illinois, as the community college partner in the Rockford consortium. Hands that Help, Inc., is the community-based organization that leads the grant program, and Rock River Training Corporation is another community partner that has supported this program since the beginning. There are 15 GYO partnerships in Illinois, eight in Chicago and seven in other high-need areas, including Rockford.

The Grow Your Own (GYO) idea is simple – it takes a community effort to recruit, support, retain, and graduate teacher candidates who are from the community, who represent the community, and who plan and expect to teach in schools located in their own neighborhoods. GYO is literally charged with “growing our own” future educators.

There are two additional key players in this effort. National Louis University (NLU) is the senior educational partner that offers upper-division courses right here in Rockford (actually on RVC’s campus) leading to a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with an endorsement in middle school science. Just this month our first cohort of 5 GYO teacher candidates completed student teaching and graduated from NLU. Kevin Bruce, Starla Copeland, Tomas Garza, Colleen Pete, and Elizabeth Wilson are the inaugural class of GYO 2012.

The final partner in this consortium is Rockford Public Schools #205. They have been at the table since the beginning and have patiently waited while the students completed their associate’s degrees from RVC and now their bachelor’s degrees from NLU. We are excited to declare “the waiting is over!” Among the many teacher candidates applying for jobs in RPS 205 for next year, our five GYO teachers will be there, too. It is worth noting that three of the five graduates already work for RPS 205 as para-professionals and a professional tutor.

It took “us” almost six years to grow our own set of teachers through this program – community citizens who desire to give back to the neighborhoods they live in and provide our youth with role models that represent them in multiple ways. As one proud partner, it was worth the effort!

Congratulations, GYO graduates!

Proudly, our consortium has identified the next GYO cohort will begin junior-level courses through NLU in fall 2012. For more information call, please contact GYO-Rockford at 815-262-3064.


Pictured from left: Joan Fedota (NLU Asst. Dean of the National College of Education), Sherri Bressman, (NLU Dept Chair of Elementary and Middle Level Education) , Elizabeth Wilson (GYO Teacher Candidate), Colleen Pete (GYO Teacher Candidate), Starla Copeland (GYO Teacher Candidate), Georgiann McKenna (NLU cohort instructor), Deb O’Connor (NLU Faculty), and Kevin Bruce (GYO Teacher Candidate).